‘Tis the season to deck the halls, wrap gifts, host parties and bake cookies. Why not spice up your holiday to-do list with a dash of tinsel and a pinch of twinkle? At these festive displays around the country, you won’t even have to go walking through the winter wonderland. You can instead sip a thermos of hot cocoa ensconced in your sled—er … car—as you soak in the spirit of the season.
1. Holiday Light Fantasia, Hartford, Connecticut
Photo courtesy of Channel 3 Kids Camp
Wind through 2 miles around Hartford, Connecticut’s Goodwin Park to see more than a million lights twinkling with holiday cheer. Animated displays and plenty of whimsical characters get into the spirit of the season celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year and Three Kings Day. Kids can even play a fun scavenger hunt by looking for Flurry, the adorable holiday dog, nestled among the displays. The drive-thru, open November 26, 2020 through January 1, 2021, is just $15 per car and, in the spirit of holiday giving, proceeds benefit an area camp for financially and physically disadvantaged kids.
Driving distances: 1 hour from Worcester, Massachusetts | 1 hour 40 minutes from Providence, Rhode Island | 2 hours from Boston, Massachusetts | 2 hours from New York, New York
2. Canals of Naples, Long Beach, California
Photo courtesy of Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau
Save the sleigh for Santa. Grab a gondola instead! You and your family can get away on a real Italian-style gondola to Naples Island and soak in the holiday spirit California style. Your gondola leisurely navigates the waters of the canals as you get to see stunning mansions along the coast adorned in their holiday best. Reserve a spot on a traditional gondola or spring for a larger Carolina boat. Top off the evening with a traditional favorite: an area performance of “The Nutcracker.” A one-hour cruise costs $100 for the first two people and then $30 per person (up to six per gondola). You can book this experience year-round.
Driving distances: 30 minutes from Los Angeles, California | 2 hours from San Diego, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs, California | 4 hours 15 minutes from Las Vegas, Nevada
3. Journey Borealis, Hamilton, Ohio
Photo courtesy of the Butler County Visitors Bureau
Pyramid Hill in Hamilton, Ohio, is a park spread across more than 300 acres of gently rolling hills, close to Cincinnati. This year’s holiday light display, called Journey Borealis, winds 2.5 miles in a virtual art extravaganza that showcases local talents, including BLINK Cincinnati creator Brave Berlin. With more than 1 million lights and animated projections, the multimedia display will add an otherworldly aura to the park as bushes glow with the delights of the winter wonderland and cast dazzling light formations on the lake. The light show will be set to the music of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the Cincinnati Boychoir for an immersive experience. Visit between November 20, 2020 and January 3, 2021.
Driving distances: 40 minutes from Cincinnati, Ohio | 2 hours from Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky; and Lexington, Kentucky | 4 hours from Cleveland, Ohio
4. Winter Lights Festival, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Photo courtesy of the City of Gaithersburg
Can’t make it to the real North Pole? Not a problem. You can visit the themed equivalent in Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, Maryland. A 3.5-mile drive takes you past more than 380 illuminated displays and 65 animated vignettes. Check out additional themed sections including Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land and Victorian Village. The festival is open nightly from November 27 through December 31, 2020 with the exception of Christmas.
Driving distances: 45 minutes from Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland | 2 hours from Wilmington, Delaware | 2 hours 30 minutes from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | 3 hours from Richmond, Virginia
5. Christmas in Color, South Jordan, Utah
Photo courtesy of Christmas in Colors
Lights, camera, action! This year's Christmas in Color takes place at the Sale Lake County Equestrian Center in South Jordan, Utah. You'll be dazzled by 1 million lights all synchronized to music. All you need is a radio in your car and you can pipe the music in as you drive through the merry display. The attraction is popular so buy for tickets in advance (they go on sale soon). A portion of the proceeds benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation that helps children facing critical illness.
Driving distances: 20 minutes from Salt Lake City, Utah | 1 hour from Ogden, Utah | 2 hours 45 minutes from Green River, Wyoming | 4 hours and 20 minutes from Grand Junction, Colorado