From the Lights of the Ozarks, in Fayetteville, to Garvan Gardens’ Holiday Lights, in Hot Springs, Arkansas takes on a special glow at Christmas time! For many families, a popular Christmas tradition is packing up the car and going on a search for the most extravagant lights in Arkansas. It’s a family-friendly experience that’s easy to achieve, thanks to so many amazing towns across the state getting on board with the holiday cheer!
Everyone in Arkansas seems to be in on the joy, with artful light installations popping up in personal yards, botanical gardens, zoos, and much more. Whether you want a simple neighborhood drive-through or an over-the-top Christmas lights show, complete with music and special effects, Arkansas has a holiday light show to satisfy your every whim! Here are our votes for the best Christmas lights in Arkansas!
Tips for Viewing Holiday Lights in Arkansas
While Arkansas is full of excellent Christmas light displays, they may not all be right for your family. Some require staying in the car for long periods of time, which if you have littles in a car seat, might sound like a nightmare to you. Others are best seen by walking around the installations, which may not be easy for your crew. You’re also going to need a few key ingredients to make this Christmas tradition a success. Here are a few things to prep before you set out on your Arkansas lights tour.
1. Choosing the Right Lights Show
Think about the age, attention span, and comfort level of your crew when choosing an Arkansas light show. The state is small, but if you’re three hours from Hot Springs, then Garven Gardens might not be the right choice for you if you have small children. If your crew is active and excitable, then you’ll want to choose a light display that has some extra activities like a train ride, hot chocolate tent, or Christmas crafts.
You may also need to consider the price. Christmas is already an expensive time, and there’s no need to blow your budget to see amazing lights. Remember, you don’t have to go big to make amazing memories. We’ll list some of the biggest and best here, but a walk through your own neighborhood can be just as spectacular.
2. Prepping for the Road Trip
If you decide to take a road trip to see lights, you’re going to need some basic goodies to keep the clan happy. Make a Christmas playlist, full of exciting holiday songs. A few Christmas-themed road games are a good idea too! I-Spy, Slug-Bug, or 20 Questions can all easily be adapted for holiday content. Pack easy-to-eat snacks and a thermos of hot cocoa!
December in Arkansas can be pretty bipolar when it comes to weather. You might be viewing your Christmas lights in shorts and flip-flops, or you could be bundled up from head to toe. You just never know. In fact, the temperature may change drastically from the time you leave home to when you arrive at the light display. Pack layers!
3. Making Memories
In an effort to make amazing holiday memories, we sometimes put too much stress on ourselves and our families. Remember, this is supposed to be fun, so go with the flow! Don’t get too stuck on a timetable or create too high of expectations for your journey. Typically, if you’re excited, the kids will go along, but that’s not always the case. If the original plan isn’t working, toss it, and adjust. You want your Christmas light journey to be memorable for all the right reasons!
On your way home, ask each family member what they liked best about the night and document it. You might be surprised how different the experience was for each family member. It’s fun to share and re-experience the tradition through each other’s eyes. Next year, you can look back at your likes and dislikes to help you plan an even better trip!
The Best Christmas Lights in Arkansas
Let’s jump into what you came for! We’ll include the best light displays from all four corners of the state, making sure we highlight something in your region! FYI: If you’re not from Arkansas, it’s a fairly small state. You could easily visit a light display in Northwest Arkansas on Saturday and one in the Delta on Sunday!
Christmas Light Displays in Northwest Arkansas
1. Lights of the Ozarks – Fayetteville
With the beautiful University of Arkansas campus, a pretty Downtown Square, and a setting in the Arkansas woods, Fayetteville is a perfect choice for seeing Christmas lights. Locals spend thousands of hours decorating the Downtown Square with an average of over 500,000 LED lights. Lighting Night usually takes place in mid-November (the 17th for 2023) and includes fun vendor booths, a parade, and live music. The lights stay on display until New Year’s Day from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The display can be seen on a drive-thru, or you can get out and explore the square on foot with a hot cocoa. If you can get to Fayetteville during the Holiday Season, Lights of the Ozarks is a must!
2. Coulter Celebration of Lights – Mountain Home
Coulter Celebration of Lights takes place at Arkansas State University in Mountain Home, in North-Central Arkansas. It’s a combination walking/driving experience. Mountain Home is a pretty tiny place, but it does Christmas big! With tons of large sponsors and a community devoted to holiday cheer, Mountain Home puts on a great show. It includes a Candy Cane 5K run, visits by Santa and Mrs. Claus, winter slides, food trucks, and a series of events taking place throughout November and December. For 2023, the lighting ceremony takes place on November 24th, and the lights will remain until after Christmas.
