Dazzling Holiday Lights Festivals Around The Country

If we had to pick the most magical display of holiday lights, Walt Disney World in Orlando would win hands down (they don’t call it the Magic Kingdom for nothing). But there are loads of other dazzling lights festivals with unique flavor and tons of sparkle across the country. Check out Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for must-see holiday lights festivals near you:

Atlanta: Atlanta Botanical Garden

More than 1 million lights illuminate the garden’s 30 acres during Garden Lights, Holiday Nights, which features various creative displays like dancing topiary orbs (set to holiday music) and majestically lit fountains. New this year is a walk inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” where guests will amble along a camellia-lined path surrounded by swirling stars. S’mores are roasted over fire pits and the onsite Glow Bar offers seasonal cocktails. November 17 through January 5

Chicago: The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

While the massive amount of lights flanking North Michigan Avenue are up well into the new year, this weekend they’re lit with considerable fanfare. Special events are held throughout the day, leading up to the big event: a televised parade down the Magnificent Mile that ends with a fireworks display over the Chicago River. Can’t make it to the parade? Stroll down Michigan Avenue to take in the lights and then head to Lincoln Park Zoo (just a few blocks away) for ZooLights. The zoo hosts a dazzling lights festival (select nights from November 23 through January 6) with carousel rides, 3-D light displays, holiday crafts and a musical light show. November 17

Asheville, N.C.: Christmas at Biltmore

Not your typical lights festival, Christmas at Biltmore takes place at one of the grandest American landmarks, the Vanderbilts’ Biltmore Estate. Inside, the palatial house is decorated with thousands of lights, 68 Christmas trees and miles of garland; rooms are aglow with candlelight and roaring fireplaces. A robed choir sings Christmas carols in the glassed-in Winter Garden, and a live musician (a harpist, flutist or guitarist) serenades guests as they travel from room to room, checking out the displays on the third floor. Through January 1

San Diego: San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Each year, boat owners dress up their vessels in accordance with the annual theme (this year it’s “USS Santa”) and more than 80,000 spectators watch from Shelter Island to Marina Park, and from the Coronado shoreline. Expect a string of boats swathed in lights and holiday decorations, and since boat owners are competing for prizes — including a grand-prize cruise worth more than $4,000 — you can bet their crafts are done up lavishly. December 9 and 16

St. Augustine, Fla.: Nights of Lights

Florida’s most historic city looked to its heritage for inspiration and elevated the age-old Spanish tradition of lighting a white candle during Christmastime to a whole new level. The town is illuminated with millions of tiny white lights creating a magical vibe that you can feel even if you’re simply strolling down the street. Special events are held nearly every weekend, from the initial lighting of the tree in the town’s Plaza de la Constitución to a candlelit march with holiday songs to a New Year’s Eve celebration culminating in fireworks on the beach. November 17 through January 31

Photos Courtesy of The Biltmore Company and Atlanta Botanical Gardens

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