The Town of Leland in North Carolina has a gorgeous free lights display with lights, animatronic holiday scenes, and more. Leland In Lights 2023 will begin on December 2, 2023. The 2023 version is different than in the past, due to construction, so get all the updated details here.
For help planning a trip to the area, check out our other Wilmington area posts.
We live in a small town. Well, it’s not that small anymore. It’s actually the fastest growing town in North Carolina and the population has doubled since we moved here.
But it still has that small town feel, with festivals and movies in the park and free concerts by local bands.
Those three things all happen in Founders Park (113 Town Hall Dr), which is where Leland In Lights usually takes place.
This year is a little different, though. Founders Park is undergoing construction. The town park is going to be amazing when its done. It’ll have a splash pad, amphitheater, and more. But, for now, safety is the town’s top priority and it’s not safe to have residents and visitors trekking through a construction zone. So some of the lights are at town hall and other town facilities, like the Leland Fire Department on River Road.
Hopefully the construction will be completed early enough next year so the lights can be displayed at the park.
Leland In Lights: Everything You Need To Know
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Leland In Lights, a completely free walk through event for Leland residents and non-residents, had its inaugural season in 2020 and has grown every year since. Until 2023. This year, it’s a small scale version of the event because the town’s park is under construction.
Instead of Leland In Lights’ Grand Illumination, there will be a smaller tree lighting at Town Hall (102 Town Hall Drive) on Saturday, December 2, 2023 and the lights will go on daily until January 2, 2024. The lights will turn on at 6 pm and are on until about 6 am the next morning.
Leland In Lights: Frequently Asked Questions
Free parking is available at four public lots.
Three are at Founders Park itself (there are two near the Senior Center, off Town Hall Drive, and one is off Perry Ave., between Village Road and Animal Control).
The fourth is the public parking lot available at Town Hall.
For the town tree lighting, overflow parking is available at First Baptist Church of Leland (517 Village Rd NE). During the town tree lighting, a free shuttle will run between the church and the park. This shuttle and parking area will not be available any day other than December 2.
If you’re looking for an animatronic Santa, you’ll usually find two at Leland In Lights. Last year, there one Santa in the back of the park, near Old Fayetteville Road, waving from an animatronic fire engine. There’s a second Santa near the little library, on Town Hall Drive, waving next to a snowman. Santa may be set up in different locations this year (or not at all, due to the Founders Park renovations).
As far as Santa in the flesh, he’ll be at the town tree lighting.
Santa will also be at a few other town events this season.
There’s a Cookies with Santa event on December 6 at 6:30 pm and a Breakfast with Santa event on December 13 at 9:30 am. There will also be sensory-friendly Santa visits on December 16 from noon to 2:30 pm. Registration, which can be done online or at the Leland Cultural Arts Center (1212 Magnolia Village Way), is required for all three events.
If you’re looking for additional visits with Santa Claus this holiday season, check out our Where To See Santa In Wilmington, NC post.
The Leland Express train made its debut at Leland Homecoming/Founders Day in November 2021.
The Leland Express train rides will be back for the town’s tree lighting. The trackless train usually runs a path through the back portion of the park and takes about five minutes. It usually goes past the lights in the back half of the park. The line starts on Town Hall Drive, down near Town Hall (where the Town of Leland Incorporation Pokémon Gym is, if you play Pokémon Go).
However, due to the fact that it’s only running at the tree lighting this year, I’m sure the path will change (although it hasn’t been announced yet).
Other Christmas light displays near Leland, NC:
Leland In Lights is usually one of the best displays of holiday lights in coastal Carolina. Since it’s scaled down this year, you might want to check out another holiday display in the area this Christmas season.
Last year, a reader named Katie commented to let us know that there’s a house on Redfield Drive in Magnolia Greens in Leland, NC that has an “amazing” display. I haven’t checked it out yet, but now it’s on my list.
A few others that are within driving distance of Leland, NC are:
Enchanted Airlie is the Christmas light display in Airlie Gardens. You pay per carload, but it’s a walkthrough display.
The display is open on November 24 and 25, then again from December 1 to 21 with arrival times at 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm, 7:30 pm, and 8:30 pm each night. Tickets go on sale to the public on November 1 (there is a pre-sale for Airlie Garden members) and advance tickets are required.
Enchanted Airlie has been a Wilmington, NC staple since 2005 and sells out every year.
Read our full Enchanted Airlie review for more details.
Island of Lights Festival
The Island of Lights Festival at the lake at Carolina Beach (intersection of Atlanta Ave and Lake Park Blvd) is an incredible walk-through experience, right on the water.
Each night, tons of animatronic displays (like snowmen having a snowball fight and Santa waving) are set up around the lake.
It’s a free event, although you may have to pay for parking depending on what time you get down to Carolina Beach.
Jeff Gordon Chevrolet
It sounds odd to say a car dealership puts on one of the best light displays in the area, but IYKYK. And if you don’t know, I’m telling you. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet (228 College Rd) does an incredible job decorating all of its lots with over 450,000 Christmas lights.
You can drive by or walk through the lights, which are synced to the holiday music on 99.3 FM.
Nights of a Thousand Candles
Brookgreen Gardens, a botanical garden in Murrells Inlet, SC puts on Nights of a Thousand Candles every year.
The event starts on November 25 and 26, then happens each Thursday to Sunday until December 17, then revives from December 27 to December 31. It’s open from 4 pm to 9 pm each of those days and you’re able to stay the entire time.
There are over 2,500 candles and countless lights displayed throughout the garden. It has been dubbed the “Best Christmas Lights in South Carolina” by Travel+Leisure Magazine.
For more, check out our Nights of a Thousand Candles review.
Restaurants in Leland, NC near Leland In Lights
If you’re coming to Leland In Lights, you may want to have dinner either before or after walking through the display.
Luckily, we have two lists filled with restaurants in the area. There’s our 20+ Restaurants In Leland, North Carolina To Try, filled with restaurants in town, and the other is 20+ Must Try Restaurants In Wilmington, NC, filled with eateries in Wilmington (which is the town over from Leland).
More events near Leland, NC:
If Leland in Lights was your first time in the Leland area and now you’re looking for more excuses to come back, there are some other annual events you’ll want to put on your calendar.
Our full list of Festivals in Wilmington, NC has you covered with all the details.
Have you been to Leland in Lights? Tell us what you thought about it in the comments.