3. Christmas at the Parks – Van Buren
The Historic Downtown of Van Buren is one of the most beautiful in Arkansas, and it’s even more mesmerizing when decked out in twinkling lights! Every night from 5:30 to Midnight, thousands of lights line the streets of Van Buren for Christmas at the Parks. Kiddos and parents stumble on the ice skating rink, and toddlers experience the magic of Holiday Express Train Rides. Add a few hot cocoa tents, food vendors, and a fantastic tree lighting ceremony to kick it all off, and you have one of the best Christmas lights displays in the state!
4. North Forest Lights at Crystal Bridges – Bentonville
In 2020, Crystal Bridges partnered with Moment Factory to produce one of the most fantastic light installations in the region. It was such a success that it became an annual event. The North Forest Lights returned for three years. The display consisted of five distinct installations: Whispering Tree, Crystal Grove, Forest Frequencies, Memory of Water, and The Hearth. It wasn’t your normal Christmas light display. Rather, it was an art show in illumination. The innovative installations included nature-inspired lighting elements like watching saplings communicate through crystal lights and experiencing the color of your own voice. Moment Factory won the Americas Award in Parks & Attractions category for the project in 2020.
For the year 2023, the light installation on display is called Listening Forest or Pulse Forest. It’s a series of eight immersive installations by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. You’ll use specialized tools, your voice, and even your heartbeat to interract with installations, immersing yourself in an otherwordly experience in the Arkansas woods. This is the last year for the display, so don’t miss your chance to partake in this once-in-a-lifetime display. You can also grab some tasty treats in the North Forest Snow Globe! As an added perk, the town of Bentonville also has a beautiful downtown area with a festive holiday lighting scheme!
5. Drive-Thru Light Display at The Great Passion Play – Eureka Springs
If there were an award for the cutest Arkansas town, it would probably have to go to Eureka Springs. It’s adorable! With a Historic Downtown lined with old Victorian mansions, the city is the ideal backdrop for a traditional Arkansas Christmas. The Great Passion Play is an Arkansas attraction that focuses on the life and death of Jesus, complete with a gigantic statue and a world-class outdoor play. From Thanksgiving to New Year, the park transforms with thousands of lights each weekend from sunset to 8 p.m. Advanced tickets are required, and are done by donation. Make sure to visit the Snow Train Village in the Great Hall while you’re there.
Eureka also has a holiday window contest and a Christmas Tree Forest to explore!
Christmas Light Displays in Central Arkansas
6. Illuminate – Conway
A few years back, the Central Arkansas City of Conway invested in one of the largest trees in the state. Each year, they light up Rogers Plaza with a huge tree lighting ceremony and festivities known as Illuminate. Ferris wheels, train rides, letters to Santa, and of course, the 54-foot tree transform Downtown Conway into a winter wonderland. The whole city gets in on the fun too.
Conway is a fairly affluent city, just 30 minutes outside the capitol, and its biggest neighborhoods put on quite a show. Christmas lovers all over town apply to be a part of Light Up Conway, a city-wide light competition sponsored by Conway Corp. Keep an eye on the Illuminate website for an updated house map as Christmas approaches!
7. Garvan Woodland Gardens – Hot Springs
Formerly known as the Winter Garden Festival, Holiday Lights at Garvan Woodland Gardens, is probably the most famous holiday light display in Arkansas. The extravagant light show runs from mid-November to New Year’s Eve, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. The 210 acres of immaculate gardens are transformed by lighting artists and over 5 million bulbs. Each garden gets a different theme that can include ice tunnels, giant Christmas characters, musical light shows, and much more. The Chipmunk Cafe keeps everyone fed and full of hot chocolate, and they offer fun golf-cart tours!
8. Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights – Sherwood
For those who prefer to stay warm and cozy in the car, head for Sherwood’s Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights. The approximately 1-mile drive-thru light display is open from Dec 1st to the 30th, from 6-9:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. You can reserve your place in line on their website. The light display doubles as a food drive to stock local pantries for the holidays, so bring some canned goods!
9. The Arkansas State Capitol – Little Rock
The state’s annual Christmas lighting ceremony takes place in early December at the Arkansas State Capitol Building. You’ll enjoy The Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade down Capitol Avenue, before watching the gorgeous capitol come alive with over 100,000 lights at sundown. The show also includes fireworks and family photo opportunities in the elaborately decorated interior. The details for 2023 have not been released yet, but keep an eye on the Secretary of State’s website for official details.
After the show at the capitol, take some time to explore Little Rock’s most beautiful neighborhoods and their elaborate displays! A couple of standouts include the excellent display at GloWild at the Zoo, where you experience illuminated dinosaurs and 50 other creatures as well as a lantern festival. Also, the Northern Lights Holiday Festival will kick off in Argenta Plaza, North Little Rock on November 18, 2023. The festivities include a lighting display, a tree-lighting ceremony, pictures with Santa, food vendors, and holiday-themed games!
