The best holiday lights

  • Holiday lights bring feelings of warmth and cheer even in the darkest and coldest days of the year. Testing, setting up, and connecting lights can be anything but a joyful experience, though.
  • The KooPower Waterproof Battery Fairy Lights are a great choice if you prefer white lights because they are controlled by a remote and powered by batteries, so there is no proximity to an outlet or hands-on access required.
  • If a colorful display is more your preference, go with the Brizled LED Mini String Lights whose 66-foot strands allow you to decorate large areas with ease. Plus, you can safely connect up to ten strands without fear of blowing a fuse.

I'm someone who likes their holiday lights and decorations. I spend hours and hours every November climbing up and down ladders and scrambling around on the roof stringing up dozens of feet of lights on every peak and roofline of the house.

With all those hours spent decorating come a fair share of frustrations, though, from blown bulbs to overloaded circuits and even the occasional ladder-related mishap. With those unhappy memories in mind, I've worked to assemble a buying guide filled with holiday lights that not only look great, but that also make your life easier.

Included with a couple of classic plug-in options, this guide features lights that are both solar- and battery-powered. We have lights controlled via a handheld remote and those that are beamed out of a projector. Like it or not, the holiday season comes with its fair share of stress, so let's not make hanging the holiday lights one more source of it.

Sure, those old strands of tiny incandescent bulbs you have tangled up in boxes on the garage shelves are probably fine, but these lights are definitely better. Upgrade your light game this season with these shining examples of great holiday lights.

Here are the best holiday lights:

  • Best classic holiday lights: Brizled LED Mini String Lights
  • Best battery-powered lights: KooPower Waterproof Battery Fairy Lights 
  • Best large-bulb lights: Good Tidings Light Ceramic Multi-Colored Holiday Lights
  • Best light projector: Yinuo Christmas Laser Lights Outdoor Projector
  • Best solar holiday lights: VMANOO Solar Powered String Lights

Prices and links are current as of 9/28/20. We updated our categories. We also replaced our previous light projector pick due to stock issues.

The best classic lights

One 66-foot strand of Brizled LED Mini String Lights features 200 LEDs and should provide enough colorful bulbs to decorate an entire tree.

Just one 66-foot strand of these bright, colorful Brizled LED Lights, you should be able to decorate even an 8- or 9-foot tree. Each strand holds 200 individual bulbs in the classic blue, red, yellow, green, and orange assortment.

The Brizled LED Mini String Lights are rated to last for 25,000 hours, so you probably won't have to replace the strand — possibly ever. Even if you leave your lights illuminated for a month straight every year, you can still expect about 35 years out of them.

The best thing about the Brizled LED Mini String Lights isn't their longevity, though, it's their looks. These bulbs approximate the same look as those beloved incandescent mini bulbs you'll remember from holiday seasons past, yet they use about 88% less power than traditional lights and never get hot enough to pose a risk of injury or fire. Plus, they're much brighter than incandescent bulbs, so you'll get much more pop from just one strand.

If colorful lights don't match the look you're going for, Brizled also makes them in both warm and cool white. And should you want to go full Griswold on your holiday decorations, you can safely connect up to 10 strands of these things.

These lights are perfect for indoor use thanks to their cool physical temperature and warm light quality. They are perfectly safe for outdoor use in all sorts of weather conditions.

Pros: Warm and bright light quality, durable lights last for years, spare bulbs and fuse included

Cons: No built-in timer

The best battery-powered lights

The KooPower Waterproof Battery Fairy Lights are battery powered and operated via remote control, so once they're in place, you can look forward to weeks of effortless enjoyment.

One of the worst things about holiday lights is the fact that you have to plug them in every time you want them to light up and unplug them when you want them to go dark — unless you have a timer. But even with a timer, you still need the lights to end up near an outlet, or at least be close enough to the outlet that an extension cord can connect the two. With the KooPower Waterproof Battery Fairy Lights with Remote and Timer, both of those situations are things of the past.

The KooPower lights are powered by three AA batteries, and when only lit for a few hours each night, these three batteries will keep the lights aglow for days. With good quality batteries, the lights will shine for 60 hours before needing a change, so even if you left the lights on for four hours every night, that's more than two weeks per set, or likely only one battery change per holiday season. And what's more, you could set these lights up miles from the nearest power outlet if you really wanted to.

The remote control eliminates the need for ready access to the lights and for use of an external timer. With the remote, the lights can be programmed for an on/off cycle, set to twinkle, fade in and out, do a chasing flash pattern, and more. The lights stay cool, thus are safe for use on an indoor tree, and are water-resistant, thus suitable for outdoor hanging.

Pros: Battery power lasts many days, controlled by remote, tiny but bright bulbs, great price

Cons: 36-foot strand too short for some applications, only come in warm white, batteries must be changed after 60 hours of use

The best large-bulb lights

The large, softly glowing colorful bulbs of the Good Tidings Ceramic Multi-Colored Holiday Lights look just like something out of a classic film.

