All Ages

7 Best Holiday Light Displays in the U.S.

Dyker Heights Holiday Lights; Courtesy of Helena G.H/

There’s nothing like a fantastical light display to put you in the holiday spirit! It’s time to put on your layers, pack up your hot chocolate, and take a ride or (walk) through one of these winter wonderlands across the U.S.

Dyker Heights Holiday Lights; Courtesy of Marley White/NYCGo

1. Dyker Heights – Brooklyn, NY

After you’ve had your fill of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and ice skating in Central Park, head out to Dyker Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood that goes OVER. THE. TOP. for the holidays. Homeowners and professional decorators work together to bedeck the neighborhood with lights, snowmen, candy canes, and the like for an awe-inspiring display you won’t find anywhere else in the U.S. Tour the neighborhood on your own — in your car or by foot — or take a tour with A Slice of Brooklyn. The 3.5-hour tours are offered every day in December.

Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Brooklyn Bay Hotel

Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens; Courtesy of Galveston Island CVB

2. Moody Gardens – Galveston, TX

Galveston‘s Moody Gardens hosts Festival of Lights, the Gulf Coast’s largest holiday light show. It features more than 100 million twinkling lights, an outdoor ice skating rink, an Arctic Ice Slide, and visits and pictures with Santa Claus. 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; Courtesy of Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

3. Magical Nights of Lights – Buford, GA

Visitors across the Southeast rave about the Magical Nights of Lights, a 7-mile winter wonderland hosted by Margaritaville at Lanier Islands! Tune your radios to the local holiday station as you drive through animated and festive light displays. Next, stop at License to Chill Snow Island to enjoy live entertainment, roast marshmallows, sip hot cocoa, go on carnival and pony rides, meet Santa Claus, and — new for 2018 — go snow tubing!

Recommended Hotel: Legacy Lodge & Conference Center

Grand Illumination at Colonial Williamsburg; Courtesy of Visit Williamsburg

4. Grand Illumination – Williamsburg, VA

One of our favorite places to get in the holiday spirit is Colonial Williamsburg. Each year, the historic attraction hosts Grand Illumination, an event that features three marvelous fireworks displays. Stroll through town to enjoy festive decorations, musical performances, and more.

Recommended Hotel: Kingsmill Resort & Spa

Hershey Sweet Lights; Courtesy of Hersheypark

5. Hershey Sweet Lights – Hershey, PA

Hershey turns an ordinary evening drive into a sweet adventure with a 2-mile drive-thru wonderland, featuring nearly 600 animated and illuminated displays. 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 at Silver Dollar City; Courtesy of Silver Dollar City

6. An Old Time Christmas – Branson, MO

Visit Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, for its annual Old Time Christmas, and watch day turn to night as 6.5 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, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade features 200,000 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.”

Recommended Hotel: Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing

Zoo Lights at the National Zoo; Courtesy of Jim Jenkins, Smithsonian's National Zoo

7. ZooLights – Washington, D.C.

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.

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