There’s something so magical about seeing a place adorned in holiday lights. The little kid comes out in all of us as we ooh and aah at the bright and colorful displays.
If you’re wondering where some of the best places in the world to see holiday lights are, don’t worry, we’ve put together a list for you! We hope they’ll bring a smile to your face and help you plan a future holiday trip. 🙂
Each year Dubuque hosts ‘Reflections in the Park‘, a drive through Christmas light experience that runs for almost 6 weeks! Companies in the area donate a shape in lights that reflects their business and they are set up in Louis Murphy Park. In 2016 there were over 80 donations! Visitors pay $10 to enter the park and all money is donated to a local charity. Highlights include a 200ft tunnel of lights and the addition of an extra level of festivity by being able to tune into a special radio station that plays Christmas music while you’re driving round!
For the past couple of years, Dubuque has also been a stopping point for the CP Holiday Train. The train consists of 14 boxcars covered in Christmas style rope lights. When it stops, one car folds out into a stage and a couple of artists perform for 30 minutes! The train passes through 6 US States and 3 Canadian Provinces altogether.
I admit to be more of a Grinch when it comes to Christmas: the holiday season, with everyone so busy buying presents and the incredible traffic that this generates, tends to stress me out more than anything else. But I must say that in the last few years my hometown Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, has been putting up an amazing holiday lights show. I was taking an evening stroll in the Villanova quarters of the city last Christmas when I came across the beautifully adorned Via Sulis, and the gorgeous church of San Giacomo. I was truly impressed by the lights, to the point that I, for once, actually felt the Christmas spirit.
Brussels really knows how to do Christmas right. During the holiday season all the chocolate shops are decked out with nutcracker shaped goods and all the Christmas markets are filled with hot spiced wine. There’s holiday spirit in every corner. But there’s something in Brussels that takes the holidays beyond just chandelier lined streets and snow dusted display windows. In the main square, La Grand Place, there’s a nightly light show! My friend and I walked into it unexpectedly and boy were we in for a surprise. For about 15 minutes the entire square comes alive with lights and music. It’s almost a bit of a mini rave!
Cinque Terre is known for the hikes, colorful houses and beautiful waters to enjoy when it is warm outside. The winter brings a different attraction, the Christmas lights set up voluntarily each year by 89-year-old and retired railroad worker Mario Andreoli. It started in 1961 and has since grown and even received the Guinness World Record in 2007 for the largest nativity scene. The Nativity is even built with recycled materials and is solar powered. For a great view of the lights, take one of the ferries to go by Manarola. Take a closer look by walking around the hillside.
It’s well known that Christmas markets and Christmas lights are amazing in Eastern and Central European countries. In these countries people tend to limit their visit to the capitals, and those who travel to Hungary doesn’t often leave the capital, Budapest, either. Nevertheless there are many other beautiful towns in Hungary, and the second most important city of the country, Debrecen is one of them.
It’s very worthwhile to visit Debrecen, situated near the Eastern border of the country. This city is known as the major protestant town of Hungary and it has always occupied the role of an important culture center. The Big Church, the main symbol of the city, is the major Protestant church in the country and the city center is full of beautiful buildings dating back to the 19 th century. Debrecen is also a university town with a nice campus in the forest. Around Christmas the city center gets decorated with thousands of lights, and the atmosphere in the Christmas market is fantastic.
While all of London is a great place to visit during the holiday season, Regent Street especially comes to life each year with one of the best displays of Christmas lights in the country. The entire area around Piccadilly features bright illuminations with a new theme each year. Regent Street kicks off Central London’s holiday season with an opening ceremony about a month before Christmas. Londoners & visitors alike flock to the area for its world-famous shopping, but the lights alone are their own draw. Despite the shops being closed on Christmas Day, the streets are still packed with people enjoying holiday walks beneath the lights.
You know you’re in Australia when the Three Wise Men ride through the centre of the city on camels. Each night in the lead up to Christmas the parade moves through the Queen Street Mall towards City Hall for the start of the Light Spectacular. Giant projectors play out an animated and narrated Christmas story to music using the elaborate building frontage as a giant cinema screen. Skilled programming picks out the detail on the pillars, bell tower and roof incorporating the design into the movement of the lights and story.
It’s always a social affair as people gather in the square or nearby cafes on their way home from work or to take a break from their holiday shopping. It’s targeted to the children of course but adults love it too and there is a fair bit of anticipation to see what each years story will be. So far I think they’ve outdone themselves with each year improving on the one before.
In San Francisco, Union Square is the place to go to see plenty of sparkling holiday lights. The Square itself is lit up with a gigantic tree and ice skating rink, and department stores around the Square also put on a show–the biggest being in the multiple windows at Macy’s. (Macy’s also has very sweet adoptable kitten window displays.) Just across the street, the historic St. Francisco Hotel lights up its lobby with a tree and a central display, perhaps a vintage train that runs through a giant castle cake. If you take the cable car up to the top of Nob Hill, you will also see plenty of lights there in general, but do check out the lobby of the Fairmont Hotel, where you can walk through a giant, fragrant two-story gingerbread house that they make from scratch in their kitchen.
New York City is a popular destination anytime of the year, but it is at its best during the holiday season. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, with over 30,000 twinkling lights, is a must see. Also be sure to stop by and see the light show at Saks 5th Avenue.
Not many people know that Denver has held the title of “Christmas Capitol of the World,” but in the 1920s, this honor was bestowed upon the city after many outdoor lighting contests and their City Hall being grandly illuminated each year. Since then, the city has always been a great place to see holiday lights. Lighted trees line the lovely pedestrian street mall and many downtown buildings are lit up beautifully, our favorite of which is definitely City Hall.
Have you seen the holiday lights in any of these cities? Are there other places you’d add to the list of best places to see holiday lights? We’d love to read your comments below! 🙂
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