10 Must-See Holiday Light Displays in Texas

Brighter and more dazzling than ever, these shows
in El Paso, South Padre Island, and places in between light up the season

An aerial view of the Lights Spectacular show in Johnson City. Photo courtesy Lights Spectacular

Whether grand in scale or grand in heart, festive Christmas displays bring back those warm, fuzzy feelings of the holidays we had as kids. Bright lights, lively music, a warm mug of cocoa in hand, and being with loved ones while ooh-ing and aah-ing over handmade and professional Christmas displays are all part of the fun of the season. From small town productions to sprawling larger city shows, here are some must-see Christmas light displays to visit around Texas.

Farmersville Lights

Dec. 1-Jan. 1

What started in 2020 as an all-volunteer effort to bring smiles during the pandemic has turned into an annual tradition that’s growing every year. Farmersville Lights is a vivid light display along Farmersville Parkway, flowing from South State Highway 78 to South Main Street near a historic onion shed and the red-bricked streets of McKinney. See trees and lampposts wrapped with an array of colorful lights, plus twinkling archways and Christmas trees. Check the schedule for weekend festivities including a fresh Christmas tree lot, live music in the Onion Shed, hayrides, holiday performances, and a Lego exhibition of trains at the Heritage Museum.

Lights Spectacular Hill Country Style

Johnson City
Nov. 24-Jan. 7

For more than 30 years, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative campus, the Blanco County Courthouse, and Memorial Park in downtown Johnson City have been brought to sparkling life during the holiday season, with more than 2 million lights adorning the buildings and surrounding trees. The displays, which NASA astronauts claim they’re able to see from space, are walkable (get there before 5 p.m. to find a downtown parking spot) and offer visitors a chance to check out nearby eateries, wineries, shops, and galleries.

Boats decorated with lights participate in South Padre Island’s annual Lighted Boat Parade. Courtesy South Padre Island CVB

Lighted Boat Parade

South Padre Island
Dec. 2

From Sea Ranch Marina to Jim’s Pier, boats in varying sizes cruise through the bay, all lit up with glowing Santas; sparkly snowmen; bright, colorful lights; and fantastic holiday décor. There are free public viewing areas throughout the route, and prizes are awarded in multiple categories.

Bastrop River of Lights

Nov. 24-Jan. 2

While in the Hill Country, head to Bastrop and stroll down June Hill Pape Riverwalk Trail to see 1.5 miles of lighted displays featuring traditional holiday and cartoon themes, plus lots of twinkling trees. Access the promenade from the stairs west of Main and Pine streets, or the fully accessible entrance at Fisherman’s Park.

Two hundred drones create the images seen at the Merry and Bright Drone Show in Grapevine. Courtesy Visit Grapevine

Merry and Bright Drone Show

Dec. 2, 9, 16

Since Grapevine is known as the Christmas Capital of Texas, you’d expect an epic light display in the North Texas town. You can find it in the form of the Merry and Bright Drone Show. See a fleet of 200 drones light up the night sky and create various Christmas formations, including Santa Claus, rotating gift boxes, a Christmas stocking, and snowflakes. There are three dates for the shows, each lasting under 10 minutes and taking place on South Main Street at Peace Plaza in front of Grapevine Main Station and at City Hall (Dec. 9 show).

Concho Christmas Celebration

San Angelo
Dec. 1-31

If looking for outdoor activities and light displays, December sparkles in San Angelo with Concho Christmas. The event kicks off with a tree lighting and Christmas parade on Dec. 2, followed the next day by Bike Through the Lights, where cyclists ride through 3 million Christmas lights along the Concho River with Santa leading the way. There’s also Kayak Through the Lights, where paddlers decorate their kayaks and go on an illuminated nighttime float down the Concho. Other activities, including a tuba concert, take place throughout the month.

Magic of Lights

El Paso
Nov. 17-Dec. 31

Taking place at Camp Cohen Water Park, this drive-thru holiday light event features displays ranging from life-size dinosaurs in a Prehistoric Christmas to Holiday Barbie to a Bigfoot Monster Truck setup. There are other beautiful scenes to see, all from the comfort of your car. Find ticket pricing here.

Santa Land in Tyler features light displays on a 24-acre property. Photo courtesy Visit Tyler

Santa Land

Nov. 10-Jan. 4

In its 28th year, the family-owned Santa Land covers more than 24 acres with millions of lights and handmade, animated displays in this drive-thru Christmas park. There are also trailer rides, Santa pictures, and a large gift shop. Don’t miss the towering 75-foot animated mega tree. Price of admission depends on how many people are in a vehicle.

Hidalgo Festival of Lights

Dec. 3-Jan. 1 (except Dec. 24 and 31)

Billing itself as the largest lighted Christmas display in South Texas, Hidalgo’s Festival of Lights features more than 5 million lights and over 500 lighted displays throughout Payne Arena. It started as a small community event and has expanded into a must-see spectacle in its 30-plus years. To experience the lights, drive through the 2 miles of twinkling trails or take the Santa Express Train through it. Enjoy an illuminated Christmas maze, performances, marching bands, and sparkling floats. Tickets are available here.

The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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