Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means that glittering light displays for the holidays are already flashing on across the state.
The coronavirus pandemic has made this winter a somewhat awkward time for festivities—no one’s sitting on Santa’s lap, to be sure—but plenty of displays are adapting. Some are introducing one-way walk-throughs along with mandating masks and social distancing, while others are pivoting to drive-through only events. Here’s a selection of 12 light displays across the state that will help you and yours feel bright and festive when you might need it most.
La Salette Shrine (Attleboro)
The religious illuminations at La Salette Shrine have gone up every winter since it opened nearly 70 years ago, and the tradition won’t be lost during the pandemic. This year’s theme is “Light from Afar,” commemorating the Star of Bethlehem that guided the three wise men to the Nativity. The shrine director, Father Flavio Gillio, writes that in challenging times, “a light from afar is all that we need to keep on going through our life journey.”
Daily, Nov. 26-Jan. 3, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free. 947 Park Street, Attleboro, MA 02703
Illuminations Tour (Somerville)
A selection of Somerville residents go all out each year decorating their homes for the holidays. Typically, the Somerville Arts Council organizes trolley tours of the flashy abodes, but they’re sticking with “deconstructed” tours this year. The council will share an interactive map for self-guided tours on Dec. 12, highlighting the set of showstopping homes along with art installations and local businesses offering specials. It’s a great (and free) showcase of homegrown displays close to the city.
Daily, Dec. 12-Jan. 1. Free. Throughout Somerville.
ZooLights at Stone Zoo (Stoneham)
ZooLights at Stone Zoo is back with a one-way walk through the zoo’s 26 acres, with tree-lined paths and lantern displays lighting the way. A major highlight is the wintery Yukon Creek section, where visitors might spot black bears, arctic foxes, and even reindeer (though probably not any red-nosed ones).
Several Fridays and weekends are already sold out, but there are plenty of spots available on weeknights and during Christmas week and beyond.
Daily (except Christmas Day), Nov. 27-Jan. 3, 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. $13.95, free for children 2 and under, discounts for members, discounted packs of four available. Separate from daytime zoo admission. Must place timed reservations. 149 Pond Street, Stoneham, MA 02180
Gardens Aglow at Heritage Museums & Gardens (Sandwich)
The gorgeous gardens at Heritage host glittering displays throughout its acres each year. Along with the lights, visitors can roast marshmallows, meet Santa, and watch a new model train display.
The event’s schedule is inconsistent throughout the month — it’s Thursday through Sunday except during Christmas week, when it’ll be available on Tuesday and Wednesday instead of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. A few days are already sold out, but there are lots of weekend options still available.
Select days (mostly Thursdays through Sundays) Nov. 27-Dec. 27, 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. $18 adult, $9 children 3-7, free for children 2 and under, discounts for members. Must place timed reservations. 67 Grove Street, Sandwich, MA 02563
Festival of Trees (Wellesley)
The 12th annual Festival of Trees from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is one of the few light displays you’ll find indoors this winter. It features dozens of decorated trees donated locally, and visitors can “vote” with raffle tickets for a chance to win their favorite tree. You can also visit Snow Village, an elaborate model train display that takes up a whole room. Next stop, Fenway Park!
Wednesdays through Sundays, Nov. 27-Dec. 20, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. $20 adults Wednesday through Friday, $25 weekends, $5 children 3-7, free for children 2 and under, discounts for members. Must place timed reservations. The Gardens at Elm Bank, 900 Washington Street, Wellesley, MA 02482
Six Flags Holiday in the Park Lights (Agawam)
Rides at Six Flags New England are still closed for the rest of the season, so you won’t be able to hop on Superman, Goliath, or Thunderbolt this winter, but prospective parkgoers can still drop by for a one-way stroll among over a million lights decorating the park. The loops and corkscrews will have to wait, but at least there’s fried dough and hot cocoa on hand.
