Twinkling lights illuminate more than the homes and attractions they cover. The added sparkle fills families with a magical feeling during the holidays that you can only get from the colors that dance in the dark. Jump in your horse-drawn sleigh (or your car), sip on hot chocolate and turn up the holiday tunes as you and your family travel through one of these magical festive lights tours this year.

Written by Lissa Poirot

Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens, Galveston, TX

TripAdvisor Rating: TripAdvisor Owl
672 Family Reviews
Galveston's Moody Gardens hosts the Gulf Coast's largest Christmas light show, called Festival of Lights, which takes place Nov. 11, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018. It features more than 100 million twinkling lights, an outdoor ice-skating rink, an Arctic Ice Slide, and visits and pictures with Santa Claus. Admission is $15.95 per person, but certain activities, such as the Arctic Ice Slide, cost an extra fee. (Or purchase an unlimited slide ticket.) A special Festival of Lights Buffet is offered each night (except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day) at the Garden Restaurant.

Recommended Hotel: Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center

Magical Nights of Lights - Lake Lanier Islands, Ga.

TripAdvisor Rating: TripAdvisor Owl
347 Family Reviews
Visitors across the Southeast rave about the Lake Lanier Islands Magical Nights of Lights, a 7-mile winter wonderland! Tune your radios to the local holiday station as you drive through more than 600 animated and festive light displays. Next, stop at Holiday Village -- which has eye-popping displays -- to enjoy live entertainment, roast marshmallows by the bonfire, sip hot cocoa, go on carnival and pony rides and meet Santa Claus.

Recommended Hotel: Legacy Lodge & Conference Center

Grand Illumination - Williamsburg, Va.

TripAdvisor Rating: TripAdvisor Owl
899 Family Reviews
Holiday lights are a big deal in Virginia, with more than two million brightly lit bulbs seen in and around Richmond, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Still, our favorite Virginia town to get in the holiday spirit is Colonial Williamsburg. Each year, it hosts Grand Illumination, an event that features three marvelous fireworks displays. Before you watch the fireworks for this one-day event, to be held on Dec. 3, 2017, stroll through town to enjoy decorations, musical performances and more. The event is free, and begins at 5 p.m. with fireworks at 7 p.m.

Recommended Hotel: Kingsmill Resort & Spa

Hershey Sweet Lights - Hershey, Pa.

TripAdvisor Rating: TripAdvisor Owl
1012 Family Reviews
Hershey turns an ordinary evening drive into a sweet adventure with a 2-mile drive-through wonderland, featuring nearly 600 animated and illuminated displays. Arrive early to avoid traffic. Car rates are $19.15, Monday through Thursday, and $26.15, Friday through Sunday (with up to eight passengers), but you can bypass admission with a Hershey resort package. After the tour, stroll Hersheypark Christmas Candylane to visit Hershey characters and Santa's reindeer, and enjoy a wide array of rides, all beneath two million twinkling lights.

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Hershey

An Old Time Christmas - Branson, Mo.

TripAdvisor Rating: TripAdvisor Owl
401 Family Reviews
Visit Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri for its annual Old Time Christmas, and watch evening turn to day as four million lights sparkle and glow. Christmas on Main Street features the attraction's biggest light show, while the five-story Special Effects Christmas Tree dances to a number of holiday classics. Twice a night, the Gifts of Christmas Holiday Light Parade features more than 100,000 lights. Families also enjoy Silver Dollar City's popular rides and attractions, as well as musical adaptations of "A Dickens Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life." The event will be held Nov. 4 through Dec. 30, 2017.

Recommended Hotel: Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing

ZooLights - Washington, D.C.

TripAdvisor Rating: TripAdvisor Owl
987 Family Reviews
Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo illuminates the night with its own holiday show, complete with festive decor and 500,000 lights seen in musical Christmas light displays, animal silhouettes, garden sculptures and more. Families will enjoy a glimpse of the zoo at night, as well as food and activities, including the ice-less skating rink -- it feels and looks like ice, but is actually plastic! Entry is free, but parking, food and activities are an additional cost. The event begins Nov. 24 and runs through New Year's Day 2018 (except Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year's Eve), from 5 to 9 p.m.

Recommended Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Washington D.C. Downtown

Holiday Lights Bus Tour - San Francisco

TripAdvisor Rating: TripAdvisor Owl
1110 Family Reviews
San Francisco is a popular summer destination, but did you know it transforms into a winter wonderland (minus snow) in December? To fully experience the city's magnificent holiday setting, embark on the San Francisco Holiday Lights Tour, via a double-decker bus. You'll enjoy holiday sing-alongs, candy canes, and receive souvenir toys. Kids will also have the chance to talk to Santa and get a picture with him. As an added bonus, you'll receive discounts at local attractions and restaurants to use before or after the tour. Bus tours for this festive light show run at 6:30 p.m. nightly (except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve).

Recommended Hotel: The Westin St. Francis

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