Holiday Inn has collected locations across the country that hosts the best festival of Christmas Lights, and you can visit them this holiday season!
For the past 27 years, Clifton Mill has put on an epic light show that surpasses your neighborhood tree lighting by a long shot. The display includes 3.5 million lights adorning the riverbanks, trees, and bridges, culminating in a festive and impressive 100-foot waterfall of sparkles. To put it all into perspective, it takes six guys almost three months to prep for the first twinkle—three months! Lights really are all over the place. The covered bridge even has lights that are synced to music every hour and there is a miniature village with scenes like a drive-in theatre, a football game, and a country fair, complete with a Ferris wheel!
Bring the whole family for an evening at Clifton Mill… and read about our other favorite light festivals too!
Holiday Festival of Lights
If travelling to Ohio isn't doable for you this holiday season, fear not! There are plenty of other crazy cool light shows around the country. For anyone hitting the eastern seaboard, the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston is filled with loads of Christmas-themed activities aside from just a driving tour of twinkling, multi-coloured lights. They have handmade gingerbread houses, a train, sweet treats, and sculptures that made with more than 50 tons of sand.
Bright Nights At Forest Park
For those brave enough to travel through freezing weather, Bright Nights at Forest Park up east will have you bundled up with seven layers. But really, it’ worth the sub-zero temperatures when you’re snuggly settled in horse drawn wagons and hanging out with Santa.
And, since we’ve established that most things are bigger in Texas, we have to give a mention to the Houston Zoo-- their lights show just might take the (fruit) cake. The zoo is open late each holiday season, illuminated with more than two million lights! Throughout the zoo catch carollers and musical groups singing your favorite holiday tunes and stop at Macaw Cafe or Cypress Circle for a bite to eat. Be sure to check out the select weeknights when the zoo offers discounted rates-- it’s a Christmas miracle indeed!
Zilker Park Trail of Lights.
Another Texan tradition is the Zilker Park Trail of Lights —where they keep Austin, Texas weird and bright. It started as a small gathering in 1965 known as the “Yule Fest.” But in 2014, more than 400,000 people attended the now-lauded event—which is actually more people than Austin had residents in 1965. It’s definitely an excursion for the inner urbanite in all of us, complete with food trucks and live music (Austin is the live music capital of the world, after all).
There are quite a few other Texas favorites like the Rock'n Lights Holiday Light Tour in Round Rock and Moody Gardens Festival of Lights in Galveston. Bonus: you don’t have to bundle up too much in the Lonestar State while you explore the sparkling wonderlands.
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
For a completely different festival of lights experience, America’s most impressive zoos are a unique experience during the holidays for the whole family—and a fun date spot too. Another Ohio representative, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has an annual show that is truly spectacular. Kids can drop off their lists in Santa’s mailbox, visit Mr and Mrs Claus, and even ride the Toyland Express train. Pro tip: don’t pass up the roasted nuts... they’re even better when enjoyed with a beer.
The San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo is amazing year round, but every holiday season, visitors can check out the lions and tigers and bears in the dark, weaving through the twinkling lights on every tree and shrub.
Travel up a little ways to the Oregon Zoo in Portland where a million and a half lights twinkle from Thanksgiving to New Year’s weekend. Make sure you spot the fun food carts and cafes while you walk around the zoo: the Bear Walk Cafe has maple bacon cotton candy! And of course hot cocoa, beer, and wine are served too, because what’s a trip to the zoo without it? Don’t skip the train ride, either; it includes a brief performance at the Family Farm and lights that are only visible by rail.