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  7. Holiday Lights – Light Up Cities

Holiday Lights – Light Up Cities

Enjoy good tidings and celebrate the season around the country in your RV.

Image Caption: Photo: Charlston County Parks

Holiday lights illuminate long winter nights, they brighten an otherwise dark time of year. When most people think of places to see holiday lights, northern states, and big cities such as New York City and Chicago come to mind; however large snowdrifts and freezing temperatures are not especially conducive to RVing.  Don’t despair fellow campers, there are plenty of places to which you can travel in your RV to enjoy the holidays.

St. Augustine, Florida

St Augustine Florida Holiday Lights

Photo: Charlston County Parks

Founded in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US and is often ranked as one of the best places in the world to see holiday lights. Nights of Lights is a long-standing tradition in the historic center of St. Augustine. Boasting 3 million lights, the display reflects the Spanish tradition of lighting candles in windows for Christmas. Stroll down the streets from November 20 this year to January 30, 2022, and slip back in time to experience the city’s 450 years of traditions.

Plaza de la Constitución is the heart of historic St. Augustine and Nights of Lights.  Anchoring the city since 1573, the plaza comes to life with twinkling lights in its numerous trees. Nearby Bridge of Lions, an elegant drawbridge, is beautifully lit during the holidays and links the mainland to 14-mile-long Anastasia Island.

Holiday lights are spread out around town, so hop in a trolley or horse-drawn carriage. From the sea, cruise in a boat to see waterfront displays or splurge for a spectacular view from the air with a helicopter tour over the multitude of lights reflected in the Matanzas River. Stay at North Beach Camp Resort on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and St. John’s River.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston SC Holiday Lights

Photo: Charlston County Parks

Celebrate the holidays in style at the Charleston Holiday Festival of Lights, a 3-mile drive-through James Island County Park. More than 700 displays with an estimated 2 million lights dazzle the eyes and elicit “oohs” and “aahs.” After the drive, tour the festival while the smell of roasting marshmallows draws passersby to the sweet goodies awaiting them and take a selfie with the 50-ton holiday-themed sand sculpture. The festival runs from November 12 to the end of the year.

Charleston Harbor glows on December 11 during the Charleston Holiday Parade of Boats. Participating boats must decorate from bow to stern. For a unique experience, watch the parade float by from the flight deck of the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

Oak Plantation Campground with 200 RV sites is conveniently located 10 miles from downtown Charleston.

Grapevine, Texas

Mosey on down to Grapevine in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, dubbed the Christmas Capitol of Texas. Over 40 days, Grapevine hosts 1,400 events ranging from strolling around animated light displays to creating your own handmade project, making it impossible to run out of holiday things to do. Grab a Grapevine Christmas Passport to participate in an Elf Adventure and explore Grapevine’s western heritage from homesteaders in the 1840s to Bonnie and Clyde’s gang in the 1930s.

The Gaylord Texan Resort features thousands of twinkling lights, a snow tubing hill with real snow, ice-skating, a carousel, and more. There is even an event at which teens won’t roll their eyes: two holiday-themed Escape Rooms. Staying at the hotel is not required to participate in many activities.

For the younger crew, take the kids on the Grapevine Vintage Railroads North Pole Express and let them experience the magic of the holiday classic book and movie, The Polar Express. The whole family can enjoy the Texas Star Dinner Theater Holiday Show, Parade of Lights on Main Street, or any of the Palace Theatre’s Christmas concerts.

Enjoy beautiful vistas while camping lakeside at Vineyards Campground & Cabins on Grapevine Lake.

Newport Beach, California

Newport Beach Holiday Lights

Photo: Charlston County Parks

Newport Beach is a fantastic place to celebrate the holidays. An over 100-year-old tradition, the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade boasts more than 200 uniquely decorated watercraft. The event is the largest boat parade on the West Coast. Sample delectable seafood at one of the bay restaurants while watching the parade any day from December 15–19, 2021.

Newport Beach Boat Holiday Lights

Photo: Charlston County Parks

Take a cruise from Newport Landing on brightly decorated boats, nightly throughout the month of December. Each cruise offers relaxing views of waterfront estates competing in the Ring of Lights contest in which homeowners lining Newport Bay festively embellish their homes, yachts, docks, and whole landscapes.

Make sure to reserve a campsite at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina well ahead of time as spots fill up early for beachfront RV sites.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Nothing says the holidays like… Vegas? Las Vegas does everything in grand style and the holidays are no exception.

Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory is a family favorite offering a lovely stroll through its three-acre cacti garden adorned with over a million lights. The walk is a unique sight with desert plants mixed with traditional cold-weather decorations. Don’t forget to sample the melt-in-your-mouth chocolates at the factory store.

Drive through 2 1/2 miles of Glittering Lights as the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s track is converted into tunnels of lights. Prices start at $25 per vehicle and $20–$25 per person for the Santa Tram. Opening night is November 12 and the event goes into the first week of the new year. Another fun place to see holiday lights is the Magical Forest at Opportunity Village, which delights children with train rides, visits with Santa, and even mini-golf! The Magical Forest is open from November 26 this year until January 2, 2022.

On trips to Vegas, our family never misses the Bellagio’s stunning Botanical Garden. Each year gardeners adorn the Bellagio’s 14,000-square-foot atrium with a new theme. My favorite display was larger-than-life playful polar bears made out of flowers, sliding down ice, and lounging on an iceberg. This year the exhibit runs from November 20 to January 1, 2022. Go early in the day to avoid crowds. In front of the hotel, wow the family with the world-famous Bellagio fountains that dance more than 400 feet into the air to holiday music ranging from the Hallelujah Chorus to Santa Baby.

Our favorite place to stay and play in Vegas is the Las Vegas KOA Journey at Sam’s Town.

Just because your home is on the road doesn’t mean you can’t immerse yourself in holiday lights and traditions. From coast to coast, enjoy the season in new and different places—no snow required.

Julie Perry Nelson
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