We love the holiday season, when bright lights, Christmas decorations, menorahs, colorfully wrapped gifts and imaginative retail displays illuminate cities and towns around the world, regardless of whether there is sun or snow outside. For many, ’tis the season to spend time with family, bake and decorate (see our directory of U-Pick Christmas tree farms for ideas), then head out on holidagaylory adventures rejuvenated. Many of you will stay close to home; others will take their big family vacation of the year and reunite with loved ones.
Whether you are planning a staycation or a vacation, travel prepared.
You might be planning a trip abroad, to the Caribbean or like the Yemma family, to see the German Christmas Markets. Despite the uncertain weather, Americans continue to view Europe as a preferred holiday travel destination, according to travel destination data collected and analyzed by Allianz Travel Insurance, the world leader in travel insurance. The top 20 European destinations saw airline tickets sales increase an average 26 percent over last year, nearly tripling the nine percent increase from 2016 to 2017. Three of those cities experienced impressive growth of more than 50 percent: Barcelona, Zurich and Lisbon, demonstrating Americans’ growing interest in Europe.
Whether you’re traveling abroad or nearby, always consider protecting your family with travel insurance. Allianz Global Assistance offers travel insurance through most major U.S. airlines, leading travel agents, online travel agencies and directly to consumers.
Top Holiday Lights, Decorations and Festivals for 2018
This roundup of the top holiday displays across America was compiled with TakingtheKids.com and is your guide to the best and brightest public events. We hope you will share your finds and photos by using the tag #starrylights.
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO
The ABQ Biopark Botanic Garden will host the “River of Lights”, New Mexico’s largest walk-through holiday production featuring giant sculptures created by millions of twinkling lights and more than 500 dazzling displays. See it from November 24-December 30, 2018. A couple of other exciting attractions are the Twinkle Light Parade, featuring dozens of sparkling floats (December 1), and the annual Luminaria Tour (December 24).
Orange County has a lot going on during the holidays. Merry magic at the Disneyland Resort means festive décor, classic park attractions with a holiday flair and special treats. Check out the Holiday Time at the Disneyland Resort guided tour, and take a nap so you will be ready for A Christmas Fantasy parade and World of Color – Season of Light evening shows. The dates are November 9-January 8, 2019.
Lights on the Bay is going to celebrate its 25th anniversary. This drive-through holiday light show is at Sandy Point State Park and is comprised of more than 60 stationary and animated displays including a glowing lighthouse and blue crabs on Chesapeake Bay. Dates are November 18-January 1, 2019.
The annual Trail of Lights at Zilker Park, voted a USA Today “Top 10 Holiday Celebration,” will wind 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. The casual Fun Run will be on December 1 and the Night Lights Preview Party will be on December 8. Plenty of delicious dishes will be available in this foodie town, plus kid’s activities, local crafts vendors and photo ops. Closing night will be December 23, 2018.
Experience the new European style Christmas Village in Baltimore at Inner Harbor West Shore Park. Running from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, season 2018 will start with a new preview weekend on November 17-18. Vendors at more than 50 booths will sell traditional European food, sweets and drinks. In addition, they will offer a great shopping experience with a large variety of international holiday gifts, ornaments, and jewelry and high-quality arts and crafts.
The Holiday Tree Lighting in Boston Common (November 29) will be one of several tree-lighting ceremonies in Bean Town. Others will take place at the Massachusetts State House, Faneuil Marketplace and Copley Square. Go on the Freedom Trail Holiday Stroll and discover how Boston’s holiday traditions evolved. This historic holiday stroll will run from November-January 2019, select Thursdays-Sundays. Tours will not be available on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days.
Do not miss an Ozark Mountain Christmas that features over 300 exhibitions including drive-through night light displays such as the 2½-mile long Trail of Lights at The Shepherd of the Hills. Five million lights will help celebrate an Old Time Christmas at the Silver Dollar City amusement park from November 3-December 30, 2018. Branson’s many holiday events will include a parade and five-story special effects Christmas tree.
