January 15, 2021

Give Me The Mike

Exploring Minnesota and Beyond.

Comparing Minnesota’s drive-thru holiday light shows

A guide of the drive-thru holiday light shows happening around Minnesota and Western Wisconsin in 2020.

We are in a holiday season like no other. Fortunately, thanks to so many creative people, you can still safely enjoy the twinkle of big holiday light shows throughout Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. All you need is a car.

I compiled this list of drive-thru light shows happening in 2020. Each one has more than 100,000 lights on display.

I split this guide into two sections: one with displays that charge admission, and the other showcasing free drive-thru displays. The listings in each section are ordered by the number of lights they have on display.

I attended nearly all of the ticketed drive-thru shows and provided some notes to help you decide which one is best for you.

I would love to hear about the drive-thru shows you have attended. Feel free to comment at the bottom of this page. I’m also happy to answer your questions!

If you are looking for more free light shows, my 2020 Minnesota Holiday Lights Display Guide features more than 150 displays. If you organize a drive-thru light show not listed below, please submit information here.

Happy holidays!


Shows charging admission

Sam’s Christmas Village

710 Spring Street, Somerset, WI 54025
samschristmasvillage.com

  • Thru January 2nd, 2021 (closed Christmas Eve)
  • Tickets: $12 adults, $10 kids ages 4 – 10, free kids 3 and under (available at entrance, cash or credit card)
  • $6 for members of the military (bring your military ID)
  • Mondays – Tuesdays are drive-thru only
  • Wednesdays – Sundays are walk-thru only
  • 6 million+ lights
  • Sam’s officials say route takes 20-25 minutes to drive-thru and you are able to drive-thru the experience as many times as you’d like

WHO IT’S BEST FOR: Sam’s Christmas Village is for those who want to make looking at lights a full-evening holiday experience. You’re able to buy snacks, beverages, and if you wanted to park your car, you could find yourself in your own s’mores cabin complete with bonfire and a visit from Santa.

This is the second year of Sam’s, and as they continue to grow, I would love to see them theme their displays even more with signage and different types of music. Sam’s does not have an audio tour.

Note that only Mondays and Tuesdays are drive-thru nights at Sam’s, and personally, I feel that Sam’s is best as a walk-thru experience. If you do walk-thru Sam’s, please, for the sake of pickle roll ups, wear a face covering.

Do your math before you head out to Sam’s. They are doing tickets by person, and not by vehicle like the other displays. If you have a big family with a bunch of kiddos, this easily could be the most expensive option. On the other hand, it’s reasonable for a date night. I should note they charge $10 to park your car (cash only) if you go Wednesday – Sunday.

Sam’s Christmas Village is a sponsor of Give Me The Mike’s 2020 Minnesota Holiday Lights Display Guide


Bentleyville “Tour of Lights”

Bayfront Festival Park, 700 Railroad Street, Duluth, MN 55802
bentleyvilleusa.org

  • Thru December 27th, 2020
  • Tickets: $10 per vehicle (available at entrance, cash or credit card)
  • 5 million lights
  • Route takes approximately 20 minutes and you are only able to drive-thru the experience once

WHO IT’S BEST FOR: If you miss the closed Holiday Lights in the Park at Lake Phalen in Saint Paul and don’t mind waiting, Bentleyville is the place for you.

This display is quite impressive. It’s a traditional light show, comparable to Sam’s Christmas Village, but Bentleyville is a bit more compact, which makes it more mesmerizing. Everywhere you look, there are lights. Above you, to your left, to your right, in the distance. And the displays are very well done. In addition to lights, Bentleyville has displays from the former Dayton’s (Macy’s) 8th floor display in Downtown Minneapolis.

The downfall about Bentleyville is waiting to get in to Bentleyville. I went on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the line of cars waiting to get in stretched for blocks. And once you get into the parking lot, you enter another queue. I have heard people have waited up to three hours for this experience that lasts 20 minutes. And you can only see it once unless you go back to the end of the line.

Unlike GLOW at the State Fairgrounds and Christmas in Color at Valleyfair, you cannot make a reservation for Bentleyville. Their website does have a calendar that predicts what nights will be less busy.

However, at $10, the price is a bargain. Pack some snacks, bring a game you can play in the car, and play some holiday tunes on the radio.


