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Cruise Along These Holiday Lights Drive-Throughs Across The U.S.

By Michele Herrmann
updated September 29, 2021
Landof Lights Family
Eric Scire
Drive-thru holiday lights are all the rage - here's one close to you!

As the current pandemic is changing how we celebrate the 2020 holiday season, the tradition of seeing public holiday lights displays at night can now be done from the safety of your car. From readapted walking tours to first-time happenings or continuing events, here are holiday lights drive-throughs around the U.S. to take a ride-along. Check their websites for tickets and health and safety protocols before attending.

New England

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay has reimagined its annual Gardens Aglow as a drive-through event happening now through Jan. 2. The gardens will still dazzle with over 650,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights depicting trees, animals, flowers, and other delights. Plus, they’ve all been designed by the gardens’ staff. 

 Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I. is hosting its first Drive-Through Holiday Lights Spectacular now through Jan. 10. The inaugural spectacular features festive larger-than-life luminous displays and over 1.5 million illuminated lights.

 Now through Jan. 2, the Magic of Lights at the Toyota Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Conn. is presenting the latest LED technology and digital animations in this holiday experience.  

Now through Jan. 3, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Concord is holding the “Gift of Lights,” a 2.5-milelong drive-through show with 3.5 million lights, a new 150-foot RGB Tunnel of Lights, and characters from popular children’s books. There are also fan-favorite displays, including the 12 Days of Christmas scene.


Hershey Pennsylvania Lights Christmas 2020

Hershey Sweet Lights, presented by T-Mobile.



Mid-Atlantic

“Wegmans Lights on the Lake” at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool, N.Y. is happening now through Jan. 10, and is a two-mile route featuring towering holiday displays, a larger-than-life land of Oz, twinkling fantasy forest, Victorian villages and a variety of animated scenes. 

Located down the road from Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Christmas Candylane, ”Hershey Sweet Lights presented by T-Mobile” is happening now through Jan. 3 and consists of two miles of fields and wooded trails decorated with nearly 600 illuminated, animated displays created from about two million LED lights.

Through Jan. 3, “Bayport Credit Union Holiday Lights at the Beach”  is Virginia Beach Boardwalk’s festive nautical holiday lights display featuring festive fish, musical crabs, and elves join a surfing Santa and a new 40-foot dancing Christmas tree.


 Southeast

At Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., “Speedway Christmas” is happening now through Jan. 17 and has more than four million LED lights in displays along a 3.75-mile stretch. This event also has holiday movies shown on a large HDTV screen Thursdays through Sundays. For an additional fee, attendees can skate on a 5,400-square-foot ice rink; mask-wearing is required.  

 In Columbia, S.C., the South Carolina State Fair is putting on “Carolina Lights” at  Lexington Medical Center Fair Park at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds now through Dec. 27. More than 100 individual LED light displays along a mile-plus stretch including a nativity scene and a 25-foot-tall Frosty the Snowman. 

 In Savannah, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens’ “December Nights & Holiday Lights” has been turned into a drive-through event, on now through Christmas Eve. 

 Now through Jan. 2, “Jax Illuminations” will feature two mega trees, a 300-foot tunnel of lights and custom Christmas scenes at the Morocco Shrine Center in Jacksonville, Fla.

 Through Jan. 2, the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee spread across a four-mile route illuminated by more than 2 million lights among 250 displays. 

In Nashville, at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, the Jingle Beat is designed by the same artists and local creatives that behind some of the music industries biggest tours. This light show is helping to support the local music industry that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 The Southern Lights Holiday Festival at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is a three-mile driving tour full of a lot of twinkling lights, happening now through New Year’s Eve. 


Santa Claus indiana land of lights 2020
“Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort. Photo by Eric Scire.

 Mid-West

 Billed as Central Ohio’s largest drive-through Christmas light show, Wonderlight's Christmas at the National Trail Raceway in Hebron is now through Jan. 3. It has over one million LED lights synchronized to traditional and contemporary Christmas music played through your own car stereo. 

 “Santa Claus Land of Lights” at the Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in the (fittingly called) Santa Claus, Ind. happens now through Dec. 27. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is depicted through lighted displays and storyboards. 

Now through Jan. 3, “Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum” in Lisle, Ill. has guests remaining in their cars and tuning to a synced musical soundtrack while driving nearly two miles among the Arboretum’s trees. 

The Wisconsin Christmas of Carnival Lights in Caledonia, 20 minutes south of Milwaukee at Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort, features over two million twinkling lights on an over 1.6-mile path. Now through New Year’s Eve, the show allows attendees to experience lights on all sides, with displays ranging from forest friends and reindeer to Santa and his elves.


