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It’s that time of year when Christmas tree lighting ceremonies launch the official start of the holiday season. For many families, it’s a tradition to visit places decked out with Christmas lights. All around the country you’ll find neighborhoods, malls and other venues shining brightly for the holidays. Some places go all out with elaborate twinkling lights, figures and festivities. Following are some of the best places to enjoy Christmas lights displays in California, Hawaii, and the Northwest.
Admiring Christmas lights displays is among the fun things to do during the holidays. In California, themed boat parades and sparkling attractions brighten up harbors and cities. The state of Washington has the largest drive-through holiday lights display in the Northwest. And in Hawaii, you’ll feel the aloha spirit with unique island festivities. No matter where you go, you’ll find an abundance of holiday celebrations in the West, Northwest, and Pacific.
Christmas Lights Displays: Hawaii
Feel the aloha spirit at the 24th Annual Festival of Lights at the Historic County Building Park. Billed as Kauai’s largest holiday celebration, the festival features dazzling lights from 6-11 p.m. Thanksgiving 2020 to New Year’s Day 2021 at Lihue County Park. Due to Covid-19, interior displays and visits with Santa will not take place.
More than 20 years ago, artist Elizabeth Freeman purchased a collection of eco-crafts from Auntie Josie Chansky to create Festival of Lights. Today, more than 65 percent of the festival displays represent Elizabeth’s own designs. Free admission.
Themed “Let’s Celebrate Together,” Honolulu City Lights 2020 will continue to share the holiday spirit but in a different way due to the pandemic. For residents, the city is planning a King Street drive-by viewing experience.
Other activities will be shared online to complement drive-by viewing. These will include Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele at the festively decorated Honolulu Hale. In addition, viewers can see the city’s 50-foot Christmas tree, and the oversized displays and lighted trees on King Street. Plus, kids can interact with Santa online.
Christmas Lights Displays: Oregon
The Oregon Zoo’s annual ZooLights features illuminated animal displays with more than 1.5 million colored lights November 26, 2020 – January 10, 2021. In addition to the traditional walk-through winter wonderland, there’s a new drive-through experience on certain nights.
Learn more about what to expect at this year’s ZooLights, and purchase tickets online.
Portland International Raceway Winter Wonderland
The 27th Annual Safeway Winter Wonderland spans the eight miles of track at the Portland International Raceway. See more than 250 colorful set pieces and many fully animated scenes from the comfort of your car at this drive-through holiday lights show. The event takes place Nov. 27, 2020 – Jan. 2, 2021. Hours: 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. Sun. – Thu, and 5 – 11 p.m. Fri. and Sat. Tickets per car start at $20 (online) and $22 at gate. No tire chains or studded snow tires allowed.
Christmas Lights Displays: California
Coronado Island, San Diego
Hotel del Coronado put San Diego on the map in 1904 with the first electronically lit, outdoor Christmas tree. This year’s Holiday Festival features Jingle Roast from 5:30 – 8 p.m. Dec. 11 – 27, 2020. Cozy up by your private beach bonfire in Santa hats and enjoy holiday s’mores. Fire pits are available for a one-hour experience at 5:30 p.m. or 7p.m. Additional menu items may also be ordered in advance. One pit accommodates up to eight guests.
Plans are pending for the annual Santa’s Village, fireworks, and seasonal Skate by the Sea, an outdoor rink on the beach.
Dana Point, Orange County
Plans are pending for the City of Dana Point’s annual Winter Festival & Tree Lighting. The family event usually takes place from noon – 5:30 p.m. at La Plaza Park, 34111 La Plaza. The tree is officially lit at 5:15 p.m. And the event includes free hot chocolate and cookies. Activities include a visit from Santa, reindeer, and snow. In addition, crafts for kids, cookie decorating, tree lighting, and a holiday movie.
Meanwhile,Dana Point’s 46th Annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is on course for Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12, 2020. Themed Fiesta Holiday, about 90 decorated boats cruise around the Dana Point Harbor starting at 7:30 p.m. Decked out with festive holiday lights displays, boats compete for awards in various categories. These include Best Theme, Best Use of Lights, Best Animation, and Most Colorful.
