Top Holiday Lights Celebrations Across America

Author: Family Travel Forum Staff

Tags : Baby, Cheap Vacation, Christmas Holiday, Featured - MFT, Kids, Multigen, North America, Road Trip, Teens, USA, Winter Getaway

We love the winter season, when holiday lights, Christmas decorations, colorfully wrapped presents and the most imaginative retail displays illuminate downtowns around the world, regardless of whether there’s sun or snow outside. We just read that more than 44% of American adults say they’d rather visit a dentist than a crowded airport this season. Yet, after you've decorated your home (see our directory of U-Pick Christmas tree farms for ideas), we know many families look forward to holiday adventures, whether it's a drive around town or a complete getaway from the in-laws, the eggnog and the cleanup.


Big Cities Celebrate the Holidays

Discount Ticket Booklets

You can save big on an urban getaway with the CityPASS program, which offers discounted, prepaid admission to top attractions in 12 North American destinations: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California (includes theme park entry, too), Tampa Bay and Toronto.

Check out the CityPASS blog for special events, or look online for each city's holiday calendars, so you can plan to see a seasonal lights display in a botanic garden, town square, shopping mall, zoo or theme park. It's fun to add something new to your annual holiday ritual, and there are plenty of ideas in our directory.


The Top Hotels and Resorts Do the Holidays Big Time!

Holiday city-goers should make all their reservations now, because hotels get fully booked and special attractions and seasonal shows sell out quickly. Even if you can't get event tickets, your family is guaranteed that shops and major hotels will dress up their public spaces for the holidays, and often put on fancy High Tea afternoons for kids in efforts to attract family vacationers. Resorts are going all out with over-the-top decor and lighting, as well as elaborate holiday meals, in an effort to make the winter holidays more festive for those who are celebrating them away from home.

Give Back with Omni Hotels

For truly selfie-worthy decor like gingerbread houses, illuminated trees, a classic High Tea and winter lodging discounts, head to Omni Hotels & Resorts. They have many urban hotels and a variety of distinctive resorts around the U.S. We love their spirit of giving, with a Say Goodnight to Hunger campaign that provides a family of four dinners for an entire week through Feeding America, for every hotel stay booked on OmniHotels.com. Since its launch in June, more than 3 million meals have been served in the 42 communities where Omni Hotels & Resorts’ 60 properties operate.

So whether you’re planning a vacation or a staycation -- sleeping in a hotel, renting a villa or camping at the in-laws -- make adventuring your family's gift to each other, and explore the area.

 

Top Holiday Lights and Christmas Decorations in America

Our roundup of the top holiday displays across America is compiled with Taking the Kids. If we left out your neighborhood or you want to share a favorite find, please use the Comments section below. Happy Holidays!


ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

The ABQ Biopark Botanic Garden hosts New Mexico’s “The River of Lights” featuring giant sculptures created by millions of lights in over 500 displays. November 26-December 30 (closed Dec 24, 25).


ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA

Orange County has lots going on at the holidays. At the Disneyland Resort, merry magic means festive décor, special treats and classic park attractions such as "it’s a small world" which have been reimagined for the season. Check out the "Jingle Cruise," Cars Land Holiday Decor and take a nap so you're ready for the new "A Christmas Fantasy" parade and "World of Color – Season of Light evening shows. November 10-January 8.


ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND

“Lights on the Bay” is a drive-through holiday light show at Sandy Point State Park with more than 60 stationery and animated displays including a glowing lighthouse and blue crabs on Chesapeake Bay. November 19-January 1.
 

AUSTIN, TEXAS

In Zilker Park, the annual Trail of Lights (a USA Today Top 10 Holiday Celebration) winds through 1.25 miles of scenes composed of multi-colored twinkling lights; a 155-foot conical tree made entirely of lights is at its center. Get a preview at the casual 5k fun run (Dec 3rd). Lots of eats in this foodie town, plus kids activities, local crafts vendors and photo opps. December 10-23.
 