 South-West

 “Lights of Joy” in Branson, Mo. is located off of the Shepherd of the Hills Expressway and contains more than 300 displays with over one million twinkling LED lights throughout this 1.2-mile drive. 

The Automobile Alley Art Light Display in Oklahoma City has colorful LED lights covering buildings on eight blocks of North Broadway and district side streets. Various shops and restaurants will also feature window displays. The event is part of Downtown in December and runs now through Jan. 31.

“Gift of Lights” at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway now through Jan. 3 is made up of over one million twinkling lights that people can see from their own cars. 


Las Vegas Christmas Lights
Lights at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Photo by Gabe Ginsberg

 West

Christmas in Color” at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo. is having drivers cruising along more than 1.5 million lights perfectly synchronized to holiday music heard through your car radio. Drive by giant candy canes, snowmen and more now through January 3.

The Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s “Glittering Lights” features more than five million LED lights intertwining throughout a 2.5-mile course through the speedway, through Jan. 10.

The Phoenix Zoo’s Cruise ZooLights can be seen from your car now through Jan. 31, with millions of twinkling lights and dazzling animal sculptures from the comfort of your vehicle.  

Now through Jan. 2, “Holidays in Your Car” is taking place both at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego and Ventura County Fairgrounds, with more than 1 million LED lights and some fixtures standing at 40 feet tall. 

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Inspiration

Spend the night at FAO Schwarz via Airbnb

Airbnb is coming to the rescue for one very lucky New York City-based family to create a magical holiday season for their little ones during this strange time. For just $25 (plus taxes and fees) you can create a once-in-a-lifetime experience for your children by sleeping over at the most iconic toy store on Earth, FAO Schwarz in Manhattan. The winners will have private access to the gigantic store’s many entertaining vignettes as well as endless toys and games to play with during the overnight stay on Monday, December 21st thanks to Airbnb. New York City residents can request to book a holiday sleepover at FAO Schwarz starting on December 15th at noon EST for the chance to make your kiddos’ holiday wishes come true. Be sure to pack your most comfortable footie pajamas as you're bound to spend hours exploring the mega toy store’s many attractions during the unforgettable evening. A real-life FAO Schwarz’s toy soldier will guide you through one of the world’s oldest toy stores. There will be a larger-than-life music lesson on the store’s iconic Giant Dance On Piano, a Build-A-Bear workshop session to create a new plush holiday friend, an opportunity to build your own remote-controlled car that you can race to your heart's desire down the halls of FAO Schwarz, and a breathtaking science experiment guided by FAO Schwarz’s Professor Atlas. Of course, no trip to FAO Schwarz is complete without a shopping spree at the two-story, 20,000-square-foot toy wonderland. There are countless toys and games in every corner of the shop making it easy for Santa to pick out perfect gifts for your kids from plush teddy bears to race cars thanks to a complimentary store credit included in the package. Have fun as you shop by using your imagination to play in the store’s rocket ship and other memorable play areas. Your family will be treated to a fantastic holiday feast joined by a troupe of teddy bears, extra-large candy canes, a toy train, and a sweet winter wonderland themed table setting. Unwind in the family room and snuggle by the electric fireplace with plush toys and admire the 75-foot holiday tree glowing outside your window in Rockefeller Plaza. Parents will tuck in for the night to sleep in a sleigh bed. Kiddos will love the bunk beds complete with a slide. A gigantic red teddy bear will be there to provide comfort to your little ones, but you're all sure to dream sweetly while surrounded by so much magic. The entire evening, including the guided tour, will adhere to social distancing regulations of remaining six feet apart and everyone will wear masks in order to keep your family and staff safe. Prior to your visit, the store will be cleaned in accordance with the CDC guidelines. Should it become necessary to cancel the stay, Airbnb will offer the winner a $1,000 USD Airbnb coupon and FAO Schwarz store credit. In the holiday spirit of giving back, Airbnb will make a one-time donation to the FAO Schwarz nonprofit partner St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The National Cancer Institute is the only designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the country devoted solely to children battling cancer. Non-NYC residents can still partake in the holiday cheer through Airbnb’s Online Experiences with FAO Schwarz including a magic lesson hosted by FAO Schwarz’s Professor Abracadabra where hopeful mystical practitioners can learn new illusion tricks. FAO Schwarz’s Professor Atlas will host a crash-course in chemistry, teaching guests how to make glow-in-in-the-dark slime at home. There will also be a holiday story read by an FAO Schwarz toy soldier. These family-friendly Airbnb Online Experiences can be booked through airbnb.com/happyholidays and enjoyed throughout the holiday season.

