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Not even the pandemic can take away one of the most popular things to do around the holidays, enjoying the wonders of elaborate light displays. Many festive Christmas towns throughout the U.S. are continuing their dazzling holiday light events by transforming them into drive-thru experiences, while others have done this all along. Either way, many will really be going all out this year to make things a bit brighter with some of the most impressive sparkling presentations.
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Of course, a town with a name like Santa Claus is going to go all out for the Christmas holidays. One of the best small towns to visit for Christmas, it offers a massive 1.2-mile drive-thru event in the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort that tells the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer through colorful LED lights that opens Thanksgiving night. It will continue on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through December 6th, and then nightly from December 11th to December 27th with an admission fee of $15.
Not only can you enjoy warm temperatures and tropical scenery with a visit to Honolulu, but Honolulu City Lights boasts gorgeous displays and illuminations just outside City Hall (Honolulu Hale). While events that tend to attract crowds have been canceled due to the pandemic, there will be online interactive visits with Santa and photos of wreath contest entries shared online. The sparkling holiday event will still take place as a drive-thru running between December 5th and December 27th. Hop in the car to see the 50-foot Christmas tree, Shaka Santa, the fully-decorated Honolulu Hale, displays and lighted trees along King Street.
Duluth hosts the Bentleyville Tour of Lights, a drive-through event that features over five million lights strung across 20 acres in Bayfront Festival Park. It also includes a 12-story-high illuminated Christmas tree. Admission is $10 per car and children 10 and under will get a knit winter hat for free. It will run through December 27th, and attendees are encouraged to bring new unwrapped toys and non-perishable items that will be donated to the Salvation Army and given to families in seven communities throughout Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Giving the bright lights of The Strip a run for its money, the Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 2.5-mile-long drive-thru display with millions of holiday lights and custom displays, open now through January 10th, 2021. It opened for its 20th season with BMX rider Ricardo Laguna kicking it all off by wearing a candy cane jumpsuit with reindeer antlers, tapping a button with his wheel to turn on the lights and “ignite the holiday spirit.” Tickets start at $25 a car, and season passes are available for unlimited rides.
The Oregon Zoo is always a delight around the holidays thanks to its annual ZooLights festivities, and thankfully it will continue this year as a drive-thru event so the whole family can enjoy the brilliant displays safely on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. It includes over one million-and-a-half lights with many in the shape of animated animals and tunnels. It’s open now and will run through January 10th, 2021 (closed on Christmas Day). Prices vary depending on the date, $40 to $65 per car.
The Denver suburb of Aurora goes all out when it comes to dazzling light displays and it’s easy to enjoy them from the safety of your car, with the top spot famously featured on local news stations. “It’s a Wonderful Light” can be found at 4822 S. Picadilly Court and this year’s display will be bigger and better than ever with 50,000 lights. Corey Christiansen (AKA “Corey Claus”) puts this show on annually to not only indulge his passion for decorating at Christmas but to raise money for the Autism Society of Colorado. Visitors can donate by texting “SPREADLIGHT” to 44321 or visiting the official website here.
Hersheypark puts on Hershey Sweet Lights, a drive-thru spectacular with nearly 600 different animated, illuminated displays that include more than five million lights, all of which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your vehicle as you drive through two miles of wooded trails. Admission prices start at $22.15, with the exact amount depending on the number of days you plan to attend. It’s open now and will run through January 3rd, including Christmas Day.
One of the largest holiday light shows in the U.S., the Festival of Lights display hosted by Oglebay Resort in Wheeling attracts more than a million visitors this year. Often ranked among the top displays in the country, it includes 300 acres of sparkling lights over a six-mile drive with 90 lighted attractions and over one million energy-efficient LED lights. Tickets are $25 per car and include four 3D glasses to enhance the experience.
The Zilker Park neighborhood in Austin hosts the country’s largest-ever man-made Christmas tree along with more than 70 different light displays, 90 lighted holiday trees, and lighted tunnels. Now in its 56th year, this is the longest-running holiday tradition in the Texas capital. For 2020, it’s been turned into a drive-thru event with timed entry passes available starting at $25. It will begin on November 28th and run through January 23rd, 2021, with ticket types based on your preferred date and time. A $60 special Dash Pass will get you early access, starting at 5:45 p.m. before general admission at 7 p.m., along with a box of festive cookies and bottled water, and a savings card for discounts at Austin shops and restaurants.
Another great spot to enjoy holiday lights is at Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Caledonia which hosts the Christmas Carnival of Lights. For $25 per car with up to eight people, you can drive a mile-long, illuminated winter wonderland. The one-of-a-kind handcrafted displays include elves, reindeer and other forest friends along with popular children’s characters, Santa himself and more. It’s running now through December 31st, open every day except Christmas Day.
Christmas at the beach in Southern California not only means plenty of fun in the sun but also a chance to safely enjoying dazzling lights. Ventura hosts the Holidays In Your Car drive-thru experience, with a million animated LED lights to brighten up your 2020 holidays. It combines light and sound in a breathtaking display, with projection mapping, holograms, and lasers that are synchronized to holiday tunes and enjoyed from the comfort of your vehicle. There are some very intricately and painstakingly assembled displays, some of which stand at more than 40-feet in height, put together by Santa’s team of elves, of course.
Held at the Ventura County Fairgrounds, tickets are only available online and in advance, valid for one car and the number of people purchased, ranging from $49 to $65. Kids that are two and younger who are riding in rear-facing car seats are free. The event is running now through January 2nd, 2021.
This year marks the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s 25th annual Galaxy of Lights, a dazzling 2.5-mile course that features over 200 light displays that change every year. The spectacular displays weave together holiday themes, classic characters, and scenes from the natural world. Drive-through nights will be offered through January 2nd, with admission prices at $25 or $30 per vehicle depending on the night.
The Louisville Mega Cavern, a former limestone mine, is a popular attraction year-round, but over the Christmas holidays, it becomes the world’s only fully-underground drive-through light show known as Lights Under Louisville. It boasts three million lights and 850 displays now through January 3rd, 2021. Admission is $30 per car, truck or mini-van and it’s well worth it as you’ll travel through 17 miles of underground passageways for a 30-minute ride.
Located about halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs, Castle Rock’s Meadows neighborhood hosts an annual Winter Night Lights Home Lighting Contest. Held on just one night, it’s always been a drive-thru event, allowing visitors to check out the elaborately illuminated homes and displays on December 17th. While other events that can attract crowds have been canceled, it’s worth driving through to check out the over-the-top designs as residents do their best to top their neighbors.