Virginia Beach’s Oceanfront transformed from a sandy vacation getaway to a winter wonderland on Nov. 18 when McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach returned to the boardwalk.
An array of animated lights stretches from 2nd St. to 34th St., illuminating the night with dancing sea creatures and classic Christmas themes. This special event runs until Jan. 1 and is open from 5:30-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
There is no need to bundle up to enjoy the winter festivities at the Holiday Lights at the Beach. The entire tour of lights is meant to be enjoyed from your vehicle, allowing visitors to listen to their favorite Christmas tunes as they cruise the path once meant for Oceanfront foot traffic. The entrance, located on 2nd St., has signs posted that recommend vehicles tune in to a particular FM radio station to play their Christmas music.
Nightly admission for the Holiday Lights is $15 for cars, $25 for limousines and minibuses and $45 for motorhomes. Combo tickets are also available for $20, covering a visit to the Holiday Lights at the Beach as well as admission for four people to Santa’s Seaside Village on 30th Street. A military discount is offered on Monday nights, offering admission rates of $7 for military families.
The Holiday Lights at the Beach are fun for friends and family of all ages, whether you are a visitor, new to the area or a long time local. Among this year’s spectators was Joshua Kramer, a Virginia Beach local.
“I’ve gone to the Holiday Lights every year for as long as I can remember. Because of the theme, the best time to go see the lights is before Christmas but definitely after Thanksgiving,” Kramer said.
Kramer said that the lights display sometimes lasts a few years before the attraction is changed or added to. Though there are typically few alterations to the lights each year, there are some displays that have become personal favorites of spectators and keep them coming back each year.
“My favorite part is the Twelve Days of Christmas. I love that,” Kramer said.
Sydney Pendleton, 2-year resident of Virginia Beach, is a newcomer to the Holiday Lights at the Beach this year. Driving through the tunnel of constantly changing lights arching over the runway is what she enjoyed most but some aspects of her experience at the Holiday Lights were dim in comparison to other displays she has visited.
“I’d suggest they show more authority for the people that go through to make sure there is a consistent flow of traffic and everyone turns their headlights off,” Pendleton said.
It is assumed that cars entering the strip of lights are expected to travel in a steady, single-file line with their headlights off from one end to the other, however, there is no one in place to enforce these expectations.
The single-file line of cars is frequently disturbed throughout the light show when hurried vehicles attempt to pass slow moving vehicles. Aside from the signs at the entrance of the gate, there is no other instruction that reminds drivers to turn off their headlights while on the strip. Without reminders or enforcement, some vehicles unknowingly become a disruption to the experience for the cars ahead of them.
“They might also want to make sure the radio station that they have sponsoring them works throughout the whole show,” Pendleton said.
The radio station that visitors are recommended to tune in to this year has plenty of Christmas music to enjoy during the cruise but there are certain spots along the strip that the station’s signals are disrupted. This causes a sudden burst of static sound that can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
“I remember they used to give out CDs at the gate that you could just pop in,” Kramer said.
Despite these aspects of the Holiday Lights at the Beach, the attraction still draws in a large crowd every year. Not only is it convenient and close to home for Virginia Beach locals but its yearly presence has made it a tradition for many locals.
Pendleton said, “I would definitely recommend the lights to others but if they’re local to the area then they probably already know about it.”