Nothing has us feeling more festive than a completely over-the-top display of Christmas lights—yes, this is definitely a case of the more the merrier! Lucky for us Aucklanders, a decent dose of holiday twinkle is never far away.
Grab your nearest and dearest—and a cup of something festive to go—and check out our pick of Auckland's best Christmas lights for 2022 including the re-established Glenbrook Vintage Railway.
It wouldn't be right to feature a story on Christmas lights without mentioning Franklin Road, which after a two-year hiatus (honestly, it feels more like 10!) is back in all its festive glory, hallelujah! What for 11 months of the year looks like any other street in Ponsonby (beautiful, yes, but not particularly festive), is transformed into a truly outstanding display of holiday cheer on December 1. Considered by many to be Auckland's best Christmas light display, you'll be hard-pressed to find a house that doesn't join in the celebrations; which spill onto the surrounding streets and even include local businesses (who else remembers the orthodontist's giant Santa, complete with light-up braces?). Make the pilgrimage on foot and you'll also be rewarded with gardens covered in baubles, carollers singing from front doors and even the odd bit of (fake) snow.
Glenbrook Vintage Railway
Polar Express fans, eat your heart out because Glenbrook Vintage Railway is getting fully lit this Christmas, and yes—that includes their beautiful heritage trains following a two-year hiatus. Part of their annual award-winning Counties Power Christmas Lights—Trains At Night event, they'll also be decking out the train station and surrounding buildings in full festive dress and putting on Christmas night markets, food trucks, Santa's grotto with free photos with the man himself, entertainment and more from Friday 16 to 22 December from 6pm till 11pm (last entry 10.25pm) with trains departing approximately every half hour (from 6.30pm) to the workshops and return. Nab your Christmas Lights tickets online for $10 ($40 for families) or $15 on the door. Shout-out to these guys for offering a Sensory Friendly Night, where the festivities are pared back for families with sensory needs.
Smith & Caughey's
This one's less about the Christmas lights and more about the experience as a whole, but we love it just the same. And we're not the only ones—Aucklanders look forward to the festive celebrations at Smith & Caughey's all year long, headlined by an amazing animated window display usually based on a children's book (this year, The Chaos Before Christmas by New Zealand author Sarina Dickson and illustrator Lily Emo) and strings of pretty lights that give the city an instant injection of holiday cheer. For more festive feels, be sure to check out their gorgeous range of decorations instore, or for a small fee why not visit Santa himself via an enchanted forest walk-through (his grotto is LEGIT and bonus, there are no perspex walls to keep you from sitting in his lap this year). Finally, don't forget to take a wander down Queen Street to check out some of the city's other cool Christmas installations (including—you guessed it—more lights).
MOTAT will be moving into full holiday mode on Saturday 7 December, becoming a magical, light-filled wonderland in the lead-up to Christmas. Its heritage buildings always look extra pretty covered in Christmas lights, as do its iconic trams. Live music and entertainment will add to the festivities; with more details announced closer to the time (fingers crossed for Christmas flicks and falling fake snow inside the Discovery Dome, as in years past). Please note that tickets for this event must be purchased online.
Torbay Christmas Lights Display
Bringing a hearty dose of festive cheer to the North Shore for another year is the Torbay Christmas Lights Display, which is something of a legend here in Auckland. Hosted by the good folk at 57A Killarney Ave, this one nails it each and every time (and no wonder, with the whole thing taking up to six weeks to prepare). Along with more lights than you can poke a candy cane at, they have been known to host a choir and one year there was even a legit KITT car from Knight Rider! All they ask for in return is a small donation, which, in the spirit of goodwill, will go to Variety—the Children's Charity.
Christmas is absolutely the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also a time when many of us will be thinking about loved ones who are no longer here to share in the festivities. Mercy Hospice invites you to celebrate their memory (and hopefully put a smile on your face in the process) with their magical Lights to Remember display. Their beautiful grounds, overlooking the city in St Mary's Bay, have been transformed into a garden of cascading lights that's open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night until Christmas from 8-10:30 pm. What's really special about this one is that each light actually represents an enduring bond with a loved one—for a donation, visitors are invited to dedicate a light to friends and family who have passed away, in the form of a short message. For those who can't make it along to the hospice grounds (or who live outside of Auckland), you can also do this online.
The Sky Tower
The Karaka Lakes Christmas lights are a South Auckland favourite, usually headlined by an epic light and music show at 20 Cornwall Place (but who sadly, have announced that they will be taking a permanent break from the festivities, from this year onward). Fear not, other residences will still be showing their support for the holiday season, with their own elaborate Christmas light displays and decorations.
Don't fancy cooking come the big day? Find out who's open on Christmas Day.
Image credit: Chris Ainsworth, Franklin Road Christmas Lights, Glenbrook Vintage Railway by Jo Brightwell Photography, Smith & Caughey's, MOTAT, Torbay Christmas Lights Display, The Sky Tower.