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

Find 50 booths of crafts, gifts, food and drinks at the new European-style Christmas Village in Baltimore at Inner Harbor West Shore Park. It's back after drawing more than 150,000 visitors in its first few years. November 24-December 24.
 

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS

The Holiday Tree Lighting in Boston Common (December 1) kicks off the season.  Check out the Freedom Trail Holiday Stroll; this special tour is offered at 3:30pm, Thursdays to Sundays only during November, December and January (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Days). After your costumed guide explains Boston holiday traditions, take the family to the Omni Parker House Hotel for hot chocolate or tea with a slice of the yummy Boston Cream Pie invented there. 
 

BRANSON, MISSOURI

Don't miss an Ozark Mountain Christmas which features over 300 new displays, and drive-through night displays including the 2½-mile long "Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights." At the Silver Dollar City amusement park, five million lights help celebrate an “Old Time Christmas” with a parade, 1,000 decorated trees, and a five-story special effects Christtmas Tree, only one of Branson's many holiday events. November 1-December 31.
 

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The “Lights of Dyker Heights” attracts 100,000 visitors to view amazing decorations. Come visit between 5pm and 9pm to meet the locals. November 30-December 30.
 

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

The annual “Holiday Festival of Lights,” considered one of the top 20 events in the Southeast, features millions of lights arranged in over 700 displays along a three-mile route. Visitors will also enjoy attractions like the Enchanted Walking Trail, an old-fashioned Victorian Carousel, Santa's Sweet Shoppe and more.  November 11-January 1.
 

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA

In Speed City, it's more than appropriate to drive through a Speedway Christmas event at the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway where 3,000,000 lights, music, and Christmas Village with a petting zoo, and horsedrawn carriage rides welcomes kids of all ages. Also check out movie nights with screenings of "Frozen" and other favorites on a 16,000 square foot, high definition screen. This town also boasts an outdoor ice rink, Christmas parades, holiday laser lights and more. November 10-January 7. Speedway November 19-December 31.
 

CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE

Rock City Garden’s “Enchanted Garden of Lights” returns for its 22nd year with more than 30 illuminated holiday scenes. Families will also enjoy live entertainment in the North Pole Lounge, cookie decorating, and Sugar Plum Fairy makeovers for the kids. Booking a Dinner with Santa package gets you a meal and a VIP entry pass. November 18-December 31.
 

CHICAGO, ILINOIS

Key Chicago events include “The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival” which begins its 25th year on November 18 in Pioneer Court.  Festivites inlcude a visit from Santa, live music, and a parade on November 19 from North Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive, followed by fireworks.  Mickey and Minnie Mouse will serve as the Grand Marshalls of the Parade. The Museum of Science and Industry celebrates “Christmas Around the World” and “Holidays of Light” with more than 50 trees decorated to represent various cultures and holiday traditions. November 17-January 8.


CLEVELAND, OHIO

GE’s Lighting Institute is in Nela Park where thousands of lights illuminate buildings along Noble Road. Early December to January 1.
 

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO

Enjoy holiday music performances and see 250 scenes composed of more than 1.5 million lights. The lakefront Coeur d’Alene Resort runs three nightly “Journey to the North Pole” cruises past a soaring, floating Christmas tree, all the way to Santa’s Workshop. Be there when Santa calls out the names of the "nice" children onboard; cruises run Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve.
 

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is decorated in over one million holiday lights and over 40 animal light structures, making a visit to the indoor animal exhibits very festive. Drop by the historic pink Broadmoor Hotel nearby for a hot chocolate and admire its annual White Lights Ceremony, with live music and more.  December 9-January 1 (excluding New Years Eve).
 

CRUISE VACATIONS FOR THE WINTER HOLIDAYS

There’s so much competition in the cruise industry that the major cruise companies go all out to lure holiday travelers with special décor, celebratory meals, festive activities and even church services of almost every denomination. Picture all the fuss like a huge drive-through holiday lights display... but at sea.  Cruising with Kids will tell you all you need to know. 
 

