Glow To-Go: Fun Holiday Lights Drive-Thrus From Around The U.S
Bundle up the kids and head out to revel in the dazzling display of drive-thru Christmas lights in your own neighborhood. Twinkling holiday lights and your child’s face full of joy is free of charge. And if you come upon a particularly grand display, please share it with us at Ask Tara. We’ll add it to this list.
By Tiffany Owens
For many families, taking a drive around the city to view the local light displays has become an annual holiday tradition. From over-the-top community displays to festive neighborhood streets lined with Christmas decorations that would rival Clark Griswold’s, there’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit—without risk of frostbite–than from the comfort of your own car! Here are more drive-thru light displays from around the country to help you get into the holiday state of mind. And it’s not just for kids–grab a few good friends, load the iPod with Christmas tunes, fill a thermos with hot chocolate, and you’ve got a festive party on wheels.
Spanway Park Fantasy Lights, Washington
Fantasy Lights is the largest drive-through Christmas lights display in the Pacific Northwest and takes place from the day after Thanksgiving until just past the New Year at Tacoma’s Spanway Park. This event doesn’t require getting out of the comfort of your own car, which can be an ideal way to go if the night is rainy. Kids especially love the giant pink teddy bear, pirate ship, and dragon displays. If you don’t have your own Christmas music to bring along, tune to FM 93.7. The path of the displays goes all over the park and around Spanaway Lake. Displays are open from 5:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. from the day after Thanksgiving until after the New Year. Admission is paid per carload rather than per individual. The cost is around $15.
Spanaway Park, 14905 Gus G. Bresemann Rd. S., Spanaway, WA: map
Moody Garden’s Festival of Lights, Texas
Because everything’s bigger in Texas, this Galveston, Texas beachside festival boasts a million more lights than the National Tree or Rockefeller Center. In addition, there are more activities added for the holiday season. There’s an aquarium, a rain forest, 3D and 4D theatre, a colonial boat ride. an ice skating rink, arctic slides, and a snow play area for the kids. Galveston Island also transforms into 19th century Victorian London for its annual Dickens on The Strand Festival. For more information, go to: mooodygardens.com
Moody Gardens, One Hope Boulevard, Galveston, TX: map
100 Miles of Lights, Virginia
Capital to coastline, seven Virginia cities now participate in the legendary “100 Miles of Lights” that spans from Richmond to Virginia Beach. The festival brings a remarkable array of holiday light shows, brilliantly decorated historic areas, live music performances and other special events. Drive highlights include 250 nautical displays at Holiday Lights at the Beach—the only time cars are allowed along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk all year—and Celebration in Lights, Virginia’s oldest drive-thru holiday light show, featuring 700,000 holiday lights in 200+ brilliant displays. Open daily through 1/1/12, hours and admission prices vary by location. For more info: 888.493.7386 or 100milesoflights.com
Celebration in Lights, 13560 Jefferson Ave., Newport News, VA Map
Callaway Gardens, Georgia
The Chicago Tribune calls the Fantasy in Lights celebration at Callaway Gardens one of the top 48 events in the world. With a five-mile driving route through 13,000 acres of brilliant displays containing 8 million “green-powered” lights, 14 sparkling, larger-than-life holiday scenes, such as Santa’s Workshop and Snowflake Valley, and classic Christmas music broadcast throughout, Callaway Gardens is a spectacle of light and sound. Afterward, the kids can pay Santa a visit inside the 22,000-square-foot (and heated) Christmas Village, featuring snacks and specialty food items from the Country Store, plus unique gifts, toys and ornaments made by local crafters. Open daily from 6-8pm, Sun-Thurs, and 6-10pm, Fri-Sat, through 12/30. Advance tickets start at $16/adults, $8/children or $25/adults, $12.50/children day of visit. Kids under 5, free. For more info: 800.225.5292 or callawaygardens.com
Callaway Gardens is 60 minutes SW of Atlanta at 17800 Highway 27, Pine Mountain, GA. Map
Miracle on 34th Street, Maryland
Thousands of people descend on this merry block of row houses in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood every holiday season to view the quirky lighting display known by locals as “Miracle on 34th Street” or “Christmas Street.” Now in its 63rd year, the annual event was given new life by neighbors Bob Hosier and Darlene Hughes. Hosier was the first to string Christmas lights across the street 20 years ago; he and Hughes later married and kept the tradition going. Each house along the street is decorated differently—favorites include musical trains that run overhead along the roof of a house, plus bike-rim and vinyl-record snowmen and a 10-foot Christmas tree constructed entirely of hubcaps. No donations accepted, the residents decorate the street on their own dime and also perform a Times Square-style ball drop on New Year’s Eve. Food vendors are also on hand to help stave off cold evenings. The lights stay up until January, shining every night from dusk to 11pm. For more info, visit christmasstreet.com
700 block of 34th St., between Keswick Rd. & Chestnut St.: Map
Santa’s Ranch, Texas
You can drive through over a mile of winding country road to enjoy more than 1.3 million lights and animated displays. It’s OK to arrive hungry, because you can enjoy homemade hot cocoa, kettle corn and other snacks. They’re careful to note: your maximum vehicle height is 8 ft, and length 30 ft. No trailers, buses, or RVs are allowed. For more info: 830-743-1293; santasranch.net
9561 I-35 North New Braunfels: Map