There’s nothing I like more during the holidays than to see holiday light displays. It makes me think back to my childhood, riding around in the car with my family “oohing” and “ahhing” at every house. Kansas City has some really spectacular lighting installations including one that has been on “Top Light Displays in the United States” lists for years. As we get closer to the holidays, it’s time to plan ahead. Many of these spots take things to the next level with live music and treats. So, pack your thermos of hot chocolate and head for the best holiday light displays in Kansas City!
1. Country Club Plaza Lights
When: The Lighting Ceremony will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and the lights are on until New Year’s Day.
After you’ve properly stuffed yourself with Thanksgiving foods, trot down to the Country Club Plaza for the Annual Lighting Ceremony. There’s live entertainment and local celebrities carrying you into the holiday season.
What started in 1925 with a single strand of Christmas lights hung above a store entrance has become one of the most famous holiday lighting displays in the nation. If you can’t make the lighting ceremony, you can view the lights by car or stroll around the Plaza from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day.
2. Powell Gardens Festival of Lights
When: Now through Dec. 30, 2021; Wednesday–Sunday, 4 to 10 p.m.
Known for putting on several fun festivals throughout the year, Powell Gardens in Kingsville, Mo., (southeast of Kansas City) really does the holiday season right. With 20 miles of lights strung around the gardens, buildings, and pathways, the walking path is bright with holiday cheer.
You’ll even find a holiday tiki bar, a huge snow globe, and Santa along the path. This is a popular spot at the holidays, so purchasing a timed ticket ahead of time is advised.
3. Christmas in the Park at Longview
When: Nov. 24 through Dec. 31, 2021, 5 to 10 p.m. (open until 11 p.m. on some evenings, check the schedule)
This year marks the 34th year of Christmas in the Park. The free drive-through Christmas light display starts at the Frank White Jr., Softball Complex and takes you to the Longview Lake Campground. As you might imagine, this gets a lot of visitors so a pro-tip is to pick up your dinner before heading to the line so you can keep everyone happy in the car while you wait.
They also collect donations for 30 local charities and have donated more than $1 million to charity over the years.
4. Lee’s Summit Magic Tree
When: The week of Thanksgiving through the first week of the year
During the holidays, if you are driving along I-470 and View High Drive you have undoubtedly seen the Magic Tree from the road. It’s hundreds of strands of brightly colored lights have become a popular place for winter photos.
The tree also lends a bit of magic to those who don’t visit in person. Partnering with a charity, Operation Toy Soldier, visitors are encouraged to leave a donation or give online.
5. The Luminary Walk at the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens
When: 10 nights in 2021 with timed entry tickets; Nov. 26 & 27, Dec. 2 (adults only), Dec. 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17 & 18, 2021 from 5 to 10 p.m. (Last entry at 9 p.m.)
Take a 1.5 mile walk through the woods and gardens all lit up for winter. You’ll be in for a real treat with live music throughout, hot apple cider, selfie photo stations, holiday trains, and Santa. Candles and twinkling light displays will wrap you in holiday memories in the making.
They have free parking on site and if you want a quiet evening, plan to go on Dec. 2 when it’s adults only.
6. Winter Magic in Swope Park
When: Now through Jan. 2, 2022
Benefiting Children’s Mercy Hospital and Kansas City Parks, Winter Magic offers guests a fantastic drive-thru experience. You need to purchase a ticket online in advance (charged per car), so fill up your van with all your friends and drive to Swope Park.
The route is a mile long, includes a 300-foot long light tunnel, and runs along Oakwood Drive. You’ll want to tune into the custom FM station to get the full effect of the lights and sounds. Food trucks will be on site as well.
7. Holiday Reflections at Union Station
When: Nov. 26 through Dec. 27, 2021, Monday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
You’ll find all kinds of holiday-inspired happenings at Union Station from screenings of holiday classic movies to a Christmas train. The Grand Plaza is also home to a spectacular lighting display called “Holiday Reflections”. You’ll pay $5 to walk through this magical holiday village wonderland.
This year they are adding holiday window displays to the installation. More than 70,000 people visited in 2020, so reserve your tickets early.
8. Parkville’s Christmas on the River
When: Dec. 3, 2021
While you can certainly experience the holiday lights and cheer around Parkville throughout the season, on Dec. 3 there’s a full festival to enjoy. You’ll find hayrides, carolers, hot beverages, and a holiday fireworks display over the river.
It’s also a great time to start your holiday shopping as the locally-owned stores will be open for browsing.
9. The Soul of Santa at 18th & Vine
When: Dec. 3, 4, 10, and 11, 2021
Starting with the official tree lighting ceremony in the 18th & Vine District on Dec. 3, the Soul of Santa will put you in a jazzy holiday mood. With a variety of events taking place over four days, you won’t want to miss out on the live music, community breakfasts, and toy giveaways.
The organization behind the events is Working to do good 365 days a year through their values of faith, love, inclusion, family, friendship and community.
And if you’re looking for a fun holiday-themed bar for a drink after looking at the lights in Kansas City, here are some ideas.
About the guest blogger
Jenn Beard is the founder of Cocktails Away—a collection of adventures in pursuit of a great drink, a quality spirit, a unique ingredient, and the places they come from. When not traveling, she lives in Kansas City. Check out her blog for mouthwatering recipes and insider tips on DIY bartending and cocktail culture or travel to bars around the world at @cocktailsaway.