Where to Drive or Walk Through to See Holiday Light Displays
It is no surprise that the holidays this year will look a lot different from how they were celebrated in the past. With the surge in COVID-19 cases, avoiding gatherings of any type is the best route to go. Many events have been canceled, turned virtual, or modified to allow for physical distancing and limited attendance.
One of these activities is the Pacific Northwest tradition of strolling through or driving by elaborate outdoor displays of seasonal lights.
Here is a sampling of drive-through experiences to see the holiday lights in Washington and northern Idaho. Please note some may charge by the carload or require timed tickets in advance. Walk-through events are enforcing social distancing measures, which include required face coverings and limited attendance.
Because of COVID-19, please take recommended health precautions while celebrating the holidays.
Snowflake Lane. Photo courtesy of The Bellevue Collection.
1. Snowflake Lane | Bellevue
Bellevue’s Snowflake Lane has nixed the parade and the live performances this year. But the twinkling lights, holiday music and surprise snowfalls are back to delight those who take a drive or a socially distanced stroll along Bellevue Way, between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square. Santa will be available inside Bellevue Square for contactless scheduled photos as well.
Admission: Free. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. November 27 to December 24.
2. Candy Cane Lane | Seattle
A drive past the charming row of ornately decorated brick houses and lawns along Candy Cane Lane (Park Road NE and NE Ravenna Blvd) in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood is a holiday tradition dating back nearly 70 years.
Admission: Free. Early December through January 1. Keep an eye on the Candy Cane Lane Facebook page for the announcement of this year’s hours, theme, food drive and more.
Light displays at the WildLanterns festival. Photo courtesy of the Woodland Park Zoo.
3. Woodland Park Zoo | Seattle
Woodland Park Zoo replaces its WildLights winter event this year with the WildLanterns festival. The walk-through holiday event features interactive activities, a 130-foot tunnel of lanterns, and larger-than-life lanterns depicting a zoo-worthy menagerie including giraffes, grizzly bears, eagles, snow leopards, tigers, gorillas, zebras and sea creatures.
Admission: Timed and limited; $28.95 adults and $23.95 kids ages 3–12. 4:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Now through January 17, 2021. Closed Mondays, November 26 and December 24–25.
4. Fantasy Lights | Spanaway
With more than 300 elaborate displays and thousands of sparkling lights, the Fantasy Lights holiday drive-through at Spanaway Park, just south of Tacoma, claims to be the largest such event in the Northwest. Stretched along a two-mile lakeside path, visitors will spot animated scenes with bears flying kites, penguins sliding down an igloo, reindeers jumping over cars and, for some reason, Santa and Rudolph sailing a tall ship. A new velociraptor dinosaur joins the LED-lit family this year, too.
Admission: Tickets start at $15 per vehicle. 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Discount nights: $10.) November 21, 2020 to January 3, 2021.
Lights in Puyallup. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Fair.
5. Holiday Magic | Puyallup
The Washington State Fair in Puyallup is hosting Holiday Magic, a drive-through experience on the fairgrounds, with holiday lights everywhere, including on many iconic rides and attractions. Live characters and special activities will appear throughout the site, and there is a scratch-off scavenger hunt for prizes. Guests will need to stay in their cars but will be able to make drive-through stops at the Candy Cane Lane Cocoa & Coffee Bar and at booths selling souvenirs and favorites dishes from the fair, including scones, funnel cakes and turkey legs.
Admission: Timed, advance-order tickets start at $25 per vehicle. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Select dates December 4, 2020 to January 3, 2021.
6. The Lights of Christmas | Stanwood
In Stanwood, 50 miles north of Seattle, the Lights of Christmas event has been reformatted this year as a drive-through-only event with millions of twinkly lights, dozens of holiday displays, costumed characters and, of course, snacks along the way. The usual festival, theater and overnight activities are canceled.
The drive-through route is a little over a mile long and this year includes lights and displays in some new areas on the grounds of the Warm Beach Camp and many new and redesigned displays mixed in with iconic favorites. Visitors will be able to wave to Santa and Mrs. Claus as well as other costumed characters. There will be an opportunity to drop off letters to Santa at the drive-through mailbox.
Admission: Timed, advance tickets start at $20 per vehicle. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Select dates November 27 to December 30.
Lights at the Locomotive Park in Lewiston. Photo courtesy fo Winter Spirit.
7. Christmas in Color | Garden City
Christmas in Color is an animated drive-through light show near Boise packed with more than one million LED lights synchronized to a site-specific FM radio station playing holiday music. In addition to brightly lit tunnels with leaping arches, be on the lookout for brilliantly lit Christmas trees, giant snowflakes, candy canes, snowmen and other Christmas characters.
Admission: Advance timed tickets only, starting at $30 per vehicle. Monday – Saturday: 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Select dates November 20 – January 3.
8. Winter Garden aGlow | Boise
The Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise brings back its traditional Winter Garden aGlow event this year with some changes to accommodate physical distancing. The gardens still will be transformed into a winter wonderland with tunnels of lights, a model train display, Santa and Mrs. Claus and other attractions, but visitors will be required to wear masks, leave six feet of space between guests in other parties and follow a one-way path through the garden.
Admission: Timed, advance tickets only; $15, kids 3 and under free. Wednesday–Sunday: 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. November 26 – December 27.
9. Winter Spirit | Lewiston
Locomotive Park in Lewiston won’t have an opening night lighting ceremony or the traditional cookies with Santa session during the popular Winter Spirit event this year. But the retired historic steam locomotive, the caboose and many of the trees will be lit up with twinkling colored lights. The large gas fireplace with heated benches will be operating, and there will be plenty of brightly lit arches and interactive displays, including musical bears and dancing penguins, to entertain visitors.
Signs will encourage visitors to maintain physical distancing.
Admission: Free. Monday–Tuesday: 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Wednesday–Sunday: 4:30 p.m. to midnight. And 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily. November 21 to the first weekend in January 2021.
–Written by Harriet Baskas
–Top photo of the Lights of Christmas in Stanwood. Courtesy of the Lights of Christmas.
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