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
The Lights of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn attracts 100,000 visitors to view amazing decorations. Expect to see massive, professionally wired light displays from mid-December through New Year’s Eve. We suggest going anytime between dusk and 9pm starting November 30, 2018.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
The annual Holiday Festival of Lights, considered one of the top 20 holiday lights events in the Southeast, features millions of lights arranged in over 700 displays along a three-mile route at James Island County Park. Other attractions include a Festival Train, an old-fashioned Victorian Carousel, Santa’s Sweet Shoppe and more. The festival will be open every evening rain or shine from November 9 – January 1, 2019.
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
Drive through the Speedway Christmas event at the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway where there will be a ton of lights. The family-friendly Christmas Village – open Thursday-Sunday and all Christmas week (except Christmas Day) – will include an all-new 50 foot Ferris wheel in addition to family favorites like Bethlehem village, photos with Santa, food, games and more. A bonus feature is Movie Nights on the giant Speedway TV every Thursday-Sunday. Go see the most awe-inspiring, Christmas-themed drive-in theater around.
Rock City Garden’s Enchanted Garden of Lights returns for its 24th year with more than 30 illuminated holiday scenes. You will also be able to enjoy live entertainment in the North Pole Lounge, cookie decorating, and Sugar Plum Fairy makeovers for the kids. Booking a Dinner with Santa package will get you a meal and a VIP entry pass. Dates are November 16-December 31, 2018. The Holiday Trail of Lights will feature eight major points of interest highlighting millions of twinkling lights.
A key Chicago event is the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival celebrating its 27th year November 16-17, 2018 in Pioneer Court. Festivities will include a visit from Santa, live music, and a parade on North Michigan Avenue. The grand marshals will be Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World Resorts Florida and a fireworks display will follow. The Museum of Science and Industry will celebrate Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light will feature more than 50 trees decorated to represent various cultures and holiday traditions. The festivities will start November 15 and end January 6, 2019.
GE’s Lighting Institute is in Nela Park where thousands of lights will illuminate buildings along Noble Road from early December to January 1, 2019.
COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO
Enjoy holiday music performances and more than 1.5 million lights on the largest on-the-water holiday light display in the United States. The lakefront Coeur d’Alene Resort Journey to the North Pole Cruise departures will be scheduled several times each evening beginning Friday, November 23 through January 1, 2019. This 40-minute cruise offers spectacular views of the holiday light displays. Santa awaits your child’s arrival at the North Pole Toy Workshop.
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo will shine with over one million holiday lights and 85 light sculptures, making the Electric Safari very festive. Drop by the historic pink Broadmoor Hotel nearby for a hot chocolate and have fun at their annual White Lights Ceremony, with live music and more. The dates are December 7-January 1, 2019. A bonus: Select indoor animal exhibits will remain open during the event.
CRUISE VACATIONS FOR THE WINTER HOLIDAYS
Since there is so much competition in the cruise industry, the major cruise companies go all out to entice holiday travelers with special décor, celebratory meals, festive activities and even church services for almost every denomination. Family Travel Forum’s Cruise with Kids Guide has all the information you need to choose the best one for your family.
Carnival ships, for example, celebrate the holidays with decorations, “snowfalls” in the atrium and seasonal music. December 2-10 marks Hannukah, the Jewish celebration of miracles, when passengers can take part in the lighting of the Menorah, prayers, songs, special youth programs and traditional foods. For Christmas, expect trees, wreaths, mistletoe, caroling, special menus and a holiday show with a performance by the “Camp Ocean” children. Midnight mass is also celebrated and is quite popular, usually taking place in the ship’s main lounge because of the high attendance. As part of Carnival’s fleetwide Seuss at Sea program, there’s also a holiday appearance by The Grinch as well as Santa. The Grinch visits the kids clubs and of course, makes an appearance at the much-loved Dr. Seuss-themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends.
Make Dallas part of your holiday plans. The Big D has a full calendar of events including parades, festivals, food, music and more. There is something for everyone to enjoy at Holiday at the Arboretum that features the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit. In addition, you will be able to stroll through the garden and see the 25-foot Victorian-style gazebos come to life from November 9–December 31, 2018.
