One of my favorite Christmas pastimes as a kid was the tradition of taking a drive with my family to look at the holiday light displays on the houses in our neighborhood, our town, and our city. With no shortage of unique and festive neighborhoods in Boulder, this is a fun and free activity that spurs quality family time and a bit of holiday wonder. So bundle up the kids, fill your travel mugs with coffee or hot chocolate, pack up a Tupperware of holiday sweets, queue your favorite Christmas or holiday playlist on Spotify, and be prepared get festive.
The North Poles of North Boulder
The neighborhoods of North Boulder are where you can find some of the highest concentrations of holiday light displays in the city. Off of 36, turn westward on Violet, where you will immediately be able to spot some of the festive streets and neighborhoods that you should aim for. From the houses off of 23rd Street, some of which are decked out Griswold-style with moving mechanical reindeer, blinking icicle lights, candy canes, and light-up wreaths, to the more subtle displays in adjacent neighborhoods as you continue down Violet, this is an area where you can see displays with a wow factor and those that are more subtle and classical.
Continuing further into North Boulder on Broadway, you can take a left on Lee Hill Drive and find a festive series of neighborhoods with a high concentration of homes and light displays. Turn up 5th Street and you will find a particular neighborhood at the northernmost tip of Boulder that is prime for aimlessly cruising around and enjoying the lights all around you. There are large inflatable Santa Claus and snowman figures, lights at every turn, and no shortage of entertaining and beautiful displays.
A beautiful neighborhood even without the added charm of Christmas lights and decorations, Mapleton Hill and Mapleton Drive in particular offer displays that highlight the historic architecture of the houses as well as the creativity of some of the occupants. From simple strings of lights that outline the unique structures to multi-colored lights strung around some of the tall trees of the neighborhood, the displays are large in number and varied in style. In front of one particular house on Mapleton Drive you’ll find a gigantic inflatable snowman, while the house next to is has been fashioned to look like a life-sized gingerbread house. The surrounding areas are festive as well, and you’ll find a smattering of decorations on streets such as Concord, Maxwell, and Spruce. From inflatable dinosaurs eating the Christmas presents off the lawn of one house to homes covered in so many different colored lights it looks like they’ve been tie-dyed, this is another cheerful and festive neighborhood.
Celebrating in South Boulder
From the homes on Dartmouth and Dover off of Broadway to the houses lining Kohler, the decorations in South Boulder are festive and largely traditional if slightly less dense in concentration. If you head up Table Mesa Drive, you will have a clear view of multiple streets, such as Ithaca and Hillsdale, with various displays of multi-colored bulbs on the trees and homes. You may even spot a light-up holiday peace sign as you create your own route looping throughout this quiet, classically festive neighborhood.
Holiday Spirit Hot Spots
No list of holiday light displays in Boulder would be complete without mentioning the gorgeous and vibrant Pearl Street Mall. You can see the glow of the holiday lights of the mall from blocks away and, if you’re looking to get out of the car and walk around, strolling the mall and its surrounding streets to enjoy the holiday atmosphere can be a great outing in and of itself.
There are many other festive stretches of road in Boulder as well, from the decorated trees lining 13th Street on University Hill to multiple expanses of Broadway. Between Violet and Yarmouth on Broadway you’ll find that the apartment buildings, storefronts, and trees lining the road are covered in white lights and wreaths while, between Balsam and North, the Ideal Broadway Shops and Community Plaza shine with lights on the trees and the storefronts, the Boulder Community Hospital is surrounded by decorated fauna, and the street lights on either side of the road are enhanced by the light-up holiday stars shooting off of them. There is also the nearly constant sight of the Boulder Star on Flagstaff Mountain, the quintessential Boulder holiday light, shining as you drive throughout the city.
Whether you plan a specific route or embrace a more exploratory approach, part of the fun of this activity is in the discovery of unexpected light displays as well. With shouts of, “What about that street?” “I think I saw something over there!” and “Whoa!” the whole family can enjoy this holiday outing, and it is sure to quickly put you in the holiday spirit.