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As Texans like to say, everything is bigger in Texas – and Christmas lights displays are no exception. In fact, the warmer weather of the Southwest allows for some of the most impressive outdoor events around. These southern states take their holly and jolly quite seriously. Here’s where to find the best Christmas lights in Texas and the Southwest U.S. this year.
Most of the places on our list open over Thanksgiving weekend and stay open through the new year, so you have lots of time to enjoy.
Where to find Christmas Lights in Texas
If you’re in or near Texas’ capital city, you’ll want to check out the Zilker Park Trail of Lights. More than 2 million twinkling lights in colorful displays adorn the mile-long trail. This year the event runs from December 8 – 23, with a special grand opening ceremony on the 8th. Admission is free on selected dates (including the grand opening), and the attraction is closed on Mondays. On ticketed days, general admission is $5 per person, with one child under age 11 admitted free per ticketed adult. ZIP tickets are also available for $25, allowing guests to enter an hour early, as well as Platinum passes which allow preferred parking, valet and shuttle services, and access to an exclusive lounge for $90.
In previous years, nights with free admission have been more crowded, so plan ahead to minimize your time waiting in line.
College Station might be a small college town, but it does Christmas lights BIG, so it’s worth the drive from Austin, Houston and San Antonio.
College Station boasts the “Largest Christmas Attraction in Texas,” Santa’s Wonderland. It includes a horse-drawn carriage and hay rides through the lights. Santa’s Wonderland will be open from November 11 – December 30, 2022. If you want to know more about Santa’s Wonderland, check out our Santa’s Wonderland tips. And if you want a dad’s perspective on things NOT to do at Santa’s Wonderland, we’ve got that, too.
Tickets are $52.95; $5 off for children 12 and under.
More than 600 LED Christmas lights displays can be seen each holiday season at Arlington’s Texas Motor Speedway’s Gift of Lights. Drive through more than two miles of light displays, with almost 3 million lights, while listening to Christmas music on KLTY. Gift of Lights opens November 24 this year and runs through January 1, 2023. Hours are 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Sunday – Thursday, and 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Friday & Saturday. The attraction stays open until 10:00 p.m. every day from December 11 – 26. Tickets are by the carload for $35 each. Unfortunately, the Santa’s Village special attraction is not open this year, but restrooms will be available. Sundays – Wednesdays are usually the least busy.
Six Flags Over Texas (near Arlington) offers Holiday in the Park. The theme park is decked out with millions of twinkling lights, the Holiday Express Train and the Singing Saps, an animated caroling Christmas Tree Family. Watch the “Majesty of Christmas” show that depicts the Nativity. Little ones can walk through Santa’s Cottage to see the elves building toys. This event runs November 19, 2022 – January 1, 2023, and is included with park admission.
If you’re looking for free Christmas lights in Dallas, check out the Highland Park neighborhood. This is a private neighborhood with individual homeowners doing their own decorating…although it is obvious many of them hire professionals.
If you would prefer not to walk, Brazos Carriage Service provides horse-drawn carriage tours to get you in the holiday spirit. This service is available from November 25 – December 30, but availability is limited, so book in advance. They can support groups of up to 15 people. Prices vary with availability and dates.
Looking for something to do in nearby Dallas? Check out these free things to do in Dallas with kids.
Festival of Lights features a mile-long trail of more than 100 lighted holiday scenes, shows, visits from Santa and a “Snow Zone” for kids. This festival runs November 18, 2022 – January 7, 2023. Hours are 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. on peak days and 4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on Value Days. The destination has a crowd calendar you can use to help you gauge when it might be less busy. Admission to all of the attractions ranges from $20 – $30 depending on dates and ages. The festival is free to children ages 3 and under.
Officially named the “Christmas Capital of Texas” in 2009, Grapevine celebrates the season all year long, but during the 40 days of Christmas, Grapevine sparkles with millions of lights, enormous decorations, animated characters and more than 1,400 holiday events for all ages.
At the Houston Zoo’s Zoo Lights, you’ll see miles of earth-friendly LED lighting illuminating ancient oak trees and decorating the paths through the zoo. Interact with Candy the Zoo Lights Zebra, get a family selfie on a giant ice throne and take a memorable photo with Santa. Stroll through a 125-foot-long Infinity Tunnel of Light, see dragons come to life in the 4D Enchanted Forest, and experience “snow” in Texas! This fun holiday event takes place from November 18, 2022 – January 8, 2023, from 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., with entries closing at 9:30 p.m. each day. Tickets range from $19.45 to $26.45 depending on the date. Children ages 2 and under are a few dollars cheaper. Buy online – tickets will not be sold at the gate.
The Marble Falls Walkway of Lights is one of Texas’ most popular displays of Christmas lights. The season kicks off November 18 and continues through December 31. The event runs daily from 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., and is free to the public.
Fredericksburg is in the heart of Texas hill country, west of Austin. The picturesque, German-themed main street is a great place to experience Christmas time. The city is holding its annual Christmas Nights of Lights every evening during November 22, 2022 – January 6, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. The event includes an audio presentation highlighting the town’s heritage, caroling, and the lighting of the Marktplatz, or Market Square.