Inspiration

Look up tonight! Northern Lights expected in Northern USA

The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has put out a geomagnetic storm watch for December 9-11, 2020. The storm should make the Northern Lights viewable across a large swath of the Northern United States. The forecast is the largest Coronary Mass Ejection (CME) of 2020. States that will likely be able to see the Northern Lights are Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. For the best viewing, find a dark, clear night and turn off all lights. According to the SWPC: "Geomagnetic Storm Watches are in effect from December 9th - 11th, 2020 due to anticipated CME effects. The CME occurred on December 7th, and was associated with a C7 flare from Region 2790. Analysis suggests CME arrival possible late on 9 December, initially resulting in G1 (Minor) storm levels. As CME effects continue, activity is likely to increase, especially if the magnetic field carried with the CME connects well with Earth's magnetosphere. Therefore, the potential for strong storm levels exists and a G3 (Strong) Watch is in effect for December 10th. CME-related disturbances are forecast to continue into 11 December, likely resulting in G2 (Moderate) storm levels - and another Watch has been issued accordingly. While SWPC forecasters are fairly confident in CME arrival at Earth, timing and geomagnetic storm intensity are less certain. Continue to monitor our SWPC webpage for the latest conditions and forecast."

Inspiration

10 things to do if you're celebrating the holidays alone

**If you or anyone you know is planning on traveling to meet with family this season, be sure to check out the CDC guidelines for holiday gatherings.** This year, there are two sides of the holiday spirit: getting creative and doing more and people who aren't doing much at all. Some families can get together. Maybe they have to go without their elderly relatives. Maybe they can't meet at all. Some people will be entirely alone, and others will find themselves experiencing the season with people they usually wouldn't -- like their roommates. Regardless of who you might be spending the holidays with, we are all feeling a little bit alone. Here’s what you can do to feel a little closer to family and friends while staying #togetherapart.©Ray Laskowitz/Lonely PlanetMake homemade holiday cards: While the holiday card industry has stabilized over the last couple of years, sending the family photo for Christmas isn't as popular among younger families. But this year, it could make you feel more connected. For those of you with a big contact list, printing traditional cards is a great idea. Get creative with the photo section (since you won't necessarily get the family photo op). Maybe you ask everyone to send a goofy selfie card via snail mail that can be put in the tree or decorate the mantle. Start a new project: It's probably true that the majority of us experienced some sort of shift in perspective. Now is an important time to invest in yourself and what you want. This doesn't have to be big. You can start an indoor herb garden, pick up knitting, design your dream island in Animal Crossing. Or you can do something you've always wanted to do, like write that book or build that new shed. The point is to spend more time on you without a lot of pressure. There was this huge wave of "look at all this time I have. How much can I do with it?" mentality at the beginning of quarantine that falls back into the fast capitalist crux. Take it slow to give yourself distractions and time to process what is actually happening. Set the mood with your zoom background: Friends and family are opting for virtual holidays this year if they can’t make the journey or don't want to risk their elderly loved ones' health. Just because you might be miles apart doesn't mean it can't be festive. If you're decorating your physical space to make you feel in the mood offline, make sure that you decorate behind your designated zoom space. Put up the tree or string some lights. Get creative at placement and assortment of items. If you want to take this one step further or sillier, find online zoom backgrounds that reflect some crazy ski destination or look like you are in Santa's workshop. Dress up like you haven't gone out in 6 months: Regardless of whether or not you are getting together with many people or if it's just your roommates and the dog, make it a worthy occasion. You will have at least one memory that looked different than the rest. Online shopping soared since stay-at-home orders started. There's bound to be a new outfit in that closet of yours you bought for the next time you go out. Well, why not now? Coordinate with anyone in your house or plan to send the pictures to. Secret Santa: Send small gifts to your friends and family who live farther away via snail mail; make surprise drop-offs for anyone who lives close. Maybe it's not so secret, but receiving the gifts will still put smiles on everyone's faces. Good, mailable ideas include books, jewelry, paint by numbers, or care packages. This is also a good idea if money is a little tighter this year. If you have a secret Santa group, you only need to buy for one person, but everyone gets treated. Make sure to set a mail-by deadline, so everyone is receiving them at relatively the same time. Then be sure to do a zoom gift unwrapping to revel in the spirit a little longer. Watch Grey's Anatomy: A lot of people are still loyal fans and watch every season. Others have come in and out, but right now the doctors we trust are handling life in real-time. They thought long and hard about whether they wanted to touch COVID this season, but they realized they were always meant to show us real people and real truths. This pandemic has changed the way doctors live, think, breathe, and be a doctor. They decided to pay them tribute with a real but still approachable look at what today means. This season is supposed to have lots of twists and turns to keep on a little light of escapism while still offering some truth. Online volunteering with the UN: Nope! This didn't start with COVID-19. The UN employs 12,000 online volunteers a year to tackle some of their most pressing issues (gender equality, poverty, climate change, etc.) across 187 countries. On the volunteering homepage, you can navigate opportunities by skill set. They look for artists, writers, educators, and so much more. Becoming a registered volunteer only takes a couple of minutes and is a great way to make some good happen out of our not so typical holiday. Remember, the season has always been about giving back. Now you can do it from the comfort of your own home. ©New Africa/ShutterstockGet creative with the cocktails: Going out for drinks with your friends and family kind of feels like a thing of the past right now. If you're like us, and you're missing the delicious bartender (we mean drink) and want to spice up your kitchen bar, get creative with cocktails. There's a website that will tell you what kind of cocktails you can make based on the ingredients in your kitchen. Check it out. Since it's the holidays, why don't you try a spiked apple cider with a cinnamon stick inside? Or maybe a plum sangria for your roommates. The possibilities are endless. Drive-thru lights show: This one seems like an easy given. Light shows are always a staple for the holiday season. Bonus -- they're usually outside. This year, the only thing you have to worry about is how crowded it is, but many activities regulate the amount of people let in at a time. If you still don't want to take the risk, grab some hot chocolate, hop in the car, listen to holiday music and drive around the neighborhood. See who is doing lights. You can see who is doing more than usual or less. The ones who aren't doing a lot this year might go on your secret Santa hit list! Ignore it all together: Honestly, it's 2020. You can do whatever you friggin' please. This will (hopefully) be the only year you can call "pandemic" as an excuse to get out of Thanksgiving dinner with relatives you don't ever get along with. Order take out instead. Grab a glass of wine. And go watch a movie.

