As the holidays draw near, parks, zoos, theme parks, and other public places are working to put up dazzling displays of Christmas lights. But sometimes, nothing beats piling the family in the car and driving around the neighborhood to check out the holiday displays put up by your own neighbors—especially because it’s free!
Here are seven festive neighborhoods across the U.S. known for their amazing Christmas lights displays.
1. Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY: The extravagant Christmas lights displayed in this Italian-American neighborhood were featured on TLC’s “Crazy Christmas Lights” and on the PBS documentary “Dyker Lights”—and for good reason. You’ll see huge animatronic figures and motorized displays, 3-foot-tall toy soldiers, large inflatable figures, and houses covered with lights from top to bottom. The prime blocks are 83rd to 86th Sts. between 10th and 13th Aves., but the surrounding blocks also have many gems (and much less traffic). To make sure you see all the highlights, consider taking the Brooklyn Christmas Lights Tour. It takes place at 7 pm every night from November 30 to December 31.
2. Richmond, VA: A radio deejay trying to identify Richmond’s most outrageous Christmas lights sparked this annual tradition, in which residents try to outdo each other with their displays. Homes need a minimum of 40,000 lights to get listed on the tacky map. You can even rent a limousine and take a Tacky Light Tour.
3. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Each year, Mark and Kathy Hyatt host their “Hyatt Extreme Christmas” at their home at 11201 NW 14th St. The display includes nearly 200,000 lights, a 20-foot Ferris wheel with stuffed-animal riders, a 30-foot Christmas tree, a 20-foot movie screen showing Disney movies, and much more.
4. St. Louis Hills, Detroit, MI: Each year the 6500 block of Murdoch Ave. becomes Candy Cane Lane, where nearly every house puts up outlandish Christmas displays to compete for awards. Many homes on the surrounding blocks participate as well, so be sure to drive around a bit and check them out. Thousands of St. Louis families buy their fresh Christmas trees at Ted Drewes’ tree lot a block and a half away, then join the long line of vehicles waiting to wind their way through the twinkling block.
5. Prestonwood Forest, Houston, Texas: Residents of this community in northwest Houston light up their homes every year for the “Night of Lights,” which takes place this year from December 7-29. The homes compete in various awards categories, such as “Best Home,” “Best Mailbox,” “Best Front Door,” etc. For a map and more information, visit prestonwoodforestonline.com.
6. Portland, OR: Since the 1920s, each house on Peacock Lane, a quaint neighborhood in southeast Portland, has been decorating for Christmas. In addition to lots of sparkling lights, you’ll see nativity scenes, lifelike replicas of Santa and Frosty, and rotating Christmas trees. The lights are on from December 15-31. December 15 and 16 are pedestrian-only nights, though it’s recommended that you park several blocks away and walk on any night. You can even ride in a horse-drawn carriage to tour the lights!
7. Upper Hastings Ranch, Pasadena, CA: The Holiday Light Up in this family-oriented community has been a tradition since the 1950s. Nearly every one of the 1,100 homes participates, and each block has its own theme. There’s even a Snoopy Award, given to kids 15 and under with the best Christmas light decorating skills. Upper Hastings Ranch is bordered by Michillinda Ave. to the East, Sierra Madre Blvd. to the South, and Riveria Drive to the West. From the 210 Freeway, take Michillinda Blvd. North to the lights.
Do you know another neighborhood with great Christmas lights? Leave a comment below and let us know!