Where to find the best Hudson Valley holiday light extravaganzas

(Photo by Andrew Malone)

Heads up and eyes open! ‘Tis the season to gaze in wonder at the holiday light shows mounted in neighborhoods and commercial venues far and wide:

When the originators of Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses decided to generate over-the-top holiday cheer for families, A Frosty Fest was created to fill that bill. The fun-filled Christmas extravaganza is located on Route 9W in Ulster Park, where for a couple of months each autumn, the 250-year-old farm turns parts of its 65 acres of woods, ponds and orchards into a rather frightful experience. But December brings sweet enchantment and awe and a bit of magic to the grounds.

A Frosty Fest features every themed character you might imagine would show up for Christmas, including Mr. & Mrs. Frosty, Snowbear, the Gingerbread Man, the Candy Cane characters, Penguin and Rudolph. Wandering through the staged theatrics and scenarios gives parents countless opportunities for photo ops with these costumed frolickers. Candy Cane Lane offers a stroll through the midway with breathtaking lights, holiday music, gift shops, foods, delicious hot cocoa and much more.

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Visitors can see a live stage show and walk through Frosty’s Hidden Wonderland. A ride through the grounds in your own vehicle or on Frosty’s Hayride offers Christmas music, more dazzling holiday lights, spectacular displays and animations as you travel through Frosty’s Enchanted Forest. Don’t miss the Candy Cane Factory, a Snow Village, 12 Days of Christmas and Santa’s Workshop.

Glistening Gardens celebrates the Dancing Trees of Nature, choreographed to holiday music, while the Magical Mansion holds the Talking Tree, Santa’s Office, the Mail Sorting Room filled with thousands of letters to Santa and the Yummy Bakery. In Frosty’s Magical Adventure, a 3-D walk-through, kids will find more holiday razzle-dazzle than they can possibly absorb – but that’s not all! What would A Frosty Fest be without Santa Claus holding forth at Santa’s North Pole?

Open now through December 23 on Fridays from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 4:30 to 8 p.m. and Sundays from 4:30 to 7 p.m., Be sure to dress appropriately and watch the weather forecast (inquiries at rainouts@headlesshorseman.com). Non-refundable tickets can be purchased online (with $3.95 service charge) for children under 12 for $9 and adults for $12, or on-site at $13.95 and $16.95 respectively (plus tax).

A Frosty Fest is located at 778 Broadway in Ulster Park. Visit www.afrostyfest.com for more information; (845) 339-2666.

Kevin McCurdy’s Holiday Spirit Festival, a commercial venue in operation for 13 years now, offers an enchanted forest of lights, a light-show spectacular and a winter wonderland packed with fun for everyone – including such features as Santa’s Week before Christmas, with its post office and “elfavator,” and a Polar Express walk-through train display. Located at 38 Sheafe Road in Wappingers Falls; admission for adults is $12, and $10 for children 11 and under; (845) 297-XMAS, http://holidayspiritfestival.com.

In Lagrangeville, ERDAJT’S Holiday Light Display, created and operated by the family of five to thrill the whole Town of Union Vale, is an in-neighborhood presentation with up to 555,000 LED lights. Visitors can check an online schedule of 259 songs by well-known contemporary artists, some played only once during the season. The high-tech display runs nightly starting at 4:45 p.m. through December 28. On Sundays to Thursdays it ends at 9:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays and through Christmas week to approximately 10:45 p.m. Located at 8 Patrick Drive in Lagrangeville (please be mindful of the neighbors’ right-of-way); donations collected for various charities throughout the season.

The Christmas Lights on Quaker Hill Drive, another family-run show on display in Hyde Park, offer much of the above and the added attraction of visitors having a photo taken with Olaf the Snowman of Disney fame! Donations of toys, clothing and monies are collected nightly for the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County SPCA, the Grace Smith House and the Hyde Park Food Bank. Drive through and listen to the holiday music Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m.; www.facebook.com/christmas-lights-on-quaker-hill-drive-1377966309090833/timeline.

Check out Holiday Lights in Bloom at the Orange County Arboretum in Thomas Bull Memorial Park. The Arboretum is all decked out for Christmas with lights shaped like flowers, animals and insects in a magical walk-through display. Don’t miss the 9/11 Memorial Garden decorated in patriotic splendor and the Arboretum Holiday Boutique. All proceeds raised at the Boutique help fund the plantings and educational programs at the facility. Admission is free; open on Fridays and Saturdays through December 17, then daily from December 22 through December 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Holiday Lights in Bloom is located on Route 416 in Montgomery; www.orangecountyarboretum.org/lightsinbloom.htm.

The Bruschi Christmas in Wallkill offers over 15,000 lights meticulously set to music with a plethora of blow-molds, inflatables and handmade elements arranged on the Bruschi family’s front lawn. Like many other non-commercial light shows, the display employs cutting-edge software to ensure a nonstop celebration of the joys of the season. Drive by 5 Madre DeCristo Road in the village of Wallkill, now through New Year’s Day from 5 to 10 p.m.; www.bruschichristmas.com.

In Saugerties, the Sussin family’s annual Christmas light show can be seen every night until New Year’s Day from 5 to 10 p.m. Santa and Mrs. Claus are on the scene Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 8 p.m. Now in its fifth year, the neighborhood display attracted the attention of ABC’s reality television program The Great Christmas Light Fight, which pits several families into competition in three categories: Use of Lights, Overall Design and Christmas Spirit. The filmed segment will air on Monday, December 11 at 9 p.m. The Sussin Family Lightshow can be seen at 123 Patch Road in Saugerties. The family requests that all traffic park on the side opposite the display.

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