The 20 Best Small Towns for Christmas Lights
Some of America’s quaintest towns take the holiday spirit to a whole other level, going to great lengths to transform the ordinary into extraordinary. From coast-to-coast, here are some of the best Christmas lights small towns in America have to offer.
Located in Santa Barbara’s wine country, Solvang is a beautiful Danish town that sparkles during the holiday season. The main road in downtown, called Copenhagen Drive, turns its shops into Christmas displays, with lit up trees decorated in a representation of each store’s offerings outside their front doors. At night, just strolling down the street will prove a pleasant experience, with every inch of building and tree lit up. The conjoining streets are sure not to disappoint with their displays and lights as well. Be sure to check out the annual Julefest (Yule-Fest) in December. From the Tree-Lighting Ceremony to the packed parade, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to live music, watch the arrival of Santa Claus, and eat delicious treats. Don’t miss these Christmas traditions from around the world.
Some towns can’t help but look like Christmas wonderlands all on their own, what with the constant flurries of snowflakes. Maine is one of those special places where winter is what you would expect. Boothbay, Maine, shines brightly during the holiday season with artistically displayed lights at the Boothbay Festival of Lights. The seaside town transforms with thousands of lights on shops, restaurants, and hotels. More than 500,000 LED lights decorate the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ central gardens and buildings. There’s also a silent auction of more than 60 decorated trees and related items, and even a lighted boat parade, in which local captains decorate their hulls with lights for a nautical holiday harbor cruise. Here are more towns that are even more special when covered in snow.
In small towns, driving at night is often void of streetlights when you need them most. But think of being on a dark countryside road when suddenly you come over a hill and find yourself amid a shining valley filled with more than one million Christmas lights. This is Bernville, Pennsylvania’s Kozier Christmas Village. For 70 years, the village has become bigger and more popular, attracting visitors from near and far. Christmas lights take over buildings, gift barns, and landscapes—the reflection in the nearby lake adding even more magic. Here are more of our favorite small towns across the United States.
The town of Leavenworth, Washington, is a small Bavarian town in the mountains where the Christmas spirit thrives. Millions upon millions of lights ignite during the Christmas lighting ceremonies that take place the first three weekends of the month. Called the Village of Lights, there are concerts, horse drawn sleighs, shops filled with unique wares, and many restaurants and cafes decorated in the holiday spirit. Get into the holiday spirit with these hilarious Christmas cartoons.
McAdenville, North Carolina
With a nickname of “Christmas Town USA,” you’d better expect that McAdenville, North Carolina, goes all out for Christmas time. Now in its 62nd year, the tiny town of less than 700 people celebrate the season with an array of events, kicked off by a Christmas lighting ceremony that takes place on December 1st. Nearly 400 live trees ignite each night in decorations and lights through the 26th. Along with the tree lighting ceremony, there is a Yule log ceremony, and an annual Christmas town festival. The Yule log is pulled through town on a sled by local children, with residents and visitors in tow. Once it reaches downtown, the log is set on fire as a commencement of the annual Christmas Town Festival. Here are more of our favorite small towns that are filled with the Christmas spirit.
St. Augustine, Florida
Florida may not be known for its snow-covered landscape in the winter, but what it lacks in chilly temperatures it makes up for in spirit. The small, historic town of Saint Augustine, Florida, celebrates the season with a nightly lighting beginning November 19th through the end of January. Called the Night of Lights, about three million lights adorn every corner of the historic district. The downtown businesses keep their doors open on the late side, allowing visitors to enjoy the sweet sight of the lit-up buildings from inside, while tours via horse and carriage, trains and trolleys, and more all allow for spectacular views of the sparkly spectacle.
North Pole, Alaska
The town of North Pole, Alaska, located near the Fairbanks, is best known for its year-round Christmas decorations, including candy cane–striped streetlights. Come Christmas time, things get kicked up a notch with the Christmas in Ice. This event involves lighting up an impressive Christmas art display made of ice, which lasts for six weeks. The display is located next to the Santa Claus House—a Christmas store with walls covered in children’s letters to Santa and a huge Santa statue outside.
A tiny, isolated island situated off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket, Massachusetts, may best be known as a summer destination, but the winter season certainly doesn’t disappoint. Over 100 trees glisten with Christmas lights along the cobblestone streets during the Nantucket Noel Christmas Stroll, which begins the day after Thanksgiving with the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Events continue to impress, with Santa and Mrs. Clause arriving aboard a Coast Guard vessel and escorted up Straight Wharf by the Town Crier. Read the heartwarming story of a man who hangs Christmas lights for families who’ve lost a loved one.
