Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect ending date for The Arc’s Lights on St. Paul display. It runs through Dec. 28.
Wichita’s Christmas lights seem extra bright and extra plentiful this year. Wouldn’t it be fun to load the kids in the car one evening, drive them around and check them all out?
But where to start? Wichita is a giant city, and if you don’t know exactly where to go, you could be driving around pointlessly for hours while the kids whine.
The Eagle is here to help.
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We combined nominations from readers with our institutional knowledge of which Wichita houses and neighborhoods always go crazy with light displays to develop two specific routes you can follow. One encompasses the east side of Wichita. The other covers highlights on the city’s west side.
Each route also includes at least one institutional light display – such as Botanica’s Illuminations or The Arc’s Lights at Douglas and St. Paul – that you can add if you really want to make an evening out of it. We’ve also included suggestions for hot chocolate, ice cream and coffee stops along each route.
You can do either one in less than two hours, or, if you’ve got a full tank of gas, plenty of time and lots of energy, you can merge the routes together and do it all at once.
Our routes, which come with accompanying maps, don’t include every fabulous light display in the city, but they include many of the most well-known, including the west side’s famous Candy Cane Lane and Lights on Texas displays and the east side’s light- and luminaria-lined streets in College Hill and Crown Heights.
You’ll also find a list of other places worth visiting that you can search out when you’ve completed the routes.
Let us know whether we’ve missed anything major.
East-side Christmas light viewing route
Stop 1: Illuminations at Botanica, 701 N. Amidon: A good place to start this route is Botanica’s annual walk-through light display, which fills the gardens with thousands of twinkling lights. It’ll take at least an hour to enjoy it properly, so factor in some time. It’s open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. through Dec. 31, though it’s closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Admission is $8, $7 for Botanica members and $6 for ages 3-12. Children under 3 get in free. Details at botanica.org.
Stop 2: Giant light-trees across from the Wichita Art Museum: From Botanica, head toward the Wichita Art Museum. Just across Museum Boulevard from the museum are two giant Christmas trees constructed using big, colorful bulbs. They’re put up every year, and they reflect beautifully on the river.
Stop 3: Lighted homes along West River Boulevard: From the museum, travel over to Nims, then turn northwest onto West River Boulevard. Several river-facing houses along the west side of the street are beautifully lit in colorful and dramatic fashion. (Hint for later: The houses look even prettier when viewed from across the river.)
Stop 4: Campbell Castle, 1155 N. River Blvd.: In short order, you’ll see the historic Campbell Castle all lit up on the west side of the street. It’s lined in white lights, which make the mansion look particularly stately.
Stop 5: Christmas at the McKinneys, 1462 N. Coolidge: Head across 13th Street to North Riverside to see this popular display, put up for the past 10 years by Steve McKinney, whose display also encompasses his neighbor’s house. It features at least 100,000 lights that dance in sync to music you can hear by tuning in to a radio station on your FM dial.
Stop 6: City of Wichita light displays near Century II and Kennedy Plaza: Make your way downtown for a look at the city’s light display set up on and near Kennedy Plaza at Century II, 225 W. Douglas. The display always features saluting soldiers, giant lollipops and candy canes and a waving snowman alongside the city’s giant lighted Christmas tree. The snowflakes that line the lampposts along Douglas also add a festive feel.
Stop 7: 1428 S. Hydraulic: Drop down south of Kellogg for a peek at two decorated homes, including this one on the east side of South Hydraulic. This display is also synchronized to music on the FM dial and includes an inflatable polar bear and a waving Santa. It’ll have to be a drive-by, though, as this house is on a street with no safe place to pull over.
Stop 8: 722 S. Erie: Not far away is another brightly decorated residence. This display doesn’t dance, but the homeowner has clearly worked hard on his explosion of lights, which completely cover a couple of front-yard trees and has a lighted Santa in his reindeer-drawn sleigh.
Stop 9: Lights on Longview Lane at 3805 E. Longview Lane: Travel east to find Clayton Gossett’s creation, which includes a dancing light display, this one set to funky, electronica Christmas carol mash-ups that can be found on the FM dial.
Stop 10: Kirstie Alley’s Santa’s Village, 3735 E. Douglas: Take Hillside north to Douglas, then head east toward the house of Wichita native Kirstie Alley. The celebrity, who owns two side-by-side homes on the street, has set up a giant movie set she salvaged from her 1993 movie “Look Who’s Talking Now.” It’s fashioned to look like a classic Christmas village and is covered in lights. It can be best viewed from the Clifton Square parking lot.
Refreshment break: If you’re ready to stretch your legs, grab some coffee or ice cream at College Hill Creamery at 3700 E. Douglas in Clifton Square. It’s open until 9 p.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. on weekends.
Stop 11: 200 and 300 blocks of North Roosevelt: These two College Hill blocks contain several breathtakingly decorated houses, and some nights, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Allen House at the corner of Roosevelt and Second is lit up inside. It’s fun to peer in the windows as you drive by.
Stop 12: 100 block of N. Pershing: Several blocks to the east is Pershing, where the 100 block is famously lined with multicolored sticks of lights in an array of colors planted in the ground. The effect is awesome.
