It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me without a few key ingredients: Snow (maybe we’ll get a light dusting this year?!), Christmas trees (preferably real ones, because of that delicious pine scent), Santa sightings, and lights, lights, lights. I wish the season lasted longer so I could enjoy the glowing lights when the doldrums of winter set in.
Every evening on my drive home from work, I get to cruise past Phalen Park on St. Paul’s East Side and enjoy the twinkle of lights from Holiday Lights in the Park. Seeing the lights from a distance is one thing; seeing them up close is another. This was the fourth year I’ve gone through, and the third year I’ve had the opportunity to see the magic of the displays with my two kids, now 5 and 8 (my husband and I went once pre-kids, too). It’s becoming a cherished holiday tradition. And in my opinion, it’s more than worth the $10 per-vehicle fee. The event is a partnership between the St. Paul chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the St. Paul Police Foundation, run by volunteers. According to the event website, their goal is to create a fun and affordable holiday event that raises funds for Twin Cities metro area kids and adults in need. (Net proceeds are distributed to one nonprofit in the community, as well as the Saint Paul Police Foundation and the Saint Paul Parks Conservancy. In the past seven years, the event raised more than $366,000 for local nonprofit organizations.)
We listened to Christmas music as we slowly drove down the path, oohing and ahhing at the more than 60 holiday light sculptures and animated displays, pointing out which ones we liked as we saw them. Seeing the displays helped us all get into the Christmas spirit. My only complaint was that the driver of the vehicle behind us had his headlights on, and the entire experience is much more dramatic when cars drive through with their lights off. It doesn’t take long to drive through—maybe 15-20 minutes—but there are houses across the lake that are equally spectacular, and there’s a really phenomenal light show on York avenue, not far from Phalen. (I highly recommend doing both if you have time.) It’s especially heartwarming that both of these events have a charitable angle—the homes participating in the light show on York collect food for Merrick Community Services.
Lights in the Park goes from 5 to 10 p.m. every night from November 24 through January 1, 2016. It’s located at 1615 Phalen Drive East in St. Paul’s Phalen Park—cars must enter from Maryland Avenue or Wheelock Parkway. The fee is $10 per vehicle, $15 for limos, vans, and mini buses, and $30 per coach bus.