You can get in the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car.
Although the holidays will undoubtedly look different this year, it’s still possible to enjoy the season with spectacular displays that glisten, glow, and light up the night. From West Virginia to the Golden State, we’ve rounded up some of the most eye-catching, breathtaking, and oh-so inspiring drive-thru light shows of the year. Some are old favorites, others are entirely new, and a few have completely transformed themselves in the wake of COVID so that you can stay as safe as possible while still taking part in their festivities. Put on your PJs, fill-up your thermoses with hot chocolate, and pile the blankets in the car before immersing yourself in these 12 truly incredible worlds of illuminated wonder (and remember: many of these places require you to pre-purchase tickets online).
Christmas in the Park
WHERE: San Jose, California
For the last four decades, residents of Northern California have been flocking to its largest city for a walk-through holiday extravaganza like no other. However, due to the pandemic, organizers have shifted gears, turning their 2020 event into a drive-thru only experience. While the beloved animated light displays and hundreds of community-decorated holiday trees that Christmas in the Park is known for will remain front and center, this year’s festivities will also feature a few new elements to delight and surprise. These include towering pixel-lighted walls replete with dancing reindeer, falling snowflakes, and a tunnel of lights honoring essential workers. It’s being held in a new location as well: the city’s 14-acre History Park.
Dates: November 27, 2020, through January 3, 2021.
Prices: $10/car between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.; $20/car between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Pinnacle Speedway in Lights
WHERE: Bristol, Tennessee
Gear up for a mesmerizing drive among more than two million lights and approximately 250 dazzling displays, all of which completely transform Tennessee’s Bristol Motor Speedway into an illuminated holiday fairyland. This legendary NASCAR short track is known as the “World’s Fastest Half Mile,” but while you’ll be keeping a snail’s pace, the excitement is similarly palpable. However, if you are feeling the need for speed, you can skip the car lines with a Fast Pass ($50/vehicle) and head right into Jingle Bell Lane. In the center of the track is Christmas Village, where you can load up on funnel cake, empanadas, and kettle corn.
Dates: November 13, 2020, through January 2, 2021.
Prices: $20/car Sunday through Thursday; $25/car Friday and Saturday
Christmas in Color
WHERE: Utah, California, Minnesota, Idaho, and Colorado
With six different locations throughout the U.S., Christmas in Color will be illuminating the lives of thousands of holiday revelers this season. Why not join them? Each ¾-to mile-long route meanders through a sea of larger-than-life Christmas trees, dancing light fields, and animated tunnels that immerse visitors in the distinct glow of the season; and it’s all synchronized to holiday music playable on your FM dial. Tickets are available online only, with an additional snack pack option.
Check the website for dates and prices.
Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights
WHERE: Wheeling, West Virginia
It’s one of the largest holiday light displays in the U.S.: a 300-acre, six-mile drive-thru exhibit of more than a million LED lights, not to mention dozens of illuminated attractions. While old favorites like the spectacular Rainbow Tunnel, lit up in a bevy of colors that brighten the night’s sky, are par for the course, this year also features some new surprises, including the “Green Monster” (you’ll know him when you see him). Other holiday offerings include Oglebay’s inaugural Magical Mansion Show, which transforms the resort’s iconic manor house into a fantastical animated light show, and a walk-through Garden of Light, complete with twinkling hanging baskets and loads of festive flora.
Dates: November 5, 2020, through January 10, 2021.
A suggested donation of $25/car donated gets you a Festival of Lights pass valid through the holiday season, and a local rewards book (coupons).
Holidays in Your Car
WHERE: Del Mar, California
After a long hiatus, the greater San Diego region now has a new holiday drive-thru that’s better than ever: think holograms, a laser light display, and a 1.5-mile route decorated in more than one-million festive lights. The big kicker here are the live drive-in stage shows that wrap up the event on select nights, including “Santa Saves Christmas,” which features real-life characters and a sing-along component, and performances of The Nutcracker. You can even order concessions online and have them delivered directly to your car. Talk about a holiday treat!
Dates: December 5, 2020, through January 2, 2021.
