A lake shore alive with holiday lights, you can count on it

I counted 117 million light bulbs ablaze with holiday fever along the shore of Onondaga Lake in the Syracuse suburb of Liverpool on Wednesday night.

Now that would be a frustrating chore, wouldn’t it? Seven million eight hundred thousand eight six … dang, lost count, I have to go back to the start!

In Syracuse, this is the 25th year of a tradition called, quite appropriately, Lights on the Lake. The Onondaga County Parks department closes off the three-mile roadway that winds through Onondaga Lake Park, quite close to the shore of our Syracuse-side body of water, and strings elaborate holiday light displays. A lot of them. Many and varied, as the saying goes.

From two weeks before Thanksgiving until three days after New Year’s Day, cars of ticket-buyers can drive along the road and soak in the color and dazzle.

It opened for Fords and Chevys and Mazdas and the likes last night. Tickets, if you were wondering, are $10 per car Mondays through Thurdays, $15 per car Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Folks around here know you can get $4 off on Mondays and Tuesdays by flashing your Wegmans shoppers card.

The gates were opened special on Wednesday night for walkers only, and my dear wife Karen threw a fiver in the donation bucket ($2 suggested) to join what looked like many thousands of people who wanted savor the displays in the slower pace. I didn’t try to count the exact amount of people, either, other than to conclude it was a lot as the temperature hovered in the 40s. Thursday night, they did it again and invited dogs, too. Because it was my bowling league night, Ellie B did not get to see the lights.

But you know that my new iPhone 6 was busy Wednesday night. In fact, my hands were both numb by the time I’d decided the 100 pictures I’d taken were enough. Those, I’ll count.

I snapped Santa swinging a golf club. I snapped fish swimming. I snapped boats. I snapped Dorothy and the Lion.

I snapped Cardinals and Parrots.

I tried to fix the lake in the background. I tried to get the lights of Syracuse behind the lake. I tried to capture the feel of night.

I rather enjoyed walking around Lights on the Lake.

Here’s your tour, trimmed to the finest.

Lighting the way to the first arch.

Lighting the way to the first arch.

The neighbors on the non-shore side get into the spirit, too.

The neighbors on the non-shore side get into the spirit, too.

Sleds are useful in Central New York.

Sleds are useful in Central New York.

Are we there yet? Keep going.

Are we there yet? Keep going.

Happy Hanukah.

Happy Hanukkah.

Ice fishing? It will be the spot soon.

Ice fishing? It will be the spot soon.

Ice golfing? Sure thing, Santa.

Ice golfing? Sure thing, Santa.

A big saying at Onondag Lake for decades was: Ya Gotta Regatta.

A big saying at Onondaga Lake for decades was: Ya Gotta Regatta.

Emerald City awaits.

Emerald City awaits.

Or is it Greenland?

Or is it Greenland?

A cardinal in the forest.

A cardinal in the forest.

A boat outside the marina, Syracuse city lights behind Onondaga Lake.

A boat outside the marina, Syracuse city lights behind Onondaga Lake.

Fish of Gold

Here’s the link for Lights on the Lake.

Is there a big public display of holiday lights where you live, and if so, is there a single theme or multiple themes? Would you enjoy an attraction such as Lights on the Lake, and would you go once, or make in an annual tradition? Would you prefer to go on walking night, take the dog night, or drive through in your car, and why? What were your favorite displays above?

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72 thoughts on “A lake shore alive with holiday lights, you can count on it

  1. There is a Christmas train up in Filmore ( north of me in Ventura county) They take you on a special train and they stop so you can pick out your live Christmas tree. This reminds me of something I saw last Christmas season. We were driving up north to spend Christmas with my daughter and her boyfriend. We stopped over night in Santa Cruz. We were driving around town that night looking for a place for dinner when we came to a stop light. Suddenly, I saw this amazing site. A train all lit up and decorated like the Polar Express. It was almost like a dream. It slowly passed the intersection. Santa Claus was on board passing out gifts. It was the most beautiful sight to see that train. I had never seen their Christmas Train before. It is an annual event. If I lived near there I would want to be on it this year.

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  2. I friggin’ love the holiday season for this very reason. Lights, music, food, etc. It’s an all-secular affair for me. I can’t wait until after Thanksgiving. New York City gets all gussied-up with tinsel and lights like an old, cheap, broken down transvestite.

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  3. Beautiful pictures, Mark. I can’t wait to get my iPhone 6 (on order) so that I’ll be able to test out the camera it comes with — not that my pictures will be nearly as beautiful as these, but still….

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    • The leap in quality in photos from my 6 from my 4 makes me happy every post so far, Doobster. When you aim your new one at the right things after it comes in, I’m sure you’ll have the same results. The little darn thing does all the work. You just have to frame it right. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing. It looks beautiful and yes we have several displays that are very nice, but hubby likes to do his own display here at the house. What’s that movie with Chevy Chase? Well, it’s kinda like that,but it comes out beautiful.

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    • Wow, Dora, your hubby does a lot of lights if he makes your place like the National Lampoon movie with Chevy Chase. Careful plugging that display in! I’m glad to hear that it’s beautiful. I loved sharing these photos, thank you.

