America's best places for holiday lights
Silver Dollar City glimmers during the Branson's Festival of Lights. (Photo: Branson/Lakes Area CVB)
Nothing illuminates the holiday spirit like good old-fashioned glitz. And the United States has plenty of it, from bright lights in big cities to dazzling displays in tiny towns.
Some cities wow us with light displays gleaming with graceful artistry, others strive for flashy, over-the-top effects. It's no surprise, for instance, that Disney World has 10 miles of dancing holiday lights, or that Branson, Mo. has a five-story, Vegas-style special effects tree that flashes and cascades to music.
Despite such showy productions, this is the time of year when small towns shine – towns such as Pine Mountain, Ga., North Pole, Alaska, Riverside, Calif., and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. They're places where people are so wildly enthusiastic about the holidays that they make the rest of us appreciate the season more.
Here's a look at the best places to see holiday lights this year.
Old Time Christmas
The magic number for Branson’s Silver Dollar City theme park this holiday season is 4 million. That’s the number of lights that will brighten this Missouri showplace during its annual Old Time Christmas display.
But Branson has more in store for visitors. Add the Trail of Lights, a drive-through animated display that winds through a historic 160-acre homestead.
Cap it all with the Branson Area Festival of Lights Drive-Through, a one-mile journey through 175 displays.
Georgia residents make holiday memories at Fantasy In Lights. (Photo: Callaway Gardens)
Pine Mountain, Georgia
In the national battle to hoist the most holiday lights, tiny Pine Mountain, Ga., may earn the top prize in 2012. The town, located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, is home to Callaway Gardens, where more than 8 million lights will twinkle during the holiday season.
Callaway's Fantasy of Lights show, now in its 21st year, began with five holiday scenes, growing to more than a dozen, some animated. To turn on the display each night, the staff at the 14,000-acre resort and garden complex have to flip more than 1,000 switches, taking a two-man staff 45 minutes to make the rounds.
The show is so big that it is stored off-season in a 6,500-square-foot warehouse.