More than 175,000 lights will illuminate the 14th annual Christmas in the Square, the largest holiday lights and music show in North Texas from November 23-December 31. The Holiday lights and music will run daily 6-10pm. Go ice-skating and see the “snow flurries” guaranteed to fall every 15 minutes on Fridays and Saturdays.
GALVESTON ISLAND, TEXAS
The 3-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. Visit from November 17-January 6, 2019.
Enjoy the 43rd annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade with lighted floats, equestrian units and Santa Claus on December 7. The parade lineup includes marching bands from all over the east, large balloons, dancers, musicians, and much more.
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. Escape to SNOWLAND at the Great Wolf Lodge and join Christmas Carol of Lights at 3pm on November 19. A holiday highlight attraction is ICE! at Gaylord Texan. This is an extraordinary and magical display of elaborate, life-sized ice sculptures, ice slides and ice monuments, with dramatic lighting effects – all created from nearly 2 million pounds of ice. It will run from November 9 – January 1, 2019.
A winter wonderland will beckon you at Hershey Sweet Lights, a holiday drive-through spectacular. Enjoy nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays from the comfort of your car. The town of Hershey also has its own Sweet Lights drive-through attraction. The Hershey Park Christmas Candylane features more than 4 million lights, rides, a visit with Santa, and so much more. The dates for both events are November 16-January 1, 2019.
HONOLULU, O’AHU, ISLANDS OF HAWAII
The aloha holiday spirit will shine through the annual Honolulu City Lights festival on December 1. You will find food, souvenir booths, Keiki Rides and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 6:30pm. The Waikiki Holiday Parade to commemorate military heroes and survivors of Pearl Harbor will take place on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It will feature thousands of marchers, multiple bands and entertainers. The 1.5-mile route is on Kalakaua Avenue along Waikiki Beach.
This town goes all out: illuminating the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument with about 4,784 lights. Admission to this annual Circle of Lights, event is free. Travelocity named the Circle of Lights one of the top five “must-see Christmas trees” in the nation. Don’t miss Santa’s Big Arrival at the Children’s Museum Indianapolis on November 23, 2018.
MOUNT PLEASANT, IOWA
Join the locals when they sip gluhwein at Christkindlmarket Des Moines and then go see the Mount Pleasant Festival of Lights from November 15- December 31 at the Old Threshers Campgrounds. They will light up 60 acres of the park in what is described as the largest holiday light display in the Midwest. Also, check out Amana Colonies where you can study the Tannenbaum Forest and visit Santa and his reindeer. Another attraction is the Davenport Quad City Arts Festival of Trees. Feast your eyes on the 30,000-square-foot River Center complex that will be transformed into a winter wonderland featuring over 150 designer displays. Dates are November 15-25, 2018 at the River Center complex.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
Do not miss Kansas City’s winter holiday family events including the KCP&L Plaza Lights, a local tradition for 89 years. This 15-block holiday spectacle on the famed Country Club Plaza will feature thousands of glimmering, jewel-colored lights that accentuate every dome, tower and window of the Spanish-inspired shopping district. The 89th Annual KCP&L Plaza Lighting Ceremony will take place on November 22, 2018 from 5pm-9pm.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
You will not find snow, but there is plenty of holiday spirit around town. BOLD Holidays returns this year with extended shopping hours, live entertainment, art installations and more. The festivities will begin with the Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting Celebration on Thursday, November 15. A Timeout holiday lights guide is here.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Las Vegas Christmas Town is an unforgettable nighttime winter wonderland featuring holiday entertainment and attractions. Feast your eyes on over three million lights and enjoy seeing a 40-foot Christmas tree and Santa Claus. Some of the fun activities will be the Polar Express train ride, Jingle Bell sledding hill and Yuletide laser tag. Christmas Town will be open every day November 23 – December 31, 2018. A calendar of events is here.
