Posted December 1, 2015

Let It Glow: Best Holiday Lights From Coast to Coast


It isn’t the holidays without that dazzle. You don’t need to look far to find it. Holiday lights shows are springing up everywhere, from the Alexandria harbor to Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo. No matter where you hit the road this holiday season, there will be lights (and merriment and cheer) to greet you. Here are the places from coast to coast that locals love most.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights Festival

Lincoln Park ZooLights

Lincoln Park ZooLights – One of the nation’s only free-admission zoos flips the holiday switch with light displays throughout the grounds. Walk the grounds after dark to see millions of twinkling bulbs, light statues, holiday crafts, ice carving demos, carousel and train rides, and Santa himself. Held thru January 3.

Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden – This blossoming winter wonderland is aglow with more than 12 million lights for the holidays. Look for brightly lit sea serpents, peacocks, elves and other whimsical displays that sprout from the beautiful manicured garden grounds. Held thru January 2.

Lighted Boat Parade – You go to Fisherman’s Wharf for the clam chowder. But during the holidays you stay for this roving light parade. More than 60 boats festooned with lights and decorations skim the waterfront to the delight of onlookers. Held December 11.


Cruise of Lights

Cruise of Lights – Now in its 53rd year, the Huntington Harbour Philharmonic Cruise of Lights offers narrated boat tours through the waterways of Huntington Harbour in Huntington Beach. Take in the beauty of thousands of lights and animated displays on brightly decorated homes, docks, decks and boats. Held December 17-23.

Holiday Boat Parade of Lights – At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up as dozens of illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat The Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn. Held December 5.

Peacock Lane – Ever since the 1920s, the residents of this (usually) quiet street have been decorating their Tudor homes for the season, a tradition that has grown to include magnificent light displays, nativity scenes, Christmas trees and replicas of beloved holiday characters. And although cars are technically allowed on the street for most of the season, the high-volume crowds are a good reason to use public transportation, to park elsewhere, or to visit on one of the pedestrian-only nights.


Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center – The lighting of the city’s most famous tree —first erected during the height of the Depression, before Rockefeller Center was even completed — marks the unofficial start of the winter holidays, particularly for tourists. Lighting held December 2. On display thru January 6.

Winter Lights on Rose Kennedy Greenway – More of a tribute to winter than the holidays, this season-long display brings warmth and cheer to one of Boston’s most celebrated public spaces. Of particular note are the beautiful blue lights in the Chinatown Park waterfall area and the moonlight globes displayed at the Urban Arborteum. Held thru mid-March.

Zoo Miami – More than a half million lights — many shaped to resemble animals — brighten the grounds of Zoo Miami. There are 3D displays, roving carolers, carousel rides and appearances by the jolly big guy in red. Held December 18-30.

Harvard Lane and Dahlia Street – Every year this neighborhood really (and we mean really) gets in the holiday spirit. One house takes it to the next with a huge Ferris wheel, faux birds and peacocks, and fairy tale-inspired lights. Stroll the streets and keep a lookout for the sleigh and reindeer at 4841 E. Harvard Lane — the epicenter of all things merry and bright in this ‘hood. Held thru January 1.

If you find yourself away from home and traveling in the glow of another city this holiday season, come find us. To see where our hotels are located in every city, go to

Tell us: What is your favorite holiday lights display?

Lincoln Park Zoo photo: Todd Rosenberg


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