DALLAS, TEXAS

Texans do everything big, so no surprise that "Big D" is Dallas' citywide holiday celebration. From museum to shows, to ice skating and a ride on the North Pole Express in Fair Park and at the Arboretum, there's lots to enjoy. November to January.


FLORIDA RESORT TOWNS

Visit Florida

There are several holiday lights displays in a state that's always glowing: Fort Myers, Largo, Melbourne, Orlando, St. Augustine and St. Petersburg are among the largest, according to VisitFlorida.com. A favorite is Santa's Enchanted Forest in Miami. Part theme park, part illumination (50 displays on Santa Claus Lane), it boasts South Florida's tallest Christmas tree, a variety of kiddie rides, animal shows and a Ferris wheel. Teens will love the midway style rides, a local tradition for 25 years. A 'season pass' costs less than twice the day rate -- a bargain for thrill seekers. Nov. 3 - Jan. 8, 2017


FRISCO, TEXAS

More than 175,000 lights illuminate the 12th annual “Christmas in the Square,” the largest holiday lights and music show in North Texas. November 25-January 1.
 

GALVESTON ISLAND, TEXAS

The three-mile-long “Festival of Lights” at Moody Gardens boasts 100 animated light displays along with an outdoor ice rink, snow-tubing down a 100-foot long Arctic ice slide and photos with Santa Claus. November 12-January 8.
 

GATLINBURG, TENNESSEE

Hop on a heated Gatlinburg Trolley and enjoy the annual “Winter Magic” light displays featuring animals indigenous to Great Smoky Mountains National Park; the kickoff Chili Cookoff is November 9. Festivities run through January 31.


Grapevine Christmas Fest
Families enjoy a magical excursion on the North Pole Express to Santa’s Workshop in Grapevine, Texas. Photo courtesy Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS

They call this little Western town near Dallas the "Christmas Capital of Texas" because it has millions of twinkling lights and more than 1,400 events in 40+ days. Join Christmas Carols (Nov. 21), follow the town's Parade of Lights (Dec. 1), shop at Christmas Markets in the historic downtown, catch some seasonal shows and vintage holiday movies, and head to Main Street for the "Magic of Christmas Light Show." In addition to themed events at the Gaylord Texan and Great Wolf Lodge resorts, visitors to Grapevine can catch a scuba diving Santa at the local SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium, talking reindeer at the visitor information center, and a vintage railroad running Christmas Wine Tours to local wineries or, for the little ones, a North Pole Express. November 25-January 1.


HERSHEY, PENNSYLVANIA

The town of Hershey does its own 2-mile “Sweet Lights” drive-through attraction while Hersheypark’s Christmas festivities include visits with Santa’s reindeer, holiday lights, themepark rides and entertainment. November 11-January 1.
 

HONOLULU, O'AHU, ISLANDS OF HAWAI'I

The aloha holiday spirit shines through the annual Honolulu City Lights. Families will find themed Christmas tree lighting, colorful boat parades, plus festive food booths and ongoing entertainment. December 3-December 30. The Waikiki Holiday Parade kicks off the season on November 25.
 

JACKSON HOLE, WYOMING

Best Skiing in the West

Wildlife viewing, national parks, the town's historic Western feel and some of the best skiing and riding in the U.S. make Jackson Hole the ideal location for a holiday family ski vacation -- especially if your brood wants activities off the slopes, too. Jackson Hole has its legendary steeps as well as terrain to suit the entire family. Check off a bucket list item with this season's new Christmas vacation offer: check in early and earn 2 ski days at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort free, when you book a six-night minimum lodging and lift package with Jackson Hole Central Reservations. Some restrictions apply; first day of skiing must be between Dec. 20-23 to qualify for free skiing; checkout a $200 air credit (per person) available on qualifying packages. Book here now.
 