Sure, LED bulbs are bright, energy-efficient, cool to the touch, and last for years. But you have to admit, there's something so warm and comforting about classic incandescent bulb holiday lights — especially those oversized bulbs known "in the business" as C9 bulbs.

The Good Tidings Ceramic Multi-Colored Holiday Light Set comes with 25 big, colorful bulbs that shine with a light both bright and soft at once. They will light up your tree, they look great framing a window or doorway, and they're hard to beat when strung across the roofline of the home, especially when a blanket of snow rests around them.

The strand measures 24 feet long, a great length for an indoor tree though a bit short for use outdoors unless you're willing to buy a few strands. They will last for years, though, albeit with an occasional bulb swap needed. Doing so is easy, though. It's just like changing a standard light bulb.

The Good Tidings Ceramic Multi-Colored Holiday Lights are UL listed for indoor and outdoor use and they connect to any standard socket or extension cord. If the soft frosted bulb look isn't to your liking, they also come in a transparent variation. 

Pros: Classic vintage charm, bright lights visible from a distance, easy bulb changes

Cons: Short strand length, glow much warmer than LEDs

The best holiday light projector

The remote-controlled Yinuo Christmas Laser Lights Outdoor Projector shines a swirling pattern of red and green stars or other holiday patterns on your home with a simple point and click.

Holiday laser light decorations aren't for everyone, I get that. But falling off of ladders, searching for that one burnt out bulb, and realizing you don't have a long enough extension cord to connect the light strands to the outlet? That stuff isn't for everyone, either. A gently swirling, twinkling display of red and green stars, Christmas trees, Santas, and snowflakes is quite the attractive alternative. 

The Yinuo Christmas Laser Lights Outdoor Projector makes decorating your house for the holidays easier than ever. You simply plant the projector in the ground using its included stake and aim it at your house.

Plug it in, and then turn it on, that's all there is to it. More or less, anyway. You might need to move the projector closer to or farther from the walls a few times as you work to find the perfect coverage. But it's easy stuff overall.

The projector creates rotating or flashing patterns of light, which can be set to green, red, or green and red. You can opt for a pinpoint starfield or choose images including snowflakes, bells, trees, or Santas. Project one, combine them, have them rotate, or leave them static — you can achieve whatever combination you prefer. The lights cover up to 3500 square feet of surface, and the projector can be controlled by a remote that is reliable within 40 feet.

Don't worry about rain, snow, or freezing temperatures, either — this little guy is waterproof and rated to work even when the mercury hits 4 degrees below zero. Also, it's safe to use in temperatures up to 104ºF, in case you happen to be in warmer climes this holiday season.

Pros: Amazingly easy setup, remote control operation, good price point

Cons: Lacks charm of actual strands of lights

The best solar-powered holiday lights

Once you have your VMANOO Solar Powered String Lights set up where you want them, they are 100% hands-off until it's time to take the lights down again at the end of the holiday season.

Once you have the VMANOO Solar Powered String Lights where you want them, you don't have to think about these lights again until it's time to put them away after the holidays. That is, except when you admire them or get compliments from others. 

The lights are 100% solar-powered, requiring no proximity to an outlet, no battery swaps, and no programming with a timer or searching for a remote control, either. The lights have a sensor that automatically turns them on once the ambient light is low enough and that will switch them back off once the sun is again filling the sky.

Though to be honest, they will probably have dimmed or switched off entirely before that happens, as they have an approximate eight-hour run-time per charge. Don't worry, though, that's plenty long enough. Even with a dead of winter 4:30 p.m. sunset, the lights will still be aglow well after midnight. 

The VMANOO Solar Powered String Lights come in a 72-foot strand, so you will be able to decorate a smaller tree or bush, an entire roofline, or to frame a number of windows and/or doors with a single strand. As they come in pale white, warm white, multicolored, and blue, you can choose the exact look you want for your holiday illumination.

The one major drawback to these lights is that they're hardly suitable for indoor use, as they need access to the sun to power up and need it to be dark in order to power on. 

Pros: No outlet or batteries needed, sensor turns lights on or off, available in multiple colors

Cons: Limited shine duration per charge

Check out our other great holiday decorating guides

The best holiday decorations 

A beautifully decorated home is part of the wonder of the holiday season. We've rounded up the best decorating essentials for your home to make it easier for you.

The best tree skirts

Tree skirts add a dash of color and style to your holiday decor while hiding away that unsightly tree stand and all the holiday light cords. Here are our top picks.

The best artificial Christmas trees

Artificial Christmas trees have come a long way. They have a more realistic and festive look during the holiday season than their predecessors. Even better, quality artificial trees are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles. These are the best artificial Christmas trees.

The best Christmas stockings

Whether you're young or old, there's something magical about the sight of an overflowing stocking awaiting you on Christmas morning. No matter the style you prefer, we have a wide variety of wonderful Christmas stockings.

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