The holidays are a time where we tend to get side-tracked with all of the busyness of buying gifts, planning for events, etc. all while attempting to balance our normal daily routines and work life. We often forget to take time to stop and smell the firs. A lot of people I talk to use the excuse "Well, I don't have any extra money to spend on enjoying the holiday season." For those of you who can second the aforementioned belief, I'm here to tell you that one of my favorite holiday past times costs little to no money at all:
As a kid, my dad made sure to dedicate a few nights per winter to wrapping us kids up in warm gear and heading out in the car for a holiday light extravaganza. We would drive around town and check out all of the light displays that our neighbors and surrounding communities spent hours on perfecting. It was always one of my favorite events that came with the snow and cold weather. While you're obviously welcome to go searching for neighbors with incredible light displays, there are several businesses and towns who put on their own holiday lights.
Here are a few of the better rated holiday light displays in the area:
Rotary Lights in La Crosse - Riverside Park
Blast the holiday tunes and cruise out to La Crosse to enjoy over three million lights in Riverside Park. Whether you plan to take a stroll through the park or stay in the vehicle to avoid frostbite, admission is FREE! However, the Rotary Lights do have a mission in mind when preparing this beautiful display every year: "feed the hungry". Therefore, they're always welcoming donations of non-perishable food items and cash. Their goal this year is to reach a total of four million items raised since they started in 1995!
If you don't feel like walking through the park or driving your own vehicle, but still want tofeel that holiday spirit while viewing the spectacle, take a carriage ride through the park. It's $20 per couple or $30 for a family of up to four. And, don't forget to say hi to Santa and his reindeer while you're there!
See below for open dates and hours. Learn more about the Rotary Lights here.
Open: Friday, November 23rd through Monday, December 31st Hours: 5PM-10PM Christmas Eve/Day 5PM-9PM New Year's Eve 5PM-1AM Carriage rides: Friday through Sunday Say Hi to Santa: November 23rd through December 23rd, 5-8PM
Botanical Lights in Janesville - Rotary Botanical Gardens
Head to Janesville for the 2018 Holiday Light Show which features over 500,000 brilliant lights!
Open: November 23-25 & 30 as well as December 6-9, 13-16, 20-23, 27-30 Hours: 4:30PM-8:30PM
Learn more about Janesville's Rotary Botanical Garden Lights here.
BONUS: not only do they offer the classic holiday light show, but they offer a special event on Thursday November 29th: Taste of Chocolate, Bites & Lights. Come enjoy chocolate, appetizers, and cocktails from the cash bar from 5-8PM while listening to the sweet sounds of the Timeless Music Show Review. There will be a silent auction, extended gift shop hours for holiday shopping, and, of course, holiday lights! Buy your tickets here.
Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison - Olin Park
No need to travel far because we have our very own lights in Madison! Head over to Olin Park to see Holiday Fantasy in Lights. The best part? Driving through the park is free!
Open: November 10th through January 1st Hours: 4PM until the sun comes up! *Donations are always happily accepted*
Learn more about Holiday Fantasy in Lights in Madison or become a light sponsor here.
Zoo Lights in Madison - Henry Vilas Zoo
Just because the animals are asleep, doesn't mean you need to be! Another Madison light event, Zoo Lights, is hosted at Henry Vilas Zoo. View tons of animal and holiday themed lights while enjoying concessions, visits with Santa, and rides on the carousel.
Open: November 15th through December 30th, Thursdays through Sundays, closed Thanksgiving and open every night December 26th-30th Hours: 5:30PM-9PM, last tickets sold at 8:30PM
If walking through the zoo after dark doesn't sound cool enough, head over on Wednesday, November 28th for Brew Lights! This 21 and up event lets you sample craft beer while enjoying the zoo lights and holiday cheer. You'll even be sent home with some fun holiday photo booth pictures and a commemorative beer glass! Tickets are $45 if purchased ahead of time, $60 the night of. If you're the DD then you'll only pay $20 and enjoy unlimited refills of non-alcoholic beverages in your glass.
Oshkosh Celebration of Lights - Menominee Park
Oshkosh's Celebration of Lights offers over one million lights and over one mile of holiday joy! At only $10 per carload, it's a steal to take a drive through Menominee Park during this wondrous display. Bring non-perishable food donations and receive $1 off. Because of the amazing and generous sponsors of the event, five different community nights are offered with free admission! Carriage rides and Santa visits are both available.
Open: November 23rd through December 31st daily Hours: 5-9PM Santa visits: November 23rd through December 23rd from 5:30-8:30PM Carriage rides: $70 for up to 4 adults and 2 children (under the age of 4) by reservation only at 920.303.9200
If you enjoy running, then take a jog in holiday attire through the lights on Saturday, December 1st. Starting at 4:30PM, the Race for the Light is a 5k that benefits the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services. The $30 admission includes a t-shirt and entry into the race. See the course map below.
These are only a few of the many holiday light celebrations that are featured throughout Dane County and Wisconsin. So for those of you who love the holidays as much as Buddy the Elf and I do, take some time for yourself to pencil in a short road trip or two and set your eyes on some beautiful light displays!