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

This town goes all out: illuminating the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument with about 5,000 lights for its annual “Circle of Lights,” offering free admission to many attractions on one of the 12 days before Christmas, and featuring holiday exhibits at its impressive Children’s Museum. November 25-January 8.
 

IOWA

While residents sip gluhwein at “Christkindlmarket Des Moines,” two hours east, a town is aglow with 75 light sculptures in the huge Mount Pleasant Festival of Lights, which includes a huge animated toy factory and stretches for more than a mile. Just 75 minutes away in the Amana Colonies, visitors can study more than 40 decorated live evergreens in Tannenbaum Forest and visit Santa and his reindeer. Look for a 16-foot handcrafted German-style Christmas pyramid and a Nativity scene. Several evenings, the Old Creamery theatre presents “The Elves and the Shoemaker” in rotation with the 1960s musical “Winter Wonderettes” -- fun for all ages. And 90 minutes away in Davenport, the Quad City Arts Festival of Trees draws 100,000 spectators to see 100 designer trees, 14 special events and the largest helium balloon parade in the Midwest, all raising money for local arts programs. Thursday to Sunday, November 16-December 31.
 

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

Take in all of KC’s winter holiday family events such as the outdoors "KCP&L Plaza Lights" at glittery Country Club Plaza. Now 86 years old, the nation's oldest and one of its most elegant malls and the lights rimming all its shops and rooftops are spectacular. There are also lights all over the Crown Center complex, showcasing an ice rink and 100-foot-tall Christmas tree. Don't miss a visit to see the toy trains on display at Union Station and many more holiday activities. November 25-January 1.
 

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

You won't find snow, but there's plenty of spirit around town if you count the windows along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. This Time Out holiday lights guide has a great roundup for those who want to drive some neighborhoods. Tops of all, the “Candy Cane Lane“ is an eight-square block neighborhood affair in Woodland Hills at Lubao and Oxnard Streets, organized annually since 1952. December 10-31 until 10pm weeknights, 11pm weekends.


LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

The holidays stay in Vegas like everything else, but that doesn't mean that families won't find plenty to cheer about in hotel, shops and restaurant decor. The Las Vegas Natural History Museum will host its 10th annual "A December to Remember" exhibition, with programs that highlight how different world cultures and religions celebrate friendship and family at this time of year. Check the Las Vegas C&VB calendar to find showtimes for "Irving Berlin's White Christmas" and other seasonal entertainment. November 26-January 8.


MARSHALL, TEXAS

The 28th annual “Wonderland of Lights Festival“ brings hundreds of holiday light displays, outdoor ice-skating, a live variety show, a Santa's Workshop, carriage rides and more. November 23-December 31.
 

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN

Downtown Milwaukee celebrates a “Holiday Lights Festival” with animated light displays, elaborately decorated themed trees, the 90th annual Milwaukee Holiday Parade, a Christkindlmarket, and performances such as ELF, The Musical.  The $1 per ticket Jingle Bus tour is ideal for baby and grandparents.  November 17-January 1.
 

McADENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

Another small town that competes with big cities is McAdenville, whose decorated neighborhoods get jammed with the traffic of admiring homeowners. December 1-26 from 5:30pm-9:30pm weeknights, till 11pm weekends.
 

MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT

Go Victorian as Mystic Seaport presents "The Nut-Cracker Sweets," set on Christmas Eve of 1876 at Lantern Light Tours. November 26-December 23.
 

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

NOLA’s City Park, a Southern belle with centuries-old live oaks draped in festive Spanish moss, twinkles with hundreds of thousands of lights as part of the annual Celebration in the Oaks holiday lights festival. Drop by the art museum's free sculpture garden to take some family portraits, and take out a paddleboat for a great city view. November 25-January 1 (closed November 28-December 1, and on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve)
 

Christmas in Newport RI
Newport, Rhode Island promotes a charitable holiday season with a focus on the city's well preserved Colonial heritage, open to the public on holiday tours. Photo courtesy: Windless Creative/Christmas in Newport.

