Bring some cheer into your Christmas in Raleigh 2022 with the Nights of Lights Drive-Thru Light Show, the only downtown Raleigh drive-thru holiday light experience.
The magical backdrop for this dazzling light show will be Dorothea Dix Park with its magnificent oak trees, rolling hills and open fields.
The WRAL Night of Lights is now on until December 24, 2022. We had a preview of it last week during a media event and have written this post to give you a sneak peek into the experience with a few tips if you are thinking of going.
Don’t miss our list of things to do in Raleigh for Christmas. We have a free Printable PDF bucket list available to our email subscribers, which you can also get by filling in the form below.
What is the Nights of Lights?
The WRAL Night of Lights is a holiday drive through experience. Along the 1.3-mile route are five themed lands of Holiday Spirit such as Toyland and Wild Lights. There are also illuminated trees, festive light displays, and local art installations.
I’m not going to lie; it was a rough first year as thousands of local residents desperate for something fun to do outside their homes all descended on Dorothea Dix Park at once. We attempted to do the Nights of Lights on the opening night and finally got out of the traffic to return home after waiting for three hours!
Not to fear. The kinks have been ironed out and you won’t be experiencing anything like that again. I mean 2020 was a certain kind of unpredictable madness!
Giving back to the Raleigh community
This event is not just holiday magic for those who drive through it but for the community at large.
More than $120,000 was gifted back to the Raleigh community from the 2021 proceeds. This year the following local groups will benefit from the event: Dix Park Conservancy, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Healing Transitions, and WRAL Coats for the Children benefiting the Salvation Army.
When is the Nights of Lights 2022?
Vehicle nights are from Friday, November 25 until December 24 for most nights. And if you do not want to drive, they have evenings where you can walk or bike the route.
The bike nights are on Wednesday, November 30 and December 7. The event route is modified to be 2.6 miles. These are exclusive events for bikes only. Cyclists love to ride the route wearing festive lights of their own. Bike Night is $10 per bike.
Each year, Runologie hosts a special 5K run (or walk) through the route with glow in the dark medals! This year it’s before opening on November 19th.
Tickets, Entrance, Wait times & more
- All tickets must be purchased in advance and have your tickets downloaded or printed for scanning and efficient entrance.
- One ticket per vehicle!
- Tickets are $20 per vehicle except for Dec 16-24 when they are $30.
- There are Fast Lane Tickets this year with your own special entrance at South Boylan Ave and Western Boulevard. Fast lane tickets have an average wait time of 5-10 minutes. Fast Lane tickets are $40 per car going up to $50 from Dec 16-24.
- All general admission attendees should enter the park at the intersection of Western Blvd and Hunt Drive in Raleigh.
- While you won’t be waiting for three hours anymore, do expect some waiting time. It’s still a popular event. Average waiting times are around 30-minutes but allow for up to an hour.
- The drive through light show should take about 30-minutes. Drive slowly and have patience. It’s worth taking your time to enjoy the light displays and soak up the festive spirit.
- You must remain in your vehicle at all times. In some of our photos you will see us next to the displays as we were at a media preview event!
The Night of Lights Experience
You can see some of the highlights of this drive-thru lights display in our photos in this blog post.
North Pole Neon is where you’ll find glowing neon spires, Santa and more than 30 giant neon elves stationed along the route popping out of trees and dancing on the side of the road. It’s a display form local artist Nate Sheaffer of Glas.
You know an art installation is good if your teen asks you to take lots of photos of her! We loved the illuminated flower display on one of the route’s corners at the beginning of the drive.
The 250-foot-long light tunnel is at the end of the route. It is controlled by ever changing LED lights. Drive slowly so you can appreciate the changing light patterns. Plus there is a gingerbread house and also the brontosaurus with its moving head eating the grass.
Magic of Lights or Nights of Lights
Press play on our video below to watch the WRAL Nights of Lights experience:
Raleigh is lucky to have two amazing drive through Holiday light shows this year. We have attended both and can offer comparison insights.
Bear in mind, this is just our personal opinion, which could be different to yours! You can even leave a comment (respectfully) with your thoughts too!
We found the Magic of Lights experience at Coastal Credit Union Music Park to be more of a dramatic experience with bigger light displays (and the fun singing heads). Even though the Magic of Lights is shorter at a mile long, I felt like there was more to see.
But the Nights of Lights with its location in oak-filled Dorothea Dix Park has that extra element of magic to their display.
The Magic of Lights also has the Elves Workshop, in the middle of the drive, which all attendees can visit for free, although the food and drink experiences – including roasting s’mores come at an extra price.
I think they are both wonderful Holiday experiences for Raleigh. If you can do both, you’ll love the double dose of holiday spirit. If you can only choose one, I would choose the Magic of Lights.
However, the Nights of Lights has the Holiday Outpost Experience and gives back to the community, which I love. And, you have to purchase Magic of Lights tickets through Ticketmaster, who I DO NOT love, especially after the recent Taylor Swift concert disaster.
So there is a lot to consider. If you can’t decide – do both. They both are an affordable holiday attraction and the beauty is you can pack your car full of people to make it cheaper per person!
New for 2022 in the Night of Lights
Each year, the WRAL Nights of Lights expands on their offerings. This year they have the following new additions:
- Holiday Themed Lands: This year the route is divided into different themes with relevant light installations to match. They are the Toyland, North Pole Neon, Winter Wonderland, Savant’s Village and CBC Village (where you’ll see your favorite WRAL hosts)
- The two light tunnels with the last at the end of the route being 250 feet long and is controlled by ever changing LED lights
- Igloo Experience: (these sold out quickly) You can take a break in your own snow globe with catered snacks (charcuterie, fromage, crudité and dessert) provided by Interfaith Food Shuttle’s “The Spinning Plate” They fit 4 adults comfortably and the package price is $115-$125
- Holiday Outpost: A walk through holiday outpost featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus, photo booth, selfie stations and snacks for purchase. Located at the All Faiths Chapel before the route begins. Ticket prices are $60-$70 per package (up to 6 people) and includes Fast Lane access to the Night of Lights route.
More Christmas Experiences in Raleigh
Why not combine this experience with some other Holiday attractions.
- Visit the Dessertery at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts before this to fill up on Christmas sweet treats!
- Walk the streets of Downtown Raleigh enjoying Illuminate Art Walk
- Skate it off at The Rink in Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheater
- Shop for your Holiday gifts at the local stores in Downtown Raleigh and then take a break at the dessert café.
Check these Holiday posts with more ideas: