6 Megawatt Holiday Lights Displays
By Suzanne McMinn
Decorating the streets, lighting the menorah, placing the star on the tree—outdoor holiday displays make the most dazzling spectacles of the season. No matter where you are in the country, some of the brightest lights are sparkling near you.
Take a trip down Candy Cane Lane in the Ravenna section of Seattle, Washington. Here, nearly two dozen 1920s-era gingerbread-style houses are decked out with lights and music for the last three weeks of December. An institution for over 60 years, each annual celebration is centered on a classic holiday theme. Recurring displays include sleighs, reindeer and, of course, candy canes, set amidst spectacular lights and mechanical decorations. New to the yearly show are peace signs in multiple languages. Drive through to take in the sights, or park on a side street and go on a walking tour, where you can enjoy music, hot cocoa, winter treats and Santa, who will be there to greet you.
Concerts, fireworks and a parade down Michigan Avenue headline Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. The festivities kicked off in November with an interactive winter wonderland and tree-lighting ceremony, but that’s only the beginning. Through December 31, find displays, treats and family-friendly activities, such as “Santa in the Sky” at the John Hancock Observatory, a holiday lights trolley ride through the city, and “Christmas Around the World” at the Museum of Science and Industry. Shopping and dining can’t be beat on “the Mile,” so give yourself plenty of time.
Head to Christmas on the Square in Frisco, Texas for a big celebration in a small town. You can drive or walk through this choreographed light and music show—the largest in North Texas—while a snow-flurry machine blankets the streets and sidewalks every 15 minutes. Visit the shops and restaurants, see the model trains or take a carriage ride. Over 11 miles of wiring create a magical extravaganza that includes a parachuting Santa and inner-tube snow slides.
Tour more than 300 acres (6 miles) of Christmas spirit at the Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights in Oglebay, Pennsylvania. Open through the first week of January, you can drive through twinkling snowflakes in the Snowflake Tunnel, check out the light and music show at the “Good Zoo,” and stroll through the Christmas Tree Garden and the life-size nativity scene. Holiday laser shows are scheduled nightly and family-style dining is available.
Get your “Christmas in the Country,” as its tagline suggests, at Sharpsville Lights in Sharpsville, Indiana, a free animated light display that includes more than 100,000 lights. Spread over two acres north of Indianapolis, the festivities include a tribute to the nation’s veterans along with a 45-minute show every night during the holidays. Tune your car radio to hear the songs playing in time with the flashing lights from inside the warmth of your vehicle, or pull over to park and enjoy the rotating balls of light, the talking Santa, shooting light stars, deer, snowmen, teddy bears and penguins. The show runs through the end of December with different songs on selected nights, making every return trip a new experience.
The Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland wants you to “Think Lights” with their annual Miracle on 34th Street. From trains on roofs to Christmas trees made from hubcaps, stunning illuminated creations have been filling this section of the city with thrills for six decades. The multicultural seasonal celebration includes everything from Hanukkah menorahs to blinking angels and snow globes. The nightly event takes place from November into January at the charming row houses on the 700 block of 34th Street. Navigating the street can be tricky, so visitors are encouraged to park on a side street and take to the sidewalks. Some homes even allow event-goers to peek at their indoor decorations.
Go ahead and get your holiday cheer on! Piling the whole family in the car to take a holiday lights tour is a tradition that never loses its appeal and can make memories that will long outlast the season.
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Suzanne McMinn lives with her three children on a farm in West Virginia, where she writes the blog Chickens in the Road about finding “the true meaning of home—and life—beyond the noise of suburban sprawl and suburban convenience.”