How to survive the Festival of Lights


This year marks the 30th anniversary of Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights. The drive-through light show is a holiday favorite in Winston-Salem with attendees returning year after year to view the beautiful displays. 

The popular festival at Tanglewood Park seems to attract more attendees each holiday season, sometimes leading to longer wait times. Correctly preparing and timing a visit to the festival can help visitors get the most out of their experience.

When to go

Visitors arrive to Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights a few days after opening day of the season. There is very little wait because crowds are more common closer to the holidays.

The closer time gets to the holidays, the number of people attending the festival each night increases. Additionally, it is no surprise that weekends are very popular times as well. The best time to go to Tanglewood for the shortest waiting time and least amount of traffic is early on in the season, more specifically during a weekday.

The Festival of Lights is open from Nov. 12 to Jan. 1, so the season is already underway. However, there is still lots of time to go before the crowds pick up.

The hours for the show are 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (with the exception of New Years Eve, when the show closes at 10 p.m.). Though space has been extended within the park for visitors to wait their turn to purchase tickets, getting in line early never hurts so that total drive and wait time is lessened.

Visitors wait to pay their entrance fee for Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights. Cars, Vans, and Trucks can visit for $20 cash or $23 credit card.

How not to hate the wait

Wait times to get into the festival can vary between 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the time of the season. However, there are ways to make the wait feel less like torture.

While waiting, snack on some holiday treats and/or an easy fast-food dinner. Play the family’s favorite holiday movie on a phone and prop it against the front windshield for all passengers to see. Listen to 99.5, the holiday station recommended by the park. Any sort of holiday entertainment will keep the time from dragging on.

Some GPSs will direct visitors to go through a back gate. The only entrance to the Festival of Lights is through Tanglewood’s main entrance. Visitors should check their routes to make sure that their GPS guides them in correctly.

‘Gift Village’

A lights display points visitors of the Festival of Lights to the entrance of the gift shop. S’moresville, sponsored by Lowes Foods, is also found within the entrance.

About halfway through the show is the “Gift Village,” consisting of the gift shop and S’moresville. The gift shop, found in the big red barn, is stocked with local crafts and gifts. S’moresville, sponsored by Lowes Foods, provides visitors with marshmallows and kits to make a delicious treat for themselves. 

Both the gift shop and S’moresville are popular attractions that, to be expected, can get very crowded very quickly. Arriving early to the park will also help to beat the crowd.

Pre-COVID-19, Santa could also be found at the Gift Village. However, for his and visitors’ safety, he will not be featured in the Festival Of Lights this year. 

Tanglewood’s Festival of Lights is a holiday tradition that is COVID-safe, and with lots of visitors expected this season because of that, make sure to plan a time soon to go through the 30th anniversary show.