8 of the Best Christmas Lights Displays in America to Add to Your Travel Bucket List This Year

National Christmas Lights Day
Photo: Daniil Silantev

Not even a pandemic can put a stop to holiday cheer.

And that’s why we’re still celebrating National Christmas Lights Day here at A Girls Guide to Cars. Just about every state in America boasts a gorgeous display of twinkling lights, and many areas have changed things up to accommodate for the ongoing pandemic—meaning lots of social distancing, plenty of drive-through events, and more.

If you’ve been looking for a little something to put a little holiday pep in your step, these nine impressive lights displays may just be what you need to end 2020 on a high note. And, since these are scattered all around the United States, we’ve also included some cute local Airbnbs to take advantage of your trip. Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy National Christmas Lights Day!

Related: Fresh Holiday Playlists for the Road (or the House)

National Christmas Lights Day

Photo: Trail of Lights

Trail of Lights – Austin, TX

The Trail of Lights is an Austin classic. Normally a walk-through event that takes place in the city’s famous Zilker Park, 2020 has turned this event into a drive-through for the first time ever. You can purchase timed entry tickets and cruise through the display at your own pace, guaranteed a slot for that day.

More than 2 million lights illuminate the park in the 56th annual hosting of the event, including lighted tunnels, 90 lighted trees, and 70 other holiday displays. You don’t want to miss out on this classic.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Austin? Take advantage of Texas’s mild winter weather by glamping in Lago Vista, a natural enclave just outside of Austin. The tents are heated and air conditioned, but it’s a great way to feel in touch with nature.

Learn more about the Trail of Lights.

Related: Kicking Off The Winter With Holiday Travel?

National Christmas Lights Day

Photo: Hershey Park

Hershey Sweet Lights – Hershey, PA

Hershey Park in Pennsylvania is a chocolate-themed wonderland, and it’s also offering a gorgeous drive-through lights display this year. While the theme park is still open for business and decked out in over 5 million lights, you can enjoy 600 illuminated and lighted displays from the comfort of your car.

This Airbnb near Lititz, PA is about a 40 minute drive from Hershey Park, but it’s just gorgeous. Located on a 100-acre farm with the ability to sleep eight people, this is a great, private getaway for the family.

Learn more about Hershey Sweet Lights.

Related: Driving While Holidazed: Tips to Keep You and Your Car Safe

Mission Inn Festival of Lights – Riverside, CA

The Festival of Lights started back in 1992 and has become a cheery mainstay of holiday spirit in California. There are tons of food and drink specials to get you in the holiday mood, and, of course, tons of lights, including a life-size gingerbread house, a 19-foot Christmas tree, and, of course, the gorgeous castle-like exterior.

As the name suggests, Mission Inn is an inn—but if you want a little more space to yourself, try this treehouse just outside of Riverside. Seriously, what’s more magical than living out your childhood dreams?

Learn more about the Festival of Lights.

Related: Road Trip Planning Checklist: How to Safely Prepare During a Pandemic

National Christmas Lights Day

Photo: Visit St. Augustine

St. Augustine Night of Lights – St. Augustine, FL

Businesses and shops all throughout St. Augustine go all-out to make sure visitors feel festive. Gorgeous seasonal displays makes this one of the best-lighted towns in the country. Celebrate by dining out late to look at the lights, or take a trolly tour to see them on the move.

If you’re looking to stay at a coastal Florida town, you might as well stay in a beautiful vintage 30-foot catalina sailboat. It’s close quarters, to be sure, but an unforgettable venue.

Learn more about the Night of Lights.

Related: Walking in Martin Luther King Jr.’s Footsteps in St. Augustine

National Christmas Lights Day

Photo: Branson Christmas

Christmas in Midtown – Branson, MO

Silver Dollar City is an 1880s-themed amusement park, and right at its heart is Midtown, where you can find over 6.5 million lights flickering through the holiday season. There are festive shows almost daily, tons of food and gifts, and the opportunity to stay all day or just come after dark to look at the lights. It you want a unique holiday experience, this is a great place to go.

If you’re visiting Silver Dollar City, then it’s a great time to kick back in a treehouse to keep with the old-timey feel. Enjoy nature, relax, and read Christmas stories around the campfire.

Learn more about Christmas in Midtown.

Related: 10 Priceless Reasons You’ll Want to Say Yes to Your Minivan Urge

National Christmas Lights Day

Photo: Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights – Chicago, IL

Can you name a better combination than zoo animals and holiday cheer? I certainly can’t. ZooLight ticket sales contribute to wildlife conservation efforts. There are tons of great events, like a s’mores pop-up tent, 3D displays, an enchanted forest, and special events for members and adults.

An important tip: Illinois requires a mandatory 14-day quarantine if you’re traveling in from out of state.

Looking for a little taste of luxury during your visit to Chicago? Look no further than this 50-foot yacht decked out with lakeside views and comfy leather seats. You might have ooh’ed and aah’ed at animals earlier, but you certainly aren’t one!

Learn more about ZooLights.

Miracle on 34th Street – Baltimore, MD

Nothing says a miracle quite like an entire street of homeowners all pitching in to make one of America’s most gorgeous citizen-made displays. There are no streetside vendors in order to keep traffic moving, so you may want to bring your own snacks and hot drinks.

And in the interest of cozy holiday cheer, you can warm up in this adorable tiny home after looking at lights. You can cook your own holiday meal and relax in a quaint little space.

Learn more about Miracle on 34th Street.

Christmas Town, USA – McAdenville, NC

While the folks of McAdenville have scaled back their holiday displays in light of the pandemic, many citizens have still banded together to put on the traditional holiday event. It’s definitely one of those magical places you have to see to believe.

If you want a place to relax and unplug, look no further than this beautiful “treesort“. You have access to 26 acres of forest and a sweet cabin-like feel.

Learn more about Christmas Town.

And don’t forget to stay safe!

Mask up, keep your distance, and don’t forget your hand sanitizer! For a little extra added safety, bring your Lysol spray to anywhere you’re staying. Many hotels and hosts on Airbnb take extra pains to keep their homes sanitized, but it never hurts to take some extra precautions.

If you have your own local favorites, let us know in the comments!

National Christmas Lights Day

Photo: Jamie Davies

I'm Elizabeth Blackstock, managing editor of AGGTC, blogger, journalist, novelist, editor, MA/MFA graduate student, wife, motorsport fanatic, and bearer... More about Elizabeth Blackstock