Ever since Thomas Edison hung strings of electric lights outside his laboratory in New Jersey at Christmastime in 1881, bright lights on chilly winter nights have transformed regular neighborhoods, forests and parks into magical wonderlands. Whether Fido prefers walkies or riding shotgun, these pet-friendly exhibits will light up his life this holiday season.
Posted by Billy Francis
Your dog will love strolling through the hundreds of manicured acres on the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and featured in the 2021 edition of our Ruff Guide to the United States, this 8,000-acre property offers you and your furry friend over 20 miles of hiking trails and 2.5 miles of paths through manicured gardens. Relax with a glass of wine at Biltmore Winery’s Bistro or have a bite to eat at Cedric’s Tavern (named for George Vanderbilt’s Saint Bernard). If you’re visiting Asheville during the festive season, make sure you experience Christmas at Biltmore. This spellbinding event sees trees surrounding the huge estate sprinkled with fairy lights, creating a winter wonderland for you and your pooch to immerse yourselves in.
Tickets start at $84 per person. Biltmore Estate is decorated in Christmas cheer from November 5 through January 9. Located just outside the gates of the Biltmore Estate, the luxurious Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville awaits your pooch’s arrival. This Tudor-inspired property will greet Fido with treats and bowls at check-in.
Holiday Light Fantasia
Take a leisurely evening drive to Holiday Light Fantasia in greater Hartford. This 2-mile stretch of Goodwin Park becomes a drive-through wonderland during the season. From start to finish, you’ll gaze upon more than 1 million twinkling lights arranged in a variety of shapes, including holiday scenes, familiar characters and local tributes. There’s something for everybody, with 200 individual displays and animations for Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s.
Holiday Light Fantasia will be held 5 to 10 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, from Thanksgiving Day through January 2. Tickets start at $16 per car. Curl up with your canine this Christmas on a creek at this eco cottage in nearby Bloomfield.
Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Nevada’s largest drive-thru holiday light show is coming to town again this year. Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 2.5-mile Christmas light display that will surely brighten up Fido’s night. Different exhibits along the route tell stories of Christmas past, as you and your pooch look forward to Christmas future. If you spot one of Santa’s elves along the way, they have been known to sneak treats out of his sleigh for dogs to munch on during the show.
Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be held November 11 through January 9. Weekday value tickets start at $25 per car and $30 per car on weekends. When you're ready to turn in for the night, avoid the hectic Strip and choose the pet-friendly Best Western Plus North Las Vegas Inn & Suites, located near the Speedway.
Bright Nights at Forest Park
Since the first Christmas lights were strung in the trees for Bright Nights at Forest Park in Springfield, MA in 1995, more than 5 million people have gazed in wonder at the imaginative displays. The Victorian garden is transformed by 650,000 lights along a 3-mile driving route. The marvelous displays include Seuss Land, Winter Woods and Happy Holidays Springfield. One of the most intricate exhibits is a replica of Everett Barney's mansion, a local philanthropist who donated 178 acres of land to the park in 1884. Lucky dogs might meet a jolly greeter equipped with treats for pets at the entrance.
Bright Nights at Forest Park will be held from November 24 through January 2 (closed November 29 and 30.) Tickets are $23 per car. After Fido’s spellbinding drive through the park, spend the night at the nearby pet-friendly Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel.
Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights
Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights is truly a sight to behold. North Carolina’s most impressive Christmas light display invites people and their pups to trundle through the tunnel of lights, alongside illuminated golfers, Nativity sets and colorful arrangements.
Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights is open 6 to 11 p.m. from November 12 through January 1. Tickets start at $20 per car. See the lights, and then cruise along to a pet-friendly room at the Quality Inn Clemmons just five minutes away.
