America's 16 Best Streets for Christmas Lights
We all know the old cliché about Christmas in July, but when it comes to a little friendly neighborhood “competition,” Christmas is more like Independence Day in December. Because as Fourth of July gets neighbors together to see who can almost blow their houses up with the coolest fireworks, so too does Christmas create an equally jovial neighborhood rivalry to see who can attract the most visitors with outlandish displays of holiday lights and statues of Elvis dressed as Santa.
But some places in America take things to a whole new, probably unhealthy level. Every city’s got its standout, but these—in no particular order—are the best places in America to tour over-the-top Christmas lights.
The holiday showdown at this sprawling suburb of Phoenix isn’t so much a neighborly competition as it is a collaborative effort. Residents coordinate their displays to coincide with music, timing their bright animatronic reindeer to fly along with a special radio broadcast. Tune your car radio and listen as you drive through, or just stroll by and enjoy the show with nothing but the joyous sounds of the season. The lights are up through New Years Day.
Every night at the stroke of 4:30 pm, Arthur Street goes from a sleepy northeastern residential area to a brightly colored sea of joyful Christmas lights. The top show in the Boston area is free to the public, but as this is the season of giving, organizers are also accepting donations in support of Boston Children’s Hospital.
Tacky Lights Tour
Rather than limiting its displays of sunglasses-sporting Santas, animatronic dolls, and greeting cards used as outdoor decorations to one street, Richmond instead honors the best of the worst with a city-wide driving tour. The annual Richmond Times Dispatch’s Tacky Lights Tour provides visitors with a mapped, two hour loop around the city where they can catch some of the most eye-shielding holiday festivities in the world.
Imagine sitting through an hour of Metroplex traffic on the commute back to your quiet suburban home, only to find another, equally gridlocked traffic jam leading onto your street. Such is the plight of residents of this neighborhood in northwest Arlington, where Texas-sized light displays draw equally impressive crowds throughout the entire holiday season. The tour has proven so popular, the city posts special rules and sets up traffic patterns to ensure the chaos is minimized. Still, local residents, for the most part, seem to enjoy the spectacle, as it’s been going strong since 1976.
Candy Cane Lane
Woodland Hills, CA
There are a lot of streets that refer to themselves as “Candy Cane Lane," though this one probably does so because it has a much nicer ring than “Candy Cane Intersection.” That's actually a more accurate description of this annual competition between the residents of Lubao and Oxnard Streets in Woodland Hills, who made this valley town famous long before the Kardashians arrived. LA’s premiere Christmas spectacle is one of the city’s biggest winter draws, though residents kindly request you finish your gawking by 10 pm during the week (11 pm on weekends).
The award for most illuminated street in the East Bay goes to the 3200 block of Thompson Avenue in Alameda. Every year Santa posts up in the median, where kids—after posing with some of their favorite inflated cartoon characters and watching the occasional performance from the Dancing Christmas Trees—can hit the old man up for a new iPhone 13. Or whatever kids are asking for these days.
NE Park Road
Around a short bend in the road near northeast Seattle’s Ravenna Park is a tucked-away row of homes that was easily the brightest spot in town until the Seahawks got good. And even though the Seahawks have returned to irrelevance, the displays on Seattle’s version of Candy Cane Lane are still the top Christmas stop for every family in the city, twinkling away since 1949.
An anti-establishment hipster mecca like Portland doesn’t exactly jump to mind as a place people would line up to take pictures in front of Santa statues and nativity scenes. But Peacock Lane’s shimmering expanse has been drawing Portlanders since way back in the 1920s. Revelers can even opt to take in the show from the confines of a horse-drawn carriage, which now that we think about it, seemd totally on-brand for Portland.
The Hampden section of Baltimore boasts some of the city's most impressive row houses, and directly after Thanksgiving it becomes the city’s very own Miracle on 34th Street. Residents have been stringing lights across these homes for 67 years, along with putting up other creative decorations like giant lit-up crabs, an overhead train, and snowmen made from bicycle rims.
Brooklyn may be America’s hipster hotbed, but you wouldn't know it walking through this part of the borough. In what many say is the best residential street in the country for Christmas lights, very not-ironic stately brick houses are draped with lights and life-size Santas, not to mention nutcracker statues, sleighs, and other Christmasy cheer.
The end of the line for Sacramento’s old street car was this historic neighborhood between 40th and 48th streets (and J St. and Folsom Blvd) in East Sac. It's where Sacramento’s oldest and grandest mansions (like the old Reagan home, for example) live up to their “fabulous” moniker, dressing up in their finest lights and showcasing their early 20th-century grandeur.
San Carlos, CA
How do you get a white Christmas is San Carlos? Easy. You cover your entire neighborhood in bright white Christmas lights and pretend it’s a real winter but, like, 30 degrees warmer. That’s what the residents of Eucalyptus Lane do every year in the Bay Area's most impressive street for lights.
South 13th Street
Since the words “south Philly” and “bright and cheerful” really don’t belong anywhere on the same screen, we’ll have to find another adjective to describe this annual display draped across the 1600 block of South 13th Street. A canopy of lights connects the entire block of garden apartments, making the “Miracle on South 13th Street” the unmistakable symbol of Christmas in Philadelphia.
While South 13th Street is the best urban holiday light display in Philly, if you're talking about big houses draped in bulbs, nobody beats the 2700 block of Smedley Street between 16th & 17th (and Moyamensing and Oregon Avenues). Its displays have earned it the simple-but-impressive nickname of “The Christmas Street”. It also has its own FB page, here.
The section of Austin’s 37th Street between Guadalupe and Home showcases probably the most impressive Christmas light display in all of Texas (aside from the one on Rainey Street, if it existed). What started out as a creative way to display leftover lights found at frat houses has become an annual tradition that draws thousands of visitors.
Christmas Card Lane
Rancho Penasquitos, San Diego, CA
In perhaps the greatest combination of Spanish-Mediterranean architecture and gaudy Christmas lights on Earth, San Diego’s best street for Christmas lights features over 200 Span-Med mansions decked out in their Christmas best starting, at Twin Tails Dr. and Black Mountain Road.