Find a good spot to watch or join the parade aboard the Dana Wharf Whale Watching cruise boats. You can watch from shore or book a cruise with Santa on board and be part of the parade. Passenger capacity is limited by 50 percent this year due to the pandemic.
61st Annual L.A. County Holiday Celebration
During the free event, many diverse L.A.-based artists and community groups showcase their talent, artistry and traditions on The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage. The event is scheduled for 3 – 6 p.m. Dec. 24. However, due to current COVID-19 conditions and the Safer-at-Home order, the Holiday Celebration may be produced in a different manner this year.
The Holiday Ice Rink Pershing Square
The seasonal holiday day ice skating rink will not open for the 2020-21 season. However, plans are tentatively underway for holiday celebrations at Grand Park, Los Angeles.
Last year, the 45-foot tree was the focal point of beautiful holiday lights in downtown L.A. Afterwards, visitors could enjoy a stroll to see the city’s twinkling lights.
Sixth Annual L.A. Zoo Lights
Due to the pandemic and current local and state guidelines limiting attendance capacities, L.A. Zoo Lights has been postponed until the 2021-22 season.
Mark your calendars to see the world’s largest illuminated pop-up storybook at the Los Angeles Zoo next year. At the entrance, a 90-foot-long shimmering wall of lights features snowflake displays set to music.
The light show features a high-tech interactive display where dancing lights respond to guests’ voices. In addition, the light show features giant glowing animals, and wildlife-inspired displays. More festivities include holiday treats, food and visits with Santa.
COVID-19 has changed but not canceled holiday festivities along Rodeo Drive. As usual, count on posh Beverly Hills to ring in the holidays in style. This year’s decorations will transform the median of Rodeo Drive into a fashionable catwalk you might see in Paris, Milan and New York. The installation features nine mannequins modeling gowns of jeweled toned faux florals, faux winter foliage and reflective embellished accents of metallic holiday ornaments.
Past BOLD Holiday celebrations: The annual Holiday Lighting Celebration takes place on Rodeo Drive. The BOLD Holidays opening ceremony features the unveiling of Rodeo Drive holiday decor and live performances. In addition, enjoy interactive art, food trucks, fireworks, and photos with Santa.
Due to COVID-19, the 11th Festival of Lights at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is canceled. In lieu of the traditional festival, families can see the Virtual Festival of Lights Nov. 26 – Dec. 19, 2020. However, this is contingent upon people submitting their photos and videos from previous Festival of Lights events. Videos and photos can be submitted here. They can also be emailed to [email protected]
The traditional Festival of Lights features thousands of lights that a brilliant coastal garden. In addition, there’s a decorated tent with live music, and local brews and wine. The Holiday Sweets Café offers hot cocoa, cider, and homemade goodies. $10 adults, free for ages 16 and younger. Free parking. A shuttle is available each night of the Festival of Lights. Shuttle pick up is at the Mendocino Community College.
Watch decked out boats cruise along Monterey Bay’s scenic coastline during Monterey Yacht Club’s Brighten the Harbor Boat Parade from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6. The boats will start at historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf and turn around at Hopkins Point, just after the Monterey Bay Aquarium to compete for the “Best Decorated Boat” award. Onlookers should maintain physical distance and wear face coverings. Also, please note that the event is subject to change.
Mrs. Claus comes to town to ring in the 34th Annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony on November 27, 2020. Festivities take place from 5:30 – 9 p.m. at the Paso Robles Downtown City Park Gazebo. Enjoy holiday lights, live music, and caroling. Free cookies, and hot chocolate round out family fun. Free admission.
Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa sparkles with more than 5 million lights during the 28th Annual Festival of Lights. Among the nation’s largest holiday lights displays, the event takes place Nov. 27, 2020 – Jan. 6, 2021. Themed Winter Wonderland, Festival of Lights features 200 animated figures including angels, and elves and Dickens carolers. Plus, indulge in holiday confections.
A Danish holiday, Julefest is celebrated in California’s Little Denmark, Solvang. Pronounced Yule-fest, the holiday is celebrated throughout December. This year, due to COVID-19, many Julefest events are canceled or postponed. However, as some events are scheduled, they will be posted on the website.
