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12 Magical Drive-Through Christmas Light Displays Across Canada

The best places to enjoy this cherished holiday tradition from the safety of your own car.

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Illumi Christmas lights festivalPhoto: Illumi

Celebrating the holidays from afar

Nothing signals the start of the holiday season quite like the multi-coloured glow of Christmas lights hung up as far as the eye can see. For many Canadians, a tour through the extravagant light displays and festivals across the country has become a much-loved holiday tradition. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, that tradition continues—albeit from the comfort and safety of your car. These drive-through Christmas light displays offer a contactless and physically-distanced opportunity to seize the holiday spirit. So cue up your favourite holiday playlist and fill a flask with hot chocolate for the ride—just don’t forget your face masks and hand sanitizer.

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Simcoe Christmas Panorama lights festivalPhoto: Simcoe Christmas Panorama/Facebook

Christmas Panorama in Simcoe, Ontario

Head to the Simcoe Christmas Panorama in Norfolk County for a spectacular show that the entire community helps to host. Now going into its 62nd year, Panorama is the oldest light festival in Ontario and in a normal year, attracts as many as 60,000 visitors from across the province. In addition to their signature River of Lights—hundreds of thousands of lights displayed in downtown parks and along the Lynn River—nearby residents are also encouraged to flex their festive muscle and decorate their homes as part of the tour. To make the most of your trip, follow their recommended route for the best drive-through Christmas light experience.

When: December 5 to January 3
Cost: Free

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Ontario Power Generation Festival of Lights in Niagara FallsPhoto: Niagara Falls Tourism

Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls, Ontario

You’re likely familiar with Niagara Falls as the home of Canada’s most famous natural wonder, but the view is made even more breathtaking during the holidays—thanks in part to over three million twinkling lights. Founded in 1982, the Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights is the country’s biggest illumination festival. With a warm drink in hand, visitors can explore the eight kilometre-long route featuring a glittering light tunnel, animated displays and of course, Santa’s sleigh.

When: November 14 to January 10
Cost: Free

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Winter Wonder Forest lights display in EdmontonPhoto: Winter Wonder Forest/Facebook

Winter Wonder Forest in Edmonton, Alberta

Get into a yuletide mood with a drive through this campground-turned-enchanted forest. A festive assemblage of light displays, ice sculptures and wood carvings at Winter Wonder Forest will have you craning out of the car window. You can also book your ticket to coincide with special events like musical performances, and if you’re lucky, a chance to say a quick hello to Santa, Mrs. Claus and the reindeer. In the spirit of giving, bring non-perishable food donations to drop off at the Food Bank of Edmonton’s display.

When: November 27 to January 3
Cost: $30 per car ($40 on December 25-26, 31 and January 1)

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BHP Enchanted Holiday Forest light display in Saskatoon, SaskatchewanPhoto: BHP Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Escape the stress of 2020 with a carefree cruise through Saskatoon’s BHP Enchanted Forest. From a life-sized homage to the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team to a soaring Noah’s Ark—the biggest of over 65 displays—there’s no shortage of sparkling vignettes to admire. This year, you can travel through a new light tunnel built as a tribute to essential service providers. Proceeds from this contact-free attraction will go towards the Saskatoon Zoo Foundation and the City Hospital Foundation.

When: November 20 to January 8
Cost: $10 per person or $35 per car

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Illumi light festival in Laval, QuebecPhoto: Illumi

Illumi in Laval, Quebec

Prepare to be thoroughly dazzled on a magical journey through Illumi, a wondrous world brought to life with a whopping 20-million LED bulbs. Created by one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil, the awe-inspiring three-kilometre drive will immerse you in winter wonderlands as well as a majestic savannah and a breathtaking garden. This is one car ride you’ll remember long after the holidays!

