Halloween and Thanksgiving are behind us, and we’re fully immersed in Yuletide cheer. The holidays can be a blur—I can feel like I’m picking out a pumpkin one day and a Christmas tree the next. That’s why I’m figuring out which attractions I can’t miss now, before I get caught up in the whirlwind of red and green.
One of my favorite parts of the season is braving the frosty temps to see holiday lights glittering in the night sky. We all know about Temple Square and Thanksgiving Point. But if you’re like me and are looking for something new or different, give these spots a try.
Zoolights at Hogle Zoo
Here’s a sure-fire crowd pleaser to start off. Who doesn’t love animals, right? Hogle Zoo goes all out for the holidays with more than two hundred light displays. You’ll see your favorite animals depicted with lights and classic Christmas themes. Plan your visit around a rotating schedule of nightly entertainment. Performers include carolers, drummers, even a chainsaw-wielding ice sculptor.
Still not impressed? Snag a pair of hologram glasses and walk through the 135-foot tunnel of lights. You can buy tickets, get directions, and check out other attractions at Hogle Zoo by visiting the official website.
November 30–December 31 (closed Christmas day)
Sunday–Wednesday, 5:30 to 9:00; Thursday–Saturday, 5:30 to 10:00; Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, 5:30 to 9:00
Adults are $9.95, children (3–12) are $7.95, children younger than 2 are free
Winter Walk at The Gateway
You’ll find The Gateway’s Winter Walk not far from the Gallivan Center. Every Friday in December, Rio Grande Street shuts down and gives way to a celebration of all things holiday. Light displays, live music, and holiday acts on the main stage bring plenty of seasonal cheer.
Kids will love the hot cocoa and photo booths, while adults will enjoy the hot toddies and mulled wine. There’s even a signature Winter Walk mug that you can fill at participating restaurants and bars. Plus, plenty of stores line the street, so get some shopping done as you check out the extravagant front-window displays. Plan your trip with the Winter Walk event page or learn more about what The Gateway has to offer.
Every Friday in December
6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
True light lovers don’t stop at just one event. If you’re looking to pack your night with as many lights and displays as possible, you’ll want to hop on the Jingle Bus. This trolley-style bus will take you on a tour of all the best downtown has to offer. Ride it from Lights On! all the way to Winter Walkway, and enjoy your hot toddy specials knowing the driving is taken care of.
Get on for free at any of the five stops on the route, which connects Temple Square to the east and The Gateway to the west. Take a closer look at the route here.
November 23–December 31 (closed Christmas day)
5:00 to 10:00 p.m.
2018 Holiday Window Stroll
If you don’t want to ride in the Jingle Bus, maybe you’d prefer a self-guided tour by foot. The Grand America Hotel has compiled some of the best window displays of the year. Stop by to pick up a map of the locations (and a cookie!) for free. The Holiday Stroll is updated every year, so this is a great option for anyone who’s looking to switch up their holiday traditions.
November 20–December 21
Monday–Thursday, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.; Friday–Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; December 22–31, 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Free, but parking at the hotel longer than a half hour will cost about $3/hour
If you’re willing to drive a ways, Ogden’s Christmas Village offers stunning views. The epicenter of Christmas Village is Ogden’s Municipal Gardens, a five-acre park that’s beautiful year-round. Miniature cottages dot the walkways, some offering refreshments or photos with Santa. For those seeking a challenge, try spotting train whistles. There’s one hidden in every cottage.
A daily rotation of performers will take over the amphitheater. For a bit of nostalgia, take a ride on a fully functioning antique miniature train. Other events include fun runs, parades . . . and that’s just scratching the surface of all Christmas Village has to offer. You can check out a full list of events here, take a virtual tour, or visit Christmas Village on Facebook.
November 24–January 1
5:00 p.m. to midnight
Free, but some attractions may charge or encourage donation
If you want get back to the roots of Christmas, look no further than Heritage Park. The park’s Candlelight Christmas bills itself as the “Christmas of over a century ago.” You may not find extravagant light displays here, but you will find a charming atmosphere and gorgeous decorations. Glittering lights and warm fires complement carolers and a live nativity scene.
Candlelight Christmas is a heartwarming breather from the hustle and bustle of the season. Proceeds also help Heritage Park maintain its activities, events, and historic villages year-round. Drop by the gift shop if you have last minute shopping to do, or enjoy a warm meal at the Huntsman Hotel, a replica of the 1870s hotel that once hosted Brigham Young.
December 7–22, Monday–Saturday
5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
$5, free for children 2 and younger
Christmas in Color
Some nights, it’s just too cold to get out and walk around. But you don’t have to let that get in the way of enjoying lights. All you have to do is crank up the heat and head for Christmas in Color. It’s about an hour’s drive from Salt Lake City, so load up on candy canes and hot cocoa and hit the road.
With more than 1.5 million lights synchronized to your favorite songs of the season, this one’s definitely worth the drive. Tickets are sold by the car, and you can reserve your spot online. 5:30 and 6:00 tickets are “happy hour,” so you can get 2-for-1 admission if you buy on the same day as you go. Gather some friends for a two-car trip! The company also offers a sneak peek of the festivities on YouTube and Instagram.
November 23–December 31 (closed Christmas day)
Monday–Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
$25 to $30 per vehicle depending on the day
Sugar House Christmas Street
As beautiful as lights are at places like Temple Square and Christmas in Color, there’s something to be said for the neighborhood streets that develop a Christmas light tradition of their own. Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood is home to one of these Christmas streets. Dozens of homes have taken part in the tradition for more than 60 years. Park a few blocks away and enjoy the lights from the sidewalk, or turn off your headlights and take it all in from the heated comfort of your car, like this YouTuber did.
Taylorsville Christmas Street
Homeowners on this suburban street coordinate on Christmas lights every year to depict “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Each home carries part of the story and incorporates the words into beautiful displays that sprawl across yards and homes. Like other residential attractions, it’s free, and you can walk or drive through it. Just remember to turn off those headlights! And don’t forget to snap a photo for the street’s unofficial Facebook fan page.
I hope you enjoy this list of places to go for the best holiday lights in our area. If you visit any of them, make sure to let me know what you think in a comment. There are also plenty of other places to see lights, and if I missed any good ones, I’d love to learn about them.