After the high-strung chaos of Black Friday, the pumpkin bender continues but shifts to gingerbread, Santa Claus inflatables begin to appear in front yards, and reindeer car antlers flood the streets. There are those who embrace the Christmas spirit before the calendar hits December 1, and others who don’t put up a fake tree until the week of. Whether you’re a Griswald, a Scrooge, or somewhere in between the two, it’s always a worthwhile outing to enjoy an impressive display of lights. What sounds better than a free night out with a to-go thermos of hot chocolate (or spiked apple cider?!) and the company of family or friends?
From coast to coast, we give you a list of the most extravagantly Christmas decorated homes and establishments in the country. Trust us, even if you’re committed to skipping Christmas this year like the Kranks, you’ll want to check these out. Bring a pair of shades if you can’t handle the glow-up though!
Just like clockwork, this neighborhood in Brooklyn starts decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving. More than 100,000 come to Dyker Heights to see the spectacle every year that continues for blocks, and if you’re looking for something a little different than Saks Fifth or the Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting, this is quite the compromise. The light display is so over the top that it’s even been rumored that Con Edison, one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the US, sends gift-baskets to the top houses in the neighborhood that run up the highest electric bills. Just make sure you get there before 9pm! If you can’t make it out to the big apple, you might as well check out the epic pictures.
With over 3.5 million lights strung around the water-powered mill, surrounding property and riverbank, along with synchronized holiday tunes, The Historic Clifton Mill takes the cake for most charming, and timeless display yet. There’s even a reenactment of Santa climbing up a chimney to deliver presents. If you want to beat the crowd, go during the week. Admission is $10 per person and free for children younger than age seven. The dazzling evening of glowing red lights towering 100 feet high and blanketing every corner definitely seems magical enough to make the journey!
Some in the San Fernando Valley say this festivity has been going on for some sixty years, and residents don’t hesitate to let their quirky holiday spirits run wild — from wooden trains built out of scrap wood to life-sized sleds. It’s not every day that you see installations that double as photo-ops in front yards! Although known as the stage name Candy Cane Lane, it’s real name is Lubao Ave (for those struggling to find it on Google Maps!) and it’s joined by two other streets, Oakdale and Jumilla Avenue that are also a part of the extravaganza. If you’re an avid watcher of The Nightmare Before Christmas, or a lover of all things Charlie Brown, there are decorations for every type of Christmas fanatic.
South of Orlando, the city of Kissimmee, known mostly for their amusement parks, has a hidden gem in the neighborhood of Sunburst Way. More than 50,000 lights and a radio transmitters line the street so visitors can listen to synchronized music from their cars. More than 352 channels of Light-O-Rama, a controller that allows the user to create lights and special effects alongside music, proves that this house is a little bit extra, but all in the name of Christmas spirit, right?! Locals have raved about the unique display as an artform, and even out-of-state people have traveled to admire it.
In Branson Missouri, a Westworld-esque theme park called Silver Dollar City puts up more than 6.5 million lights and hold a Christmas light parade complete with reindeer. Not only are the staff dressed in period costumes practicing their trades, but they pull out all the stops Christmas music-wise. The theatrical journey back in time makes for a classic Christmas experience, and the 1,000 decorated trees are yet another wow factor. Although the admission to the park is in the $50-60 range, the offerings don’t seem to disappoint.
This small street of rowhouses has gained national recognition in the Hampden section of Baltimore City, and not just for the light display. The close quarters allow for a trellis of lights strung above to create a ceiling, and the inflatable caricatures don’t let up. A Christmas tree made entirely out of hubcaps, snowmen made of bike rims, and other sculptures are on display for all to see. Residents open their homes to show movies and sell cookies, and visitors from all around the world have paid the spectacle a visit.
Outside of Charlotte, a town of fewer than 700 residents is literally called “Christmas Town, USA,” and they go hard with over 500,000 lights and nativity scenes stretching for two miles. Staying true to only red, green and white lights, the entire community comes together to transform every inch of the town. The elementary school in town even holds a contest and the winning student gets to flick the big switch that reveals the big display!
Winners of the “The Great Christmas Light Fight” hosted by ABC, the houses here not only display strobe lights but also feature a playlist of 13 holiday songs that take about 100 hours to program. Also known as “Christmas on Comstock,” the neighborhood has snow-machines spread about the block. An estimated 400 cars per hour drive through to see the over-the-top presentation. The 13 families involved split the $50,000 prize, and have donated some of their winnings to the “Make a Wish Foundation.”
This block of 14 houses near Honolulu on the island of Oahu not only put on an impressive light show but does so without running up their electric bill. HOW?! Their secret is solar photovoltaic panels, and it allows the neighborhood to have their displays glowing for all seven days of the week. Back in 2014, they even participated in a Christmas special on ABC competing against other houses on the mainland, including the Gilbert, AZ house as previously seen! Even though they were the runner-up, we will say that the 80-100 hours of work put into this Christmas display is impressive.
Another a contestant on 2016’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” the LED-lined roofs and gutters of every home on the block and are completed with more grids of LEDS that cover the windows, walls, and garages. The guy who puts it on every year owns a lighting business, and programs other shows around the country, as well. The electronic-twists on classic holiday songs coincide with movement on the grids of LEDs acting like a projector for 12 minutes. It’s definitely a futuristic interpretation of a Christmas display!
With more than two million lights and 40 displays, light tunnels and the tallest man-made tree standing at 155 feet tall, Zilker Park in Austin Texas is transformed into “the Trail of Lights” and it’s one of the top-ranked holiday spectacles in the city. It’s put together by the electricians of Austin, and there are even 20+ food trucks with local vendors that feed the masses that flock to this iconic destination. It’s three bucks for admission and fast passes are $15 if you want to beat the rush. If you’re local and hesitant about the cost, consider the bill you racked up on craft beer last night. We’d say it’s worth it to get lost in the maze of rainbow colored lights!
Over 500 icicle lights streaming down from the trees, a garden terrace, and glowing pathways continuing for 20 acres make the Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville Wisconsin a magical visit. The display reflects across a pond, creating a magnetic experience with 425,000 lights. Think of it like LACMA’s yellow spaghetti installation but way cooler, and made out of Christmas lights. If you’re a Chi-town resident looking for a relaxing weekend or evening getaway, Janesville is less than a two-hour drive away, and perfect for a day trip or low-key night out. During the day, the Rotary Botanical Gardens continue to impress.
Yet another champion of ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” this display has over 115,000 lights, an LED nativity scene, laser image projectors, and over 750 channels of computerized animation. Not only is the music broadcasted through the radio for the lazy folks who want to stay cozy in their car, but Christmas covers by Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and more make an appearance on the playlist.
You’ll need 3D glasses for this one! These botanical gardens are transformed into a wonderland of 300,000 lights across 11 acres, with an accompanying choir and chorus. There’s even a “summer house of lights” in the English garden. The setup takes over 1,000 hours of preparation and two months to take down (that's way longer than Coachella!). If you’re an out-of-towner, at least you can admire the beauty from afar.
Over one million lights, 1,200 channels, and 85 gallons of coffee consumed, this Illinois town puts in hard work every year to make their houses sparkles like fireworks complete with colorful ribbons and video animation projected onto their walls. The extravaganza might make you dizzy if you stare too long, especially if you’re knockin’ back eggnog like nobody’s business, so pace yourself!
With the second-highest statewide average electric bill in the country, this light show isn’t cheap. The extensive music program begins at 5 PM and continues until midnight. ABC even said that the light display “eclipses Clark Griswold.” Most homeowners with crazy light displays seem to be computer technicians, and it makes sense! Who knew there could be such a culture around holiday light displays.
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