Holiday Lights: Be Prepared for the Cost


As my husband and I drove down to the shore one evening last week, we could see from the parkway the lights at the PNC Bank Arts Center.  (It pains me to write will always be the Garden State Arts Center to me).  They looked lovely as we drove by, and so we thought we'd check them out one night.  It was an experience that we had never done, but had wanted to.  Since the Arts Center is about halfway between our home in north NJ and the shore house, we figured we'd leave the shore after dinner, drive up and experience the lights (it's a drive through experience) and then continue north.  We thought it would be a nice way to break up the ride (not that the ride is long) and get into the holiday spirit.

To make things easier, I decided to buy tickets in advance.  (As a matter of fact, you might HAVE to buy ticket in advance.)  When searching on line, it seemed like you HAD to buy tickets through LiveNation, which I was loath to do, but...(In writing this article I did some research and found that you could buy through the art center site, but tickets were MORE expensive!) 

So HOW expensive is it to drive though and see holiday lights?   A car on "any day" (you do not have the option to pick the day that you would like to's any day through the 30th when the "show" ends) is $35.  It's $5 cheaper if you plan on a weekday (Monday-Thursday). That's for one car.  Limo pricing is $65 (now that would be the way to see the lights, but then you'd have to pay for a limo) and bus pricing is $85 (which I suppose would be the most economical if you had a bus and a tons of kids).  The $35 becomes $36.99 (so much cheaper than $37) and then there are the "add ons."   Photo with Santa?  $30 Magic of Holiday Lights Dino Wand?  $10.  And would like to purchase ticket insurance?  It's only $7!  I passed on all of these and simply claimed by $36.99 ticket which had to be printed out; it wasn't something you could just have on your phone.  I know it sounds crazy and it is, but I didn't see any way around it...of course after jumping through all the hoops to get to this point (you MUST create a LiveNation account in order to purchase; there is not "guest" option) my head was starting to spin...

Once I made the purchase, I went on with my day.  Hubby and I had dinner and then got on the road.  Either I've completely turned into an old lady OR there are more crazy drivers on the parkway every time I drive.  (Or maybe it's both.)  As I watched drivers play Tetris with their vehicles, I stayed in the right lane and drove "slow" (that means 60 - 70 mph).  And once I got off the exit for the art center, I drove very slowly, and not just because I wasn't exactly sure where I was going (although there was plenty of signage), but because I wanted to take in all the lights, even the "pre show" ones.  Yes, I AM an old woman; I want to get what I pay for.

Driving around the complex with our radio tuned to their specific station for holiday music (although I think Sirius XM Cool Jazz Christmas is bitter) we drove through the displays which were really good.  (And sponsored by Toyota...there's no way you can miss that.)  My favorite was probably the 12 days of Christmas, but there was quite a lot to see and drive through.  (Including a dinosaur themed display which rivaled the international display and the Nativity scene.)  

We did stop at the holiday "village" where you could park your car and find restrooms as well as a variety of other things to do (outside of your car)...most for a price.  (I never had to hit the restroom so I'm assuming they were free, but...)  Besides seeing Santa (remember the $30 prices), you could skate on a very small rink ($15), make s'mores (2 for $10), enjoy other assorted snacks (don't ask about the cost of the popcorn) or enjoy an outdoor movie.  (This was actually free.)  While as adults we were able to avoid all the extra enticements (and costs), but I hate to think of what parents with little kids might end up spending!

Hubby and I DID have a nice time, but even at a slow/leisurely pace, we were finished in under an hour.  Was it worth the cost?  Maybe.  I'm glad we did it and we did enjoy it (plus we laughed, which during this year has been very much needed), but I don't think I'd do it again.  (Especially considering the drive from either our home in northern NJ or at the shore would be 45 minutes each way.) I wouldn't discourage people from going because it IS an experience, but if you've got little ones, be prepared to have your wallet emptied.

In all honestly, I think I preferred our local holiday display at the zoo: Seeing the display is free (although they do encourage donations of coats, unwrapped toys and/or non-perishable items for those in need.  And there are additional items that come with a cost (pony rides, face painting and snacks to name but a few), but it is much more reasonable and more hands on (especially if you have little ones).

I still say the best value, the most interesting and fun is to simply drive around the neighborhood.   Or maybe I'm just a cheap old lady...One that is unafraid to say:  Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas.  As the day grow shower and darker, embrace the light wherever you might find it!


  1. this is truly boring. and not in a way where i want to read more but im gonna click away, why are you writing so methodically and structurally… you should just let you hands type away without thinking about how to organize your next sentence! this is boring!

    1. I can't tell how much of this is sarcasm. Do you truly believe that thoughtless writing is good?

  2. Loved it! Went to see the Light Display in Scranton PA and it was a free will offering. I laughed at how you mentioned how all the extra's start to add up. It is soooo true.


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