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

Tired of the holiday hype? The somber colonial era is the focus of Christmas in Newport, where, for 46 years, locals have adhered to holiday traditions such as only decorating with clear bulbs (to simulate candlelight), even on the posh Victorian shops of Bellevue Avenue. Daily activities range from Lantern Walking tours of restored colonial homes in the Point and Historic Hill neighborhoods; to door decorating contests, elegant celebrations at landmarked Gilded Age mansions, handcraft sales, choral concerts, and workshops to write holiday cards to military serving at sea. Any event listed in the program is free, as mandated by this very active community charity, unless admission benefits a non-profit institution or cause. December 1-31.


NEWPORT BEACH, CALIFORNIA

Stay ashore for the 108th Annual Christmas Boat Parade, when anything that floats-- from electric Duffy's to kayaks to yachts -- gets decked out in bells, bows and lights. More than 100 decorated boats sail a 14.7-mile route to Bay Island on five nights at 6:30pm.  There will be a fireworks display on the first night at Newport Pier, and on the last night at 9pm, at Balboa Pier.  1 million viewers will watch the parade from the shore; check their site for a map of viewing locations. December 14-18.


NEW YORK, NEW YORK

From the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (lighting on Nov. 30) to the world’s largest menorah at Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza (Dec. 24-Jan. 1), to the New York Botanical Garden’s “Holiday Train Show” (miniature NYC landmarks made entirely out of plants) from Nov. 19-January 16, to the 1½ ton, 300-square-foot village made entirely of edible gingerbread at the New York Hall of Science (Nov. 14-Jan 7) in Queens -- New York does the winter holidays big. Check out the great store windows and visit NYC & Company for the latest holiday events. November 21-January 18.
 

NIAGARA FALLS, USA & CANADA

Spectacular Niagara Falls are illuminated at night year-round, but there’s nothing like snow crystals to magnify their beauty. In Niagara Falls USA, collect unique holiday ornaments at the 18 wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail and shop on the famous Erie Canal during Lockport’s Winter Wonderland Project. Cross the Rainbow Bridge to the Canada side for the “Winter Festival of Lights,” aptly supported by Ontario Power Generation, which accepts donations to offset the huge electricity bill. November 19-January 31.
 

OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND

Northside Park hosts the “Winterfest of Lights” incorporating scenes of your child’s favorite fairy tales; easily accessible via the Winterfest Express. November 17-January 1.
 

OCEANSIDE, CALIFORNIA

Oceanside Harbor’s “Parade of Lights” boat procession takes place on December 10.  Tis the Season to Shop Local and the Merry Makers Fair will feature local vendors, handcrafted gifts, music, singing and activities from November 26-December 4. 
 

ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Orlando Holiday Thrills

Orlando has it all for those who plan ahead. At SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, families will find a winter wonderland where you can meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and see ice skaters twirl on a frozen lake. And, for and additional $29, each family member can have a reserved seat at all the shows. Feeling chintzy? Dr. Seuss' lovable “Grinchmas” steals the show at Universal Studios (Dec. 3-Jan.1). Makers should be sure to catch a “Christmas Bricktacular” at Legoland Florida, featuring a huge Lego Christmas tree (Dec. 17-18 and 24-30). Disney World pulls out all the stops with “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” which rocks the place on select nights (Nov. 7-Dec. 22); Disney Hollywood Studios will present "Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! (Nov. 14-Dec. 31). We love the caroling concerts and candlelight processional at Epcot’s “Holidays Around the World” (Nov. 25-Dec. 30) too.
 

PALM DESERT, CALIFORNIA

The 450-acre Living Desert is decked out for the “Wild Lights Festival“ that blankets its botanical gardens and educational displays in thousands of lights. Come for festive games, entertainment, carousel rides and visits with Santa Claus.  Selected nights from November 23-December 24. 
 