Winter Festival of Lights
Winter Festival of Lights in Oglebay takes the spectator experience to the next level. Human visitors are equipped with new 3D “Sleigh” Bans. These futuristic holographic glasses transform every point of light into a magical performance. One of the most popular light shows in the country, Festival of Lights welcomes more than a million people every year to marvel at 90 different exhibits. It’s also the longest on our list, encompassing 300 acres of twinkling lights over a 6-mile drive.
The Winter Festival of Lights will be held nightly from dusk to midnight from November 4 through January 9. A donation of $25 per vehicle is suggested. Take a break from driving at one of these cozy pet-friendly VRBO rentals nearby.
Lights Under Louisville
Most caves are full of history waiting to be discovered, but some contain stories yet to be told, like the Louisville Mega Cavern. Every year, Lights Under Louisville turns this former limestone mine into a twinkling underground spectacle. Enjoy a 30-minute, contact-less ride through part of the 17 miles of passageways. The display features 850 lit characters and a massive 3 million points of light, and is the only underground light show of its kind in the world.
Lights Under Louisville will be held from November 12 through January 2. Tickets start at $33 per car. Tour the cave for days with a stay at the Red Roof Inn Louisville. This pet-friendly budget hotel is located just across the road from the attraction.
Holiday Festival of Lights
Fido might already be familiar with the large off-leash area at James Island County Park in Charleston, but he may not recognize his favorite dog park covered in twinkling lights and Christmas decor at the Holiday Festival of Lights. Drive through a tunnel of lights and take in the sights of trees bathed in a warm glow and illuminated sculptures floating on the lake.
Holiday Festival of Lights is open 5:30 to 10 p.m. nightly from November 12 through December 31. Tickets start at $20 per vehicle. See what else the historic city of Charleston has to offer by extending your stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott Charleston Downtown.
Bull Run Festival of Lights
Illuminate Fido’s regular evening drive with a detour to Bull Run Festival of Lights in Centreville, VA. Taking place at Bull Run Regional Park, the light show invites you to turn off your headlights and coast through magical manmade surroundings with your mutt. If you want to avoid the crowds, weekends and the week before and after Christmas are the busiest times to visit.
Bull Run Festival of Lights will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. from November 11 through January 2. Tickets start at $25 per car. Enjoy lights out at nearby La Quinta Inn & Suites Manassas, located just outside Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Garden of d’Lights at The Ruth Bancroft Garden
Described as a “holiday light experience that will glow your mind,” Garden of d’Lights at The Ruth Bancroft Garden sees the cacti, succulents and trees at the garden burst into light, illuminated by incredible lasers and colorful bulbs. See the natural display year-round at The Ruth Bancroft Garden.
Garden of d’Lights at The Ruth Bancroft Garden will be held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (and select Thursdays) from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. on November 11 through January 2. Adult tickets are $24. Cuddle up with your pup at this cozy cottage in Walnut Creek.
Holiday Lights on the River Walk
See the spectacular bald cypress trees draped in 100,000 lights at Holiday Lights on the River Walk. Lined with inviting restaurants and stores, the beautiful San Antonio River Walk is always a crowd pleaser, but the historic area is even more spectacular during the festive season. Stop along the way at Rita's on the River for a margarita while your pooch tries something from the dog menu, like ice cream or white rice with zucchini and carrots.
Holiday Lights on the River Walk will be held from 5:30 p.m. to dawn on November 12 through January 10. Admission is free. Spend the night overlooking the lights at Drury Inn & Suites San Antonio Riverwalk.
St. Augustine Nights of Lights
At St. Augustine Nights of Lights, you and your best bud can marvel at the three million lights that decorate the historic district from dusk until dawn while enjoying one of the best small towns to spend Christmas with your pooch. Hop on a dog-friendly Red Train Trolley Tour or The Tasting Tours carriage ride to see the display, or walk with your hound across the Bridge of Lions to take in a spectacular view of the city all aglow.
St. Augustine Nights of Lights will be held nightly from November 20 through January 31. Admission is free. Spend the night at one of St. Augustine’s most loved pet-friendly spots, The Cozy Inn.
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