Fridays through Sundays (except Christmas Day), Nov. 27-Dec. 27, 5:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. $19.99 adults, $11.99 for children 48″ and under. Free with season pass or membership. Must place timed reservations. Route 159, 1623 Main Street, Agawam
Bright Nights at Forest Park (Springfield)
There’s a lot of appeal to a drive-through light display this year — not only do you get to stay warm and toasty inside, you also don’t have to wear a mask. The concept isn’t new for Bright Nights, now in its 26th year. It features dozens of large and elaborate dioramas, including several dedicated to Springfield’s own Dr. Seuss. You can even tune into a specialized FM station for some festive musical accompaniment.
Daily, Nov. 25-Jan. 6, 4:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. $23 per car, $6 opening night, $10 select Tuesdays. Must purchase in advance. Extra for larger vehicles. Free for frontline workers Nov. 30 and military and emergency responders Dec. 2., each with valid ID, no tickets required. 300 Sumner Avenue, Springfield, MA 01108
Winter Wonderland at Southwick’s Zoo (Mendon)
The drive-through tour at Southwick’s Zoo has over a million lights in sections like the Frozen Forest (spot a fallow deer!) and Whoville (spot the Grinch!). There’s apparently a yeti on the loose, too.
Along with the drive-through, guests can visit Santa’s Enchanted Village on foot, which is included with admission. The village features a petting zoo (goats!), games and entertainment, and a socially distanced meet and greet with the big bearded man himself.
Wednesdays through Sundays (except Christmas Day), Nov. 27-Dec 30, 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. $50 per car, discount available on certain days. Cars only, no larger vehicles. Must place timed reservations. 2 Southwick Street, Mendon MA 01756
Festival of Lights (Middleborough)
The Middleborough Tourism Committee is putting on its 7th annual Festival of Lights at a price that’s hard to beat. The drive-through display has over half a million lights in areas like the new Candy Cane Forest and Rainbow Row.
Weekends, Dec. 12-Dec. 20, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. $5 per car online, $10 at the gate. Boston/Cape Cod KOA, 438 Plymouth Street, Middleborough, MA 02346
The display at the Marshfield Fairgrounds is returning for its second year for those wanting to stay car-bound on the South Shore. It’s got dozens of large displays along the milelong course, and they’ll twinkle on and off in sync with a radio program.
Thursdays through Sundays, Nov. 19-Dec. 13, and daily, Dec. 17-Dec. 30, 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. $23 per car Sunday through Thursday, $25 on Friday and Saturday. Cars only, no larger vehicles. 33 S River Street, Marshfield, MA 02050
North Shore Holiday Lights Show (Haverhill)
From the South Shore to the North, the event organizers behind the Marshfield display (above) are also debuting a similar drive-through event up in Haverhill. You’ve got options!
Thursdays through Sundays, Nov. 19-Dec. 13, and daily, Dec. 17-Dec. 30, 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. $23 per car Sunday through Thursday, $25 on Friday and Saturday. Cars only, no larger vehicles. Crescent Farms, 1058 Boston Road, Haverhill, MA 01835
Magic of Lights at Gillette Stadium (Foxborough)
The home of the New England Patriots is hosting its own drive-through display for the first time this winter. The Magic of Lights event at Gillette Stadium, which is one of several across North America, features over 40 displays and a 200-foot light tunnel. (It’s in the parking lot, by the way, so don’t expect to encounter Rudolph or Frosty at the 50-yard line.)
Some Fridays and Saturdays are sold out in the coming weeks, but there are still lots of spots for other days, and everything past Dec. 20 is available.
Daily, Nov. 13-Jan. 2, 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. $50 per car most days, $35 select weekdays. Must purchase in advance. Extra for larger vehicles. 67 Washington Street, Foxborough, MA
Canceled and sold-out events
While many local holiday displays are adapting to the pandemic this winter, several popular events are canceled outright. The Christmas Festival of Lights at Edaville Family Park in Carter, Night Lights at Boylston’s Tower Hill Botanic Garden, the Enchanted Village at Jordan’s Furniture in Avon, and Blink! at Boston’s Faneuil Hall are not returning this year.
There will still be displays in downtown Boston like those in Boston Common, Copley Square, and along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, but the public tree lighting ceremonies are canceled. Still, the city is an easy choice for displays that are free and local.
The Trustees’ Winterlights events at Naumkeag in Stockbridge and the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate in Canton are completely sold out.
Know of any Massachusetts light displays we missed? Let us know at [email protected].