At one point in history, holiday light displays were limited to a few candles here and there simply to add an extra glow, but now we’ve taken this pastime to an art form. Most major cities in the world create innovative, beautiful lighting designs for the winter holidays. But these eight cities truly outdo themselves with hundreds of thousands of lights, months of manpower, and endless planning. Go ahead and add these stunningly epic light shows to your bucket list.
In light of its locale along the equator, Singapore adapts a Christmas in the Tropics theme to the holiday light installation. Along the popular shopping district of Orchard Road, you’ll see bright, colorful lights spelling out “Merry Christmas” in fun fonts, as well as a variety of ornamental light fixtures that take on a wistful glow. This year, President Tony Tan Keng Yam will be the guest of honor during the lighting ceremony, which will take place on November 15 at 6 p.m. From then on, catch the lights every night starting at 6:30 p.m. Find out more details here.
People usually want to talk about Kuwana or Tokyo when referencing Japanese holiday light displays, but the holiday lights in Kobe shouldn’t be overlooked. The Kobe Luminarie has been held every year since 1995 in memory of those who lost their lives in the Hanshin Earthquake the same year. This festival incorporates over 200,000 hand painted lights that are also eco-friendly through biomass generation. Catch the light show from December 4 to 16 in the evening hours. Be prepared for a large turnout, because over three million people come to see the lights annually.
Rio de Janeiro features the world’s largest floating Christmas tree. With over three million lights and standing at 85 meters tall, the Bradesco Seguros Christmas Treelights opens on December 1 with a fireworks show and stays lit until January 6, or Three Kings Day. The tree decorations are animated and youthful, looking more like a fun drawing of a Christmas tree than a regal display. Approximately 1,200 people contribute to its creation annually.
Medellin takes holiday lights to the next level. This year is the light celebration’s 50th anniversary. Building began in August, so visitors are likely to catch an amazing show. Fantastical neon displays that almost look like cartoon images flood the streets, cake the buildings, and create a sky of stars overhead, with over 497,097 miles of light strips and over 30 million light bulbs. The theme changes every year and costs the city millions of dollars. The most notorious element of the Medellin light displays is the ornamentation of the Medellin River, which cuts the city in half and gives residents on both sides fun, glittery holiday views. The lights run across the river for over a mile, giving the river an animated quality from the sky. The light show will begin on November 29.
Vienna is already a magical city, carrying a sort of royal aura that is only magnified by its stunning light display. Massive glittering chandeliers lead the way to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where winter concerts will be held for the four weekends before Christmas. Right in front of City Hall, you’ll also find a Viennese Christmas Market from November 16 to December 24. Holiday lights will run from November 26 to December 31.
Ready for a stellar light show? The Kennedy Space Center is hosting “Holidays in Space,” which will feature holiday decorations such as a 41-foot Christmas tree with NASA-themed ornaments, a laser show that will be visible from space, and a 3-D projection show on the side of the 223-foot-long Saturn 1B rocket. The 3-D projection mapping will walk guests through the history of space travel with rarely seen photos and footage from launches to the moon and from the surface of the moon. This holiday spectacular will run from November 28 through January 4, but the 3-D show is only from December 22 to December 30.
This display may not have been originally created by a big government entity, but it’s worth a mention. The Richards family uses over 500,000 lights for their holiday display, which currently holds the world record for most holiday lights on a residential property. They create a multi-colored canopy of lights visitors can walk under to the music synchronized color-changing tree, and adorn their property with hundreds of other small, enchanting touches. The Richards, along with their children and volunteers, take three weeks to install the massive display. This also benefits a good cause: proceeds go toward the charity SIDS and Kids ACT. This year, the Richards are teaming up with the city of Canberra to put on a stellar light show in the city center. The light festival will begin on November 28th.
This year, Dana Point is putting Southern California on the map for holiday decorations with their upcoming IlluminOcean light display. With 23 miles of LED light strands, a 50-foot “GlowMotion” tree, four thousand pounds of steel sculptures, a slew of fun displays like whales in Santa hats, and three light tunnels that measure longer than a football field, IlluminOcean at Dana Point isn’t one to miss. The event will last from November 26 to January 4 and will take place at the Harbor.
For more information about holiday travel this year, check out:
- The Best Christmas Movie Locations You Can Visit
- Travel Tip: Where to Find the Best Holiday Light Displays
- Ice Sculpture Events: Where to See Sculptors Work Their Winter Magic
By Brittany Malooly for PeterGreenberg.com