Currently, the Live Solvang Nativity Pageant is scheduled for Dec. 12, 2020 at 5 and 7 p.m.
Traditional Julefest events include a tree lighting ceremony in Solvang Park (Mission Drive & First Street). The following day, a holiday parade marches along festively decorated streets.
In addition, the Christmas Market Light Show features lights choreographed to music on Copenhagen Drive. The annual wine and beer tasting event features a glogg (hot alcohol drink) competition. Sample the entries and vote for your favorite.
Christmas Lights Displays: Idaho
Caldwell: 13th Annual Tree and Creek Lighting
The 13th Winter Wonderland Festival will take place with some modifications from 5 – 10 p.m. Nov. 20-22, 2020. Due to Covid-19 there will be no creek lighting ceremony. However, families can still visit Winter Wonderland to see Santa, go ice skating, and enjoy holiday treats. In addition, the event features food trucks, vendors, and entertainment.
The event usually features a tree and creek lighting that illuminates Indian Creek’s bridges, railings, lamp posts, trees, and character displays with about 500,000 lights .
Coeur d’Alene: Christmas Parade & Lighting
Pick your spots for the 29th Annual Lighting Ceremony Parade Nov. 27, 2020 in Downtown Coeur d’Alene. The parade starts at 5 p.m. , and fireworks follow at 6:16 p.m.
The Holiday Light Show illuminates the resort and downtown area with more than 1.5 million lights Nov. 27, 2020 – Jan. 1, 2021. The resort’s signature Journey to the North Pole Lake Cruise visits Santa’s North Pole Toy Workshop. There, see one of the world’s tallest Christmas trees. A fleet of cruise boats depart every evening through the holiday season to view the magic of the holiday lights across the lake.
Sun Valley Tree Lighting Ceremony
Due to COVID-19, holiday events are currently TBD and can be viewed here.
Festivities usually include a tree lighting, and free hot chocolate in the Sun Valley Village. Activities include ice carving and Santa visits.
Christmas Lights Display: Washington
Holiday lights and a nightly snowfall and parade make Snowflake Lane a magical place for families Nov. 27 – Dec. 24, 2020. While the event will take place, modifications will be in place due to Covid-19. For updates, visit the website.
Catch the snowfall at 7 p.m. every night Nov. 27 – Dec. 24. Snowflake Lane takes place along Bellevue Way between NE 4th and NE 8th streets. In addition, the Bellevue Collection features more than 300 live toy soldier drummers, costumed characters, lights, and music. Come back for the New Year’s Eve celebration featuring music, lights, confetti, and bubbles.
Annual Garden d’Lights: Bellevue Botanical Garden
This annual holiday event has been canceled for 2020. Mark your calendars to visit the gardens in 2021 to see half a million sparkling lights in whimsical shapes. These include plants, flowers, birds, animals, and cascading waterfalls. The holiday event takes place 4:30 – 9:30 p.m. in the gardens.
The 26th annual Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is the Northwest’s largest drive-through display. Featuring an LED light tunnel, the display includes thousands of lights and nearly 300 figures along the two-mile drive along Spanaway Lake. Fantasy Lights is open from 5:30- 9 p.m. Nov. 21, 2020 – Jan. 3, 2021. While driving through, tune your car radio to FM 95.3 to hear a selection of special holiday music.
The Fantasy Lights WALK has been canceled. Visit in 2021 to stroll through two miles of animated displays in Spanaway Park.
Christmas Lights Displays: Wyoming
For western-style fun, hop aboard the Holiday Lights Tour on the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley from Dec. 11 – 24, 2020. View city and residential holiday lights displays. Tours take place at 6 and 8 p.m. departing from Sears at Frontier Mall. Tickets go on sale Dec. 1 and must be purchased in advance. $12 adults, $6 children. 307-778-3133.
Want more holiday lights displays?
Internationally – Holiday Lights Displays Around the World
Northeast US – Holiday Lights Displays in the Northeast U.S.
Southeast US – Holiday Lights Displays in the Southeast U.S.
The Midwestern States – Holiday Lights Displays in the Midwest U.S.
Texas and the Southwestern States – Holiday Lights Displays in Texas and the Southwest U.S.