If you’re looking for something to do at Christmas in Buffalo, there might be no better spot to check out than the Festival of Lights.
The Festival of Lights is held at The Fairgrounds in Hamburg, NY, about 20 minutes south of downtown Buffalo and has been held annually during the holiday season for nearly 20 years.
The festival actually consists of two parts: a drive-through display and a walk-through display, both are included as part of the same ticket. That makes this a nice value since you pay per carload and get to experience essentially two different light displays during your visit.
While you can visit the walk-through portion first, I’ll first discuss the drive-through area as I think most visitors should start here as access into the site is easier this way. Note that tickets must be purchased online and cannot be purchased at the gate, no matter which area you visit first.
The drive-through portion is accessed via McKinley Parkway, which is on the eastern side of the Fairgrounds from the main entrance along South Park Avenue. While the lights and signage start immediately, there is actually a fair distance that you have to drive before you reach the ticket window and the official start of the show.
This definitely makes sense if there are a lot of cars lined up to get into the show as it keeps traffic off of the main road and, fortunately, there are a lot of lights to see along even the entrance line.
Once through the ticket gate, the light displays become more numerous and the show really starts. While there are a few spots where the lights are set up kind of far from cars, the overall display is very nicely done.
The drive-through display is divided into sections such as the 12 Days of Christmas, North Pole Sports, and Joy to the World. Each of these sections contains fun and whimsical lights, including some that I’ve never seen at the many other light shows I’ve visited in my travels. I especially enjoyed the large light showing Santa playing basketball and the one of Santa catching the Loch Ness monster.
Along the route, you’ll also see a giant Christmas tree, which is said to be the second tallest in New York, after the Rockefeller tree in New York City.
The Festival of Lights has its own radio station which you can listen to in your car while going around the display. A handful of lights are synched to this music, which creates a fun addition to the display but the vast majority are not, so you could really listen to any music that you wanted to.
And, to be honest, you’ll probably want to as there are a large number of short commercials for event sponsors on the radio station, including playing over the music. I found these to be very distracting, and I switched to different music after a while because of how frequent the commercials were.
That being said, that, as well as the large sponsor signs spread throughout the space, were my only negatives for the show. And while they were distracting, the overall quality of the show made up for that, at least once I switched music to something without commercials.
Once through the drive-through display, I parked in the large parking lot and headed into the walk-through portion of the grounds. Note that they did rescan my ticket, so make sure you bring that with you when you leave your car.
The walk-through portion is a fantastic addition to the event and really makes the entire Festival of Lights experience a great value. That being said, while some may spend a few hours here if they get food, see Santa, and do some shopping, others might only stay here for a few minutes.
The clear highlight of this area is the Illuminated Pixel Show which features a lot of Disney elements including Jiminy Cricket, songs from Frozen, and more. This show is fully synched to the music over a rather large display and is a ton of fun to watch.
Other highlights here include the short “train” ride (It’s not really a train but is designed to look like one), visits with Santa, and live reindeer. There is also a small artisan market area and some paid rides for kids in this space.
Overall, the Festival of Lights near Buffalo is a ton of fun and very well done, and definitely is larger than the nearby Zoo Lights at the Buffalo Zoo. Without a doubt, this is definitely one of the nicer drive-through light displays I’ve visited in New York, and the addition of the walk-through area in the admission price makes this a good value if you have a full car.
So, if you are looking for something to do this holiday season in New York, this is definitely a great spot to add to your list.
The Festival of Lights is held on select nights from November 25 through December 30, 2022. The cost is $30 per car (Plus about $4 in fees).
Note: Don’t confuse this spot with the Broome County Festival of Lights in Binghamton, NY.