Stop 13: 100 block of South Pershing: Cross Douglas onto South Pershing to see some luminaria-lined streets. Just follow the glowing curb-level lights until you’ve seen enough. If you really like the luminarias, check out the Crown Heights neighborhood north of Douglas between Oliver and Edgemoor.
Stop 14: Marshall Family Christmas lights, 620 N. Stratford Lane: The next stop is near Central and Rock Road and features a musical display set up each year by Mark Marshall, his wife and their eight children. The family home is covered with 100,000 dancing lights choreographed to songs selected and approved by family matriarch Susie Marshall, including classics such as “O Holy Night.”
Stop 15: Bradley Fair Christmas tree: From the Marshall home, make your way to 21st and Rock Road, where your tour can conclude around the beautifully decorated Christmas tree set up at the Bradley Fair shopping center.
Refreshment break: Reward yourself with a hot chocolate at Cocoa Dolce, some peppermint ice cream at Marble Slab or dinner at any of the center’s restaurants. And if you’re there on a weekend evening, you can take a free horse-drawn carriage ride as well.
West-side Christmas light viewing route
Stop 1: Friends University’s Davis Hall, 2100 W. University: This centrally-located University is known for its dramatic, lighted tower, visible from Kellogg. Crews worked during the fall replacing the lights, which are shining brighter than ever. While there, you can also pose for a photo underneath the massive, lighted angels guarding the entrance to campus.
Stop 2: The Arc’s Lights on St. Paul: After finishing at Friends, drive to Douglas and take a spin through The Arc’s lights. Formerly known as Lights on St. Paul, this display includes 1.9 million lights, and people can even stop to have a photo taken with Santa during the weekends. It’s open nightly starting at 5:30 p.m., and organizers are asking people to pay $10 a carload to drive though the event. The admission fee is required on Friday and Saturday nights but just suggested the rest of the week. The display is open through Dec. 28.
Stop 3: 9th Street Lights, 3821 W. Ninth St.: A short drive from The Arc’s lights is this home, whose owner has dubbed his show “9th Street Lights.” The musical show contains more than 25,000 dancing lights, set to music on the FM dial.
Stop 4: 628 N. Flora and 635 N. Flora: Head back to Central and travel west until you reach North Flora. There you’ll find two decked-out houses, right across the street from each other, that include lighted Christmas scenes and lots of inflatables.
Stop 5: 261 N. Robin Road: A short drive away is this decked-out house, which sits near Wilbur Middle School. Its owner has covered nearly every square inch of his house, roof and driveway with colorful Christmas lights and displays.
Refreshment break: Refuel with some eggnog-, peppermint- or hot chocolate-flavored ice cream at the Braum’s at 440 N. Tyler.
Stop 6: 914 Crestline Circle: The next house on the stop is near 13th and Maize and features a small house covered in neon-colored lights that dance to music found on the FM dial. This house includes a little hut in the front yard, and a hologram projected onto it makes it appear that Santa is busy at work inside.
Refreshment break: If it’s the weekend, you also could stop in at Verita Coffee Bar at 9414 W. Central, which is open until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and which sells all kinds of hot drinks.
Stop 7: 923 Toh-N-Hah Court: This house actually looks more impressive from the back, which faces Maize Road. But you have to crane your neck to the east to check it out as you drive by. It’s pretty impressive from the front, too.
Stop 8: Lights on Texas, 11603 W. Texas: The granddaddy of all Wichita Christmas displays is this house, whose owners moved west last year after a few years on Lawrence Court. It’s owned by Brad Short and Scott Lawrence, who have more than 300,000 lights and many of the decorations that once decorated the Wey Mansion on Park Place. Their show includes music broadcast over the radio and is so expansive and bright, it could likely be seen from the moon. Be sure to note the animated Santa in a clear box mounted on the roof.
Stop 9: 810 N. Cedar Park: One of two impressively decorated houses on Cedar Park, near 119th and Central, is this house, which has a Bethlehem-like facade set up and lighted in the front yard.
Stop 10: 818 N. Cedar Park: Just a few houses to the north of the Bethlehem house is the “Christmas Story” house, whose yard is filled with homemade scenes from the famous Christmas movie. See Santa sit on his throne at the top of the slide, Ralphie in his pink bunny suit, Flick with his tongue stuck to the frozen pole and, of course, the very “fragile” leg lamp.
Stop 11: Candy Cane Lane, 119th and Central in Deer Glen: A perfect finale to your west-side tour is a trip through Candy Cane lane, a group of about 25 houses that all get together to decorate and have a convenient turnaround in a cul-de-sac at the end. Wear your sunglasses and watch for party buses.
Other displays worth checking out
These houses aren’t on the routes we constructed, but if you have some extra time, they’re worth straying for.
▪ Lights on Gold, 5336 S. Gold
▪ 1850 S. Battin
▪ 344 S. Milstead
▪ 5702 N. Charles
▪ 6726 W. Ocieo
▪ 820 S. James, Maize
▪ 11608 Cedar Lane, Maize
▪ 10813 SW Tawakoni Road, Augusta
▪ 8712, 8728, 8744 and 8944 Ross, Valley Center
▪ Magic of Christmas, 143 E. Fourth St., Goddard
▪ Brook Forest neighborhood display south of Madison and west of Rock Road, Derby