Sleigh bells, snowmen and Santa get most of the hype during the holidays. But it’s hard to envision the season without thinking of twinkling lights. Here are holiday light displays in Duke Energy territory that are worth a look.
St. Petersburg/Clearwater area
What? Holiday Lights in the Gardens.
Where? 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo.
When? Daily beginning at 5:30 p.m. from Nov. 23-Dec. 30.
What makes it special? Over 1 million LED lights twinkle throughout the Botanical Gardens and highlight the plants and nature- and holiday-themed light displays. This family-friendly event offers nightly entertainment, including visits with Santa.
Details: Suggested donation of $5 is encouraged. Holiday Lights in the Gardens.
What? Light Up the Holidays, sponsored by the City of Altamonte Springs, Duke Energy and Magic 107.7 FM.
Where? Cranes Roost Park, Altamonte Springs, Fla.
When? The light displays will be up Dec. 1-Jan. 1, from 6-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
What makes it special? More than 200,000 lights and a 60-foot tree decorated with thousands of ornaments. Fireworks, live music, dance performances and an ice-skating rink add to the festive atmosphere.
Details: Walk through. Free. altamonte.org
Where? Newfields, 4000 Michigan Road in Indianapolis, Ind.
When? Nov. 18, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019.
What makes it special? 1.5 million lights in forest, field and gardens, Snowflake Bridge, Grand Allee, a wintermarket.
Details: Walk through. Tickets range from $8 to $20. Children 5 and under are free. discovernewfields.org
What? Lights at the Brickyard
Where? Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Ind.
When? Nov. 6-Dec. 30. Gates open Sunday through Thursday from 6-9 p.m. and weekends from 6-10 p.m.
What makes it special? More than 3 million lights on a 2-mile course along the infield.
Details: Drive through. Passes start at $30. indianapolismotorspeedway.com
The mother of all holiday light displays has been happening for 62 years.
Where? McAdenville, a town less than 30 minutes west of Charlotte.
When? Nov. 30-Dec. 26. Monday through Friday, 5:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 5:30-11 p.m.
What makes it special? The entire former mill town takes part. More than 160 homes and 265 evergreen trees are festooned with more than a half million red, white and green lights. Expect bumper-to-bumper traffic during the drive-through experience – especially on weekends. The McAdenville lights attract more than 200,000 visitors each season.
Details: Free. Drive or walk through. (Most people drive.) mcadenville-christmastown.com
What? Speedway Christmas
Where? Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
When? Nov. 18-Dec. 31. (Closed Christmas.) Gates open 6-10 p.m.
What makes it special? More than 3 million lights. A Christmas village includes a Ferris wheel, fire pits for s’mores roasting and more. Movie nights are held Thursday through Sunday on the Speedway’s 16,000-square-foot HDTV screen.
Details: Drive through. Tickets available in advance and at the gate. Prices start at $25 per car. charlottemotorspeedway.com
What? Tanglewood Festival of Lights
Where? Tanglewood Park is 10 minutes west of Winston-Salem at 4061 Clemmons Road in Clemmons.
When? Nov. 16-Jan. 1, 2019, 6-11 p.m.
What makes it special? Carriage rides and hayrides, S’moresville, more than 1 million LED lights.
Details: Drive through the 5-mile route, which contains more than 100 displays. Expect a wait, especially on weekends. Rates start at $15 per car. forsyth.cc/parks/tanglewood
What? “Christmas at Biltmore” is the best-known of Asheville’s light displays, but Winter Lights at the N.C. Arboretum is equally special.
Where? 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville
When? Nov. 16-Dec. 31. Nightly 6-10 p.m.
What makes it special? About 500,000 energy-efficient LED lights twinkle throughout the garden. A 50-foot-tall animated tree is a highlight of the 3-acre tour.
Details: Walk through. Tickets are required and must be purchased in advance. $18 for ages 12+, $12 for children (ages 5-11) and free for children 4 years old and under. ncarboretum.org
What? N.C. Chinese Lantern Festival.
Where? Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Cary.
When? Nov. 23, 2018-Jan. 13, 2019, from 6-10 p.m. Closed Mondays.