The 32nd annual Wonderland of Lights festival is the original and largest Christmas festival in Texas. It includes hundreds of holiday light displays, outdoor ice-skating, a live variety show, a Santa’s Workshop, carriage rides and more. It begins November 21 and continue through December 30, 2018.
The downtown Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival will return for its 21st year at Pere Marquette Park with a holiday variety show and the city’s largest switch-flipping ceremony. Visit all three decorated parks (Cathedral Square, Pere Marquette and Zeidler Union Square) to see the streetscape transformed by sparkling rooflines, harp lamp lighting and suspended décor above downtown intersections. The festival will be from November 15-January 1, 2019.
MCADENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
McAdenville is a small town that can compete with big cities. The official lighting of Christmas Town USA, in its 63rd year, will be November 30, 2018. The ceremony will take place on the Plaza, in front of the Pharr Family YMCA. In addition, you will be able to feast your eyes on more than 160 beautifully decorated homes as well as 265 evergreen trees covered with more than 500,000 lights.
Take a journey back in time to Christmas Eve 1876 at Mystic Seaport. The Lantern Light Tours: Finding Your Place is a play that features winter fantasia and is set on Christmas Eve. Start your journey aboard a horse-drawn carriage and ride to six different locations to watch individual acts from The Nutcracker. Tours are 90 minutes long and include many musical surprises. You might even get the chance to meet Santa. Enjoy this New England holiday tradition from November 23-December 23, 2018.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
Celebration in the Oaks is a time old tradition popular with kids, adults, locals and visitors to New Orleans. The park’s famous oaks are covered in hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. Light displays like the Cajun Night Before Christmas and a storybook experience spread throughout the 25-acre park, and events like Yoga Under the Lights and Pet Pics with Santa make it an unforgettable experience. Festivities start on November 23 and end January 1, 2019.
NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
Christmas in Newport began as a two-week festival that celebrated the noncommercial traditions of the holiday season. Now in its 48th year, the annual program features a variety of holiday activities throughout the entire month of December. During Christmas in Newport, only clear bulbs will illuminate the scenic harbor and wharves, the restored colonials of the Point and Historic Hill sections, and the Victorian splendor of Bellevue Avenue.
NEWPORT BEACH, CALIFORNIA
The 110th annual Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has it all. There are elaborate Christmas light displays on waterfront estates with their Ring of Lights competition, plus they have one of the largest decorated boat parades in the country. Hundreds of decorated ships of all sizes compete for top awards in over a half dozen categories. The boat parade is from December 19 to December 23, 2018. It takes place from 6pm to 10pm every night.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
New York celebrates the winter holidays with enthusiasm. The exciting attractions include the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (lighting on November 28), the world’s largest Menorah at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza (December 2), New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show (miniature NYC landmarks made entirely out of plants) from November 17-January 21, 2019 and the 1½ ton, 300-square-foot village made entirely of edible gingerbread at the New York Hall of Science (November 10-January 21, 2019) in Queens. In addition, you can check out the festive store windows. Visit NYC & Company for detailed information about upcoming holiday events.
NIAGARA FALLS, USA & CANADA
This December, a holiday celebration will happen in Downtown Niagara Falls USA. Join the Jingle Falls USA festivities on November 30, and December 1, 8, and 15, 2018. This year’s events will begin with a community candlelight stroll from City Hall to Old Falls Street. After the walk, officials will light up the Christmas tree on Old Falls Street and a fireworks display will follow.
OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND
Northside Park will host the Winterfest of Lights that incorporates scenes from popular fairy tales. After 31 years, Ocean City continues to offer an array of holiday events, parades and activities for the whole family to enjoy. The festivities will run from November 15-December 31, 2018.
Mark your calendar to remember to attend the annual Oceanside Harbor Parade of Lights on December 8. This entertaining spectacle will exhibit boats of all shapes and sizes with decorations including lights, ornaments and multiple holiday trimmings. In addition, enjoy Tis the Season to Shop from November 24-December 12. All participating shops will be listed on the Shop Local Holiday Passport in one of four regions: Downtown, Harbor, Inland and South O.
