The best holiday lights

  • Holiday lights bring feelings of warmth and cheer even in the darkest and coldest days of the year.
  • The KooPower Waterproof Battery Fairy Lights are a great choice if you prefer white lights because they are controlled by a remote and powered by batteries.
  • If you prefer colourful lights, go with the Brizled LED Mini String Lights, which come in 66-foot strands so you can decorate large areas with ease.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

I’m someone who likes their holiday lights and decorations. I spend hours and hours every November climbing up and down ladders and scrambling around on the roof stringing up dozens of feet of lights on every peak and roofline of the house.

With all those hours spent decorating come a fair share of frustrations, though, from blown bulbs to overloaded circuits and even the occasional ladder-related mishap. With those unhappy memories in mind, I’ve worked to assemble a buying guide filled with holiday lights that not only look great, but that also make your life easier.

Included with a couple of classic plug-in options, this guide features lights that are both solar- and battery-powered. We have lights controlled via a handheld remote or app and those that are beamed out of a projector.

Sure, those old strands of tiny incandescent bulbs you have tangled up in boxes on the garage shelves are probably fine, but these lights are definitely better. Upgrade your light game this season with these shining examples of great holiday lights.

Here are the best holiday lights:

Prices and links are current as of 12/10/20. We added a set of smart lights based on testing.


The best classic lights

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One 66-foot strand of Brizled LED Mini String Lights features 200 LEDs and should provide enough colourful bulbs to decorate an entire tree.

Pros: Warm and bright light quality, durable lights last for years, spare bulbs and fuse included

Cons: No built-in timer

Just one 66-foot strand of these bright, colourful Brizled LED Lights, you should be able to decorate even an 8- or 9-foot tree. Each strand holds 200 individual bulbs in the classic blue, red, yellow, green, and orange assortment.

The Brizled LED Mini String Lights are rated to last for 25,000 hours, so you probably won’t have to replace the strand – possibly ever. Even if you leave your lights illuminated for a month straight every year, you can still expect about 35 years out of them.

The best thing about the Brizled LED Mini String Lights isn’t their longevity, though, it’s their looks. These bulbs approximate the same look as those beloved incandescent mini bulbs you’ll remember from holiday seasons past, yet they use about 88% less power than traditional lights and never get hot enough to pose a risk of injury or fire. Plus, they’re much brighter than incandescent bulbs, so you’ll get much more pop from just one strand.

If colourful lights don’t match the look you’re going for, Brizled also makes them in both warm and cool white. And should you want to go full Griswold on your holiday decorations, you can safely connect up to 10 strands of these things.

These lights are perfect for indoor use thanks to their cool physical temperature and warm light quality. They are perfectly safe for outdoor use in all sorts of weather conditions.


The best battery-powered lights

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The KooPower Waterproof Battery Fairy Lights are battery powered and operated via remote control, so once they’re in place, you can look forward to weeks of effortless enjoyment.

Pros: Battery power lasts many days, controlled by remote, tiny but bright bulbs, great price

Cons: 36-foot strand too short for some applications, only come in warm white, batteries must be changed after 60 hours of use

One of the worst things about holiday lights is the fact that you have to plug them in every time you want them to light up and unplug them when you want them to go dark – unless you have a timer. But even with a timer, you still need the lights to end up near an outlet, or at least be close enough to the outlet that an extension cord can connect the two. With the KooPower Waterproof Battery Fairy Lights with Remote and Timer, both of those situations are things of the past.

The KooPower lights are powered by three AA batteries, and when only lit for a few hours each night, these three batteries will keep the lights aglow for days. With good quality batteries, the lights will shine for 60 hours before needing a change, so even if you left the lights on for four hours every night, that’s more than two weeks per set, or likely only one battery change per holiday season. And what’s more, you could set these lights up miles from the nearest power outlet if you really wanted to.

The remote control eliminates the need for ready access to the lights and for use of an external timer. With the remote, the lights can be programmed for an on/off cycle, set to twinkle, fade in and out, do a chasing flash pattern, and more. The lights stay cool, thus are safe for use on an indoor tree, and are water-resistant, thus suitable for outdoor hanging.


The best large-bulb lights

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The large, softly glowing colourful bulbs of the Good Tidings Ceramic Multi-Coloured Holiday Lights look just like something out of a classic film.

Pros: Classic vintage charm, bright lights visible from a distance, easy bulb changes

Cons: Short strand length, glow much warmer than LEDs

Sure, LED bulbs are bright, energy-efficient, cool to the touch, and last for years. But you have to admit, there’s something so warm and comforting about classic incandescent bulb holiday lights – especially those oversized bulbs known “in the business” as C9 bulbs.

The Good Tidings Ceramic Multi-Coloured Holiday Light Set comes with 25 big, colourful bulbs that shine with a light both bright and soft at once. They will light up your tree, they look great framing a window or doorway, and they’re hard to beat when strung across the roofline of the home, especially when a blanket of snow rests around them.

The strand measures 24 feet long, a great length for an indoor tree though a bit short for use outdoors unless you’re willing to buy a few strands. They will last for years, though, albeit with an occasional bulb swap needed. Doing so is easy, though. It’s just like changing a standard light bulb.

The Good Tidings Ceramic Multi-Coloured Holiday Lights are UL listed for indoor and outdoor use and they connect to any standard socket or extension cord. If the soft frosted bulb look isn’t to your liking, they also come in a transparent variation.


The best smart lights

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Twinkly’s smart LED string lights connect with an app so you can control the colour scheme and turn them on and off with your phone or your voice.

