Christmas season is a time when people and their families come together to celebrate, to be merry, and to be full of light — literally. It’s around this time of year when people go all out to spread joy and Christmas spirit through parades, events, and extravagant decorations. What better way to show holiday spirit than with bright, artistically displayed lights?
There are, of course, flashy Christmas displays across the United States. New York, Orlando, and Miami are illuminated from top to bottom in festive, twinkling displays. But you don’t have to go to a booming metropolis to find stunning Christmas lights. Small towns make the most of this joyous holiday and take the opportunity to truly shine as a community.
This town’s botanical gardens puts on the largest (and growing!) Christmas light display in Maine, called Gardens Aglow. This year, there will be a lighting contest for residents in the area.
This year, Branson, Missouri, will have three “immersive” light displays that visitors can drive through: Let There Be Lights at Promised Land Zoo; Branson’s Gift of Lights off Shepherd of the Hills Expressway; and The Trail of Lights at Shepherd of the Hills. Their mining city theme park, Silver Dollar City, is also decked out in Christmas lights, with over 6.5 million bulbs illuminating the property.
Not a small town per se, Callaway Gardens is a resort in Pine Mountain, Georgia, that puts on such a fantastic light show, called Fantasy in Lights, that it made National Geographic’s Top 10 list for holiday lights alongside major cities. Needless to say, it’s a big deal for this Southern resort.
Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, Massachusetts, is 50 miles south of Boston, but it’s beyond worth a wintertime day trip. Their Christmas Festival of Lights features over 17 million lights in their Christmas City. Take the train ride around the park to get a truly festive feel for this holiday display.
Hampden is a neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, that has an entire street dedicated to homes covered in tons of Christmas lights and decorations. What started as a few teens decorating their home for the holidays has now grown into a festival production that all neighbors take part in.
Jackson, Wyoming, always has a festive feel to it, but the town square’s decorations are taken to a whole new level for the holidays. When you’re not spending time at a ski resort, check out the famous elk antler arches, which are wrapped in thousands upon thousands of bright LED Christmas lights.
A Village of Lights is what people call this Bavarian town during Christmastime. They celebrate this time of year with three weeks of Christmas lighting festivals during which they light up Leavenworth.
Known as “Christmas Town USA,” the name says it all for this small town in North Carolina. The official Christmas lighting ceremony is December 1, but the lights stay on to be seen by all who visit through the holiday season.
The Festival of Lights in Natchitoches, Louisiana, runs all holiday season long, from November 18 till January 6, and for good reason. With over 300,000 twinkling lights and 100 set pieces, the town’s riverbank turns into a true winter wonderland.
The North Pole — the Alaska version, at least — goes all out for Christmas, as it should with such an iconic name. Their Christmas in Ice takes the lighting to the next level by creating a stunningly lit Christmas art display made of ice that lasts for six weeks. It’s perfectly located next to Santa Claus’ house.
Of course a town named after ol’ Saint Nick is a winter wonderland year round, but Santa Claus, Indiana, truly takes things to the next level during the holiday season. In addition to festivities at Holiday World, the annual Land of Lights in Santa Claus tells the endeering story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a bright, 1.2-mile stretch.
This little Danish town in California certainly does Christmas right. The annual tree lighting ceremony takes place on December 1, transforming the town square into a true spectacle of warm white tones. The storefronts in the town also deck their halls, giving the main street a truly charming small town Christmas feel.
Florida’s historic small town of Saint Augustine puts on a lighting event every night from November 19 through the end of January called Nights of Lights. The district’s downtown businesses stay open a bit later during this time (a rarity) to allow guests to fully enjoy the night scenery of the lit-up buildings.
The city of West Frankfort, Illinois, is home to five blocks of neighborhood Christmas lighting called Candy Cane Lane. It’s not as large as some of the other ceremonies on this list, but if you’re in this general area of Illinois, it is an awe-inspiring sight to see, nonetheless.
If these lighting displays have you dreaming of snow, check out these 25 places where you’re guaranteed to have a White Christmas.