New Braunfels is a charming German town between San Antonio and Austin. This small community is home to Santa’s Ranch, a drive-through display of lights and other fun Christmas decorations. Santa’s Ranch opens November 11, 2022, and runs through January 1, 2023.
We recommend going early or late in the season. Christmas week is very popular and you will wait in line for at least half an hour to enter the ranch. Once you get through the gates, you’re looking at about 30 minutes to drive through. There are very limited opportunities to get out and use the restroom, which might be a problem for families with younger kids.
The gorgeous San Antonio River Walk transforms for the holidays with more than 100,000 lights. The lights will be on November 25, 2022 – January 9, 2023. The river walk is open daily and is free!
SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas also have impressive light displays. SeaWorld San Antonio’s Christmas Celebration is the largest lights display in the state, with more than two million twinkling lights. It runs from November 10, 2022 – January 2, 2023. It is included with park admission, which ranges from $45 to $120 depending on whether dining is included. Prices are much lower when purchased in advance online.
Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Fiesta Texas runs from November 19 – December 23. Check out our section about Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington for more information.
San Saba, about two hours northwest of Austin, is the home of the Dancing Lights at Mill Pond Park. Admission is free to see the more than one million shimmering lights across 30 acres. Tune your radio to 88.7 FM to hear holiday classics while you walk or drive through the display. Dates have not yet been released, but the festivities usually begin on Thanksgiving and run through the first week of the new year.
Where to See Christmas Lights Across the Southwest USA
We’ve rounded up some 2022 details on holiday lights in the Southwest outside Texas. There are tons of great options across the region for you and your family.
Christmas Light Displays in Arizona
The North Pole Experience brings Santa’s Workshop to life! Start at the Little America Hotel to see the twinkling light display and catch the Polar Express train to the North Pole. Reservations are being taken now for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 12 – December 17, as well as the entire week of December 18 – 24. Visit this website to sign up.
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix celebrates Las Noches de las Luminarias. It features 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags, thousands of white twinkle lights and the vibrant sounds of holiday music. This year, the attraction will be open Thursday – Sunday from December 1 – 18, excluding December 8, and every day from December 20 – 31, excluding Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.
And consider staying at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, which goes over-the-top for Christmas with lights, Santa and even ice skating in the Arizona desert!
Take a trip on the Polar Express with the Grand Canyon Railway near Williams, AZ. Passengers travel to the North Pole, a Christmas village where Santa and his reindeer welcome visitors. This starts November 11 and runs on select days through December 30. Visit this website for reservation information. Trains leave at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Christmas Light Displays in Colorado
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Electric Safari features more than 1 million lights and 85 light sculptures on over 50 acres. Look for warming fires throughout the Zoo for a reprieve from the chill. Some indoor animal exhibits will be open too. Electric Safari is available Dec. 2 – 4, 9 – 23, and 25 – January 1, 2023.
The Denver Botanic Gardens presents Blossoms of Light at its York Street location with more than a million twinkling lights synchronized to music. The event runs November 18, 2022 – January 7, 2023 (excluding November 24 and December 25) from 4:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Timed entry tickets must be purchased in advance. They won’t be available at the gate. Non-member tickets range from $20 to $24; children 2 and under are free.
Denver Botanic Gardens also hosts Trail of Lights at its Chatfield Farms location. Take one of two winding paths glistening with lights that illuminate the Colorado countryside. Appropriately, the shorter route goes directly through the children’s play area while an extended path heads to the outside area of the Green Farm Barn and silo before continuing through the children’s area and 1880s homestead.
This event includes synchronized music in the children’s play area, a three-sided light tunnel and illuminated antique and model tractors on display. Hot beverages, nuts and kettle corn are available for purchase with cash or credit card. The event runs November 25, 2022 – January 1, 2023 on select evenings, and is closed on Christmas Day. Timed tickets are $16 for adults; $12 for ages 3 – 12 and free for children 2 and under.
Christmas Light Displays in New Mexico
The ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden in Albuquerque hosts the holiday light show, “The River of Lights.” In past years, it has featured giant sculptures of plants, animals and seasonal themes created by millions of lights. Some details for this year are still forthcoming. Keep track of this website for details, but the event is expected to run November 26 – December 30 (closed Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.)
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden normally celebrates GLOW on weekends throughout the holiday season. While they have been exploring options for GLOW to return this year, no details have been published yet, so it is unlikely to take place.
Christmas Light Displays in Nevada
Drive through 2.5 miles of Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The event runs November 10, 2022 – January 8, 2023, though November 24, December 9 – 11 & December 16 – 25 are listed as extended wait. Prices are by the carload, and range from $29 to $39, with season passes available for $129. A portion of each ticket sold is donated to the Speedway Children’s Charities.
More Ways to Celebrate Christmas
Best Drive Through Christmas Lights Across the USA
Christmas Lights Displays in the Northeast U.S.
Christmas Lights Displays in the Southeast U.S.
Christmas Lights Displays in California, Hawaii and the Northwest U.S
Christmas Lights Displays in the Midwest
Christmas Traditions Around the World – Fun and Funky Celebrations in Other Countries
Christine Tibbetts says
Just read a story including Hogle Zoo and now I learn there are holiday lights too! Wonder if lots of zoos do light shows?