Christine A Howard

Fun Family Christmas in 6 Easy Steps – Holiday Lights

Christmas is the most wonderful time of year, right?  The holiday lights, the time with family, the giving spirit, and the good food all help to make Christmas my favorite time of year.  But let’s face it, its also a lot of work!  So how do busy parents survive the craziness of this season in order to have a fun family Christmas?  It really isn’t difficult if we apply six simple steps.  Step one is stress free holiday lights.

Holiday Light Displays

I truly love holiday light displays, and so it is no wonder that one of my favorite shows this time of year is ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”  For those of you that have not had the pleasure of watching, each episode families from across the country enter their personal light displays with the hope that they will take home the Light Fight Trophy and $50,000.  While I would love to travel to see one of these amazing spectacles, there hasn’t been one in Wisconsin to my knowledge.

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The hosts of the Great Christmas Light Fight

Wisconsin does have many holiday light displays, but there are four very magical displays for families to enjoy, and two of them take place in a zoo!  So if your family likes holiday light displays as much as ours, you may want to check one of them out this year.

The Rotary Lights – La Crosse, Wisconsin

This light display boasts over 3 million lights each year, and is truly a breathtaking site.  It is located on the edge of the Mississippi River in the Riverside Park, and patrons can choose three ways to view the lights – drive through, walk through, or carriage ride.  The kids will love seeing Santa and his reindeer, and on Saturday nights there is a live nativity.  When the weather gets colder, there is also an outdoor ice skating rink.  This is our family’s favorite light display, but we may be a little biased as this one is in our home town.

A family tradition in our family – fun reindeer photos at the Rotary Lights.

There is no admission fee to enter the The Rotary Lights, but they do accept goodwill offerings of nonperishable foods and monetary donations.  For more information you can visit The Rotary Lights site.

The Rotary Winter Wonderland – Marshfield,  Wisconsin

This light display has a few less lights than the one in La Crosse, with around 1 million lights, but it definitely makes up for it with its location.  The Rotary Winter Wonderland is located at the Marshfield Wildwood Zoo.  How cool is that?  What child hasn’t thought about how amazing it would be to visit the zoo at night, and now its a reality!  Another awesome feature of this light display is the free horse drawn wagon rides on Saturday nights.  Yes, I said free!  But, if horses are not your thing, you can also drive or walk through as well.

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The Rotary Winter Wonderland Lights.

There is no admission fee to enter the The Rotary Lights, but they do accept goodwill offerings of nonperishable foods and monetary donations.  For more information you can visit The Rotary Winter Wonderland site.

Henry Vilas Zoo Lights – Madison, Wisconsin

Like the Rotary Winter Wonderland, this light display is also in a zoo.  The best part of this display is that you may get to see a real live polar bear frolicking in the snow as you enjoy the twinkling lights.  While this display is walk through only there are a few perks to visiting the Zoo Lights display.  The first is riding the carousel while seeing Santa, and the second is having dinner and the lights display.  The Glacier Grill Restaurant is available each night from 5:30pm and 8:30pm.

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Animal lights display at the Henry Vilas Zoo Lights.

The admission to The Zoo Lights is $7 per person or you can purchase a family 4 pack for $24.  For those of you that would like to visit more than once per season, there are season passes available for $44.  The season pass included admission for two adults and two children.  For more information you can visit The Zoo Lights site.

Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

This is more than a simple light display, this is truly a magical, winter wonderland!  With lights sprinkling the entire downtown, including Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park and Zeidler Union Square, what more could you ask for?  You can choose to walk or drive through the display, and on Thursday through Sunday evenings, you could also take a bus tour for a $2 fee.

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The beautiful displays at the Milwaukee Holiday Festival of Lights.

There is no admission to this light display, and for more information you can visit the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival site.


If you like holiday light displays, you won’t go wrong choosing any of these options.  They all have a little something different, so you may want to visit them all this year.  Each display is wheelchair accessible as much as they can be considering they are outdoors in the winter.  Most of them have the option to drive or ride through the display which makes visiting much more enjoyable for those with mobility issues.  And even if your family cannot travel to see one of these wonderful light displays, you can visit some pretty awesome displays right in the comfort of your own home by watching ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”

Do you have a favorite holiday lights display?  If you do, we would love to hear about it!  Put the link to the display in the comments so we all can share in the fun.

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