Orlando has something for everyone. Walt Disney World will again host Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and a new Jingle Bell, Jingle Bam! Holiday Dessert Party at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Among 18 brand new treats are the holiday decor at Toy Story Land, Disney Junior Dance Party!, a yummy Holiday Cookie Stroll, a Diwali celebration with Friends from “Up” and festive Character Couture items in the shops. At SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration you will be able to meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and see ice skaters twirl on a frozen lake. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter dressed up for the holidays, and watch Dr. Seuss’ lovable Grinchmas steal the show at Universal Studios (November 17-January 6). Also, be sure to catch a Christmas Bricktacular at Legoland Florida featuring a huge Lego Christmas tree (December 16-17 and December 23-25).
PALM DESERT, CALIFORNIA
The 450-acre Living Desert will be bright for the 26th annual Wild Lights Festival when they blanket the botanical gardens with thousands of lights. This festive event will kick off on Friday, November 23 with festivities from 6 pm to 9 pm and will continue on select nights through December 24, 2018. This year, guests will be able to explore the newly added pathways and wander through the popular tunnel of lights.
PAWLEYS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA
Nights of a Thousand Candles, named “Best Christmas Lights in South Carolina” by Travel + Leisure Magazine, will come alive amid the soft glow of more than 4,500 hand-lit candles and countless sparkling lights. Walk the paths from 3pm–10pm with a warm cup of cider, listen to holiday music, and celebrate the season with family and friends. The 2018 dates are here.
Philadelphia will be aglow this holiday season. Experience the magic of the holidays and celebrate traditions new and old at the delightful Macy’s Christmas Light Show, the ice rink at Dilworth Park, the Germany style Christmas Market at JFK Plaza, and Franklin Square’s Electrical Spectacle: A Holiday Light Show, among many other events. Don’t miss the SugarHouse New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront and the Mummers’ Parade on New Year’s Day. The Philadelphia PHLASH runs a free, festive shuttle that stops at 11 Philly Holidays Festival attractions every 20 to 30 minutes on Thursday through Sunday evenings. General dates are November 15-January 1, 2019.
PENNSYLVANIA SKI AREA RESORTS
Want to escape the hustle and bustle of the season and start a new family tradition? Celebrate the holidays on the slopes at one of Pennsylvania’s 21 Ski Area Resorts. What could be a better way to reconnect with loved ones than spending quality time together and creating life-long treasured memories. Ski resorts provide a magical holiday getaway with almost guaranteed snow, picturesque scenery and bountiful winter recreational offerings from skiing and snowboarding, to tubing and ice skating. This holiday, the Pennsylvania Ski Area Resorts (SkiPA) are ringing in the season with a variety of jubilant events designed to cater to every age and interest. Visitors can look forward to a potpourri of holiday fun from dazzling holiday lights, gingerbread house workshops and magical elf tuck-ins to torchlight parades, New Year’s tubing and ski parties, holiday buffets and even a chance to catch Santa on the slopes. To find your favorite resort, visit the SkiPA guide. PS: Still looking for holiday gifts? Give the gift of skiing and snowboarding with a gift card to your favorite SkiPA resort. Or, if you have a family member who is new to the sport, the First Time Skier/Snowboarder package is a perfect choice. Simply choose a resort and receive a lift ticket, rental and lesson for just $59. Have a fourth or fifth grader at home? Don’t forget to sign them up for the Snowpass program. SkiPA makes it affordable for kids to stay active, have fun and get outdoors this winter. The program gives your child the opportunity to ski or snowboard for free up to three times at 21 participating ski resorts.
PIGEON FORGE, TENNESSEE
Pigeon Forge creates a winter wonderland for locals and guests alike to enjoy during the city’s annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest celebration. The lights of Winterfest will shine from early November to the end of February. Dollywood is a must-see with more than 4 million lights on exhibit during Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. The park will have holiday music, rides, a nightly Parade of Lights and much more to celebrate the season.
