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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 holiday 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 holiday lights displays in California, Hawaii, and the Northwest.
Best Holiday Lights Displays in California, Hawaii and the Northwest U.S
Admiring holiday 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.
Holiday Lights Displays: Hawaii
Feel the aloha spirit at the 23rd Annual Festival of Lights, Kauai’s largest holiday celebration. Themed “Santa’s Gone Kauaiian,” the event begins with a lighting ceremony and Santa’s arrival at 6 p.m. Dec. 6. The Lights on Rice Parade follows the opening ceremony. Festivities continue on weekends through Dec. 28. Located in Lihue’s Historic Park, the festival spotlights illuminated Christmas folk art. The unique creations are made from recycled materials and displayed inside the Historic County Building.
Over 20 years ago, artist Elizabeth Freeman purchased a collection of eco-crafts from Auntie Josie Chansky. Then, she created Festival of Lights. Today, more than 65 percent of the festival displays represent Elizabeth’s own designs. Free admission.
See spectacular lights and displays at the 35th Honolulu City Lights Dec. 7, 2019 – Jan. 1, 2020. Opening night festivities take place from 4 – 11 p.m. at 530 S. King St. The event features Keiki rides, free Santa photos, and a free holiday concert near the Sky Gate.
In addition, the Public Workers’ Electric Light Parade travels from Chinatown through King Street. Month-long family activities take place at the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center Grounds. An Oahu Christmas tradition, the festival features Christmas trees and Hawaiian-style Santa displays.
Holidays Lights Displays: Oregon
The Oregon Zoo’s annual ZooLights features illuminated animal displays Nov. 29, 2019 – Jan. 5, 2020. See more than 1.5 million lights, and ride the popular lighted train from 5 – 9 p.m. Enjoy specialty drinks and dinner from a variety of food carts. Santa will be available for photos through December 24.
A Portland holiday tradition since 1961, Christmas in Dairyville, Storybook Lane is open weekends beginning Nov. 29. During the festive event, the farm sparkles with over 300 trees and decorated vintage storefronts. Things to do with kids include visiting live animals and Santa. Also, see modular train displays and dance performances. Free admission.
Portland International Raceway Winter Wonderland
The 27th Annual Winter Wonderland Drive-Through Light Show spans the eight miles of track at the Portland International Raceway. The event takes place from from 5 and 5:30 p.m. Nov. 29, 2019 – Jan. 4, 2020. Tickets per car start at $20 (online) and $22 at gate. No tire chains or studded snow tires allowed.
Holidays Lights Displays: California
The City of Dana Point kicks off the holiday season with a Winter Festival & Tree Lighting Dec. 7. The family event 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.
45th Annual Dana Point Holiday Boat Parade
Themed Tiki Holiday, the 45th Annual Holiday Boat Parade of Lights is a sight to behold. About 90 decorated boats cruise around the Dana Point Harbor Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14. 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.
Festivities begin at 4:30 p.m. Boat parades start at 7:30 p.m. 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! Trolley service is available from 4:30 – 10:30 p.m.
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 afternoon activities from 4 – 7 p.m. Dec. 11. Drop by Santa’s Village and stay for fireworks. Holiday festivities include the seasonal Skate by the Sea, an outdoor rink on the beach.
L.A. County Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
See L.A. sparkle for the holidays, beginning with a tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at Grand Park, L.A. The 45-foot tree is the focal point of beautiful holiday lights in downtown L.A. Afterwards, take a stroll to enjoy the city’s twinkling lights.
Sixth Annual L.A. Zoo Lights
Take a self-guided 60- to 90-minute stroll to see the world’s largest illuminated pop-up storybook at the Los Angeles Zoo. The holiday display takes place from 6 – 10 p.m. Nov. 15, 2019 to Jan. 5, 2020. 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.
Count on posh Beverly Hills to ring in the holidays in style. The annual Holiday Lighting Celebration takes place 5 – 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Nov. 14 – Dec. 21 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.
Stroll along twinkling pathways lined with displays at the 10th Annual Festival of Lights at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Thousands of lights create a brilliant coastal garden from 5 – 7:30 p.m. weekends Nov. 29 – Dec. 22. Afterward, relax in a decorated tent for 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.
Mrs. Claus comes to town to ring in the 33rd Annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony on November 23. Gather at 5:30 p.m. to wait for Mrs. Claus to light up the town at 6 p.m. Festivities take place 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 glows with more than 5 million lights during the 27th Annual Festival of Lights. Among the nation’s largest holiday lights displays, the event takes place Nov. 29 – Dec. 31. Festivities feature 200 animated figures including angels, and elves and Dickens carolers. Things to do with kids include Santa visits, horse-drawn carriage rides, and more. 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. A tree lighting ceremony gets the party started 5-6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in Solvang Park (Mission Drive & First Street). The next day, watch a holiday parade march along festively decorated streets.
In addition, the Christmas Market Light Show features lights choreographed to music on Copenhagen Drive. The light show takes place Dec. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, and 26-28.
The annual wine and beer tasting event (12/14 and 15) features a glogg (hot alcohol drink) competition. Sample the entries and vote for your favorite.
Holiday Lights Displays: Idaho
Caldwell: 12th Annual Tree and Creek Lighting
The Winter Wonderland Festival kicks off with a tree and creek lighting at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22 in Downtown Caldwell. The family event features Santa and a Kids’ Playland from 5 – 10 p.m. Best of all, about 500,000 lights illuminate Indian Creek’s bridges, railings, lamp posts, trees, and character displays.
Coeur d’Alene: Christmas Parade & Lighting
Pick your spots for the 28th Annual Lighting Ceremony Parade from 5-6 p.m. Nov. 29 in Downtown Coeur d’Alene. Enjoy marching bands, floats, and music.
Also, pick up a candle at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and gather on the front lawn for caroling. Join the countdown, and see the most spectacular fireworks display in the Northwest. After the show, over 1.5 million lights illuminate the resort and downtown area.
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
Enjoy free hot chocolate during the tree lighting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14 in the Sun Valley Village. Activities include ice carving and Santa visits.
Holiday Lights Display: Washington
Holiday lights and a nightly snowfall and parade make Snowflake Lane a magical place for families. Catch the snowfall at 7 p.m. every night Nov. 29 – Dec. 24. Snowflake Lane takes place along Bellevue Way between NE 4th St. and NE 8th St. 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.
For more holiday lights displays, visit the 25th Annual Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden Nov. 30 – Dec. 31. The holiday splendor features over 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. Cost: $5 per person (11 and over). Children 10 and under admitted free.
The 24nd annual Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is the Northwest’s largest drive-through display. Featuring a mystical LED light tunnel, the display includes thousands of lights and nearly 300 figures. Fantasy Lights is open from 5:30- 9 p.m. Nov. 22, 2018 – Jan. 1, 2019. While driving through, tune your car radio to FM 95.3 to hear a selection of special holiday music.
Holiday Lights Displays: Wyoming
For western-style fun, hop aboard the Holiday Lights Tour on the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley from Dec. 12 – 24. 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.