Referred to as the Ozark Mountain Christmas, Branson, Missouri, goes all out during the holidays. Among the festive events includes the Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, where, along with two holiday music productions, a five-story special effects Christmas tree stands tall within Silver Dollar City, an 1880’s style theme park. Along with six million Christmas lights in the park, Christmas in Midtown features 1.5 million more lights on buildings in the center of the theme park.
Santa Claus, Indiana
As if there weren’t enough towns on this list featuring Christmas-inspired names, Santa Claus, Indiana, is another one that lives up to its name come the Christmas season. There are plenty of places to take in the Christmas lights, including Land of Lights, known as the largest campground holiday light show in America. Another noteworthy event includes Christmas Lake Village, where, within a gated community that opens its gates for the public, there are more than 800 homes featuring over-the-top creative Christmas decorations and lights.
For a recreated Winter Wonderland, you can’t do better than the Christmas Festival of Lights at the Edaville Family Theme Park in Carver, Massachusetts. There are over 18 million lights strewn throughout the parks, including the recreated holiday village. Best of all, train lovers get unlimited Christmas train rides. Tickets are available for the Edaville Express: Where’s Santa?, a 45-minute train ride to Santa’s Workshop, complete with cookies, hot chocolate, and caroling. Festivities start on Thanksgiving Day.
Pine Mountain, Georgia
Callaway Resort & Gardens gets fully decked out for Christmas, earning the tiny town a spot in National Geographic’s top ten light displays in the world—not even New York or Chicago made the list. The Fantasy in Lights display lets visitors hop aboard the “Jolly Trolley” then journey through Christmas Tree Lane, the Enchanted Rainbow Forest, Snowflake Valley, and other magical sights. Check out these other small towns that beat any big-city vacation.
The town of Holland, Michigan, has the European charm its name suggests year-round, but things get extra cozy when Dutch WinterFest rolls by every year. Try planning a visit around Santa’s first appearance in the Parade of Lights in late November, or enjoy the open-air market any time during the holiday season.
What better place to get into the holiday spirit than the home of the world’s largest Christmas store? After getting your fill of Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, the rest of “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” has plenty to offer, from a candle-lit walk by the river to its Christkindlemarkt of small vendors.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
This ski town sure knows how to do Christmas. Not only does it have jaw-dropping lights displays, like its impressive lit-up arches of elk antlers, but the Glow Worm Parade marks the end of the year by inviting families to be part of the lights display, carrying glow sticks and torch lights down Eagles Rest Peak. You won’t want to miss these 32 things you never knew about the holiday season.
More than 300,000 Christmas lights and 100 lit-up displays illuminate the streets of Natchitoches, Louisiana, during the holiday season, but you’ll want to look up to the sky as well. Every Saturday from mid-November through December, the skies explode with color for a fireworks show, designed to go along with a Christmas music soundtrack.
Courtesy Trish Rawls
Main Street, Fredericksburg lights up the night with its festive reds, greens, and more. But the must-see spectacle is the massive 26-foot-tall German Christmas Pyramid, complete with moving wooden figures and a spinning windmill. Use these 11 tips for creating your own eye-catching holiday lights display.
The main square of Bedford, Ohio, is filled with festive Christmas lights and music throughout the holidays. No surprise with a town that (almost) shares its name with the fictional Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life. For one day in December, the real Bedford goes in full-on holiday mode to pay homage to the classic film.
Cape Neddick, Maine
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During the winter, the Nubble Lighthouse is lit extra-bright, as it’s outlined with cozy white lights. Visiting New England’s must-see display, visitors can also sneak a peek of the holiday “tree” made of stacked lobster traps. If you can’t stand the cold temperatures, you’re in luck—the lighthouse also celebrates Christmas in July most years.
Traverse City, Michigan
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Expansive skies and the occasional glimpse of the Northern Lights aren’t the only impressive lights you’ll see in Traverse City, Michigan. The holiday shopping hub transforms at night with strings of lights brightening up the downtown. In nearby Bear Lake, your family can view 50 stunning light displays at Sparkle in the Park. This is where to find the most charming small town in every state year-round.