Price: starting at $49/car
Christmas Night of Lights
WHERE: Indianapolis, Indiana
It’s the largest synchronized light show in central Indiana, a vibrant spectacle of more than a million LED lights powered by over 50,000 computer channels, and all synced up to a playlist of traditional and modern holiday tunes. The approximately two-mile-long route, which winds around the Indiana State Fairgrounds, includes everything from a 240-foot wall of lights to dancing lollipops and candy canes. There’s a second location in Cincinnati.
Dates: November 13, 2020, to January 3, 2021
Prices: $7/per person (ages three and under are free), or $30/car for up to seven passengers
Fantasy of Lights
WHERE: New Haven, Connecticut
Local businesses, corporations, individuals, and organizations sponsor the displays at Connecticut’s beloved Fantasy of Lights, a volunteer-driven event raising money to help people with disabilities. In fact, this long-standing holiday tradition has been illuminating New Haven’s Lighthouse Point Park for 26 years. Tune your radio to the songs of the season as you cruise along a course lit with more than 60 animated displays, including a few featuring the Big Man in Red himself.
Dates: November 20, 2020, to December 31, 2020
Price: $10/per car
South Jersey Holiday Light Show
WHERE: Bridgeport, New Jersey
New to the greater Philadelphia area, South Jersey’s only holiday light drive-thru includes more than a mile of festive holiday decor and displays that blink, dance, and sync to some of the best songs of Christmas. Cozy up in your car, turn up the music, and get ready to marvel at a stunning showcase of hanging snowflakes, a frosty ice palace, and even Santa riding a Harley, all illuminated in a multitude of colors and bulbs.
Dates: November 19, 2020, through December 30, 2020
Galaxy of Lights
WHERE: Huntsville, Alabama
For 25 years, the Huntsville Botanical Garden has been hosting this seasonal extravaganza of lights that includes everything from illuminated garden scenes to a twinkling icicle forest. A walk-thru event takes place prior to Thanksgiving, but it’s the post-Turkey Day 2.5-mile drive-through that truly delights with its glowing dinosaurs, animated snowmen, and a bevy of larger-than-life singing carolers. The event also doubles as a drop-off spot for select charity donations, including Toys for Tots and The Greater Huntsville Humane Society.
Dates: November 27, 2020, through January 2, 2021.
The Christmas Lite Show
WHERE: Grand Rapids, Michigan
As the largest Christmas light show within the Great Lake state, you can expect to see dozens of awesome displays decked out in LED lights, illuminated tunnels that feel as though they’re transporting you to the North Pole, and a stellar showcase of holiday decor that stretches on for nearly two miles across West Michigan’s largest outdoor stadium. Still, what makes this event especially unique is its Memory Lake Train, a drive-through alternative on which you can savor 360-degree views while still maintaining social distancing. Bring along a blanket or two for an especially comfy experience.
Dates: November 25, 2020, through January 2, 2021
Prices: $25/car; Memory Train: $60/per row (seats four adults comfortably)
Trail of Lights
WHERE: Austin, Texas
Rather than the typical walk-through of past years, Austin’s long-running Trail of Lights is opting for a safer drive-through alternative for 2020. But expect an event that’s just as grand, with more than two million twinkling lights, 90 illuminated trees, and at least 70 animated displays. The event takes place at Austin’s Zilker Metropolitan Park, where one of the capital city’s historic moonlight towers (a 155-foot-tall structure that once provided light to the city) serves as the holiday tree.
Dates: November 28, 2020, through January 3, 2021
Prices: General admission $25-$35/car; $60/per Dash Pass, which includes early entry and several goodies
Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields
WHERE: Scottsdale, Arizona
Debuting with a bang for 2020, the Holiday Lights at Salt River Fields packs in nearly five million lights along a 1.2-mile continuous loop, one that also utilizes 40 tons of steel to bring to life baubled trees, towering ornaments, and an array of illuminated tunnels sure to leave you wide-mouthed and wide-eyed. Don some 3D glasses to add a whole new dimension to this already spectacular show, and don’t miss the blue and white Hanukkah lights at 7 p.m. on the first night of the Jewish festival, December 10.
Dates: November 23, 2020, through December 31, 2020
Prices: $35.99-$45.99/car; $45.99-$70.99/Fast Pass