Who’d have thought we’d still be masking and keeping our COVID-19 distance for the second consecutive holiday season? But many – even most – holiday light shows are going on. Bundle up, mask up (where appropriate), and enjoy a much-needed bright spot during our second COVID-19 Christmas. Shine on!
Holiday Lights in the Garden
Where? Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, Belmont, N.C.
- When? Through Jan. 2, 2022. 6-10 p.m.
- Why go? Topiary display, the rolling lights of the Piedmont Prairie, twinkling cherry trees, food trucks, marshmallow roasting.
- Pro tip: Garden officials report that tickets will sell out most nights. Buy tickets in advance online. Also, bundle up. The event is entirely outside.
- COVID-19 precautions: Several, including limited numbers of tickets, staggered entry times, tickets sold only online in advance, hand sanitation stations available.
- Details: Walk through. Tickets are $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors 60 and up, $7.95 for kids 2-12 and free for kids under 2. dsbg.org
Christmas Town, USA
- What? One of the oldest holiday lights shows around. McAdenville calls itself “Christmas Town, USA” – and with good reason.
- Where? McAdenville, about 18 miles west of Charlotte.
- When? Dec. 1-26. 5:30-10 p.m. every night.
- Why go? “There’s no cost to visit,” said Steve Rankin of the Christmas Town Committee. “Even parking is free.”
- Pro tip: Visit on a weeknight. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the wait time can be several hours after exiting I-85 or U.S. 29-74. Weekends generally mean bumper-to-bumper traffic. “Once school is out for the holidays, every night is a weekend,” Rankin said.
- Details: Free. Drive or walk through. mcadenville-christmastown.com
- What? Speedway Christmas presented by Continental Tire and Tire Pros.
- Where? Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.
- When? Through Jan. 16, 2022. 6-10 p.m.
- Why go? More than 4 million LED lights over a 3.75-mile course. Christmas-themed movie nights are Thursday through Sunday on the Speedway’s 16,000-square-foot HDTV screen. The infield Christmas Village is back this year.
- Pro tips: Arriving a few minutes before the show opens at 6 p.m. helps avoid wait times. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least crowded, but only the light show and ice rink are open.
- Details: Drive through. Tickets available in advance and at the gate. Express passes are available for an additional $20 at the gate. Prices start at $20 per car. Tune in to 101.3 FM to enjoy Christmas music as you make your way through the light show. charlottemotorspeedway.com
30th Annual Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights
- Where? Tanglewood Park is 10 minutes west of Winston-Salem at 4061 Clemmons Rd., in Clemmons, N.C.
- When? Through Jan. 1, 2022, 6-11 p.m. (On Dec. 31, closing time is 10 p.m.)
- Why go? It’s been a tradition for three decades.
- Pro tips: Monday through Thursday tend to be slower nights. The wait on Fridays and Saturdays could be up to four hours. Cars begin lining up for the 6 p.m. show as early as 4:30 p.m.
- COVID-19 precautions: The Gift Village is open again this season. Masks are required. Event organizers say Santa will remain at the North Pole again this year as a COVID-19 precaution.
- Details: Drive through the 5-mile route, which contains more than 100 displays. Family Vehicles: $20 cash (discounted), $23 card; Commercial Vehicles: $45 cash (discounted), $48 card; Motorcoaches: $115 cash (discounted), $118 card. forsyth.cc/parks/tanglewood/fol
Winter Lights at the N.C. Arboretum
- Where? 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville.
- When? Through Jan. 1, 2022. 5:30-10:30 p.m.
- Why go? About 500,000 energy-efficient LED lights twinkle throughout the garden.
- COVID-19 precaution: The event was changed last year from a walk-through to a drive-through.
- Details: Drive through. Date-specific, timed-entry tickets are required and must be purchased in advance. Flex tickets are available in advance for a higher fee. Ticket prices are per vehicle – not per person – and vary by date. The per personal vehicle rate ranges from $30 to $60. ncarboretum.org
Christmas at Biltmore
- Where? Biltmore House, Asheville.
- When? Through Jan. 9, 2022. 6-10 p.m.
- Why go? The front lawn Christmas tree is a 55-foot Norway spruce tree and contains 55,296 lights, with an additional 33,280 more on the surrounding trees and shrubs. Two-hundred fifty luminaria line the driveway and Esplanade in front of Biltmore House. Inside Biltmore House, 62 hand-decorated Christmas trees fill the home’s rooms, with around 45,000 lights and 250 candles providing a holiday glow.
