San Francisco, CA Drive-Through Light Shows
Holiday Light Shows & Displays FAQ
When do Christmas lights start?
Christmas lights start at different times of year.
Some places get their holiday displays up as early as reasonably appropriate (pretty much right after Halloween), while others wait until a little later in the season.
You’ll likely see them trickling up throughout November.
Generally, though, you can expect major light displays to be up by at least the day after Thanksgiving or December 1st.
How long do Christmas lights stay up?
Again, it really depends on the place and people in charge of the lighting displays.
Most people/organizations leave their Christmas lights up at least through New Year’s. (It would be very unusual for displays to go off before then.)
But January 6th is Epiphany, so many places leave their lights up through the first week of January.
When is the best time to see Christmas lights?
Christmas light displays typically come on at sunset or shortly thereafter and stay on until bedtime-ish (9 or 10 p.m.).
They tend to run longer on weekends when people are out later.
So, each night you’ve got a several-hour window in which to see light displays.
For big for-profit displays, like drive-through light shows and light mazes, the first and last hours tend to be the least trafficked, making these ideal times to visit.
For less-organized neighborhood light displays, any time can be a good time, but getting to them early (just after sunset) or late (8 o’clock or so) can still spare you extra traffic on the roads.
What should I bring to a Christmas light display?
Along with wearing appropriate clothing (layers are essential when doing walk-through displays!), you’ll want to bring a few things with you to a Christmas lights display, especially if you’re bringing kids.
These are the things you’ll definitely want on hand:
- Snacks and Drinks: because you don’t know how long you’ll be out there
- Blankets: for bundling up the kids (and yourself) so you can keep those windows down in the car
- A Stroller or Wagon (if permitted): for walk-through displays with little ones
- Activities/Toys: because young kids may lose interest even at the most impressive light displays
How much do Christmas light shows cost?
The cost of a Christmas light show or display depends very much on where the display is and what type of display it is.
Drive-through displays may charge by either the person or the car, with per-car fees typically being the better deal of the two.
You can expect to pay at least $20/car at most for-profit drive-through light displays.
For-profit walk-through displays charge by the person and can run a wide range when it comes to pricing.
Smaller, more localized displays typically cost below $20, or even $10, if there’s any charge at all, while to see the lights at Disneyland you have to pay for a full entry (over $100 per person!).
The good news is, there are plenty of free Christmas light displays and shows as well.
To find the best ones, look for neighborhoods that hold competitions or are known for their extravagant holiday displays (if you live near a city, you almost certainly have a few of these near you).
Or choose charity light shows or displays. These displays are generally donation-based, so you can pay what you can afford.