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Where to See the Best Holiday Light Displays in the US

Nothing gets the whole family in the Christmas spirit like oohing and aahing over holiday lights. Whether you take a stroll through the neighborhood, hot cocoa cupped in your mitten-layered hands, or crank your favorite Christmas songs in the car and drive through millions of synchronized lights, gawking over holiday lights is a yearly tradition for many families.

And for those who feel they’ve seen it all in their own towns and are itching for a December road trip, there are plenty of incredible light displays to visit across the U.S.

From Washington, D.C.’s, Smithsonian Zoo to Southern California’s Festival of Lights, these are the best holiday light displays worth visiting.

More: The Best Family Holiday Cards on the Internet

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia

Considered one the largest Christmas lights displays in North America, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

New to Christmas Town is the Christmas Town Express, a holiday train experience in which riders can sing along to their favorite holiday songs throughout the 1.5-mile tour as they ride through themed holiday vignettes and 2 million Christmas lights.

With 10 million lights overall, Christmas Town also offers holiday photo ops with Santa Claus and Rudolph, rides and coasters, Christmas shows and holiday shopping.

This light display runs through Jan. 5, 2019.

ZooLights at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Anyone would be hard-pressed not to love this free family-friendly event in Washington, D.C.

With more than 500,000 LED lights, every year, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland.

New this year is the Gingerbread Village, complete with frosted cookies, lollipops and a gingerbread throne. ZooLights will also have giant inflatable slides, a holiday-themed obstacle course and illuminated rides as part of its Reindeer Games Fun Zone.

In addition to its holiday market, zoo rides and laser light shows, this year’s ZooLights will also feature, for the very first time, an interactive light display, where kids can witness the light canopy respond to the music and create a festive sound and light show.

ZooLights runs through Jan. 1, 2019.

Illumination Symphony of Light in Phoenix & Tempe, Arizona

For its second year, Illumination Symphony of Light not only returns to Phoenix, but it also added a second location in Arizona: Tempe.

Illumination is a 1-mile drive through nearly 2 million RGB LED lights customized to 16 million shades of color.

In 2017, its first year, about 76,000 vehicles drove through the illuminated display, where drivers and passengers watched dancing candy canes and singing elves and drove through a 500-foot LED supertunnel — and all the lights and displays were synchronized to holiday music played over cars’ FM dials.

It takes about 25 minutes to drive through Illumination, and this year’s display runs through Jan. 5, 2019.

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at Atlanta Botanical Garden in Atlanta, Georgia

Image: Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Take a stroll through 1,600 strands of more than 70,000 color-changing LED light pixels hanging above the Canopy Walk at the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Garden Lights, Holiday Nights exhibition.

Returning for its eighth year, all the lights are choreographed to brand-new music and motion, including a northern lights show and gentle snowfall.

In addition to the magical lights display, guests can check out the Ice Goddess and Tunnel of Light as well as the Orchestral Orbs, Radiant Rainforest, model trains and more.

This exhibition runs through Jan. 6, 2019.

Nights of Lights in St. Augustine, Florida

Celebrating 25 years, the Nights of Lights turns St. Augustine, Florida, into a dazzling display.

Three million lights illuminate the historic district from dusk until dawn — from the landmarks along the Bayfront to the brick-lined streets. And in the center of the Plaza de la Constitución, a Christmas tree stands tall with holiday gifts sprinkled around the base.

Nights of Lights runs through Feb. 3, 2019.

More: The Best Themed Hotels & Vacations Kids & Parents Will Love

Festival of Lights in Riverside, California

Through Jan. 6, 2019, the Festival of Lights celebrates its 26th year of lights at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, California.

In addition to live entertainment, rides, an appearance by Santa Claus and more, the Festival of Lights is a free six-weeklong event complete with 5 million holiday lights, 200 animated figures, the world’s largest man-made mistletoe and so much more.

The extravaganza attracts more than 500,000 visitors from all over the world each year.

Trail of Lights in Austin, Texas

The second-largest event in the city, the Austin Trail of Lights celebrates its 54th year this year. And every year, over 300,000 people visit Austin’s Zilker Park throughout the month of December to witness the more than 40 light displays and 2 million lights firsthand.

Trail of Lights invites out Austin’s 30 best food trucks and entertains attendees nightly with live music, movies and holiday activities.

Be sure to plan your visit soon, though; this display only runs through Dec. 23.

Hershey Sweet Lights in Hershey, Pennsylvania

In Hershey, Pennsylvania, Hersheypark has two attractions during the holidays: Christmas Candyland and Sweet Lights.

Christmas Candyland is much more than a light display, although the more than 4 million choreographed lights alone are worth the trip. Christmas Candyland, which is open through Jan. 1, 2019, also has more than 45 attractions, rides and coasters, and Santa and all nine of his reindeer make an appearance too.

Hershey Sweet Lights, on the other hand, is a 2-mile, drive-thru winter wonderland of about 600 illuminated animated displays.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois

Open 365 days a year, the Lincoln Park Zoo has an incredible — and free! — Christmas light display, ZooLights, with more than 2.5 million lights and hundreds of displays.

Open for 35 nights until Dec. 23, attendees can also check out the ice sculptors, indulge in sweet treats and partake in festive activities during their visit.

Brand new this year is the Light Maze, a labyrinth of 30,000 lights that’ll only set you back $3, and it’ll be worth every penny.

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