According to Buddy the Elf, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is by ‘singing loud for all to hear.’ Arguably the next best way to get in the Holiday spirit, is to take in the beauty of vibrant light displays. Luckily, there are almost a dozen Christmas light displays scattered throughout our 21-county territory of ILLINOISouth! We’ll start in our western region, and work our way east - highlighting some of the best features of each light display.
For the last 18 years, the small community of Coulterville in Randolph County has played host to one of the most impressive light displays you’ll ever see. Normally it is a walk through display held in the town’s park, but this year it has changed due to the pandemic - and it’s bigger than ever. The Coulterville Holiday Light Display now spans SEVEN city blocks. There are over 1.5 MILLION lights, and 500 Holiday cutouts that make up this amazing experience. The Coulterville Holiday Light Display is totally free, and opens for the season on Friday, December 4th!
One of the more well-known drive-thru light displays in ILLINOISouth is the Way of Lights, located at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville. This is the 51st year for the Way of Lights, which has become a fan-favorite tradition for families in St. Clair County and beyond. The best time to visit the Way of Lights to avoid large crowds is on Family Night Tuesdays - which also features discounts on camel and pony rides. There are also special deals on treats to feed the animals in the petting zoo. Social distancing and face masks are required for the outdoor activities. The Way of Lights is open now through the end of the year!
For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, Wonderlights Christmas at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison is WELL WORTH the visit. Not only are you driving on a professional racetrack for portions of the display, but the sights and sounds are amazing. There are over a MILLION LED lights set to new and traditional Christmas music that you can listen to on your radio while driving through! This display does cost either $7 a person, or $30 for a carload up to seven people - it’s open now through January 3rd.
The community of Lebanon is very proud of their Winter Wonderland display, put on every year in Horner Park. The drive-thru experience is free of charge, but donations are accepted. Lebanon’s Winter Wonderland is open Sunday-Thursday from 5pm to 9pm, and from 5-10 on Friday and Saturday evenings now through the end of the year. If you visit their website, you can download a seek and find game, of items to look for while you’re driving through!
If you’re near Clinton County this Holiday season, we highly recommend a drive through Carlyle City Park to view the hundreds of thousands of lights they have on display. This is drive-thru display is open now through January 3rd, and is free to the public! They are also having a contest for children 13 and under, to find Piper the Penguin – which moves frequently throughout the park.
Foundation Park in Centralia is home to the Fantasy of Lights, which is a popular drive-thru display that draws thousands of people each year. Fantasy of Lights is open now through January 1st, and is free to the public – but donations are accepted. While you’re in town, be sure to stop by Carillon Park for their Nutcracker Stroll – which is an outdoor activity, free of charge.
The American Farm Heritage Museum in Greenville plays host to their Christmas Lights Wonderland every year, and it is a sight to behold. This marks the 12th year for the event, which has changed due to the pandemic. Normally folks can walk through their display, but it is a drive-thru only event for safety reasons this year. This isn’t your typical light display, as it’s more of a Christmas scene display Christmas Lights Wonderland is doing train rides for children on Saturdays, so that they can deliver their letters to Santa. Please visit the American Farm Heritage website to book your reservation for the train rides. You can visit this display nightly from 5-9.p.m, now through December 31st. It is free to the public, but donations are accepted.
Not far north of Greenville sits the very small town of Woburn where Dave Stief and his wife decorate their home each and every year. When we say decorate, we don’t mean your traditional tree and lights. The Stiefs have 44 display cases with over 200 characters inside that act out different Holiday scenes. The Woburn Christmas Display is literally set up in the Stiefs driveway, and it attracts about TEN THOUSAND people each year. The display is a walk-through experience, and while there is no charge – donations are accepted. This is one VERY unique Christmas tradition you won’t want to miss.
For the past two decades the Holiday Lights Fair at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds have become a Christmas tradition for many folks in southern Illinois. Due to the pandemic, they are not having any events in the expo hall this year, it is a drive-thru only event. That said, it is an amazing display with over three miles of lights to admire. Admission to the Holiday Lights Fair is $10 a carload, and is open now through December 30th from 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Another long-running fan-favorite that attracts folks for miles is the Christmas Light Display in Olney’s City Park. It features the sounds of Christmas along with colorful lights and displays to celebrate the season. The displays will be aglow Sunday-Thursday from 5-9 p.m., and from 5 to 10pm on Friday and Saturday. Make a visit to Olney now through the end of December to experience this AWESOME display. It is free to the public, but donations are accepted at the exit.
The newest display of this group can be found at Fairview Park in Casey. The City of Casey and the Casey Chamber of Commerce teamed up to start Christmas in Fairview Park in 2020. After a VERY successful first season, they decided to continue it. It is a drive-thru display, but their opening night in early December is walk-through only for three hours. It give folks a different perspective of the lights and the park! From that night on, the display is again drive-thru only and it features a bunch of different new displays!
The Clark County Fairgrounds are decorated to the max for another year of the Festival of Lights, put on by the Marshall Christmas Committee. Much like many of the other displays, it is drive-thru only this year – and is open nightly from now through December 31st.
To experience a great display and also help a fantastic cause at the same time, a trip to Carmi is a must. Carmi’s Christmas Lights of Hope can be found at the White County Fairgrounds, and is open 12/4 to 12/6, 12/11 to 12/13, 12/18 to 12/20 and Christmas Eve as well. The display can be seen from 6- 9 p.m. each of those nights, and proceeds from the display go towards Carmi Christmas Elves Inc. The non-profit’s mission is to provide support, both financial and otherwise to local youth and poverty-stricken residents in the community.
There is another light show that has continued to grow over the last few years, and it can be found at Peterson Park in Newton. This display opens the day after Thanksgiving and runs to Christmas Day. There are dozens of displays set up throughout the park for folks to drive through and admire!