Sever’s Holiday Lights

3121 150th Street W, Shakopee, MN 55379
seversholidaylights.com

  • Thru January 3rd, 2021
  • Sundays – Thursdays from 5:00 – 9:00 pm, Fridays – Saturdays from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • Tickets: $7 per person, $25 per car maximum (you must make a reservation for a specific time slot)
  • 1.2 million lights
  • Route takes 15 minutes and you are able to drive-thru the experience as many times as you’d like

WHO IT’S BEST FOR: Sever’s Holiday Lights is best if you want a locally owned LED light show synched to music. The display, right off of Highway 169 in Shakopee, looks impressive off the road. At $25 for a full car, it’s the best bargain of the Twin Cities light shows, too.

After opening on Thanksgiving, the Sever family quickly knew they needed to adapt their ticket procedure because of long lines. Instead of buying a ticket that you can use anytime, you now buy tickets for a specific time slot, just like GLOW and Christmas in Color. Bravo to them for adjusting.

Sever’s is the only display on this list that gives you a tote bag with goodies when you arrive. Their lights are set to music on a radio station, 87.9 FM. The show features “new age” lights, so it’s bright.

Sever’s is located on farm land, so the road on their property isn’t a road at all, and it got a bit rough. The people in my car would have liked Sever’s to light up the trees leading up to the ticket booth, too. We did not see Santa the night we went. Also, the concession booth was closed.

Sever’s Holiday Lights is a sponsor of Give Me The Mike’s 2020 Minnesota Holiday Lights Display Guide


GLOW Holiday Festival

1265 Snelling Avenue N, Falcon Heights, MN 55108 (you don’t enter at this address)
glowholiday.com

  • Thru January 3rd, 2021
  • Tickets: $46 per vehicle (you must make a reservation for a specific time slot)
  • 1 million+ lights
  • GLOW officials say route takes 35-40 minutes and you are only able to drive-thru the experience once

WHO IT’S BEST FOR: GLOW is for those who want to see lights without bouncing around town. You get a specific time slot, and with the experience timed to a science, you will be back on the road in 45 minutes.

GLOW does have a cool light display that’s reflected against the 4-H Building that you park and watch. They also have an audio tour that blends in some State Fair history. The audio tour has some corny sponsored content (wait until you get to the Chevy Silverado), but overall it was nice.

I went to GLOW before it was open to the public, and the crew in my car felt that traffic flow was a bit chaotic. You will park your car at certain points and then you rely on people directing traffic to get back going. They weren’t always the most clear, and considering it’s dark outside and many cars have their headlights off, I got anxious.

You’re going to see Santa at the beginning of GLOW. We were promised candy canes and a visit from Santa, but he didn’t stop by our car and we didn’t get candy canes. Maybe I was a bad boy this year. There’s also a drive-thru food court at the end of GLOW. They rotate, so check ahead. I was underwhelmed by the list. I wanted more traditional fair fare. And the Pronto Pup booth was closed the night I went.

Something to keep in mind: the coolest part about GLOW are the video shows (not the Prince show, it’s a bust). They are going to be on display in front of you. If you have littles in the back seat, it may be tough for them to see, especially if there are other cars parked in front of you.


Christmas in Color at Valleyfair

1 Valley Fair Drive, Shakopee, MN 55379
christmasincolor.co

  • Thru January 3rd, 2021 (closed Christmas Day)
  • Sundays – Thursdays from 5:30 – 10:00 pm, Fridays – Saturdays from 5:30 – 10:30 pm
  • Tickets: $30 per vehicle (you must make a reservation for a specific time slot)
  • 1 million lights
  • Route takes approximately 20 minutes and you are only able to drive-thru the experience once

WHO IT’S BEST FOR: Christmas in Color is the show that combines everything together. It has LED lights that sing, big lit trees, an impressive entrance, and plenty of tunnels.

Christmas in Color is not a locally produced show. They have five other shows simultaneously happening around the country. So if there’s a downfall, I would say that you’re not spending your money with a Minnesotan-owned company.

Christmas in Color takes place in the parking lot of Valleyfair. We arrived about 15 minutes before our scheduled start time and no issue getting in. At $30 per vehicle, Christmas in Color is more expensive than Sever’s, but a better deal than GLOW.

I had a couple people accompany me for these light shows (shout out to Josh and Holly) and Christmas in Color was hands down their favorite. Christmas in Color had lights to your left, to your right, and plenty above you with light tunnels. This show would be perfect if your car has a sunroof.


