While holiday traditions like large holiday dinners, visits with Santa and ice skating at the Wilmington riverfront may have been canceled thanks to COVID, families can still enjoy driving or walking tours of festive lights.
A tradition enjoyed long before the pandemic, lights have proven to be one of the simplest and safest ways people can find some public holiday cheer, up and down the First State.
Many groups have stepped up to offer illuminated fun. Some charge fees, but many are free for simply dropping by or downloading a map that guides you to the best sites.
Check out these options:
A free, self-guided tour of lights in the historic beach town includes 200 homes and businesses on the officials tour. Those who follow the route will find at least another 100 homes that aren’t on it, organizers say.
Christian Mulliins and Debra Evalds came up with the idea for leweslights.org, asking people to register their homes and businesses. They hope people will come to see the lights, but stay to spend money at Lewes businesses and restaurants.
Find the map at leweslights.org.
Drivers are asked to put on their flashing hazard lights for the duration of their tour so other motorists can easily identify those looking at the houses. Public restaurants are available in Mary Vessels Park, The Trailhead at the Lewes Library parking lot, Zwaanendael Park, Canalfront Park and Beach 1.
While the Houses of Odessa generally celebrate 18th century colonial life, they got all fancy this year.
The buildings that belong to the Historic Odessa Foundation are all outlined in thousands of white lights, turned on from 5 p.m. to 10 pm. through Jan. 3.
Patrons are welcome to walk through the property for free during that time.
Guided candlelight walking tours are held every Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m., with reservations for the $15 tickets preferred. Each tour only has a guide and five participants, but tours can be added and several can go in one night. Tickets include a drink ticket for Cantwell’s Tavern.
To make reservations, please contact Jennifer Kostik at (302) 378-4119, or Jennifer.cabell@
Odessa also is holding a holiday ornament resale shop that will be open until Dec. 31.
Winter in Wilmington Light Show
The blazing lights of Wilmington’s newest holiday attraction featured a self-guided route through 40 holiday light displays ranging from a Victorian Christmas to Santa’s North Pole toy shop.
Santa appears at the end to take any letters from kids back to the North Pole.
The show has been so popular — nearly 5,000 passes have been sold — that six more nights have been added:
Monday, Dec. 21
Tuesday, Dec. 22
Wednesday, Dec. 23
Monday, Dec. 28
Tuesday, Dec. 29
Wednesday, Dec. 30
Tickets are $25 per vehicle, up to a 12-car van. Find them here.
The Grand’s Board of Directors, administration and volunteers would like to use the lights display to salute front-line workers at ChristianaCares, Nemours, St. Francis and Bayhealth hospitals. They are seeking donations of any size from the public to help buy light show tickets that will be given to hospital workers. To donate, go this Facebook site. It’s only been up 24 hours, and the organizers already have reached half of the $12,000 they’d like to raise.
New Castle County parks
New Castle turned to big holiday parties in county parks into free drive-thru light shows.
On Friday and Saturday, drive-thru lights at Glasgow Park will feature costumed characters and Santa. A similar celebration was held last weekend in Rockwood Park. County exec Matt Meyer will be there at 6 p.m. to greet guests.
The parks will remain open during the week for people who can make the weekend fun to tour through and see the lights.
Glasgow Park is located at the intersection of Routes 40 and 896. Rockwood Park is located at 4651 Washington Street Extension, Wilmington.
Winterthur’s first light show ends Saturday.
Projected onto the front of of the house, the show isn’t a lot of flashy lights. It incorporates panels in windows to tell the story of Winterther owner Henry Francis du Pont getting ready for and holding a Christmas party for the staff.
Fans have called it a delight. Several showings are held a night.
Tickets include a self-guided tour of the fifth floor of the house, decorated for the holidays. Visitors can also roam the grounds, which for the first time have been decorated for the holidays.
Admission to the Winterthur is $22 and can be bought online here.
Hudson Fields brought back last year’s outdoor light show, which allows visitors to drive along a route through lighted displays through Dec. 31.
The attraction’s “A Journey to the North Pole” will feature a Christmas Town, a Santa’s workshop display, and a Christmas list drop-off box, where children will be able to see an elf personally deliver their wishes to Santa.
Tickets are $20 per vehicle Monday through Thursday for a car up to 7 people, and $25 on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
The show is open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online here.
Rose Colored Lasses Milford Tour
Taking a cue from Lewes Lights, the philanthropic Rose Colored Lasses have created a light tour for Milford. The group, begun a running team, usually has a holiday philanthropy, but many were axed by COVID.
Instead, member Rebecca Sharp asked people who had decorated the outside of their homes to email her. All of the submissions were added to a list available to anyone who would like it.
“The list is by no means comprehensive, but should provide an idea of where to head when taking a family on a ride,” Sharp said in a press release. “The list has a wide range of decorating styles. At least one rivals the classic Griswald home in the movie ‘Christmas Vacation,’ while others are more understated. There are several streets listed where the entire street is ablaze with lights.”
The list includes home along Shawnee Road , in The Holly’s, downtown Milford on Church, New and Walnut streets as well as Kings Highway. Avenue Church, Sara Glen Acres, Chestnut Knolls, North Shores, Haven Lake Estates, Lake Country Estates, Pleasant Woods, Knot’s Landing, Orchard Hill, Meadows at Shawnee, Lighthouse Estates and Knollac Acres.
A copy of the list can be obtained by emailing email@example.com.
Lighting up the tractor: Delaware Farm Bureau members James and Tammy Carpenter of Milton, James’ sister Kay Dukes and their families have turned their idle farm equipment into a beacon of cheer on Carpenter Road in Milton. Their features 4,000 feet of holiday lights. The lights will be on every night from 5 p.m. until midnight through Jan. 3. “Give us a honk as you drive by,” Carpenter said.
An Apple that never disappoints: Apple Electric in Lewes has been a holiday destination for more than two decades. Its business at John J. Williams Highway offers the spectacle of LED lights dancing to music on the short-signal radio band. The site also collects Toys for Tots, matching each one.
A backyard of 156 blow dryers: So says Emma Boyer’s dad about the 156 inflatable characters in their back yard. The collection started when Emma was 5 and got a blow-up Minnie Mouse. Now the family hosts open houses and uses them to collect Toys for Tots. The official visiting nights are over, but Lisa Boyer said, “If the lights are on, feel free to go in the backyard.” The house is at 33 Bristol Lane, Newark.
1 Santa Claus Lane: Rich and Linda Faucher decided to tone down their usual display at 1 Santa Claus Lane on Red Lion Road near New Castle. They put up about half their normal lights, but with a straight-forward message: Faith.