Do you know the real reason why Dorothy and Toto wanted to return home to Kansas? They didn’t want to miss the state’s fantastic Christmas light displays! From the Arc’s Lights in Wichita to TARC’s Winter Wonderland in Topeka to the Holiday Lights on Farmstead Lane in Overland Park, the Sunflower State shines brightly throughout this joyous holiday season. Book a stay at one of many wonderful Kansas vacation rentals today. Experience an exciting Christmas getaway at one of these cities and towns in Kansas.

1. Overland Park

Stay warm in your car as you drive through the Holiday Lights on Farmstead Lane at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead. The City of Overland Park, Kansas, has made the former Ultimate Tree Light Display more exciting than ever, and it’s free. Experience the grand sights and sounds of the season, including a beautiful tree, awesome 3D spheres, stars, and animated figures that move to synchronized music. During the day, visit the Johnson County Museum and Arts and Heritage Center, where you can learn about life in the area during the mid-1900s. Housed in a former bowling alley and ice skating rink, the museum features a large Kidscape with hands-on activities, and everyone can walk through the all-electric house. When the crew gets hungry and craves Kansas barbecue, check out Jack Stack or Q39 South. For brunch, grab a table at Nick & Jake’s and enjoy their classic American dishes before you finish your last-minute shopping.

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2. Wichita

Wichita, Kansas’ largest city, is home to The Arc’s Lights. Formerly known as The Arc’s Lights on St Paul, this annual Christmas lights display delights locals and visitors while proceeds benefit The Arc of Sedgwick County, a nonprofit organization. Receive a discount to view this amazing drive-through experience by purchasing tickets in advance online. For more lights, take the family to Lights on Texas, formerly Lights on Lawrence. Another Wichita tradition, this exciting show features 300,000 computer-animated lights mixed with traditional ones. If your family enjoys neighborhood light shows, drive through the College Hill area to view majestic historic homes lighted and decorated for the season. For more fantastic local scenery, head to the Deer Glen Addition, where 20 homes are decorated as Candy Cane Lane, adorned with huge candy canes and lights galore. Reindeer Road is nearby, displaying handmade, larger-than-life reindeer. During your stay, drop into the Doo-Dah Diner, try their French toast for breakfast or banana bread at brunch, and then tour the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame nearby.

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3. Topeka

Celebrate the Christmas season in Topeka, the state’s capital, by driving through a display of more than a million lights at TARC’s Winter Wonderland. TARC, a nonprofit service organization, partners with Shawnee County Parks and Recreation to host this light extravaganza at Lake Shawnee, continuing a 20-year tradition. Make a daytime trip to The Toy Store in Topeka, where a “game-ologist” teaches gamers of all ages to play several board games. Stay for all or part of the free two-hour sessions during the holiday season. People who celebrate history and aviation love touring Topeka’s Combat Air Museum. Dozens of military and American planes, helicopters, and vehicles are on display, some dating back to World War I. For additional kid-friendly activities, treat your young children to the hands-on fun at the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center. When the weather is nice, the center provides bikes for the kids to ride on the outdoor bike paths.

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4. Manhattan

Manhattan, Kansas, goes all out with big-city style at its annual Manhattan Festival of Lights at Blue Earth Plaza. Started by a group of private local donors called Whoville, Inc., this Christmas light show features a 50-foot tall tree decorated with synchronized lights that flash to classic holiday music. Bring the kids to play games and sit on Santa’s lap, listen to local singing groups, enjoy a cup of hot chocolate by the fire, and mingle with local residents at this feel-good holiday festival. Before you head back to your Kansas vacation rental, pick up some fresh, festive goodies at Radina’s Bakehouse. During the day, visit the Flint Hills Discovery Center. Once there, take in breath-taking views of the downtown skyline, and learn more about the tallgrass prairies of Kansas’ Flint Hills, one of the region’s endangered ecosystems.

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5. WaKeeney

With a nickname like “Christmas City of the High Plains,” the city’s Christmas lights must be special. Visitors agree that WaKeeney, Kansas, lives up to its High Plains holiday name. The town’s centerpiece, a 35-foot tree, handmade of fresh greenery from pine trees, glows under beautiful blue lights, and four ivory stars grace the tree’s top. Lights, more greenery, bountiful bows, and lively decorations cover four square blocks of the downtown business district around the tree, in a Christmas tradition dating back to 1950. Make time to visit the Trego County Historical Society Museum for more about past local traditions. When you want breakfast with fresh, hot biscuits, a filling lunch, or a late night bite, stop at Jake and Chet’s Cafe. Celebrate the holidays in WaKeeney, and give your family a Christmas vacation filled with light and love.

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