Inspiration

How to survive the holidays during a pandemic

It's tough to know exactly how the holidays will impact the spread and effects of COVID-19, but we can certainly agree the season is unfolding differently this 2020. There's a lot to know about what is going on this year and not entirely in ways you expect. This article will take you through all the ways COVID might make the holidays tougher, what to know, and what to do. In America, loneliness and isolation affect the health of millions across the country. The Census Bureau started the Household Pulse Survey, to capture the impact of COVID-19 on mental and economic health. Even before the pandemic, loneliness links to poorer health conditions for at-risk individuals. Last year alone, 47 million people reported having a mental illness. The added physical, mental, financial, and social burdens of COVID-19 make the stress, worry and isolation of this holiday season particularly tough. If you are grieving a loss... There will be many families grieving their first holiday without a loved one this year. It’s essential to recognize emotions will run high. Parents and children tend to want to close themselves off or "be brave," but with normalcy being so hard to come by, this might not help families cope. It is okay to process slowly or intensely as families struggle with unprecedented circumstances and uncertainty. Things to consider: Think about having a virtual meeting with all family members involved to see where everyone stands in participating in the holidays this year. Helping to set a level of expectation can give you some footing. Then discuss ways to honor your loved one. How did they usually contribute to the holiday spirit? Can you honor that in some way? It's important to stay connected. Social isolation during the pandemic makes this more challenging to attain but much more important. The loss of routine: Even without losing a loved one to the pandemic, doesn't necessarily mean you aren't grieving. Mayo Clinic discusses how the loss of routine can also be upsetting and debilitating. It is important to give yourself space to cope with this type of coronavirus grief. While we have been dealing with this for roughly six months now, the holiday season poses a new wave of emotions. Firsts, no matter what, are difficult. What to do: Dr. M. Katherine Shear, founding director of the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University, suggests using the tenants of the serenity prayer. Since traditional forms of processing and moving through the death of a loved one, like funeral services or shivas, aren't taking place right now, the prayer helps you accept the things you cannot change. It is important to your wellbeing to ground yourself amid all of this uncertainty. Go back to things that align with your values or make you feel deeply connected to others or the world. If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide... According to JAMA psychology research, suicide rates in the United States have increased over 35% since 1999 and adds to another global health crisis. Unfortunately, data around suicide, due to stigma and lack of national reporting systems, don’t reflect real-time data. There is no way to know the immediate effect of COVID-19 on suicide numbers in the US or anywhere else. However, psychologists are worried about "several risk factors linked to the pandemic." COVID-19 Risk Factors: The decline in mental or physical health, social isolation and loneliness already indicate potential for difficulty. Struggling with suicidal ideation can be made worse with financial losses, the disruption of daily life like remote work or school, loss of loved ones or milestones and increased alcohol consumption. In the US, an increase to the availability of drugs or firearms from sheltering in place is also cause for concern. What to do: Suicidal thoughts make you or your loved one's health an emergency. Some signs include extreme mood swings from being very sad to very calm, talking about hopelessness or feeling trapped, feeling there aren't any solutions, and talking about dying. If you or a loved one seem off or more isolated than normal, it is essential to reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). If you are a friend or family member, follow the National Institute of Mental Health's five steps: ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide, keep them safe by reducing their access to harmful means; be there to listen; help them connect to a therapist or a hotline; lastly, stay connected. Research suggests talking about suicide can actually help to reduce it. If you or someone you know might experience domestic violence... The stay-at-home orders made to protect the public concerns domestic abuse advocates that victims will be trapped with their abusers. The limited mobility and heightened uncertainty can lead to more triggers and increase abuse. