Christmas tree lighting ceremonies launch the official start of the holiday season. From glittering cityscapes to harbor boat parades (with Santa onboard, of course!), entire neighborhoods are ablaze with holiday light displays along the West Coast and Hawaii.

Holiday Lights Celebrate Christmas

09_Mission Inn Festival of Lights

Photo Credit: The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California

From festive boat parades and twinkling cities in California to the Northwest’s largest drive-through lights display, and unique illuminated recycled holiday decorations in Kauai, families will find an abundance of holiday celebrations in the west, northwest and pacific.



Photo Credit: Tim De La Vega

Kauai: The 20th Annual Festival of Lights kicks off with a lighting ceremony, Santa’s arrival, and music at 6 p.m. Dec. 2. The festival (Kauai’s largest holiday celebration) takes place from 6 – 8 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 24, and also on Dec. 30 in the Historic Park in Lihue. The festival spotlights illuminated Christmas folk art created from recycled materials and displayed inside the Historic County Building. Twenty years ago, artist Elizabeth Freeman purchased a large collection of eco-crafts from Auntie Josie Chansky and created Festival of Lights. Today, more than 65 percent of the festival displays represent Elizabeth’s own designs. Free admission.

Oahu: There’s a new, multi-story dazzling Holiday Lights Show in Waikiki that combines music and animation at the International Market Place. Holiday-themed images come to life through music and color-changing lights set on a 100-foot light display nightly on the Grand Lānai, repeating every half hour throughout the evening from Nov. 23, 2016 – Jan. 1, 2017. In addition, the historic 160-year-old banyan tree will glitter with a laser light display. Family fun continues with selfie shots with Santa (dressed in aloha attire).  Also, check out the iconic Holiday Treehouse decorated with garland and lights.

The annual Honolulu City Lights event on Oahu lights up downtown Honolulu on Dec. 3 and  continues nightly through Dec. 30. The event begins with a Tree Lighting Ceremony at 6 p.m. at Honolulu Hale, followed by The Electric Light Parade. The parade begins at Aala Park and makes its way down King Street through Downtown Honolulu. Honolulu Hale and the grounds of the Civic Center are transformed into a stunning display of lights, decorated trees, and wreaths. The kid-friendly event features food booths, photos with Santa Claus, and a holiday concert.


Portland: The Oregon Zoo’s annual ZooLights features illuminated displays, which include life-size 3D reindeer, hippos, monkeys, elephants and many other animals as well as a100-foot-long rainbow-colored tunnel of light Nov. 25, 2016 – Jan. 1, 2017. Explore on foot or ride the decorated zoo train.


Dana Point


Photo Courtesy: Dana Point Harbor

The 42nd Annual Holiday Boat Parade features about 90 decorated boats vying for awards of 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 for close up views of the Star Wars inspired decorated boats. The boat parade starts at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9, 10, 16 and 17 at the Dana Point Harbor. You can watch from shore or book a cruise with Santa onboard and be part of the parade!

Coronado Island


Photo Courtesy: San Diego Tourism Authority

Hotel del Coronado put San Diego on the map in 1904 with the first electronically lit, outdoor Christmas tree. The DELights holiday show features100,000-plus twinkling lights Nov. 26 – Jan. 3. A  light show will project daily from the historic balconies onto a multi-faceted tree, surrounded by flickering icicles and snowy palms, every evening from 5 – 9:30 p.m. Free for guests, $25 for day visitors. Skate by the Sea, an outdoor rink, is back on the oceanfront Windsor Lawn from Nov. 24 to Jan. 2. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of San Diego. Don’t forget to stop by Coffee by the Sea for spiked drinks, hot chocolate and seasonal sippers.

L.A. County Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

See L.A. sparkle for the holidays, beginning with a tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.n. Nov. 28 in the Music Center Plaza. The 45-foot tree is the focal point of beautiful holiday lights in downtown L.A. Take a stroll after sunset to enjoy the twinkling lights of the season from 5:50 – 10 p.m. Nov. 25 – Dec. 25 at Grand Park.



Photo Courtesy: Mendocino Festival of Lights

Wander along luminaria-lined avenues and enjoy spectacular garden views at the 7th Annual Festival of Lights at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Thousands of lights create a brilliant coastal garden from 5 – 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday Nov. 25 – Dec. 18. $10 adults, free for ages 16 and younger.

Paso Robles: Mrs. Claus gets the holiday party started at the the 30th Annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 25 in downtown Paso Robles. Live music, caroling and holiday treats (cookies and hot cocoa) round out family fun at the free holiday event.


Historic Mission Inn Hotel & Spa glows with more than 4 million lights during the 24nd Annual Festival of Lights from Nov. 25, 2016 – Jan. 7, 2017. Dickens’ carolers sing from the balconies and more than 400 animatronic figures decorate the surrounding area. New this year: Timeless Train Rides, The Century Wheel, Colorful Vintage Carousel. Favorite Returning for 2016 – Magical Moments with Santa Claus, Seasonal Music and Entertainment, and vendors with tasty food.


California’s Little Denmark twinkles during Julefest (pronounced Yule-fest), a Danish holiday tradition celebrated throughout December. The Julefest Tree Lighting Ceremony takes place at 5 p.m. Dec. 2 in Solvang Park. Festivities continue with Santa visits, ballerinas, Christmas carols and more  Dec. 2 – 4, and Dec. 9 – 11.


Caldwell: The annual tree lighting on Nov. 21 kicks off Winter Wonderland where 500,000 lights illuminate downtown Indian Creek’s bridges, railings, lamp posts, trees and character displays.

Coeur d’Alene: Take a holiday lake cruise to the Coeur d’Alene Resort Holiday Light Show, a wonderland boasting more than 1.5 million lights from Nov. 26, 2016 – Jan. 2, 2017. The annual Journey to the North Pole holiday event includes Santa’s North Pole Toy Workshop. Boat rides range from $7.50 – $22.25.




Photo Courtesy: Bellevue Collection

Snowflake Lane at the Bellevue Collection features more than 200 live toy soldier drummers, costumed characters, music, falling snow and glittering lights at 7 p.m. every night Nov. 25 – Dec. 24. Don’t miss the New Year’s Eve celebration featuring music, lights, confetti and bubbles.

Spanaway: The 22nd annual Fantasy Lights at Spanaway Park is the Northwest’s largest drive-through display, featuring thousands of lights and nearly 300 figures, including a gingerbread family on a slide and the mystical LED light tunnel from 5:30- 9 p.m. Nov. 24, 2016 – Jan. 1, 2017.


Cheyenne: Sit back and enjoy a Holiday Lights Tour aboard the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley from Dec. 11 – 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.

More Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights Displays Around the World

Holiday Lights Displays in the Northeast U.S.

Holiday Lights Displays in the Southeast U.S.

Holiday Lights Displays in the Midwest U.S.

Holiday Lights Displays in Texas and the Southwest U.S.

Holiday Lights Displays in California, Hawaii and the Northwest U.S

Enter below to win a Ricardo suitcase – we’ll be pulling one winner every 2 weeks through December 31, 2016:

Holiday Lights Ricardo Luggage Weekly Giveaway