Sertoma Winter Wonderland

Comparing Minnesota’s drive-thru holiday light shows

The COVID pandemic forced us to pause beloved holiday traditions. As we enter a second holiday season battling COVID, new traditions are starting to stick, including drive-thru holiday light shows.

Below is a list of holiday drive-thru light shows in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, each boasting more than 100,000 lights. 

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’ll make updates to this article as the season progresses.

I would love to hear about the drive-thru shows you have attended. Feel free to comment at the bottom of this page. 

If you organize a drive-thru light show not listed below, please submit information here. Display organizers must reach out to Give Me The Mike in order to be included. 

Some things to note: Bentleyville, located in Duluth, reverted back to a walk-thru only display for 2021, hence why they are not listed on this page. GLOW at the State Fairgrounds is a walk-thru only display as well.

For those looking, Holiday Lights in the Park at Phalen Park in Saint Paul ended in 2016. 

My 2021 Minnesota Holiday Lights Display Guide, presented by Winter Lights at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, is now available! Check it out here. That Guide features residential and drive-thru displays 

Happy holidays!

Give Me The Mike’s 2021 Drive-Thru Light Show Guide is fueled by White Bear Mitsubishi

I was on KSTP-TV’s Minnesota Live to break down the differences between these light displays

video available on the desktop version of this Guide

Shows charging admission

Sam’s Christmas Village

710 Spring Street, Somerset, WI 54025

November 26, 2021-January 2, 2022 (closed Christmas Eve)

Tickets: $15 adults, $10 kids ages 4-10, free kids 2 and under (available at entrance, cash or credit card)

$7.50 for members of the military (bring your military ID)

Monday-Tuesday are drive-thru only

Wednesday-Sunday are walk-thru only

8 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

THINGS TO NOTE FOR 2021: Ticket prices went up $3 per adult. Kids who are free is now 2 and under (vs. 3 and under)

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.

2021 marks Sam’s third season, and they have promised 30 new light displays.

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. 

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.

Sever’s Holiday Lights

3121 150th Street W, Shakopee, MN 55379

November 26, 2021-January 2, 2022

Sunday-Thursday from 5:00-9:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday from 5:00-10:00 p.m.

Tickets: $25 per car Sunday-Thursday, except 12/16 – 12/23; otherwise $35 per car

Cars with 8+ people cost $40 – 50

2.5 million lights

Route takes 15 minutes and you are able to drive-thru the experience as many times as you’d like

THINGS TO NOTE FOR 2021: Their ticket price structure changed. They have surge nights around Christmas and on the weekends, so it does pay to go Sunday – Thursday if you can get down there. 

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.

In 2020, 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.

The show features “new age” lights, so it’s bright. What I’m hoping they improve for 2021 is the entrance to the route (it sure wasn’t smooth) and that they make a route a bit longer. 

Christmas in Color at Valleyfair

1 Valley Fair Drive, Shakopee, MN 55379

November 19, 2021-January 2, 2022 (closed Thanksgiving & Christmas Day)

Timeslots available every half hour from 5:30 – 10:00 pm

Tickets: $35 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

THINGS TO NOTE IN 2021: Prices went up $5 per vehicle.

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 eight 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 $35 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.

Miracle at Big Rock

1674 State Highway 87
Saint Croix Falls, WI 54024

November 26, 2021-January 2, 2022

Monday-Wednesday from 4:30-10:00 p.m.; Thursday–Sunday from 4:00-10:00 p.m.

Monday-Wednesday are drive-thru only

Thursday-Sunday are walk-thru only

Tickets: $35 per vehicle for drive-thru nights

For walk-thru: $17 adults, $12 kids 4 – 12, 3 and under free

Parking is free

I have not attended Miracle at Big Rock, which is new in 2021

Nature Illuminated

Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley, MN 55124

December 2, 2021-January 16, 2022 (driving tour ends January 2, 2022)

Sunday-Thursday from 5:00-9:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday from 5:00-11:00 p.m.

Tickets: $35 – 60 per vehicle for non-members, members save $15

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

THINGS TO NOTE IN 2021: From December 2-January 2, Nature Illuminated will be a drive-thru experience. Then, from January 6-16, it will be a walk-thru experience. Tickets for the walk-thru are $14-20 per person.

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 one of the most expensive ‘price per vehicle’ option.

Sertoma Winter Wonderland

14250 Conservation Drive, Baxter, MN 56425

November 25-December 31, 2021

Wednesday-Saturday from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

200,000 lights

Tickets: $20 at gate, $10 in advance (not available online)

THINGS TO NOTE FOR 2021: Prices went up $5 per vehicle.

Credit cards are not accepted at the gate.

Free drive-thru displays

Rotary Lights, Inc.

510 Veterans Memorial Drive, La Crosse, WI 54601

November 26-December 31, 2021

7 nights a week from 5:00-10:00 p.m. (5:00-9:00 p.m. December 24-25; 5:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. December 31)

3 million lights

Collecting cash and non-perishable food donations

Kiwanis Holiday Lights

Sibley Park, 901 Park Lane, Mankato, MN 56001

November 26-December 31, 2021

5:00-9:00 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5:00-10:00 p.m. Friday-Saturday

1.8 million lights

Includes visits from Santa on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 5:00-9:00 p.m. through December 19

Live reindeer, skating rink (bring your own skates), concession stand including mini donuts! 

Cash donations will be collected to support the event and its nonprofit volunteers, as well as non-perishable items for the 20 area food shelves that are participating

Sleepy Eye Holiday Lights in Motion

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

November 25, 2021–January 2, 2022

Sunday–Thursday from 5:00–10:00 p.m.; Friday-Saturday from 5:00-11:00 p.m.

350,000 lights

Free-will donations accepted

Palmer’s Christmas Lights Display

49307 Clover Trail, Rush City, MN 55069
Facebook page

November 19, 2021–January 2, 2022

Sunday-Thursday from 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.; Friday–Saturday from 5:00 – 11:00 p.m.

150,000 lights

Turn your vehicle’s radio to 93.5 FM to hear music synched to lights

Valley Lights

5825 Kelvin Avenue, Lake Elmo, MN 55042

November 26–December 31, 2021

7 nights a week from 5:00 – 10:00 p.m.

100,000+ lights

Operated by Rockpoint Church

Know of a drive-thru display not listed?

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