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, domestic violence hotlines expected to see an increase in activity during quarantine, but actually, the calls decreased by nearly fifty percent. This concerns experts even more to know the rates of violence aren't decreasing, but actually, victims are unable to find a safe way to get help. Risk factors amid COVID-19: Hotels and shelters long provided alternative and emergent housing, but with closures, safe havens are harder to find. Domestic violence disproportionately affects minority women of color; 1 in 4 women experience intimate partner violence (IPV). Before COVID, unstable childcare, financial hardships, unsafe housing, or lack of social support can increase risk, but now, these are a given. The pandemic seriously limits a victim's financial independence to get out of the situation safely. Many families hold "essential jobs" and don't have childcare capabilities to get their kids connected for school. This added stress can lead to instances of child abuse too. What to do: Most people don't seek help when suffering from IPV. If you think you've experienced abusive behavior, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you identify abuse and a safe plan of action. This holiday, make it a mission to check in on the ones you love. Often victims of violence will isolate themselves from fear or shame. If you suspect abuse happening to your neighbor or friend, keep a journal of anything you've seen or heard to provide evidence if they ever choose to prosecute. Calling the police isn't always a good idea. Read more about why here. Instead, you should make a call to a local or state violence center for further steps. If you’re struggling to stay sober... Retail alcohol sales increased roughly 40% at brick and mortar establishments after bars and restaurants closed for stay-at-home orders. According to Winsight Grocery Business, online sales for alcohol skyrocketed at 339%. Alcohol misuse is already a public health concern across the US. COVID-19 may worsen these behaviors long after the pandemic. The director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said we could look at other catastrophic stressors like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. During times of stress, the added anxiety and uncertainty of the future can lead people to consume more alcohol. Risk factors amid COVID-19: Consuming alcohol in larger quantities will affect your immune system and the body's ability to fight viral infections, especially in the lungs. Drinking alcohol to cope with stress, sleep disturbances, and even boredom increases the chance for alcohol use disorder. Recovering alcoholics live with their condition daily. Over 2 million members participate in Alcoholics Anonymous and well over 100,000 groups worldwide. Recovery takes a wide network of social support. With social distancing, a lot of this has gone away, but there are still things to do and ways to help. What to do: There are online AA meetings available like the Token Shop. Finding ways to connect with friends and family, even your sponsor, will help keep you grounded. These interactions are vital to stay safe these holidays. Whether you are struggling with diagnosed alcohol use disorder or not, be aware of new triggers. Be mindful of your mental health. If money is really tight this year... Many Americans were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic, but a record number of 40 million Americans filed for unemployment during April. The long-term impact of COVID will show families facing worse financial burdens, the ability to get a job or make ends meet, foreclosures, and evictions in the months to come. There is no worse time to deal with money stress than during the holidays. Risk factors among COVID: Minorities are disproportionately more affected with financial burden caused by the pandemic. Families struggling to make ends meet and are also trying to put their kids through online schooling. They are struggling to make it work. There are roughly 42 million Americans without access to the internet at home. Because of social distancing and closures, many people have difficulty finding work, going to school, teaching their kids, and staying connected without the internet. What to do: Ask for help. There are organizations and nonprofits set up to help families provide gifts to their children during the holidays. Keep your holiday small. Keep your kids' priorities focused on family and find other ways to show them support. In turn, this might relieve some of your own stress because you would have found ways to cope and participate in self care. While the white house is still working on another stimulus bill, there are other programs that cab help. Food Stamps can help alleviate some stress when grocery shopping. There are also programs helping to reduce internet costs.