As we enter the darkest time of the year, many holidays celebrate the rebirth of the light. Light displays are a part of that celebration. Southeast Iowa has a number of impressive holiday-themed light displays that draw visitors from all over the area.
A Coralville tradition since 1980, the annual luminaria display called the Aisle of Light involves 30,000 white paper sacks, each filled with sand and a votive candle, creating an entrancing winter scene. Activities hosted by area businesses and organizations make a merry day for all ages, with participating residents and businesses lighting luminarias in the evening.
Coralville’s Aisle of Light
Miles of luminarias are available for viewing by foot or car from 5 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, December 13.
Holiday Nights ’N’ Lights, in the Greater Ottumwa Park, was started by the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce. For an entrance fee of $10 per car, visitors drive one mile through a magical winter wonderland, illuminated with over 500,000 lights. Over 117,100 visitors have driven through the popular tourist destination since 2005. Holiday Nights ’N’ Lights is open through January 1, Sunday through Thursday, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Another popular holiday destination is the Mount Pleasant Festival of Lights at the Old Threshers Campground. The 60-acre area is transformed into a mile-long, festive, lighted drive, with over 75 displays. The Festival of Lights is open December 3–6, 10–13, 17–31, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Costs for a family vehicle are $10, minivan $15, and motor coach $60.
Rand Park in Keokuk is transformed every holiday season into the City of Christmas. Established in 1989, all of the displays are original creations constructed by local volunteers. Nearly 20,000 vehicles pass through Rand Park each year to admire approximately 100 holiday displays and one million lights.
The City of Christmas is a not-for-profit corporation run by a volunteer board of directors and is totally funded by donations. Hours through December 27 are 5 to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. Special hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.