PAWLEYS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA

Brook Green Gardens’ "Nights of a Thousand Candles" uses the glow of 5,500 hand-lit candles to light garden paths, as bell ringers, light sculptures, glass sculptures and carolers entertain guests. December 1-3, 8-10, 15-18.
 

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

Philadelphia will be aglow this holiday season -- from the classic Holiday Light Show at Macys in Center City to the Neighborhood Lights of South Philly, a European-style Christmas Village, a Holiday Railroad in Reading Terminal Market and Lightening Bolt Holiday Express Train rides around Franklin Square from November 10 - December 31. Iceskating galore at both RiverRink Winterfest and at Rothman Ice Rink. Plan to stay for the famous New Year's Day Mummers Parade if you can. November 10-January 8.
 

PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE

As you drive along in a heated trolley, ask the kids to guess the number of lights (5 million) in this resort town’s gigantic “Winterfest” (November 8-February 28) and compare that to what’s on display at the Dollywood themepark’s annual Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival (November 5-January 1) (4 million) packed with shopping, concerts and events such as the "Parade of Lights" with floats and characters. 
 

PINE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA

The Callaway Gardens Resort’s playful Jolly Trolley runs through a “Fantasy of Lights” composed of 15 displays and eight million lights and includes giant toy soldiers, an enchanted rainbow forest, and Firefly Cove. November 12-January 7.
 

PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE

The “Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth” festival in this small New Hampshire town features a Candlelight Stroll with costumed interpreters. Weekends, December 2-23.
 

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

This college town produces the “Tacky Light Tour” each winter, a local tradition featuring festive light displays, lawn decorations, and animated scenery. From Thanksgiving to New Years Eve.
 

RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA

For a high-class tradition, enjoy the 24nd annual “Festival of Lights” at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa where more than 400 animated displays, 12 feet of mistletoe, horse-drawn carriage rides and appearances by Santa regale overnight guests and visitors; reservations recommended, especially for the elf tuck-in service There's an outdoor ice-skating rink, holiday vendors and live entertainment. November 25-January 7.
 

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS

San Antonio’s River Walk is the place to be November 25 for the Holiday River Boat Parade. From November 30-December 18 you can join more than 185 singing groups and partake in holiday boat caroling. You can also enjoy the Fiesta de las Luminarias, a river walk stroll lit by 2,000 luminarias on December 2-4, 9-11 and 15-18. 


SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

This action-packed, family-friendly city presents the Botanic Garden’s 100,000-light “Garden of Lights,” fun events at the San Diego Zoo, and more holiday cheer in Legoland, whose New Years Eve celebration begins at 6pm instead of midnight with a replica of the ball dropping in New York's Time Squares (done in Legos, of course), followed by fireworks.. At SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, see the 320-foot Christmas Tree of Life (California's largest), meet Santa's reindeers and enjoy a Christmas Village stroll. Bring a sweater and don’t expect beach weather! November 19-January 1. 
 

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

The City by the Bay has holiday lights, public art, special events, and more holiday cheer beginning November 19 at the annual "Pier 39 Tree Lighting Ceremony" at the waterfront marketplace. Snowflakes on Market (Nov. 22-Dec.31) creates a Path of Gold lights with a total of 298 sparkling snowflakes. Glittering palm trees adorn Union Square, which hosts the city’s Macy's Christmas Tree and Bill Graham Menorah. November 24-January 1.


SARATOGA, NEW YORK

The wildly popular Polar Express that runs on the vintage Saratoga & North Creek Railway draws thousands to this cute Victorian town. Expect the kids (most dressed in pajamas) to love the North Pole station where Santa and elves welcome the train. Weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Holidays
The Lagoon Lights show illuminates the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, and brings to life a ghostly pirate ship sailing through a resort pond.