What makes it special? More than 20 displays, each one comprised of hundreds of parts and thousands of LED lights, are ready to dazzle. The Chinese Dragon on Symphony Lake is a highlight. Cultural performances, including Chinese dance, vase juggling and Kung Fu are part of the celebration.
Details: Walk through. $15 for adults, $10 for children (ages 3-17) and free for children 2 and under. boothamphitheatre.com
What? Christmas Train and Light Spectacular.
Where? Wilmington Railroad Museum (505 Nutt Street, next to the Wilmington Convention Center).
When? Dec. 7-8, Dec. 14-15, Dec. 21-22, Dec. 26, 28-29. 6:30-8 p.m.
What makes it special? Synchronized light/sound displays, decorated holiday trains, visits with Santa, hot cider and cookies. In addition to the light show, the museum offers “Polar Express Family Shows” Dec. 8-9, 15-16, 22-23 at 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. Tickets available by calling 910.763.2634. Tickets must be reserved and paid ($5) in advance.
Details: Walk through. Tickets are $5 and available at the door. wrrm.org
What? Christmas Nights of Lights at Coney Island.
Where? 6201 Kellogg Avenue in Cincinnati.
When? Nov. 9, 2018-Jan. 6, 2019, nightly from dusk through 10 p.m.
What makes it special? Fantastic tunnels of lights. Drive the 2.5-mile route and see more than 1 million lights controlled by more than 40,000 computer channels. The light show is synchronized to both traditional and pop/rock holiday music through your car radio.
Details: Drive through. $6 per person; children 3 and under free. Purchase in advance or at the gate. coneyislandpark.com
What? Lights Before Christmas.
Where? Riverbanks Zoo & Garden in Columbia, S.C.
When? Nov. 17-Dec. 30 (Closed Dec. 24-25.) Gates open from 5-9 p.m.
What makes it special? Columbia’s longest-running holiday tradition features more than 1 million lights, an animated “story tree,” visits with Santa, a Jingle Bell Bonfire and more.
Details: Walk through. $12 for adults, $10 for children ages 2-12, free for children younger than 2. riverbanks.org
What? Florence Festival of Lights
Where? Hoffmeyer Place, 2441 Hoffmeyer Road.
When? Dec. 7-8, Dec. 14-16 and Dec. 21-22
What makes it special? More than 150 light displays are set up along the streets. They include Santa’s workshop, a tropical-themed area, Disney characters and a street devoted to a manger display. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be in Santa's Village every night.
Details: Free. Drive through. florencefestival.eventscff.org/
What? St. Francis Festival of Trees, sponsored by Bon Secours Hospital
Where? Downtown Greenville
When? Dec. 1-30
What makes it special?
The Festival of Trees has been a Greenville tradition for 33 years. Beautifully decorated trees line the entrance of four downtown hotels: Hyatt Regency Greenville, Courtyard by Marriott Greenville Downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites Greenville Downtown @ RiverPlace and Embassy Suites by Hilton Greenville Downtown RiverPlace
Free. Walk through. stfrancisfoundation.com/event/2018-festival-of-trees/
What? Holiday LIGHTS
Where? Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
When? Nov. 23, 2018-Dec. 30. (Closed Christmas.) 5-10 p.m.
What makes it special? More than 1 million lights, real reindeer, holiday carolers.
Details: Walk through. $22 for adults, $17 for ages 3-17, free for children 2 and under. Holiday LIGHTS is a timed-ticketed event with two evening time slots available: between 5 and 7 p.m. and between 7 and 9 p.m. cheekwood.org
What? A Country Christmas.
Where? Gaylord Opryland resort.
When? Nov. 9, 2018-Jan. 9, 2019. Hours vary by day.
What makes it special? More than 3 million lights.
Details: Walk through. Free. marriott.com/gaylord-hotels or 615.889.1000
If you’re going Griswold…
Just about every neighborhood has at least one would-be Clark Griswold – the dad (or mom) intent on building the biggest, flashiest, most impressive holiday display of lights, decorations and inflatables. What better way to say “Happy Holidays” to the neighbors than by creating a twinkling wonderland in your front yard for all to enjoy?
String all the lights you want, but understand what those light displays will cost you when the New Year rolls around. Use Duke Energy’s handy holiday lighting calculator to anticipate the cost. Everyone deserves a joyous holiday season – and a January free from sticker shock.