The Best Drive-Thru Christmas Lights in the U.S.
The Best Drive-Thru Christmas Lights in the U.S.

An outing with family, friends and loved ones to see magical displays of Christmas lights is a rite of passage during the holidays. Fortunately, and despite everything that’s been thrown at us in 2020, this year doesn’t have to be any different. You can jump in the car, roll down the windows and delight in socially distanced Christmas illumination cruises. Best of all, many of the events continue into January so there’s still plenty of time to see them. Here’s 10 of the best drive-thru Christmas light festivals across the USA.

Austin Trail of Lights

Austin, Texas

Austin Trail of Lights has been wowing residents and visitors to Austin in various formats for over half a century. This year it’s a completely drive-thru experience at the 351-acre Zilker Park. Sparkling tunnels, 90 twinkling holiday trees, and many more bedazzled displays are formed by the trail’s 2,000,000 lights. Beat the crowds by purchasing the Dash Pass. It grants access to the trail prior to general admission hours and box of Yuletide cookies to snack on.

Open until: January 3, 2021

Find out more: Austin Trail of Lights

Christmas in Color

Various Locations

Christmas in Color is a multi-sensory event that takes place across five different states. Millions of lights are synchronized to festive songs that are transmitted through your car radio. There are dancing Christmas trees and snowmen, oversized candy canes and light tunnels, which give the impression of driving into a futuristic world. Find festivals in Federal Heights and Morrison (Colorado), Garden City (Idaho), San Dimas (California), South Jordan (Utah) and Shakopee (Minnesota). A portion of all ticket sales is donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Open until: January 3, 2021

Find out more and book tickets: Christmas in Color

Christmas Nights of Lights

Cincinnati, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana

Turn the stereo up, turn off your headlights, and use over a million lights to guide you and the family around the Christmas Nights of Lights. Whether in Cincinnati or Indianapolis, the multicolored light carpets, marching toy soldiers, shooting stars and floating snowflakes will have you pressing your face up against the window. Both events lay claim to being the largest synchronized light shows in their respective cities. Judge for yourself while listing to a soundtrack of traditional carols, classic and modern Christmas songs.

Open until: January 3, 2021 in Indianapolis / January 9, 2021 in Cincinnati

Find out more and book tickets: Christmas Nights of Lights

Gardens Aglow

Boothbay, Maine

Head to the Boothbay peninsula and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens for the fairytale-like Gardens Aglow. In its sixth year, this spectacle features two dazzling displays for the price of one. Start by driving around the botanical gardens and oohing and aahing at typical Yuletide decor such as reindeers, sleighs and snowmen. Then follow a trail around the peninsula to appreciate the Gardens Aglow Community Lighting Contest. Over 50 local businesses and homeowners participate to be crowned the Christmas lights champion — don’t forget to vote for your favorite.

Open until: January 2, 2021

Find out more and book tickets: Gardens Aglow

Glittering Lights

Las Vegas, Nevada

Famed the world over for the neon-lit Strip, it makes complete sense that Las Vegas puts on its own Christmas lights extravaganza. Glittering Lights takes over the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for its 20th season with a 2.5-mile-long trail of twinkling lights. BMX rider Ricardo Laguna inaugurated this year’s event by dressing as a candy cane and jumping over wrestler Jesse Vargas. There’s even a chance for the kids to get a socially distant selfie with Santa.

Open until: January 10, 2021

Find out more and book tickets: Glittering Lights

Hershey Sweet Lights

Hershey, Pennsylvania

What’s better than a visit to the fun-filled Hershey Park? A 2-mile-long wooded trail illuminated by some 600 light displays, naturally. From the moment the Hershey Sweet Lights sign greets you, you cruise into a wonderland of festive and chocolate-themed animations. As a perfect complement, you can also check out the five million lights of the Christmas Candylane. Look out for neon versions of the iconic Hershey Kisses, a fountain adorned with popular Hershey characters, and don't forget to say hello to Santa and his reindeer.

Open until: January 3, 2021

Find out more and book tickets: Hershey Sweet Lights

Santa’s Speedway Christmas Lights Drive-Thru

Irwindale, California

Irwindale Speedway is often associated with revved-up engines, but things slow down for Santa’s Speedway Christmas Lights Drive-Thru. A 2-mile-long trail covers 60 acres and follows the course of the banked speedway track and drag strip. Highlights include illuminated palm trees and a 110-feet-tall Christmas tree, decorated with 12 miles of fairy lights. The trail ends at Rudolph’s Garage, where Rudolph and the rest of Santa’s reindeers park up in their personalized race cars.

Open until: January 10, 2021

Find out more and book tickets: Santa’s Speedway Christmas Lights Drive-Thru

Speedway Christmas

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte Motor Speedway is another racetrack that welcomes Santa, his reindeers, snowmen and gingerbreads at Christmastime. Speedway Christmas is a 3.75-mile-long trail with over four million lights, including dancing tress and tunnels, that incorporates the raceway’s oval, pit and infield track. Extend your visit by watching A Christmas Story and Frozen 2 at the drive-in movie theater. Or get out of the car and glide around the 5,400-square-feet outdoor ice rink.

Open until: January 17, 2021

Find out more: Speedway Christmas

Winter Wonderland

Portland, Oregon

Billed as the largest light show in the Northwest, Winter Wonderland turns Portland International Raceway into a land of magic, mystery and romance. Glittery tunnels arch over the racetrack and lead to displays inspired by the ancient English carol The Twelve Days of Christmas. All of the song’s protagonists are here to say hello in imaginative forms. Don’t miss the three French hens perched on the Eiffel Tower and the eight maids pouring milk into a giant urn.

Open until: January 2, 2021

Find out more: Winter Wonderland

World of Illumination

Glendale, Arizona and Marietta, Georgia

With three venues each showcasing around two million lights, World of Illumination boasts being the world’s largest drive-thru light show. Head to the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, Arizona, for Rocking Christmas, a mile-long symphony of sound, light and dozens of dancing musical notes, snowflakes and trees. The Arctic Adventure turns the desert landscapes of Arizona into a arctic fairyland at the Tempe Diablo Stadium. Over at Six Flags White Water, in Marietta, Georgia, the Candy Crush adventure astounds with unicorns, rainbows and 40-feet-tall candy canes.

Open until: January 3, 2021

Find out more: World of Illumination

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