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA

Combine the appeal of a temperate climate, golfing and beautiful resorts, with cactus decked out in twinkling lights and reindeer on front lawns, and you get the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. "Las Noches de Las Luminarias" lights up the Desert Botanical Garden with a huge show of 8,000 glowing, hand-lit paper lanterns. The North Pole-themed Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a family and pet-welcoming AAA five-diamond resort, also goes all out for the holidays. Guests can meet n'greet six life-size characters (including a walking S'more!), plus pose for pictures with a musical tree that plays 17 songs, on the ice slide, or in front of millions of holiday lights around the lagoon. There's snow falling over skaters on the new Desert Ice Rink, regularly scheduled animated videos projected on the resort's facade, and a Princess Express Train, too. The resort’s Season of Giving package provides guests an elegantly luxurious room, $50 daily resort credit and express VIP access to the rides, and sends $10 from each package to Child Crisis Arizona. Other holiday specials are available at ScottsdalePrincess.com or by calling 866/540-4495. November 22-January 1.
 

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Westlake Park has its holiday carousel, Seattle Center offers ice skating, Woodland Park Zoo is packed with carolers and 600,000 LEDs shaped like animals for “WildLights.” During the 67th Annual Argosy Christmas Ship Festival the Argosy  will sail with an onboard choir to serenade 65 waterfront communities. Holidays in Seattle has a listing of more events and attractions. November 25-January 1.
 

SPRINGFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS

New England’s most imaginative holiday lighting exhibit brings Seuss Land (this is author Theodor Geisel’s hometown), North Pole Village, and Jurassic World to the three-mile “Bright Nights” festival, which also offers horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides. The whole city is lighting up in solidarity. November 23-January 1 (closed Nov. 28 and 29.)
 

STANWOOD, WASHINGTON

The annual “Lights of Christmas” celebration is said to be the grandest holiday event in the Pacific Northwest, with lights, five entertainment stages, kids activities, food and shopping. Weekends, December 4-28.
 

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA

The “Holiday Lights in the Park” has more than 60 light sculptures and animated displays in Phalen Park, and all proceeds from this fun family event are donated towards advanced safety training for police officers. November 22-January 1.
 

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK

Lights on the Lake” sparkles over Onondaga Lake Park with its two-mile, drive-through extravaganza featuring Land of Oz, Fantasy Forest and a Fairytale Grand Finale.  November 16-January 8.
 

THOMASVILLE, GEORGIA

After 29 years, this “Victorian Christmas” has grown from twinkling lights to a Victorian Museum and Craft Village, a Winter Wonderland for children with carolers, live ice sculpting, chestnut roasting, marshmallow toasting, and more. December 8 and 9.
 

VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA

Virginia Beach offers"Holiday Lights at the Beach" and joins Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Portsmouth with holiday displays and a lineup of events for the state’s annual "100 Miles of Lights." But you won’t have to leave the Boardwalk to enjoy the town’s beachfront 40-foot-tall Christmas on the beach.  November 28-January 1.
 

WASHINGTON, DC

The nation’s capital celebrates in winter:  the lighting of the National Christmas Tree (December 1) and the National Menorah (December 25), and, all season, the snowtubing, Panda photo ops and outdoor ZooLights at the National Zoo (Nov 25-Jan. 1, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.) Experience the traditional decorations that grace Christmas at Mount Vernon and meet a Christmas camel. November 25-January 6.
 

WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA

Travel back 200-300 years at the Historic Triangle to learn how holidays were celebrated. Colonial Williamsburg’s “Grand Illumination” events include Christmas Decoration walking tours, caroling in the revolutionary city plus concerts and musical performances, storytelling, and traditional tavern dinners. Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town is celebrating 8 years at the North Pole, with Santa’s Workshop theming all over the park. At dusk, the 8 million twinkling lights make the themepark come alive. Revolutionary-era Yorktown and 17th century Jamestown have special events, too. Check for active dates, December 1-31.

 

Wherever you see ads or images within this special FamilyTravelConsulting.com travel section, the advertising and custom content has been brought to you by our sponsors. All other content and opinions are based upon the authors' actual travel experience and knowledge.

 

 

Note! This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.