Nature Illuminated

Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley, MN 55124
mnzoo.org/natureilluminated

  • Thru January 17th, 2021
  • Sundays – Thursdays from 5:00 – 9:00 pm, Fridays – Saturdays from 5:00 – 11:00 pm
  • Tickets: $25 – 35 per vehicle for members, $50 – 60 per vehicle for non-members (you must make a reservation for a specific time slot)
  • Route takes approximately 20-25 minutes and you are only able to drive-thru the experience once

WHO IT’S BEST FOR: Nature Illuminated is best for a family with kids who are obsessed with animals.

The light displays are impressive and the Zoo produced the whole experience well. The route goes through the Zoo’s parking lot, although you don’t really notice that you’re in a parking lot. You will not go past actual animals.

The audio tour you can play in your car is really informative and doesn’t have annoying sponsor mentions like the audio tour at the State Fairgrounds. I highly recommend it. You’ll play it off a smart phone with internet.

Keep this show in your back pocket because you have until mid-January to visit. Nature Illuminated has no reference to Christmas or the holidays, so if you are looking for a traditional Christmas lights show, this isn’t it.

The catch for many will be the price. If you’re not a member of the Zoo and you want to go on a weeknight, you’ll be paying $50 per vehicle. If you go on a Friday or Saturday, get ready to pay $60. Now, it does support the animals at the Zoo, but this is the most expensive ‘price per vehicle’ option.


Sertoma Winter Wonderland

14250 Conservation Drive, Baxter, MN 56425
sertomawinterwonderland.com

  • Thru December 31st, 2020
  • Wednesdays – Saturdays from 5:30 – 8:30 pm
  • 200,000 lights
  • Tickets: $15 at gate, $10 in advance (not available online)

I have not attended this show yet, but I’m hoping to head up to Baxter, which is near Brainerd, to check it out. If you have attended, please comment below with your thoughts!


Free drive-thru displays

Rotary Lights, Inc.

510 Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601
rotarylights.org

  • Thru January 1st, 2021
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm (5:00 – 9:00 pm December 24th and 25th; 5:00 pm – 1:00 am December 31st)
  • 3.5 million lights
  • Collecting cash and non-perishable food donations

Celebrate the Light of the World

Robbins Island Regional Park, North Highway 71, Willmar, MN 56201
celebratethelight.net

  • Thru January 1st, 2021
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • 800,000 lights
  • All donations are distributed to four local non-profits: Habitat for Humanity of West Central MN, Kandiyohi County Area Food Shelf, United Way of West Central MN, and the Salvation Army

Litchfield Christmas Lights

527 S Marshall Avenue, Litchfield, MN 55355

  • Thru December 31st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • 600,000 lights

Sleepy Eye Holiday Lights in Motion

Highway 4 North, Sleepy Eye, MN 56085 (on the north shore of Sleepy Eye Lake)
sleepyeyeholidaylights.org

  • Thru January 1st, 2021
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • 350,000 lights
  • Free-will donations accepted

Westwood Community Church Christmas Lights Drive Thru

3121 Westwood Drive, Chanhassen, MN 55331
6301 Cecilia Circle, Bloomington, MN 55439
westwoodcc.org/lights

  • Fridays – Saturdays, December 4 – 5 & 11 – 12
  • Fridays – Saturdays from 5:30 – 8:30 pm
  • 130,000 lights (Chanhassen), 50,000 lights (Bloomington)

Palmer’s Christmas Lights Display

49307 Clover Trail, Rush City, MN 55069
Facebook page

  • Thru January 3rd, 2021
  • 7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 pm
  • 105,000 lights
  • Homeowners hand out candy canes on Friday nights (when it’s not too cold)

Valley Lights

5825 Kelvin Avenue, Lake Elmo, MN 55042

  • Thru December 31st, 2020
  • 7 nights a week from dusk – midnight
  • 100,000 lights
  • Operated by Rockpoint Church

Need more lights?

View Give Me The Mike’s 2020 Holiday Lights Display Guide, with more than 150 displays around Minnesota and Western Wisconsin


Know of a drive-thru display not listed?

Encourage organizers to list in Give Me The Mike’s 2020 Minnesota Holiday Lights Display Guide. It’s free! Please fill out this form.