When you think of the holiday season, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If your thoughts immediately went to all the gorgeous lighting displays that pop up around the area, you’re not alone.
For centuries, it’s been a hallowed tradition to light up the longest, darkest nights of winter using everything from candles to Yule logs. Thus, it was only natural for people to start adding electric lights into their picturesque displays as soon as those were invented and became available. The first strand of electric holiday lights was hung way back in 1882, and they’ve now become an annual tradition – and one that has evolved over time into an art form.
Some individual homeowners or businesses go “all out” to create incredible displays. Other times, whole neighborhoods come together to transform their surroundings into a well-coordinated winter wonderland that highlights their community spirit. There are also elaborate professional displays put on by towns, cities and major organizations that can be absolutely astounding in their creative brilliance.
At this time of year, every location becomes a potential canvas for creativity with intricate light displays, animated figures and light shows that are perfectly synchronized to holiday music. We happen to know all the most magical locations in and around Lexington. Here are our top choices:
1. Chinoe House: 1008 Chinoe Road
What started as a one-man passion project by a veteran electrician has turned into an annual Lexington tradition, attracting between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors each year. This simple white home is adorned with so many lights that the owner admits he’s lost count – and it’s well worth your trip.
2. Toronto Road Holidays: 200 Toronto Road
We’re not entirely sure, but this particular house on Toronto Road may have every inflatable known to man – from iconic figures like nutcrackers, Snoopy and the Grinch to a T-rex decked out in a Santa hat. There is so much to see here that it is impossible to list each one individually.
3. Lexington Fire Station #20: 3001 Arrowhead Drive
If you like epic light displays with a lot of whimsy, you’ll love Lexington Fire Station #20. The show starts promptly at 5:30 p.m. every night and runs until the end of the year. This display is entirely free – although the folks running it use the attraction to support their annual toy drive for underprivileged children. For that reason, guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy for donation. You can also enjoy choreographed music with the display by tuning your car radio to 91.1 FM.
4. Southern Lights: 4089 Iron Works Parkway
One of the most iconic holiday light displays in Lexington is the Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park. Now in its 30th year, Southern Lights is three miles of pure enchantment. From the comfort of your car, you can see more than a million lights and animated displays, all before stopping off at Holiday Village. There, kids can take photos with Santa and drop off their wish lists in the North Pole Mailbox. There are also mini train rides, a gift shop and all the delights to be found in Tootie’s Peppermint Cafe. It’s just $35 per carload in advance or at the entrance.
5. Mt. McKinley Lights: 2956 Mt. McKinley Way
This is another mainstay of holiday cheer here in Lexington. Crafted with love, the Mt. McKinley Lights display is a Christmas season landmark with a computer-controlled animated light display that’s synchronized to holiday songs and Christmas carols. If you have kids, you simply must take them to see the giant inflatable Grinch on display! The show is available from 5 p.m. onward every night through New Year’s Eve, and it’s totally free (although nonperishable food items are usually accepted if you want to donate to someone in need).
6. Triangle Park: 400 W. Main Street
Downtown Lexington comes alive with holiday cheer, and Triangle Park is at the heart of the festivities. The park is adorned with festive lights and decorations, creating a charming atmosphere for a romantic evening stroll – and there’s nothing more enchanting than a giant Christmas tree full of ornaments and lights.
7. The Distillery Winter Village: Distillery Loop, Downtown Lexington
The Distillery District, with its trendy shops and restaurants, transforms into a winter wonderland every year during the holiday season. The area is decked out in festive lights and is open to all – although tickets are required on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on all dates from December 18th through the 31st after 4 p.m. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’ve been transported into the middle of a Hallmark holiday movie, this is the place to go. It has carolers, Christmas trees, a Candy Cane Forest and live music – plus places to shop and dine.
8. Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill: 3501 Lexington Road (Harrodsburg)
Every Saturday in December, Shaker Village comes alive with lights and music and all the wonder and spirit of the Christmas season. You will find roaring bonfires and Jingle Bell Shuttle Rides, hot chocolate stations and music all around – and you can even get in a little last-minute shopping thanks to the stores’ extended hours. If you have kids, make sure that you stop in The Elf Shop so that they can write a letter to Santa. Donations of new gloves, hats and scarves are also being collected for those in need.
9. Residential Neighborhoods: A Street Near You
Don’t forget to explore some of Lexington’s residential neighborhoods, where residents go all out with their holiday decorations. It’s always fun to pile the kids or a group of friends into the car and drive around the local streets to look for some unique and highly personalized displays. Start with your own neighborhood and just enjoy a leisurely drive wherever you decide to wander. An adventure that’s largely unplanned can be immensely rewarding.
Holiday light displays can help keep the magic of Christmas alive in hearts both young and old. So, gather your spouse, your partner, your best friend and your kids and bundle up tight. While you’re at it, get the thermos of hot cocoa ready – there’s a beautiful and luminous journey ahead!