PINE MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA
The Callaway Gardens Resort’s playful Jolly Trolley runs through a Fantasy of Lights featuring 15 displays and eight million lights. It will include giant toy soldiers, an enchanted rainbow forest, and Firefly Cove. The display was voted one of National Geographic’s “Top 10 Light Displays” in the world. Visit from November 16-January 5, 2019.
PORTSMOUTH, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Celebrate the Season with shows, leisurely walks, and shopping. The attractions at the Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth festival include a production of Elf the Musical, a candlelight stroll, a Vintage Christmas Kickoff Party, and a Gingerbread House Contest. The dates are November 28 to the last day of December 2018.
This college town produces the Tacky Light Tour every winter. It is a local tradition featuring festive light displays, lawn decorations, and animated scenery. It takes place on selected dates between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a historic AAA-Four Diamond hotel, will kick off the holiday season on November 23, 2018 with the 26th Annual Festival of Lights celebration. It is a free, six-week-long holiday extravaganza featuring one of the nation’s largest holiday light collections. USA Today named this festival the “Best Public Lights Display in the Nation.” It creates a magical, Disneyland-like experience in the heart of Riverside and more than 500,000 visitors from all over the world go to see it every year.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
San Antonio’s River Walk is the place to be on November 23 for the Ford Holiday River Parade. Ring in the holidays with this fantastic night parade filled with lights, costumed float riders and music. The theme this year is “Christmas in San Antonio.” Each float will depict a traditional way San Antonians celebrate the holiday. Information the more than 2,000 lights at Fiesta de las Luminarias is online.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
This family-friendly city will present the Botanic Garden’s 125,000-light Garden of Lights on December 1– 23 and 26 – 30, 2018. Festive holiday activities will include sledding, holiday crafts, marshmallow roasting, dining, and visits with Santa. Seaworld’s Christmas Celebration is a holiday celebration waiting to happen, with seasonal shopping, festive food and drinks, and incredible live shows. Holidays at Legoland will take place from November 17- December 31, 2018 and you can stay and ring in the New Year there.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
The City by the Bay will have holiday lights, public art, special events, and more holiday cheer beginning November 21 at the annual Pier 39 Macy’s Tree Lighting Ceremony at the waterfront marketplace. Synchronized to holiday music, the tree will become a kaleidoscope of swirling color, adorned with thousands of specialty lights and ornaments. This year’s Union Square Tree Lighting Ceremony will be on Friday, November 23, 2018 starting at 6pm. In addition, you can join them daily December 2-9 in the same place for the Bill Graham Menorah Lighting.
SARATOGA, NEW YORK
The Saratoga Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 6:00pm. Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive by horse drawn carriage, so your kids will get a chance to tell them what they want for Christmas. There will be free hot chocolate and cookies along with music by Star 101.3 radio. Information about the Polar Express, a magical trip to the North Pole, is here.
Combine a temperate climate, golfing and beautiful resorts with cacti decked out in twinkling lights and you have the allure of Phoenix-Scottsdale during the holidays. For the ninth year, Christmas at the Princess transforms the classic, AAA-Five Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort into a holiday wonderland featuring a four-story musical tree with 70,000 synchronized LED lights. Guests love the Desert Ice Skating Rink (made of real ice), Princess Express trains, the cute Hollyville photo stop, S’mores Land with the Polar Ice Glide, lagoon showcasing 4.5 million dazzling LEDs and the new Build-A-Bear Pop-Up Shop. Visitors are welcome and overnight guests can save with the Sip, Savor & Celebrate Holiday package that includes a $75 daily resort credit plus priority seating on the train and at all events. Even more magical, book the Santa Suite VIP Experience and enjoy a suite with its own hot cocoa bar, plenty of Christmas cookies and festive tunes; plus a rinkside firepit and priority pass for family photos. Holiday friends such as Peppermint Penguin, Princesses Angelica and Noel and other characters are part of the nightly holiday welcome in Enchanted Plaza, November 20-December 31, 2018. Note that “Las Noches de Las Luminarias” at the nearby Desert Botanical Garden — a traditional show of 8,000 glowing, hand-lit paper lanterns — runs select nights.