- Pro tips: Advance reservations (biltmore.com) are a must. Crowds tend to be lighter earlier in the week, but this is Biltmore’s most popular season. Unique this year is the opportunity for guests to visit Van Gogh Alive, an exhibition at Amherst at Deerpark. This immersive experience features more than 3,000 images of Van Gogh’s artwork projected at enormous scale filling giant screens, columns and even the floor. “A lot of walking is involved in a trip to Biltmore, so wear comfortable shoes,” said LeeAnn Donnelly, senior PR manager at The Biltmore.
- COVID-19 precautions: “As of now, Buncombe County remains under a mask mandate for all indoor facilities,” said Donnelly.
- Details: Walk through. Daytime celebration open through Jan. 10, 2022; Candlelight Christmas Evenings open through Jan. 8, 2022. The experience includes admission to the 8,000-acre estate, including the Antler Hill Village and Winery. Tickets start at $106. biltmore.com
Lights on the Neuse
- Where? Boyette Family Farms, 1620 Loop Rd., Clayton.
- When? Weekends Dec. 3-24. Open every night the week of Christmas. Consult website for dates and times.
- Why go? A 1-mile long, 30-minute tractor-pulled hayride around the farm and adjacent to the river.
- Pro tip: Online, timed tickets are encouraged. Walk-up purchases are also offered.
- Details: Walk through. $10 per person; children 2 and under attend for free. lightsontheneuse.com
- Where? Airlie Gardens, 300 Airlie Rd.
- When? Sold out.
- Why go? It’s been a New Hanover County tradition since 2005. Enjoy holiday lights, music and displays on a half-mile, walkable, self-guided tour.
- Pro tip: Check website to see if returned tickets are available. airliegardens.org
Upstate Holiday Light Show
- Where? Greenville-Pickens Speedway, 3800 Calhoun Memorial Highway, Easley, S.C.
- When? Daily through Dec. 31. Timed entry from 6-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
- Why go? It’s upstate South Carolina’s largest interactive holiday light show. You can drive around the track as many times as you want. Tune your radio to one of two stations to hear either traditional Christmas music (104.3 FM) or a show especially for kids (92.1 FM).
- Pro tip: Skip the line with a fast pass – good on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
- Details: Drive through. Prices start at $35 per vehicle. greenvillepickens.com
Anderson’s Christmas Light Show
Where? The corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Woodcrest Drive, across the street from the Anderson Civic Center and behind the Anderson Mall.
- When? Through Christmas night from 5:30-10 p.m. Open until 11 p.m. on weekends.
- Why go? Now in its 28th year, the event features over 2.5 miles of illuminated roadways, 210 displays, millions of multicolored lights and 45 acres. It’s one of the upstate’s largest drive-through Christmas lights displays.
- Details: Drive through. $10 per car, cash or card. No reservations. Proceeds benefit nonprofits including Cancer Association of Anderson, Anderson Habitat for Humanity and more. andersonchristmaslights.org
Holiday Lights Safari
- Where? Hollywild Animal Preserve, a 100-acre park at 2325 Hampton Road.
- When? Through Jan. 1, 2022, from 6-9 p.m.
- Why go? It’s been happening for 31 years! A life-sized nativity and other religious displays are part of the experience.
- Pro tip: For an extra $10, drive through the “Enchanted Deer Forest,” and animals will approach your car and eat out of your hands.
- Details: Drive through. Admission is $10 per person. Admission to the Enchanted Deer Forest is optional with an additional charge of $10 per vehicle, which includes a bag of animal food. hollywild.org
Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS
Where? Cheekwood Estate & Gardens.
- When? Through Jan. 9, 2022, from 5-10 p.m. (Closed Christmas Day.)
- Why go? More than 1 million lights! New this year are a Holiday Marketplace in the Frist Learning Center Great Hall; a 20-foot orchid tree in the Historic Mansion & Museum to complement the theme "A Botanical Holiday in the Mansion;" and new additions to the displays, including a Peppermint Path leading to the Bradford Robertson Color Garden and a sparkling chandelier as part of the Children's Wonderland in the Bracken Foundation Children's Garden.
- Pro tips: Weekday nights are typically slower, and guests arriving after 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday can take advantage of "Late Night Lights" pricing, which is $20 for garden tickets. Allow about 1.5 hours for your visit.
