By sleigh or car, bring out the family to enjoy some of Dallas' best holiday displays.
WORDS BY STEPHANIE FAULK
This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of VisitDallas The Magazine. To see the entire issue and read other features, click here.
Nothing brings up feelings of nostalgia more than holiday lights. Growing up, my family piled into our forest green Suburban to gaze out the window almost every weekend in December – we couldn't get enough. My mom, our ringleader, was so eager to get in the spirit that our own tree usually went up early, on Halloween.
I have fond memories of our time in the car looking at lights and it's a tradition I've kept up with my own family today. Here are a few of our favorite places in Dallas to take in the sparkle of the season.
From those family drives as a child to now, neighborhood lights remain my favorite. Even as residential displays become more elaborate, there's something to the charm of simple string lights hung with care (and perhaps a little frustration) by the homeowner.
One of the city's toniest neighborhoods, Highland Park has everything from mansions decked out in professional exhibits to gingerbread-like houses you'll want to take a bite out of. Start at Armstrong Parkway and Preston Road and wind your way through a transfixing tour of lights. My son's favorite house has half a dozen giant jack-in-the-boxes with bobbing heads modeled after, what else, the homeowner's family members! Be sure to drive through Highland Park Village, a shopping center with trees wrapped trunk to tip.
While my mother is putting up the tree on Halloween, East Dallas' Swiss Avenue is positively packed with little goblins parading up and down the street begging candy off the festive homeowners. It's so popular that Adele even went trick or treating there in 2016 disguised as Jim Carrey's character in "The Mask." For the winter holidays, Swiss Avenue offers a taste of true turn-of-the-century elegance a la "It's A Wonderful Life."
South of Downtown lies the charming Kessler Park neighborhood in Oak Cliff. The lights are arranged annually by a group of volunteers; find five large, lit trees at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Lausanne Avenue and you know you're in the right spot. The Kessler Park neighborhood lights are even more beautiful backlit by the shimmering Dallas skyline.
TALL, TALL TREES
Every good tour of lights includes a towering tree or two. At least once a year we'll hop out of the car for a look at the tree at the Galleria Dallas. At 95 feet, it has the distinction of being the world's tallest indoor Christmas tree. It's majestic from any angle, but even more so viewed while skating around on the mall's signature ice rink.
Downtown's Klyde Warren Park makes a statement with a brilliant tree adorned in multicolored lights and topped with a massive starburst. Oversized trees need oversized décor, and a few blocks south of the park the Omni Dallas Hotel features a display of 13 lacquered red ball ornaments. At 10 feet in diameter and 1,200 pounds apiece, they're placed on the hotel's lawn every year by a crane.
WALK-THROUGH WINTER WONDERLANDS
Neighborhood lights will always have my heart, but my son loves the magic of massive, immersive lighting displays. Two of the first attractions to reopen this summer, The Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, also bring plenty of cheer for the holidays.
After the animals head in for the evening, the Dallas Zoo transforms into a winter wonderland with over one million twinkling lights illuminating ZooNorth. There are realistic silk-covered lanterns in the shape of your favorite animals and a mesmerizing light show timed to popular music.
In addition to thousands of twinkling lights in the trees, Holiday at the Arboretum presents the magnificent The 12 Days of Christmas outdoor exhibit. Twelve 25-foot Victorian-style gazebos depict scenes from the traditional carol, from Twelve Drummers Drumming to a Partridge in a Pear Tree. I guarantee you've never seen anything like it.