Day Trip Discoveries: Get in holiday spirit at The Lights of Christmas

Family fun in Stanwood.  (Photo courtesy The Lights of Christmas)

My Edmonds News is pleased to introduce our new monthly column, Day Trip Discoveries, by Julie Gangler

You don’t have to be a kid to catch the magic of The Lights of Christmas. This annual holiday event dazzles all ages with more than one million lights spread over 15 acres at Warm Beach Camp in Stanwood.

Cascade Splendor mountain scene. (Photo by Adam Buchanan for The Lights of Christmas)

Yes, you’ll see the anticipated reindeer, angels and a life-size nativity scene among the many elaborate light displays. Then look for local landscapes such as the animated beach scene with its setting sun and the huge “Cascade Splendor” mountain scene – it’s an amazing 247 feet long, composed of 60,000 individual lights.

Don’t miss this season’s new “Glad Tidings” light display of a Barkentine sailing ship – it is 18 feet long, 12.5 feet tall, and has 13 billowing sails. Walk through the colorful Light Maze and experience “The Night before Christmas,” a themed art display expanded with 3D glasses. Admire trees and shrubs at every turn festooned with colorful lights to create a true winter wonderland.

The Lights of Christmas claims to be the largest holiday light display in the Pacific Northwest that also includes live entertainment, children’s activities, a range of food offerings and holiday shopping. Begun in 1997, it seems to get bigger and better every December. This year the evening spectacle is open from 5 – 10 p.m. on Dec. 3-6, 10-13, 17-23 and 26-29.

Especially for families, The Lights of Christmas is a fun holiday outing. It has a wide range of kid-friendly activities, including – of course! – Santa Claus. Perhaps already familiar with Santa, many kids seem more intrigued with Bruce the Spruce, the talking Christmas tree. This season also offers more “Enchanting Events” characters: princesses, pixies and heroes for kids to meet.

The Polar Express train loops through the area – perfect for tots and older folks in particular to enjoy a comfortable overview of the light displays and attractions. Younger kids also love the pony rides, petting farm and Joyland Toy Shop, where they can make toys and holiday ornaments.

The Lights of Christmas entertainment.
The Lights of Christmas entertainment.

Adults and children alike enjoy listening to the Victorian carolers, storytellers and western and bluegrass musicians. Five stages feature hourly entertainment including these and traditional Christmas performances at the Joyland Concert Hall.

Tummy rumbles? Soothe with casual food and snacks such as chowder, mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread, donuts, popcorn, pastries, candy, hot chocolate and other beverages.

You can also opt to enjoy the Dinner Theatre, which features a five-course meal (three entrée choices) and live theater from 6:00 to 9:45 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday evenings, Dec. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19. This year’s production is a rollicking comedy, The Christmas Changeup by Victoria Ritchey. The Dinner Theatre is appropriate for age eight and older. Cost starts at $39 per person, which includes the evening admission price.

Or you can enjoy The Christmas Changeup during one of the Sunday Dessert Matinees, which entice with a delectable dessert. Dessert Matinees are featured from 4:00 to 6:15 p.m. Dec. 6, 13, and 20. Cost starts at $25 per person, which includes the evening admission price so you can see The Lights of Christmas afterwards.

Advance reservations for both the Dinner Theatre and Sunday Dessert Matinee are necessary; make them at

Admission to The Lights of Christmas is $16 for teens and adults (ages 13-59), $12 for seniors and military, $11 for kids (ages 4-12) and free for kids three and younger. You can buy tickets at the gate or at Dogs/pets and alcohol are not allowed.

For more details, directions or questions, visit or phone 360-652-7575 or 800-228-6724 (toll-free within Washington state).

Fun Factoids

  • The Lights of Christmas draws 60,000-70,000 people each December. The record crowd was 72,500 people last year.
  • Hanging the lights begins in early September; seven people work five days a week until opening day to set up all the light displays.
  • The million-plus lights include enough light strands – at least 18,000 – to stretch from Stanwood to CenturyLink Field stadium in Seattle.
  • Approximately one-third of the lights (330,000 lights) are purchased new every year.
  • After the event, the lights are taken down and displays disassembled to go into storage like a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Volunteers donate more than 20,000 hours to The Lights of Christmas each year, and 100-120 volunteers help staff the event each night.
  • The Lights of Christmas was just designated one of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2016 by the American Bus Association, making this annual list of the best events for group travel in the United States and Canada for the fourth time. It also won this designation in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Julie - headshot 2013

— By Julie Gangler

Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.


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