holiday lights christmas

Brighten up dark nights with these merry light displays

Betsy PriceCulture, Headlines

holiday lights

Longwood Gardens aims to wow visitors with its glitzy retro look at Christmas decorations.

If you’re looking for a little holiday magic to brighten up the dark nights of winter, look no farther than the Wilmington Riverfront, where a two-mile stretch of the Riverwalk will be lit up for the Holiday Magic at Riverbright Wilmington.

It’s one of more than a dozen of holiday light displays in the region, many of them free, like Riverbright.

Most open in the next week to 10 days.

Riverbright opens Friday, Nov. 24, with an opportunity to meet Santa at Riverwalk Mini Golf from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Santa will also be there from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 7, 14 and 21.

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The trail stretches from Tubman-Garrett Park to the DuPont Environmental Education Center.

Walkers also may stop by Merry Mugs at the mini golf site to buy hot chocolate, ice cream and other sweet treats from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Here’s a look at what’s glowing out there, divided by in-state shows and those nearby.

Holiday lights

Holiday Magic at Riverbright Wilmington, a free two-mile walk along the Christina Riverfront opens Friday, Nov. 24.

Holiday lights in Delaware

New Castle County

  • Rockwood Park, 4651 Washington Street Extension, Wilmington. Drive-through. Free. Its grounds will be lit up in December for people to drive through. It’s a compact but delightful display and perfect for people who want to take older folks or young children for a ride that won’t wear them out. Visitors also can park and walk around the grounds. Dusk to 9 p.m. nightly. Bonus: Rockwood is a short drive from the Smith family’s amazing display. Admission is free.
  • The Smith family annual display at 1900 Prior Road, Wilmington. Drive-by or walk-through. Free. This family display, easily visible from I-95, looks like a holiday lighting factory exploded over two homes and yards. Dusk to about 10 p.m. nightly.
  • Yuletide at Winterthur, 5105 Kennett Pike, Greenville. Indoors and outdoors. Admission required. Opens Sunday, Nov 19, and ends Jan 8.  The former du Pont estate offers a Yuletide tour that includes multiple lighted trees and their annual showpiece, the dried flower tree. Admission ranges from $8 for children 2-11 up to $27 for adults.
  • Zoo Nights and Christmas Lights, 3 Palms Zoo, 1060 VanDyke Greenspring Road, Townsend. Walk-through. Admission $6 per person. Open 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., weather permitting, Friday and Saturday nights starting Dec. 1 and ending Dec. 30. Themed displays. Some animals — such as foxes — still awake. Hot chocolate and more available for purchase.

Woodburn, the governor’s mansion, will be illuminated Dec. 8 for the public to visit.

Kent County

  • Gift of Lights,  Dover Motor Speedway, Dover. Outside.  Admission. The drive-through show on 1.5 miles of the Woodlands of Dover campground features more than 60 scenes and 3 million lights. It is open Thursday, Nov. 23, (Thanksgiving!) and ends Dec. 31. Through Dec. 17, the route is open Sundays through Thursdays from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. and Fridayd and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. From Dec. 17-31, it’s open from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., weather permitting. Admission is $35 per car and $60 for buses and limousines. Tickets should be bought in advance here.
  • Woodburn Illuminated. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 8, Woodburn — the Delaware Governor’s Mansion — will be lit up with luminaries and more. The house is at 151 Kings Highway SW, Dover.

Sussex County

  • Schellville Enchanted Winter Celebration, 36470 Seaside Outlet, Rehoboth Beach. Opens Saturday, Nov. 18. Free, but registration requested, Walkups allowed in, but only have ticketed customers. Ice skating, shopping, refreshments and lights by the thousands create a world of their own at this “pop-up” Christmas village. Fair warning: Weekends were mega crowded last year. It’s closed on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas. Ends Dec. 31. Get tickets here. Guests also may pay $200 to $250 to rent a private Alpenglobe from which to visit the site.
  • Lewes Lights: Self-guided tour of homes decorated for the holidays that’s open Dec. 1-31. Get map from website.
Holiday lights

Herr’s offers a free drive-through Christmas lights display from dusk until dawn every night in December.

Nearby lights

Delaware’s not enough for you? Try these blazing out-of-state sites.


  • Longwood Gardens, A Longwood Christmas, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square. Outside and In. The granddaddy of area holiday displays, the event opens Friday, Nov. 17, and run through Jan. 7. Timed tickets almost always sell out in advance for weekends, so plan early. Get tickets on the website. Tickets are $16-$30.
  • Herr’s annual Christmas Lights Display.  271 Old Baltimore Pike, Nottingham. Outside. Drive-through. Free. Open Wednesday, Nov. 22, through Jan. 2 from dusk until dawn (5 p.m. to 7 a.m.). Guests are asked to stay in their cars.
  • Philadelphia Zoo LumiNature, 3400 W Girard Ave., Philadelphia. Outside. Walk-through. Starts Friday, Nov. 17, and on select nights through Saturday, Jan. 6. Admission required through timed tickets. Tickets are $2o-$28 with additional $17 parking fee.
  • Festival of Lights, Media. Open Dec. 1 – Jan. 1. Outside. Walk-through. Free admission and parking. The Rose Tree County Park will be light up each night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Jan. 1.
  • Miracle on South 14th Street Holiday Lights, Philadelphia. Outside. Free. Starts Saturday, Nov. 25, with a character parade and runs nightly through December from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.


  • Winterfest of Lights, 200 125th St., Ocean City. Outside. Walk-through. Open through Dec. 31. $6 admission for those 12 and older. This year’s even will bring back the Winterfest Express Tram with multiple stops to help guests enjoy the 58-acre Northside Park side. Open Wednesday-Sunday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.  at the start, then expands to Monday through Sunday from Christmas to New Year’s Eve.  Open weather permitting. check Town of Ocean City Facebook for updates if worried about weather. Pets welcome on Wednesdays.


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