Top Ten Places to See Christmas Lights

Crafting spectacular light displays are a point of pride for cities from New York to Vienna. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, a visit to see millions of strands of brilliant holiday lights in one of these 10 cities makes for the perfect romantic winter getaway.

1. Vienna


If there’s one thing that the Viennese do well (besides opera, of course), it’s decorating for the holidays. The Austrian city is transformed at the start of Advent, and the decorations stay in place through the end of the year. High above Vienna’s busiest thoroughfares, garlands glisten and giant chandeliers fashioned from strings of lights illuminate the night sky. The chandeliers lead to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which is located in the center of the city.

2. New York City

 New York City

The setting of so many classic American Christmas films, New York City is chock full of can’t-miss holiday light displays. The annual tree-lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Plaza is one of the most famous in the world, and Bryant Park is bedecked in twinkling lights (bonus: the ice-skating rink is free). If you plan on visiting a few museums while you’re in town, stop by the American Museum of Natural History to see the giant lit animal figures.

3. Denver


The Mile High City’s 23-acre botanical garden is stunning year-round, but nothing beats its colorful light displays. Preparations for Blossoms of Light involve the strategic draping of more than 1 million lights. Unsurprisingly, the gardens are filled with many romantic spots. The lights in the amphitheater are also synchronized to popular holiday songs, making for a spectacular show.

4. Louisville


A man-made cave dubbed the Mega Cavern is converted into an awe-inspiring display for Lights Under Louisville each year. The 100-acre cavern takes nearly 40 minutes to drive through and is bedecked in more than 2 million lights. It also features hundreds of lit holiday characters, and claims to be the world’s only underground holiday light show.

5. Brussels


Each year, Brussels transforms into a spectacular winter wonderland filled with holiday light displays - the dramatically lit Grand Place is reason enough to go (there’s an hourly light show in the evenings). Stop by the Christmas market to partake in some traditional Belgian waffles and ice skate underneath the twinkling lights.

6. Austin


The crown jewel of the Zilker Park holiday light display in Austin, Texas, is an impressive 155-foot-tall man-made tree - the tallest in the world. The annual Trail of Lights celebration features breathtaking holiday light displays, tasty hot chocolate and appearances by Santa Claus himself. If you have friends in town, you can even host a private holiday party - pricing starts at just $50 per person.

7. Gothenburg


Nearly 5 million lights illuminate the buildings of Gothenburg, Sweden, during the holidays, and locals and travelers alike flock to the city’s Christmas Market - the largest in Scandinavia. It’s all a part of the yearly St. Lucia celebrations, which generally begin on the 12th of December. Listen to choirs sing or munch on toasted almonds as you take a stroll along the 3-kilometer Lane of Light.

8. Leavenworth


If you can’t afford a holiday trip to Germany, Leavenworth, Wash., is the next best thing - the town’s Bavarian buildings and view of the Cascade Mountains will surely get you in the Christmas spirit. Although the town has just 2,000 residents, each year it hosts a Christmas lighting festival and welcomes thousands of visitors. Wake up to the sound of an Alpine horn each morning and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the town to see the magical lights.

9. Richmond


Each year, the residents of Richmond, Va., battle each other to see who can come up with the tackiest holiday light display. Get in on the fun by touring the impressive homes participating in the annual Battle of the Bulbs - you have to use at least 40,000 lights to be eligible (Clark Griswold has nothing on these folks). Print out the official map and take a self-guided tour!

10. Baltimore


For decades, residents of Fell’s Point have worked together to drape the Baltimore neighborhood in strings of holiday lights and 18th-century decorations. While you’re in town, stop by Christmas Street (known as 34th Street during the rest of the year) - all 22 homes are decorated with dazzling lights.