Sipping hot chocolate around twinkling lights is probably a favorite activity for locals during the holiday season. There will be several large light displays in the area including WildLights, Seattle’s wildest holiday lights festival from November 23-January 5, 2019. The Argosy Christmas Ship Festival is a ship-to-shore holiday celebration that has been a Northwest tradition since 1949. They decorate it with hundreds of shimmery white lights and it will sail to different Puget Sound waterfront communities throughout December 2018.
The three-mile Bright Nights festival at Forest Park event is listed on People.com as “One of the Top Ten Holiday Happenings in America.” Expansions since the first season have included the Winter Garden, Jurassic World, Kwanzaa, Everett Barney Mansion, Happy Holidays, Springfield as well as the additions to Toy Land featuring Milton Bradley Company and Hasbro iconic toys and games. Dates are November 21 – January 1, 2019.
The annual Lights of Christmas celebration is enchanting and one of the biggest holiday events in the Pacific Northwest. The festival will feature lights, five entertainment stages, kid’s activities, food and shopping. It will take place November 29-December 2, plus December 6-9, 13-16, 19-23, and 26-29 from 5pm-10pm.
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA
Holiday Lights in the Park will run nightly, November 24–January 1, 2019 at Saint Paul’s Phalen Park. Visitors will be able to see more than 60 larger-than-life holiday light sculptures and animated displays from the comfort of their vehicles as they cruise through the park in the evening hours.
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK
Lights on the Lake is celebrating 29 years. It is a two-mile long, drive-through show featuring spectacular holiday displays, larger-than-life Land of Oz, twinkling Fantasy Forest, colorful section arches, and a fairytale magic grand finale. Lights on the Lake will be from November 15, 2018-Sunday, January 6, 2019.
The Victorian Christmas will usher you into the spirit of Christmas long ago. It takes place December 13-14, 2018 and will feature Kings Voice singers dressed in fine Victorian fashion, carriage rides, live entertainment, delicious food and more.
VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA
On December 1, Virginia Beach will host Holiday Parade at the Beach. The event will feature giant balloons, marching bands, lighted floats, equestrian units, fire trucks, dance groups and more. It is a delightful way to get into the spirit of the holidays. Holiday Lights Merry Mile, a nautical and holiday fantasy of lights spread over a dozen blocks – from 8th Street to 22nd Street, will be on November 22-December 30, 2018. More information about 100 miles of lights and holiday events across the Seven Cities from Richmond to Virginia Beach is here.
The nation’s capital will play host to an array of winter celebrations including the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on November 28 and the National Menorah on The Ellipse on December 2. You and your kids can enjoy snow tubing, Panda photo ops and outdoor ZooLights at the National Zoo. The lighting will consist of more than 500,000 eco-friendly LED lights on exhibition from November 23-January 1, 2019. In addition, you will have an opportunity to experience the traditional decorations that grace Christmas at Mount Vernon on December 14-15.
You can also get just outside the bustle of the city and head to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on the National Harbor. From mid-November through December, the Gaylord lights up with an indoors atrium holiday lights display, Christmas village complete with a family-friendly Potomac train ride right on the property, photos with Santa, gingerbread making and more. A Cirque de Soleil Show lights up the Gaylord hotel’s atrium multiple times a day, including as the sun sets over the National Harbor and night falls. Afterwards, stroll out to the boardwalk on the National Harbor where the Capital Wheel ferris wheel dazzles and soars 180 feet in the air for views of D.C.’s sparkling holiday lights.
Learn how they celebrated the holidays a couple of centuries ago at the Grand Illumination in Colonial Williamsburg on December 2. Take a stroll through the Historic District and view all the unique decorations. Enjoy musical performances on multiple stages throughout the area and fireworks from the Capitol. While you are in the area, visit Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town. They will have more than 10 million Christmas lights throughout the park from November 17–January 5, 2019. And, Christmastide in Virginia at Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown will offer a glimpse of 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions. The dates are December 20-31, 2018.
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