PNC Bank’s Holiday Lights Spectacular Is Must-See | Essex County Moms

This holiday light display is huge and will blow your kid’s minds.


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Published: December 3, 2018

After a long hiatus, the PNC Bank Arts Center’s holiday lights have returned. Magic of Lights features more than a mile of festive, drive-thru lights. Here’s what we learned the last time we took a ride through the light display, and what you should know before you go.

  1. The line to get in will be long, but if you go on a weeknight your wait should be shorter. On a Saturday evening, we waited 90 minutes just to get to the entrance. Bring snacks or something to entertain the kids while you wait. As far as we could tell, aside from saving a few dollars if you have a coupon, there’s no incentive time wise to buy your tickets in advance as there’s no special line for ticket holders.
  2. Make sure to do potty breaks before you go. Once you’re waiting to get into the line, or on the actual journey through the display, there’s no place to make a pit stop. We found one Porta Potty hidden off in a corner for the employees, but in 30 degree temperatures, it’s not the best option.
  3. Make sure you have gas. This seems like a truly obvious thing, but you’ll be driving and idling for a while, so don’t run on empty before you get in.
  4. You can’t get out of your car and stop. Tempting as it is to get a closer look at the light displays, you’ve got to stay inside the vehicle.
  5. If you’re trying to take pictures, bring along another person to drive or sit in the passenger seat to shoot photos. Let’s just say that the pictures from the 8-year-old’s iPhone didn’t exactly come out well.
  6. The lights are truly huge. These wire frame structures (wrapped in lights) are two stories tall. The Santa who greets you when you arrive is gigantic.
  7. There’s not a lot of time to dawdle and take them in. If you can, take a trip on a Tuesday when they offer a second drive through at no additional charge.
  8. The lights are funny—that was an unexpected treat. Santa gets into a bunch of outrageous predicaments, from sliding down a zipline to jumping over ski slopes. The “moving” lights (where some turn dark) really give the illusion that Santa’s going to crash land right into your car.
  9. In addition to Santa and friends, there’s also a section devoted to nursery rhyme characters, and another to the 12 Days of Christmas. Our favorite were the four calling birds.
  10. This year, there’s also a holiday village almost at the end of the ride. It’s totally optional, and included with your ticket. There you can go to the bathroom (though fair warning, this is a concert venue and it is outdoors in the winter, so plan accordingly with plenty of hand sanitizer). You can also meet Santa and purchase cookies, and pose with some small light displays. Most everything in this village comes with an extra fee, including the food vendors, s’mores and Santa. So make sure to budget accordingly. This year there’ll also be a petting zoo featuring pigs, goats and more (December 6, 11, 16, 18, 27 from 6-8 pm).
  11. If you wait until the end, you can see they’ve covered their bases and put in lights for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
  12. The show runs nightly from dusk, from November 16-December 30, until 10 pm (Mon.-Thurs.) and from dusk until 11 pm (Fri.-Sun.). Tickets are $20 dollars per car when purchased online in advance. If you can, get a big group together and squeeze into one vehicle. For more specific information visit

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