Mission Inn Festival of Lights Wins Top Honors

St. Augustine, Charleston, Couer d'Alene and Pine Mountain displays also winners

The competition for Best Public Lights Display was intense, and from the 20 nominees selected by Deborah Norville of Inside Edition, the Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in Riverside, Calif. came out on top, earning the honor of being called America's Best Public Lights Display.

  • Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill
    Clifton Mill

    The Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill in Clifton, Ohio lights up with over 4 million lights from November 28 to January 1. The historic mill, gorge, riverbanks, bridges and trees are covered in twinkling bulbs for the event, which includes a 100-foot "waterfall" of lights. The event also features an outdoor miniature Christmas village, Santa Claus Museum, a Toy Collection from holidays past and Santa's Workshop, where visitors can peek in on Mr. Claus as he checks his list and heads up the chimney to load his sleigh.
    Photo courtesy of Tina Lawson/Flickr

  • Garden Lights
    Atlanta Botanical Garden

    Atlanta Botanical Garden gets transformed into a magical holiday fantasy land during Garden Lights. From November 5 to January 3, the garden lights up with multihued displays (more than 1 million bulbs in total) including the guest favorite Orchestral Orbs and Radiant Rainforest. Guests are encouraged to meander through the displays, hot beverage in hand, to the sounds of wandering carolers.
    Photo courtesy of Atlanta Botanical Garden

  • Dominion Garden of Lights-Norfolk Botanical Garden

    From Thanksgiving night to Dec. 31, visitors to the Norfolk Botanical Garden can see over a million lights from the comfort of their cars during Dominion Garden of Lights. Displays along the 2-mile drive celebrate the four seasons during the 20th installment of this popular regional holiday tradition.
    Photo courtesy of Norfolk Botanical Garden

  • Christmas on Main Street
    Silver Dollar City

    Christmas on Main Street, part of the park-wide An Old Time Christmas event at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., sees the park bedecked in some 5 million lights. Taking place from November 1 to December 30, the highlight of the event is the 5-story special effects Christmas tree covered in 350,000 LED lights, which along with the lights on nearby storefronts and trees, dance in unison during the Light Spectacular several times each evening.
    Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City

  • Magic Christmas in Lights
    Bellingrath Gardens

    Just outside of Mobile, Ala., Bellingrath Gardens celebrates the holidays with Magic Christmas in Lights. From November 28 to January 3, over 3 million lights illuminate some 1,000 displays scattered throughout the 65-acre garden estate. Nightly choral performances and holiday finery inside the Bellingrath home add to the holiday cheer.
    Photo courtesy of Bellingrath Gardens

  • Fantasy in Lights
    Callaway Gardens

    The beautiful Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga. celebrates the season with more than 8 million lights and 15 holiday scenes during Fantasy in Lights. From November 21 to December 30, visitors can experience one of the top lights displays in the South, and the on-site Christmas Village includes photo ops with Santa, gift shopping and holiday treats.
    Photo courtesy of Callaway Gardens

  • Holiday Lights Show
    Coeur d'Alene Resort

    The Holiday Lights Show, the nation's largest on-the-water lights display, illuminates Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Resort with more than 1.5 million bulbs from November 28 to January 4. Aboard a Journey to the North Pole cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene, guests are transported to Santa's North Pole Toy Workshop, home to one of the world's tallest Christmas trees.
    Photo courtesy of Dustin Weed from Quicksilver Studios

  • Holiday Festival of Lights
    James Island

    During Charleston's Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park, taking place November 14 to January 1, visitors enjoy a driving tour of more than 700 displays and 2 million lights. The event also offers the chance to park the car and see lights up close on a holiday train, ride a Victorian carousel, sample treats from Santa's Sweet Shoppe and admire seasonally-themed sand sculptures and gingerbread houses.
    Photo courtesy of Piwakawaka Photo

  • Nights of Lights
    Downtown St. Augustine

    Historic Downtown St. Augustine gets decked in millions of tiny white lights during the holiday Nights of Lights celebrations from November 22 to February 1. The oldest city in the USA draws on the Spanish tradition of placing white candles in the window during the holidays, but takes it to new festive heights with more than 2 million points of light within the 144-square-block historic district during the free holiday event.
    Photo courtesy of FloridasHistoricCoast.com

  • Festival of Lights
    Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

    During the Festival of Lights from November 28 to January 6, Main Street in Downtown Riverside transforms into a colorful winter wonderland (but with pleasant SoCal weather), featuring 4 million lights at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. The free event also includes seasonal shopping and more holiday decor on Main Street, appearances by Santa, the world's largest man-made mistletoe and the Inland Empire's first outdoor skating rink.
    Photo courtesy of The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa

The free SoCal holiday event transforms Main Street and the Mission Inn into a twinkling winter wonderland, complete with SoCal weather. How can you beat that?

Night of Lights in Downtown St. Augustine on the opposite side of the country came close, with a solid second place finish. Rounding out the top five were the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, Holiday Lights Show in Coeur d'Alene and Fantasy in Lights in Pine Mountain.

The winners of 'Best Public Lights Display' category in our USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest are as follows:

  1. Festival of Lights - Mission Inn Hotel & Spa
  2. Nights of Lights - Downtown St. Augustine
  3. Holiday Festival of Lights - James Island
  4. Holiday Lights Show - Coeur d'Alene Resort
  5. Fantasy in Lights - Callaway Gardens
  6. Magic Christmas in Lights - Bellingrath Gardens
  7. Christmas on Main Street - Silver Dollar City
  8. Dominion Garden of Lights-Norfolk Botanical Garden
  9. Garden Lights - Atlanta Botanical Garden
  10. Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill - Clifton Mill

Congratulations to all our winners. Many of these displays run through the end of the year, so get out and enjoy some holiday cheer!

 

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Deborah Norville

Deborah Norville

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