One of the simplest joys of the holidays is also one of the most festive - holiday lights. Though many celebrations this year are overshadowed by Covid-19, at least there are plenty of holiday light displays to bring us out of the dark.
No matter where you live, chances are there is a local, county or city park near by that offers a holiday light display. Some are drive-thru only, some socially distanced walking tours. And, if all else fails, just take an evening walk through your neighborhood, or a drive through your local area, and enjoy the displays of family, friends and neighbors.
Following are some highlights from a few of the holiday light displays I've visited in recent years, along with a listing of some others throughout Wisconsin as well. Be sure to check your local news sources for holiday displays in your area. Put some Christmas music on the car radio and enjoy!
Winter Wonders - Whitnall Park/Boerner Botanical Gardens
This holiday display is back for a second year, with new displays, concert lighting, and a whopping one million lights. Features new dramatic lighting techniques and displays set throughout the forests and fields of Boerner Arboretum and Whitnall Park.
There's even a Mini Drive-In Theater (first come, first serve).
Recommended to purchase tickets online. Peak wait times on Fridays, Saturdays, and holiday weeks. For lower wait times, visit Sunday-Thursday evenings after 7:30pm.
Open 5-pm to 10-pm every night through January 3, including holidays. This is a drive-thru only display. Admission is $25 per carload.
Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival
Downtown Milwaukee at: Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park, and Zeidler Union Square
This perennial holiday light display in downtown Milwaukee is a perfect way to lift your holiday spirits. Walk or drive-thru to experience the festive displays of over 500,000 lights as animated sculptures, interactive displays, and twinkling street decorations boost your holiday mood.
Admission is free. The displays run through January 1.
Candy Cane Lane - West Allis
This annual event of neighborhood light displays takes donations for the MACC Fund, and has set a goal this year of $100,000 for the fight against childhood cancer.
These festive displays, all created by neighborhood residents, will cheer you and yours. The neighborhood parameters are: 96th Street to 92nd Street, from Montana Avenue to Oklahoma Avenue. Drive-thru this holiday season, the event runs through December 27. See their website for specific hours.
Enchantment in the Park - West Bend
This holiday light treat in Regner Park, in West Bend, has been an annual event since 2009. The displays offer both a walk-thru and drive-thru experience. Your choice.
Sponsored by the local Washington County area Rotary Clubs, this festive display is a fundraiser for local food banks. Admission is a suggested $10 donation, or non-perishable food items (no glass containers, please). The festival runs through December 24, and is open from 5-pm to 9-pm daily. See the event calendar for special features and events.
Holiday Light Show - Rotary Botanical Gardens, Janesville
This brilliant holiday event is held on the grounds of the Janesville Rotary Gardens. Themed light displays, animations, and twinkling walkways will lift your holiday spirits with over one-million holiday lights.
We attended this event a few years back, and it was well worth the drive to Janesville. However, it's a very well attended event. Be sure to check their schedule for details on purchasing tickets in advance to secure a time spot for your visit. Tickets prices: Free for 2 and under. $5 for children 3-12, $10 for those 13 and up.
Dates: Dec. 10-13, Dec. 17-23, Dec. 26-30. Evenings: 4:30-pm to 9-pm.
Reservations/Tickets required purchase in advance.
20 More Holiday Light Events Across the State
Making Spirits Bright - Sheboygan
Beaver Dam Rotary Lights - Swan City Park
Illuminate Ozaukee - Cedarburg
Wonderland of Lights - Racine Zoo
Garden of Lights - Green Bay
Miller Holiday Lites Drive-thru Light Show - Miller Valley, Milwaukee
Holiday Fantasy in Lights - Madison
Country Christmas - Pewaukee
Wisconsin Christmas Carnival of Lights - Jellystone Park, Caledonia
Kids2Kids Christmas Wonderland - Grafton
East Troy Lights - East Troy
Lake Ripley Holiday Lights - Cambridge
Lights in Lincoln Park - Manitowoc
Light the Square - Oak Creek
Celebration of Lights - Oshkosh
La Crosse Rotary Lights - La Crosse
Marshfield Rotary Winter Wonderland - Marshfield
Sam's Christmas Village & Light Tour - Somerset
Christmas Village at Irvine Park - Chippewa Falls
Lakeside Park Holiday Light Show - Fond du Lac
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.