One of my family favorite traditions may also be yours too. Even before my son was born, my husband and I loved going to this annual event. It’s a very popular local holiday attraction, and if you’ve ever been in the long line of cars waiting to get in, you already know this!
Bright Nights in Springfield, Massachusetts has been a crowd favorite for 25 years. It opened in 1995 at Forest Park, and has welcomed over 5 million visitors since!
Even though we live in Connecticut, Forest Park in Springfield is just right around the corner for us. And we love a lot of traditions that originate from the Western Massachusetts area, including this one.
Bright Nights runs every year, opening just around Thanksgiving through the first couple of days in January. This year, they are open from November 27, 2019 to January 5, 2020. They are open every day including all of the major December holidays.
Forest Park is located right off of 91N. During Bright Nights, the traffic will often back up around the neighborhoods outside of Forest Park, especially on a weekend. It’s often helpful to keep your Google maps or Waze open while navigating the traffic. However, it’s best to just realize, before you go, that you may be waiting a while to enter the park!
Admission to Bright Nights varies depending on what night you attend, but expect to pay between $20-25. If you plan ahead, you can grab tickets at any local Big Y to save on admission, or visit on one of their discount nights. They also have a coupon on their website.
We planned ahead and grabbed tickets at Big Y.
There is only one entrance (hence why it backs up), and that is located on Sumner Avenue. Cones are set up to help direct traffic and often you’ll see a police officer or two keeping the flow of cars moving.
Once you are in, and you’ve paid admission, make sure to set your radio to the station they have posted on the signs at the entrance. This will help enhance the whole experience!
You’ll also want to dim your lights and drive slow. The whole drive through the park is one-way, single file. On a busy night, you’ll be set at a pace by the cars around you. If you can go on a less busy night, you can often set your own pace.
Then, enjoy the show!
New to Bright Nights this year was MGM and the Springfield Thunderbirds.
Of course, you can’t go an event in Springfield and not find Dr. Seuss!
Just after Suessland, you will find signs for Santa’s Magical Forest. Located just outside of the Forest Park Zoo on the left, this is an outdoor area that is included with your Bright Nights Admission. The parking lot is small but usually you can snag a spot when someone else leaves. You don’t have to stop here, and can drive past, but if you have little ones, it’s definitely worth the quick stop! Just make sure you are dressed for the weather as this is an entirely outdoor experience!
You’ll find Santa of course. He is there every night ready to listen to your Christmas list and take pictures. You can purchase pictures with Santa, or just have a quick visit. On busy nights, the line for Santa can be long! We caught him on a good night and had a chance to get a great picture! Packages start at $34.99 if you decide to take pictures.
Also in Santa’s Magical Forest, you’ll find a gift shop with candies, toys and trinkets for sale. They often will also have a craft on certain nights. On the night we visited, they had a table set up to write letters to Santa.
There are also three rides located at the Magical Forest: a carousel, a train ride and a tractor ride. Each ride takes one ticket, which costs $2.
Sadly on the night we visited, the train derailed! We let him choose one ride, and since the train was out, he went on the tractor ride. It was still really fun!
Outside of Santa’s Magical Forest, you’ll find a small snack shop. You can grab some cocoa or other drinks, popcorn, pretzels, desserts and many other goodies. Even though I packed hot chocolate for all of us, and cookies, my husband still managed to talk me into more food. I’ll admit, the pretzel was good.
Now that we were pretty much freezing, we headed back to the car and continued on with our ride. Santa’s Magical Forest is only at the beginning of Bright Nights, and there is still a lot more to see!
Just around the corner from the frozen pond is my favorite spot on the whole drive, the Everett Barney Mansion! It’s even more amazing in person!
The moving lights are always fun to watch! These leaping reindeer will only jump over your car and not at it!
As you head through those blue lights, you’ll come to the next big display in Toyland.
Here you’ll also spot a bigger, lit up Santa; and some of our favorite childhood toys lit up bright.
I am pretty sure The Game of Life was new this year! I loved it especially since the wheel actually spun!
As you head out of Toyland, you’ll pass my son’s favorite light display: the train!
Once you are through Toyland, you’ll start to notice that you are nearing the end. The last lights are just outside the exit and are some of the grandest displays in all of Bright Nights.
This about sums it up…
Forest Park, 300 Sumner Avenue – Springfield Massachusetts
2019-2020 Schedule: November 27, 2019– January 5, 2020
Sunday through Thursday – 5PM to 9PM
Friday, Saturday and Holidays* – 5PM to 11PM
New Year’s Day – 5PM to 9PM
*Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day
- Drive through light display
- Cash and credit cards taken at main gate
- Pack warm clothes for Santa’s Magical Forest, if you plan to stop
- Santa’s Magical Forest has pictures with Santa (at an extra cost) and three carnival rides
- Special discounted admission rates apply during certain nights. Discounts also available at Big Y and on the Bright Nights website.
- Special events take place at Bright Nights that require advance reservations including Dinner with Santa and horse-drawn carriage rides.