When I was a kid, we had a family tradition of piling into the station wagon during the Christmas season and driving around town, oohing and aahing at houses decked out in lights. We’ve continued the Christmas lights tradition as adults, only now we don’t drive around neighborhoods looking for homes decorated Griswold style. Instead we find one or two big displays put on by zoos, towns or civic organizations. This year we discovered a winner with the Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair in southern Illinois. Not only does Du Quoin display an awesome drive-through lights show; they include a big indoor fair, as well.
Editors note: This article was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2018.
Du Quoin Holiday Lights Drive-Through
Millions of twinkling lights make up the three-mile long drive-through lights experience at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. Most of the displays are two-dimensional figures in holiday-related themes, such as Christmas trees, gingerbread houses and old-fashioned carolers. Others are three-dimensional displays lighted by spotlights. The displays around the lakes reflect in the water, creating an illusion of a double figure.
Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair – Expo Hall
The lights display is open every evening from Thanksgiving through December 30. However, if you visit on the first full three weekends in December, you get an extra treat. On those nights the fairgrounds Expo Hall transforms to a winter wonderland, as well, with activities and entertainment for children and adults alike.
We expected to see Santa in the Expo Hall and have some light refreshments. Instead we found, besides Santa, well over 20,000 square feet of space decked out in Christmas trees, lights strung from the ceiling, a model train layout, a mini train that takes kids around an oval track, over 45 artisans and crafters selling gift items, food vendors, and live entertainment.
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Plan on eating dinner at the fair, and get there early for the greatest choices. We missed out on the chicken and dumplings but enjoyed the pork chop sandwiches and big slices of blackberry pie.
You can spend the better part of an evening at the fair. In fact, it’s a good idea to stay until the 9:00 p.m. closing to increase your chances of winning one of the prizes donated by vendors. Drawings are held every hour.
If you go
In 2018 the lights display is open nightly beginning Thanksgiving night from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The fair in the Expo Hall runs the first three weekends in December. Admission is $10 per car with no additional charge for the indoor portion of the fair. The Du Quoin State Fairgrounds is located at 655 Executive Drive in Du Quoin, Illinois. Check the Du Quoin Tourism Commission website for further details.
Accommodations: We stayed at the Fairgrounds Inn right next to the fairgrounds. Find the best Du Quoin area hotel deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor.
Disclosures: Our visit to the Du Quoin Holiday Lights fair was hosted by the Du Quoin Tourism Commission, and we received complimentary admission.
This article contains an affiliate link. If you book a room through the TripAdvisor link above, I will receive a small commission, at no additional charge to you.
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