Top 2016 Holiday Light Displays Across the United States

The days may be shorter, but that just leaves more darkness for the 2016 Holiday Light displays to light up the night.  We love checking out all of the over-the-top holiday lights, and it’s tradition to visit Kennywood’s Holiday Lights when we’re in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, and driving over from our Rochester home to visit the Lights on the Lake in Syracuse, NY.  However, no matter where you are located in the country, there’s bound to be a holiday light display near you.  Check out just some of the 2016 Holiday Light displays receiving attention across the country, and head over to our friends at Family Travel Forum for their complete list of top 2016 holiday light displays.  There’s sure to be some sort of seasonal illuminations close to home.

Holiday Lights


Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Lights Festival opens its 25th year in Pioneer Court. Festivities include a visit from Santa, live music, and a parade from North Michigan Avenue to Wacker Drive, followed by fireworks. Mickey and Minnie Mouse will serve as the Grand Marshals 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.


Ride along in a heated trolley and gaze upon the more than 5 million lights during this resort town’s gigantic “Winterfest” (November 8-February 28) display.  For an even more concentrated blaze, the nearby Dollywood theme park has 4 million lights of its own for its Smoky Mountain Christmas event (November 5-January 1) complete with shopping, shows such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and a brand-new “Parade of Lights” night time spectacular.



Hot, hot, hot, they got it! Take a ride on a vintage locomotive as the Polar Express takes over the Saratoga & North Creek Railway line. Expect the kids (most dressed in pajamas) to love the North Pole station where Santa and elves hop on board the train to meet all the families.  The quaint, upstate New York town of Saratoga Springs is perfect for a weekend getaway, especially with the Polar Express running between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Polar Express Saratoga Springs, NY


Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland bills itself as the largest drive-through, synchronized, LED Christmas light and music show in the world. This holiday production has spread across six different cities in the U.S. including: Asheville, NC, Sevierville, TN, Birmingham, AL, Pittsburgh, PA, Charlotte, NC, and Greenville, SC. Featuring not only light displays, but also meet and greets with Santa, rides, activities, hot cocoa, and holiday shopping.


This is one I’ve always wanted to see as the Historic Triangle area takes families 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 theme park come alive. Revolutionary-era Yorktown and 17th century Jamestown have special events, too. Check for active dates, December 1-31.

A 50-foot Christmas tree lights up the Germany section of Christmas Town in Busch Gardens Williamsburg

A 50-foot Christmas tree lights up the Germany section of Christmas Town: A Busch Gardens Celebration at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. ©2010 SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

What are some of your favorite holiday light displays to visit with the family? Have you been to any of our 2016 Holiday Light shows on the list, or are there others you aspire to see?  Let us know in the comments below.  For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.

About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.