In America, we use the holidays as an excuse to turn even the frumpiest house into an over-the-top Christmas light show. The tradition has taken on a life of its own, and these bedazzled streets are known as Candy Cane Lanes. Blocks of suburban streets, and sometimes entire neighborhoods, come together to decorate their homes like something straight out of Santa’s North Pole Village (well, some look more like a string-light factory exploded, but we’ll leave that for you to decide).
We’ve put together a list of some of the best places to see Christmas lights, although you might be surprised by their locations, especially because many of them don’t get any actual snow. And one is Milwaukee…you go, Milwaukee! Way to represent.
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is known for being glittery all the time, so why wouldn’t its citizens want to participate in displays of holiday excess? Hop behind the wheel and brave the I-5 freeway, because you’re in the mood to see some Christmas light shows, goshdangit! Los Angeles is huge, and you can find Candy Cane Lanes in several neighborhoods. Check out Naples Island in Long Beach, El Segundo, or Woodland Hills. Woodland Hills is perhaps the most highly trafficked attraction, which includes eight blocks of good tidings and high electricity bills that are best experienced in December after 6 p.m.
Alright, so Torrance is technically part of L.A. county, but a display this spectacular deserves its own shout out. In a neighborhood known as Sleepy Hollow, located in South Torrance, six to nine different streets put up their holiday best and blind all who pass by. Typically, the lights go up the day after Thanksgiving and can be viewed until early January. On any given night, you’ll find the flashing lights are up and running from 6-10p.m.
Prepare to be bamboozled by blow-up candy canes and six-foot-tall Santas. Although Seattleites are typically known for their gloom-and-doom mentalities, they don’t hold back when it comes to having a holly jolly Christmas. While you’ll find several festive neighborhoods throughout the city, perhaps the most well-known place to see holiday magic is in Ravenna. A longstanding tradition in the community, this particular Candy Cane Lane traces its roots back to 1941, and can be seen from December 15th through January 1st. Drive or walk by from 4-11 p.m. to see the holiday hootenanny.
Oh, Milwaukee. A land typically associated with beer somehow has developed a mean reputation for decorative light displays. Find out for yourself by traveling to West Allis, a neighborhood that boasts more spirit than Buddy the Elf from the day after Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas. You can see the lights from 6-9 p.m. on weekdays and 5-10 p.m. on weekends. The Wisconsin wonderland has been up and running since 1984, and they collect donations for the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (M.A.C.C.).
San Diego, California
What a lot of people don’t realize about San Diego is that it’s fairly spread out. You’ll definitely need a car to get around, and to take in all the different Candy Cane Lanes. Although this city’s temperature rarely drops below 65° F, San Diegans love their yule tide cheer. You can find fake snow and more in at least 20 different neighborhoods throughout the city. Some of the most notable include the Poway, Santee, Chula Vista, and Point Loma communities. Drive through Rancho Peñasquitos’ Christmas Card Lane, a tradition that has been upheld since the 1980s to get a real taste of snowy splendor. Today, more than 200 families participate by not only decorating their houses, but by putting up giant Christmas cards in their front yards (think cards bigger than Shaq). Check out the greetings throughout December from sunset until 10 p.m.
Don’t be the Grinch that stole a parking spot — when you’re touring a spirited Candy Cane Lane, keep your holiday manners in mind. Most of these cheerful thoroughfares are in residential areas, so keep your eyes peeled for wee ones and don’t get the wise idea to park in a stranger’s driveway. Do, however, sing your carols as loud as you’d like—you’re surely in perfect pitch!