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The turkey leftovers are gone. The Christmas tree and decorations are up! Aside from the abundance of delicious seasonal food and frantic holiday shopping for gifts during this time of the year, I love the holidays because of the beautiful lights on display. My blogger friends and I curated some recommendations on where to watch awesome Christmas light displays.
So, wear your cozy winter gear, gather up the family or your buddies and head to one of these light shows.
Larger than life Christmas displays transform Chicago’s lakefront zoo into a twinkling winter wonderland every year. ZooLights is a free event in Lincoln Park Zoo showcasing at least 2 million Christmas lights for 35 nights. Visit Santa, marvel at magnificent ice sculptures, sing-along with strolling carolers, enjoy festive activities while sipping and eating sweet treats of all kinds including hot cocoa!
It’s so beautiful that some couples propose to their lovers at this time of the year. If you are one of those romantics who will be in Chicago at this time of the year, you can contact the zoo’s Private Events department for assistance to seal the deal during the memorable moment.
Since it’s an evening event starting at 4:30 PM until 9:00 PM, you can see other places in Chicago during the day time too.
Joanne Jackson of Tea and Cake for the Soul recommends watching the light display in Long Beach, California, which she listed as one of the best places to watch sunsets in the state.
“I have spent a couple of Christmases in California recently. One of the festivities that I particularly enjoy is the Parade of 1000 Lights at Long Beach in Los Angeles. It’s not a static display but one that is held on the water. Hundreds of boat owners decorate their boats, and often themselves, and sail around the port of Long Beach on a Saturday night in mid-December. It makes for a lovely sociable evening as everyone is in Christmas spirit, made extra special by views of the iconic Queen Mary in the background.”
“The procession itself is free to view and can be seen from many locations around the Shoreline Village and Marina,” she adds. “Even though it attracts hundreds of visitors there is plenty of room, so no need to arrive hours in advance.”
“We parked at the free on-street parking by Bluff Park at East Ocean Boulevard and walked in along the beach walk. If you don’t want to walk so far you can opt for metered or pre-paid parking in the Shoreline Village and marina car parks.”
“This annual event is not to be missed if you are in the locality.”
Jennifer Prince of Travel Like A Prince suggested, “One of my favorite holiday light displays has a great connection with my childhood. Growing up and having a husband and kids, they too learned to make the annual trek to Center City, Philadelphia. Locals still call it “Wanamaker’s” although the store has since changed to Macy’s, but this show has been around since 1956 and has entertained generations.”
When asked what to expect during the show, she adds, “Complete with organ music and a recorded narration by Julie Andrews, the light show takes place on a wall that is several stories high. Bulbs are turned on and off to tell a few favorite Christmas tales. Everything is set to well known holiday music. Whether folks choose to watch from the first floor or gaze from one of the many balcony overlooks, it’s something that many families continue to incorporate into their yearly traditions.”
“The show is free, runs for around 12 minutes, and happens on the even hours from 10am until 8pm. While you are at Macy’s, be sure to head to the third floor to view the Dickens Village, which has also been a staple for years. What a way to get into the holiday spirit!”
Travel Like a Prince founder Jennifer has another great addition to the list. “For those looking for something that is theme park sized, yet is not actually inside of a theme park, then Hershey Sweet Lights is for you!”
“Of course, Pennsylvania’s Hershey Park has it’s own light display within its gates, but our family prefers this drive-through version. After all, being warm in the car is a great alternative!” This is an awesome option for those who prefers to stay in their cars due to mobility issues or just wants to cozy up in their car seats.
“Boasting 2 miles filled with approximately 600 different, lit displays, the path includes characters from favorite stories and songs. Part of the drive is wooded, which adds an extra element of fun. The front gate also sells 3-D style glasses to make the lights come to life,” describes Jennifer on what to expect during the drive through.
There is a small out of pocket cost according to her, “An entrance fee of $20-$35 – depending on the size of the vehicle and day of the week you attend – is worthwhile to get in the mood for the holidays. Our favorite is to play our own Christmas tunes as we go through and gawk at the different displays.”
Jennifer Dombrowski and Tim Davis of Luxe Adventure Traveler thought of a residential neighborhood in the southwest corner of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City.
“A ridiculous NYC Christmas tradition, the Dyker Heights Christmas lights displays have gotten bigger and bigger every year since neighborhood resident Lucy Spata pioneered the spectacle some 30 years ago.”
The story of how it started is very interesting. “Defiant against a neighbor that complained about Lucy’s over-the-top Christmas lights, she just made the display bigger and brighter. Before long the entire neighborhood was joining in. Now, this Brooklyn neighborhood is one of the best places to see holiday lights in America.”
Even more intriguing is what makes it stand out from other residential neighborhoods in America. “It’s said that the glow of the Christmas lights can be seen from the International Space Station. The neighborhood is fairly unremarkable from above the rest of the year.”
The duo has this tip to add when trying to get there. “While NYC is typically a city you’d much rather take to by foot or subway, public transportation isn’t so well situated to the neighborhood. The most hassle-free way to see the lights is to hop on one of the nightly tours leaving from Manhattan with A Slice of Brooklyn. You have plenty of free time to explore the neighborhood at your own pace. The tour makes a few other stops at some additional really decked out neighborhoods. No matter how you plan to get there, don’t attempt to rent a car and park in Dyker Heights. The neighborhood has become such a popular holiday attraction that parking bans have to be put in place each year.”
Stehli Krause of Mommy and Kid Travel suggests going by the beach to enjoy the holiday season, “For a sweet treat and lots of lights, check out the Candy Cane Parade located on the Broadwalk in Hollywood Beach, Florida.”
“Not only will you snag piles of candy canes, but you will witness one of the longest running holiday parades in the country,” she adds. “The Candy Cane Parade was started in the 1950s by a group of local businessmen to get people into their shops. It’s still going strong today.”
“The parade starts at 7:00 PM on Saturday, December 8, 2018. The fun starts on Missouri Street and heads south to Harrison Street.” The best seat to catch a good show is always sparse during a parade. Stehli shares this tip, “Complimentary bleacher seating is available at various locations along the parade route from Garfield Street down to Polk Street. It’s sure to be standing room only so get there early!”.
“Another family favorite is the Winterfest Boat Parade,” says Stehli of Mommy and Kid Travel as she suggests another from her home state Florida, “taking place on Saturday, December 15, 2018.”
“The 2 ½ hour parade starts at 6:30 PM along the docks just west of Stranahan House on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The fun sails east towards the Intercoastal and then north to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach.”
She continues to describe the parade and shares where to best view it. “Boats and watercraft of all shapes and sizes sail by in their best holiday cheer. There are many ways to view the parade. Most people camp out at a local waterside restaurant to eat, drink and watch the festivities. A list of participating locations can be found at here and be sure to make your reservations in advance.”
“Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is the official public viewing spot. Grandstand tickets sell at $25.00 for adults and $20.00 for kids. You can charter a boat or bring your own, drop anchor and watch the fun. Full details can be found at the event’s website.
Now grab your stocking hat and flip-flops and enjoy the holiday spirit South Florida style!”
Have you been to any of these shows? How was your experience? We would like to hear other light shows or exhibits you have been to as well.
Several of these suggestions root from childhood memories made with the family. Do you have any similar holiday traditions that you grew up doing or planning to do with your kids? Share in the comments below.