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  5. Los Angeles always had a similar but far smaller version in Griffith Park that was done entirely by volunteer labor of the ride-on train hobbyists who have their trains in the park. These men would place light displays, fake deer and woodland creatures, and also, at the end of the train’s course, string lights inside its tunnel, set down fake snow, and make a mini Santa hut to greet children with Santa when they rode out the other side.

    It was absolutely charming. I took my children every year, bundled up well against the cold (yes, L.A. at night in December with wind can be dang nippy–we don’t own down or fur here), equipped with a thermos of SF hot cocoa and SF candy canes to stir it with.

    Then, the city took over. It turned into a huge extravaganza, cars lined up for hours, no more train ride or Santa, and, finally, with the economy tanking: No more lights at all. I don’t know if they’re back. Dumb city.

    But at least it’s warmer than Syracuse! (even if we’ll die of thirst)

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  6. Very nice, Mr. B! Thank you for taking us along and sparing me the walking! πŸ™‚ That IPhone6 of yours is pretty awesome. We do have a place similar though not near a lake, about half an hour from our home. We used to take the kids all the time when they were little. You just gave me an idea. When my not so babies are home for Christmas, I am taking them back! They’ll love it! πŸ™‚

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    • A revisit home from college is perfect for the birds back in the holiday nest, Mrs. B. Good thought.

      Yes, the iPhone 6 did well even in the dark. I was pretty psyched up for this event with my new toy. Er, phone.

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  7. We have a great exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and also, I enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas and other Christmas light exhibits at Alum Creek Park. My grandsons and I have taken in the zoo a few times, along with our annual Santa Claus photo at Alum Creek. Fun and beauty seen in your Lights on the Lake photos!

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  8. i love the photo look at this great event, mark. wonderful pics and description. and you are a very good counter, judging by how you knew how many lights were involved. i love to go to displays like this, i’m always blown away by them –

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  9. I love those big light displays! Your pictures are fantastic…especially the penguins and the cardinals! πŸ˜€

    Last year, we went to the big display of lights they had at Lowe’s Motor Speedway…the lights were fabulous annnnd we got to drive on the race track! (The hot chocolate and horse drawn carriage ride added to the fun, of course.)

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    • That’s a great feature at the NASCAR track, Nerdy. I am glad they use it for the greater good at the holiday time. Fantastic! Driving on the track, bingo! The first NASCAR race my dear wife Karen brought me to was at Pocono, we took a bus tour trip from Syracuse, and unbeknownst to me or her, the buses were allowed to drive on the track through two turns and out and back into the parking lot three hours before race time. Quite the indoctrination to the sport for me. I was leery, but when they said start your engines and I felt the roar in my gut, they had me. Since, we’ve also gone to races at Dover and Watkins Glen. And we watch on TV. So. And you didn’t even ask, but if you live in near Charlotte, N.C. …

      Thanks for your kind words about my light display photos. I really like the penguins and the cardinals, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. There are some pretty nice displays in Virginia Beach similar to this, where you drive on through. I may have to look into that this year, doing something different πŸ™‚

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  11. Those are beautiful pics Mark. i’m impressed by the quailty – and of course by the subject matter. We have a street in east Ottawa called Taffy Lane, and the residents have all started competing with each other to see who can have the most impressive display. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvYKQlA-uWM I really enjoy the excitement and the lights.

    Great post Mark.

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      • Ha! Yeah, I really didn’t get how the pig fits in, but whatever. You’re right I wouldn’t want to live there either Mark.You should see the line ups to drive down that Lane around Christmas time. Amazing. The street winds around and is about 2 miles long.I used to live within walking distance of Taffy Lane, so we would go for a stroll occassionaly.

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  12. I love Christmas and everything that comes with it so these lights are very cool! Thanks for sharing photos! I like the sleigh and the Land of Oz and Holiday Traditions arches

    My family always chooses a night in December to just drive around the town and look at lights people have put up. Since most of the trees here are deciduous, downtown or by important places they’ll wrap them completely in lights – it looks amazing. Also, my neighbours are going light/Christmas displays-crazy at the moment. They have some company or something that’s been setting up light decorations in their yard, and it must cost a fortune! We laugh at them but I’m sure it’s going to look fabulous when it’s all put together

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  13. I like penguins ice fishing. It makes me miss when we would go to Austin’s Trail of Lights and get dizzy spinning under the big lit Christmas tree. Now there is usually a 4 hr wait and you have to pay to park and who wants watered-down hot chocolate?

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    • I hate when nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded, as Yogi Berra used to complain about, Kerbey. Agreed. And also I hated watered-down hot chocolate. Ptui. The penguins ice fishing was a cute display, I agree. :-0

      Liked by 1 person

  14. A great tradition and thank you for sharing your walk with us Mark! Our zoo does amazing lights that look like animals running, etc., and I like to drive through the wealthy neighbourhoods and see their displays too.
    Diana xo

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    • The maintenance guy from 2012 is still muttering to himself in some corner because he failed at that very chore and they lost three weeks of business at the end. Ha! I love that premise of “Nope. Not this one.” Move one bulb over …

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  15. That’s so cool and the photos are wonderful! I’d prefer to walk through rather than drive. We have a downtown park that connects to a few lakes here that all have city-sponsored lights and carolers in the main park. And then there are a few private neighborhoods that repeatedly put on a good show. But it’s free. Who does that money go to there? The city or the homeowners? Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

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