Pros: Easy to set up and use, well-designed app, voice control supported by Alexa and Google Assistant, programmable lights, fun to make your own designs

Cons: Significantly more expensive than regular LED string lights

Twinkly’s LED string lights are fully customisable, thanks to an easy-to-use app that lets you program your lights. You can choose between a wide range of pre-made light effects so your tree will twinkle like stars, display a heart, look like a glittery candy cane, or show off a pulsing rainbow. There’s even a dongle you can add to synchronise your lights to music.

You can also go simple and choose solid colours or make your own mix in the app. The options are basically endless with more than 16 million colours to choose from. The LED lights are bright and vibrant, too, making any colour combination look gorgeous.

The lights were easy to set up in our tests. It’s as easy as plugging the lights in, downloading the app, and following the on-screen directions to connect your lights via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

I set the lights up with my home’s Wi-Fi network so that I can control them remotely and with my voice. To enable voice control, I followed the instructions in the Alexa app to connect the lights to my Echo in just a few minutes. Now I can turn them on or off in the app or with my voice. Overall, the smart lights are easy to use, mainly because the app is so user friendly.

In terms of length, the 250-light strand perfectly covered my 7.5-foot tree, but depending on how densely packed you want the lights to be, you may need more lights. Twinkly sells several different smart light strands, so you can choose whichever ones are best for your needs.

The 100-light strand linked here is also on sale, making it a good deal. Under normal circumstances, and even when on sale, these lights are more expensive than ordinary lights, but if you want full customizability, voice control, and all the smart features included here, it will be worth it. If not, grab a strand of normal lights and a smart outlet, like this one from Belkin. – Malarie Gokey


The best solar-powered holiday lights

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Once you have your VMANOO Solar Powered String Lights set up where you want them, they are 100% hands-off until it’s time to take the lights down again at the end of the holiday season.

Pros: No outlet or batteries needed, sensor turns lights on or off, available in multiple colours

Cons: Limited shine duration per charge

Once you have the VMANOO Solar Powered String Lights where you want them, you don’t have to think about these lights again until it’s time to put them away after the holidays. That is, except when you admire them or get compliments from others.

The lights are 100% solar-powered, requiring no proximity to an outlet, no battery swaps, and no programming with a timer or searching for a remote control, either. The lights have a sensor that automatically turns them on once the ambient light is low enough and that will switch them back off once the sun is again filling the sky.

Though to be honest, they will probably have dimmed or switched off entirely before that happens, as they have an approximate eight-hour run-time per charge. Don’t worry, though, that’s plenty long enough. Even with a dead of winter 4:30 p.m. sunset, the lights will still be aglow well after midnight.

The VMANOO Solar Powered String Lights come in a 72-foot strand, so you will be able to decorate a smaller tree or bush, an entire roofline, or to frame a number of windows and/or doors with a single strand. As they come in pale white, warm white, multicoloured, and blue, you can choose the exact look you want for your holiday illumination.

The one major drawback to these lights is that they’re hardly suitable for indoor use, as they need access to the sun to power up and need it to be dark in order to power on.


The best holiday light projector

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The remote-controlled Yinuo Christmas Laser Lights Outdoor Projector shines a swirling pattern of red and green stars or other holiday patterns on your home with a simple point and click. It’s currently out of stock.

Pros: Amazingly easy setup, remote control operation, good price point

Cons: Lacks charm of actual strands of lights

Holiday laser light decorations aren’t for everyone, I get that. But falling off of ladders, searching for that one burnt out bulb, and realising you don’t have a long enough extension cord to connect the light strands to the outlet? That stuff isn’t for everyone, either. A gently swirling, twinkling display of red and green stars, Christmas trees, Santas, and snowflakes is quite the attractive alternative.

The Yinuo Christmas Laser Lights Outdoor Projector makes decorating your house for the holidays easier than ever. You simply plant the projector in the ground using its included stake and aim it at your house. It was out of stock at the time of writing.

Plug it in, and then turn it on, that’s all there is to it. More or less, anyway. You might need to move the projector closer to or farther from the walls a few times as you work to find the perfect coverage. But it’s easy stuff overall.

The projector creates rotating or flashing patterns of light, which can be set to green, red, or green and red. You can opt for a pinpoint starfield or choose images including snowflakes, bells, trees, or Santas. Project one, combine them, have them rotate, or leave them static – you can achieve whatever combination you prefer. The lights cover up to 3500 square feet of surface, and the projector can be controlled by a remote that is reliable within 40 feet.

Don’t worry about rain, snow, or freezing temperatures, either – this little guy is waterproof and rated to work even when the mercury hits 4 degrees below zero. Also, it’s safe to use in temperatures up to 104ºF, in case you happen to be in warmer climes this holiday season.


Check out our other great holiday decorating guides

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The best holiday decorations

A beautifully decorated home is part of the wonder of the holiday season. We’ve rounded up the best decorating essentials for your home to make it easier for you.

The best tree skirts

Tree skirts add a dash of colour and style to your holiday decor while hiding away that unsightly tree stand and all the holiday light cords. Here are our top picks.

The best artificial Christmas trees

Artificial Christmas trees have come a long way. They have a more realistic and festive look during the holiday season than their predecessors. Even better, quality artificial trees are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles. These are the best artificial Christmas trees.

The best Christmas stockings

Whether you’re young or old, there’s something magical about the sight of an overflowing stocking awaiting you on Christmas morning. No matter the style you prefer, we have a wide variety of wonderful Christmas stockings.