- COVID-19 precautions: Timed-entry tickets are required and must be purchased in advance.
- Details: Walk through. $26 for adults for Garden and Mansion, $20 for youth ages 3-17, free for children 2 and under. cheekwood.org
Christmas Nights of Lights at Coney Island
- Where? 6201 Kellogg Ave. in Cincinnati.
- When? Through Jan. 2, 2022, nightly from dusk through 10 p.m. Extended hours on weekends.
- Why go? It’s the city’s largest synchronized light show. More than 1 million LED lights are controlled by more than 10,000 computer channels. The light show is synchronized to both traditional and pop/rock holiday music through your car radio.
- Pro tip: New this year: Online ticketing.
- Details: Drive through. $30 per carload (up to eight passengers). Special pricing Monday through Thursday: $7 per person; children 3 and under free. Purchase in advance. christmasnightsoflights.com/cincinnati
Journey BOREALIS: An Artful Adventure through the Holiday Lights
Where? Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum, 1763 Hamilton-Cleves Rd., Hamilton, Ohio.
- When? Through Jan. 2, 2022, Monday-Thursday from 6-9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6-10 p.m.
- Why go? A new and expanded route. The journey this year “starts with glimmering trees and arches before winding through the blue and white glow of Jerusalem’s Hanukkah celebration and arriving at the park’s famed Swan Lake,” according to the website. “Visitors will then travel through Germany’s Candy Cane Forest with more than 50 yarn-wrapped trees.” The journey ends at the “North Pole.”
- Pro tips: Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days. City of Hamilton residents get in free on Tuesdays.
- Details: Drive through. $20 per carload Mondays-Thursdays; $25 per carload Fridays-Sundays. pyramidhill.org or journeyborealis.com
Where? Newfields, 4000 Michigan Rd., Indianapolis, Ind.
- When? Through Jan. 2, 2022, from 5-9 p.m.
- Why go? 1.5 million lights throughout forest, field and gardens. Returning crowd favorites include the Landscape of Light, The Frosted Forest, Snowflake Bridge, Ice Storm Walk and the Finale Tree. Near the newly renovated Playhouse, guests will discover the new Rock Lawn featuring a rock music show accompanied by a digital projection display. Chocolate chip cookies and popcorn are available for purchase, served alongside Sun King Brewing Co.’s Electric Reindeer, West Fork Whiskey’s cider and Newfields’ own hot cocoa.
- Pro tips: Advance tickets are required. Newfields is a cashless campus, so be sure to have a credit or debit card. Plan to spend about 90 minutes. Arrive 15 minutes before your ticket time to keep the check-in process smooth and social distancing possible.
- Details: Walk through. People generally spend between 60 and 90 minutes. Tickets range from $13 to $25. Children 5 and under are free. discovernewfields.org
Tampa/St. Petersburg area
Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village
Where? Hillsborough County Fair (215 Sydney Washer Rd., at the intersection of State Road 60 and Sydney Washer Road in Dover, Fla.).
- When? Daily beginning at 6 p.m. through Christmas.
- Why go? A one-of-a-kind original light display.
- Pro tip: Tune in to Mix 100.7, Tampa Bay’s Christmas Station and the official radio station of the Festival of Lights and Santa’s Village, to fully immerse yourself in the holiday spirit.
- Details: Drive through – until you reach Santa’s Village. $25 per car. Tickets available in advance at hillsboroughcountyfair.com/tickets/
Bivona Christmas Light Show
- Where? 1601 N. Wind Court, Winter Springs, FL 32708
- When? Tree lighting takes place Dec. 1 from 5-9 p.m. The light displays will be up from Dec. 1, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022, from 6-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
- Why go? Because it’s super Griswoldy. There are 75,000 lights, nine LED screens and a dozen inflatables. A tradition dating back nearly 40 years, Founder Charlie Bivona began with the desire to win his neighborhood Christmas lights contest. (He did.) After Charlie’s death in 2004, his oldest son, Andy, took over. “We keep this show as a means of sharing positivity and joy during the holidays,” according to the Facebook page, “and what better way to escape all of the negative news than Christmas lights and music?!”
- Pro tips: Allow about 35 minutes to see it all. Traffic is heavier the week of Christmas.
- Details: Drive through. Free. @BivonaChristmas (Facebook)