When: November 18 to January 31
Cost: Varies by age, date and time slot

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Glow Gardens light display in Langley, British ColumbiaPhoto: Glow Gardens Langley

Glow Gardens in Langley, British Columbia

Here’s a Christmas light show that comes with some tasty snacks. The 15-minute drive through Langley, B.C.’s Glow Gardens begins with a welcome from Santa’s elves, complete with a complementary bag of mini-donuts, popcorn and a souvenir ornament, all included in the purchase of a pass. As you munch, roll down the windows for a glimpse of a glittering glacial foyer, 100-foot animated light tunnel and a three-storey shimmering tree. Bonus: You can order holiday poinsettias and pick them up on-site.

When: November 26 to January 2
Cost: $29.99 per car

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Magic of Lights in Ottawa - Car driving through light tunnelPhoto: Magic of Lights/Facebook

Magic of Lights in Ottawa, Ontario

Experience classic scenes animated by a million lights at the Magic of Lights benefitting the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Each twist and turn of the winding road in Wesley Clover Parks brings you right up to captivating displays like the Night Before Christmas and Toyland. Just sit back, relax and let your heart be light.

When: November 13 to January 9
Cost: $20 per car

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Lions Festival of Lights in CalgaryPhoto: Lions Festival of Lights

Lions Festival of Lights in Calgary, Alberta

While the holidays won’t be the same this year, there are still some things worth celebrating. For the past three decades, the Lions Festival of Lights has been spreading holiday cheer throughout the city as the largest, free drive-by showcase. While it’ll be smaller this time around, organizers and volunteers have worked hard to ensure that all who pass by can experience its joyfulness with a more “retro” display. See if you can spot the “Merry Christmas” lights!

When: November 29 to January 9
Cost: Free

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WinterLights in VancouverPhoto: WinterLights/Facebook

WinterLights in Vancouver, British Columbia

Kickstart your Yuletide festivities at WinterLights—an interactive drive-through Christmas light display that puts visitors on a mission to find jolly old St. Nick. Special characters and performers provide help along the way, while Christmas carols set the mood for an impromptu carpool karaoke amongst the colourful spectacle of lights. Once you’ve spotted the 50-foot purple Christmas tree, keep your eyes peeled for Santa and his elves!

When: December 11-13 and 17-23
Cost: Starting at $39 per car

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Night of Lights in VaughanPhoto: Night of Lights

Night of Lights in Vaughan, Ontario

If you can’t get enough of holiday tunes, this drive-through Christmas light display is not to be missed. At Night of Lights, more than one million LED lights are animated and synchronized to your favourite songs of the season—you just need a functioning FM radio to listen (and probably dance) along. For those who don’t have a car, the festival has partnered with a rideshare company for a sweet deal that includes pick-up and drop-off from your doorstep, and a cruise around the route.

When: November 20 to January 7
Cost: Starting at $25 per car

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Drive-through light displays across Canada - Uxbridge Fantasy of LightPhoto: Stephen Wright Photography

Fantasy of Lights in Uxbridge, Ontario

This is one holiday event that’s sure to put the entire family in a good mood! The Optimist Club of Uxbridge is hosting its annual Fantasy of Lights drive-through featuring over 75 displays from various groups, businesses, schools and families from across the Uxbridge area. If you’re in a rush to go home and enjoy a Christmas feast while video chatting your loved ones, the route should only take about 15 minutes. The festival is free but they’ll be accepting donations that will go towards local youth initiatives.

When: December 5 to January 2
Cost: Free (Donations accepted)

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Drive-through light displays across Canada - Bingeman's Gift of LightsPhoto: Gift of Lights

Gift of Lights in Kitchener, Ontario

If you’re on the hunt for an impressive background for that perfect holiday photo, stop by Bingeman’s Gift of Lights. The festival has not just one, but two light tunnels—each over 150 feet long. Once you’ve driven through those, there’s still over 300 static and animated displays to marvel at throughout the 2.5 kilometre route. Itching to get out of the car? There’ll be three special nights where guests will be permitted to walk through the route—with space for physical distancing—in support of organizations like the Grand River Hospital Foundation and The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

When: November 14 to January 2
Cost: Starting at $20 per car

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