One aspect of the holiday season that can be enjoyed by both young and old alike is the decorating of the outdoors with strings of colorful lights. Having that neighbor that goes all in with decorations each year was the highlight of this time of the year for me growing up and still catches my attention as an adult. Even if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a neighbor like I did growing up, there are businesses across the country that took that mentality beyond the cost and space restraints that most people face and worked to create holiday exhibitions that can only be described as “spectacular”, or at least one of its synonyms. If you find yourself on the road or are looking for a new tradition this holiday season, we have put together a list of some of the places that have light displays guaranteed to “wow”.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
With all of the lights on the Vegas strip, you can safely assume that anyone attempting to attract visitors with Christmas lights is well aware of the need to ‘go big or not at all’. In the case of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, they definitely went big in all of the right ways. Keeping in tune with the speedway’s purpose, this display is meant for visitors to drive through as they enjoy the over 400 animated displays. Following a 2.5-mile circuit, the “Glittering Lights” event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is expected to host over 30,000 vehicles that have come to see their hard work. Tickets for the event run $20 for weekdays, $30 for an “anyday pass” per vehicle and $20 – $25 per person for an open-air tram pass on case you would prefer a chauffeured tour through the over 3 million lights that make up the display.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo (Washington DC)
If you are in our nation’s capital during the holidays, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has a great light display featuring over 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights. Running from November 24th to January 1st, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo provides a variety of holiday entertainment such as live music performances, winter treats and a ‘Glow Zone’ for kids in addition to the light show. While the light count is significantly lower than the Las Vegas Motor speedway, the entertainment provided by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is completely free (besides the gift shopping of course). In addition to the aforementioned entertainment, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo also gives visitors the opportunity to ride the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Choo-Choo which tours the ‘Great Cats’ exhibit and gives riders a great view of the light display.
Silver Dollar City (Branson, Missouri)
A staple in Branson, Missouri since 1960, Silver Dollar City goes above and beyond with their holiday light displays and festivities. Throughout the theme park, Silver Dollar City has decorated and placed over 1,000 Christmas trees and has over 6.5 million lights arranged for display throughout the park. On top of the lights and trees, Silver Dollar City has nightly holiday themed parades, theatrical adaptations of classic Christmas time books and plays (A Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonder Life), a sing-along steam train ride, live music and much more. Tickets to the park run $62 for adults and $51 for children for a one-day general admission pass, with a special ‘price cutter’ rate of $40 on Thursdays when purchased from select stores. Silver Dollar City also offers an ‘after 7:00 pm entrance’ deal that gives you the next day’s entrance to the park free of charge, should you enter the park after 7:00 pm on your first day.
Austin Trail of Lights (Zilker Park – Austin, Texas)
Meant to celebrate the people Austin as a “gift” from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (this seems like a Leslie Knope style event if I’ve ever seen one) the Austin Trail of Lights started in 1965. Originally known as the “Yule Fest”, this celebration has grown to feature more than 40 displays, over 2 million lights and a plethora of ‘holiday activities’. Throughout the holiday season, the Austin Trail of Lights has scheduled activities ranging from themed movie nights and live music performances to dancers and even special guests reading Christmas stories to visitors at 7:30 pm nightly. The Austin Trail of Lights is kept free of charge for admission on most nights by using volunteer labor to setup and keep everything running and on nights it is not free, the fee is around $3 dollars for general admission. While they do not ask for an entrance fee on most nights, they do accept donations any time so the attractions can be kept in good working order and improved upon with the passing of time. In order to raise money for upkeep, the Austin Trail of Lights holds multiple events like the ‘Fun Run’ which is $37 for (adult general admission), $20 for children (11 and under) and increased rates for the VIP packages. The run stretches 2.1 miles under the stars and over 2 million lights and finishes with a free beer or cocoa for participants as they explore the famous Austin, Texas food trucks, participate in a costume contest and check out the activity tents featuring activities led by local brand reps.