10. Holiday of Lights Tour – Searcy
Searcy’s lighting ceremony takes place at the Downtown Courthouse. The Holiday of Lights includes tons of food vendors, a craft fair, and of course, a stunning light display. The festivities take place in Downtown Searcy as well as Berryhill Park. For 2023, the lighting ceremony takes place on November 20th. The city also hosts Christmas concerts at Harding University, a Tour of Homes, a Living Nativity, and a World Championship Chocolate Gravy Cookoff! In short, Searcy is a great place to be during the holiday season!
Christmas Light Displays in Northeast Arkansas
11. White River Wonderland – Batesville
Located in Independence County, Batesville is commonly known as “The Christmas Capital of Arkansas.” That’s mostly due to the wildly successful White River Wonderland. Admission is free, and visitors are allowed to drive, walk, or take a traditional carriage ride through an enormous display featuring millions of lights! The display is shown on the banks of the White River, predominately in Riverside Park. The park also includes a massive ice skating ring, a Ferris wheel, the White River Express Train, and citywide carriage rides.
Be prepared to share the experience with a few extra folks, as approximately 50,000 people flood Batesville from neighboring states during each holiday season. In 2023, the festivities take place every evening from 5 to midnight, November 22nd to January 2nd.
12. Christmas at the Park – Jonesboro
Christmas at the Park is a wonderful place to see Christmas lights in NE Arkansas. The 1/2-mile drive includes approximately 65 collections of light displays, including more than 400,000 lights. They also erect a 300-foot lighted, drive-thru tunnel. Guests are welcome to hop out of the car for pictures with the characters and props, to visit the concessions, or to participate in a holiday scavenger hunt! Opening night is November 22, and the festivities run until December 31. Check out the full schedule of holiday events!
13. Lights of the Delta- Blytheville
Lights of the Delta is an Arkansas Christmas Lights legend! It’s one of the largest lighting ceremonies in the Mid-South with 50 major motion displays, over 6 million bulbs, and 1.5 miles of drive-through displays. The festival also includes hayrides, Santa photos, and concessions. The festival takes place from November 20-December 27th in 2023. Check out their website for full details.
Christmas Light Displays in Southwest Arkansas
14. Parade of Lights – Mena
Every holiday season, Mena’s Janssen Park transforms into a Christmas wonderland. From holiday movies to a lovely light display, as well as fireworks, a lighting ceremony, and a parade, Downtown Mena offers a plethora of family-friendly Christmas activities. This year’s dates have not yet been released, but details will be posted on the Mena Chamber of Commerce.
15. Christmas on the Harbor – Mt Ida
One of the most peaceful and lovely lighting displays in Southern Arkansas is located at Mount Harbor Resort & Spa in Mt Ida. The lighting ceremony takes place the day after Thanksgiving and includes free cookies and cocoa, holiday stories with Mrs. Claus, live music, and hay rides around the harbor to enjoy a close look at the lights. Come hungry! The local fireman will be serving up tasty homemade meals and holding their annual auction.
16. Let it Glow Tour of Lights – Magnolia
Magnolia is a lovely little town, especially around Christmas. Start your tour at Southern Arkansas University and visit Overstreet Hall. After exploring the campus lighting displays, head for Traylor Wilson Gardens and then wander around Courthouse Square. The lights of Magnolia generally run from the day after Thanksgiving through the end of the year. The city also hosts a large lighting competition, which encourages homes all around the town to go big!
Christmas Light Displays in Southeast Arkansas
17. Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends – Pine Bluff
Pine Bluff’s Jefferson County Regional Park is home to one of the largest drive-through Christmas lights displays in the state. It’s 1.3 miles of enchanting installments, more than 240 in total. Many are animated and synchronized with music. The light display is free to visit from 6-9 p.m., starting on the third Tuesday in November and running through the end of the year.
18. Finney’s Christmas Wonderland – Crossett
Our last entry is the only single-family home event on the list, but that’s for good reason. Finney’s Christmas Wonderland has been expanding for decades and now covers a half-mile loop. It was even the recent winner of ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight! That’s pretty amazing for a tiny town in Southern Arkansas. The best part is that Mr. Finney crafts all his displays by hand. His installment includes over a million lights, animated characters, and much more. The Finneys don’t charge a cent to enjoy the show either! You can find Finney’s Christmas Wonderland at 23 Goshen Road in Crossett.
Get out there and explore the best lights in Arkansas!
Christmas lights in Arkansas are numerous and easy to find! North, South, East, West, and Central, the state is full of adorable city squares, glistening botanical gardens, and small-town festivals oozing with Christmas joy. Pack some snacks, crank up the traditional Christmas tunes, and get out and explore our beautiful state during the holidays. Christmas in the Natural State is for memory-making!
Fall often delays its entry to Arkansas, so it’s not too late to “Explore the Best Fall Foliage in Arkansas!”
Merry Christmas Ya’ll!