Tech the halls

Tracking the best holiday lights in town

By Karen Long

Some of my favorite holiday memories growing up are of Mom and Dad piling us kids into the back seat of the car every December and cruising out on a quest to find the best Christmas lights. We would gaze in awe at the blinking lights that were in vogue then tapered multicolored bulbs the size of sugarplums, which seem impossibly retro now.

Fast forward a few decades. Neighborhood displays in the new millennium are plotted months in advance by Christmas enthusiasts who diagram animated, computerized and LED displays. From classy to kitschy, high-tech to Victorian, you need a guide to keep them all straight, so here it is. Charge up the digital camera, fire up the GPS, nuke the hot cocoa and get ready for a tour of some of the flashiest, most stunning light displays Wichita has to offer.

(Some of the most popular drive-through displays are to benefit local charities, so a trip to the ATM might also be in order before you set out.)

Lights on St. Paul

A holiday tradition since 1997, this half-mile of lights spans multiple blocks beginning at Douglas and St. Paul, and boasts a dancing water fountain, a tunnel of lights, five 22 Christmas trees and over a million lights timed to music. This year there are five new displays, including a surfing Santa. Speaking of Santa, rumor has it he’ll make appearances on weekends, and will be available for picture-taking and wish-listening.

The state's biggest neighborhood drive-through display is the single largest fundraiser for The Arc of Sedgwick County, which develops programs for local residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Admission is free but donations are greatly appreciated. Open nightly Sunday through Thursday, 5:30pm-9pm, Fridays and Saturdays, 5:30-10pm and Christmas Eve, 5:30-11:55pm.

College Hill Christmas Lights Trolley Tour

Sunday, December 12, every 10 minutes starting at 5:30

For an elegant blend of luminarias modern lights and a uniquely Victorian mode of travel, sign up for this tour of the classic neighborhood. Enjoy the twinkling of thousands of lights from the comfort of a heated motor trolley and hear the stories of College Hill residents as you go. Neighbors band together on this special evening to highlight the trolley tour by lining the walks with luminarias, says Judy Hess, event chair of the College Hill neighborhood association which sponsors the event.

Tours set off from East Heights United Methodist Church, 4407 E. Douglas, and tickets sell out fast, so pick them up at Traditions Furniture, 3220 E. Douglas, starting on Monday, December 6. Tickets are $6, children three and under are free; hot beverages and living nativity tableau provided by the church youth group at the departure point.

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