Saint Charles and St. Louis—less than 30 miles apart on opposite sides of the Missouri River—could bookend a weekend of holiday light festivals.

By Ginger Crichton
November 13, 2020
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Their personalities are completely different, but the historic riverside town of St. Charles and the major metro of nearby St. Louis both offer plenty of ways to celebrate the holidays. Each event has COVID-19 protocols this year such as timed-ticket entry and mask requirements; check websites for details. The pandemic situation evolves daily; check here for the state's latest information.

Saint Charles, Missouri, Christmas Traditions festival
| Credit: Emily Lansche Katski/@dogwoodchannelcat

St. Charles Christmas Traditions, in its 46th year, opens November 27 and runs Wednesdays through Sundays until December 24. While some pandemic modifications have been made, visitors can still expect Victorian carolers, shopping and dining along historic Main Street, storytelling and holiday lights. Watch Santa parades at noon on opening day and then on weekends.

Garden Glow, Missouri Botanical Garden
| Credit: Tom Incrocci/Missouri Botanical Garden

Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Gardens runs November 11-January 2, 2021. A million lights twinkle and flash around the garden, illuminating landmarks like the greenhouse geodesic dome and water features. Look for hot chocolate, s’mores and other snacks to purchase along the Garden Glow path; a small-plates menu is sold on select nights at Café Flora. Advanced-sale timed tickets required.

U.S. Bank Wild Lights fills the St. Louis Zoo with a million lights on select nights from November 27 to January 2, 2021. Timed-entry tickets required. In addition to seeing animal-themed light displays, you can buy s’mores to roast at a fire pit, ride on the Conservation Carousel, visit the Penguin & Puffin Coast, and hear holiday carolers and other live entertainment on the weekends.

The new-in-2020 Holiday Fun at Grants’ Farm offers a drive-through experience Thursdays through Sundays, November 27-December 31; reservations required. The route starts at Inspiration Hill (where you might see Clydesdales in the distance), then enters the Tiergarten decorated as a gingerbread village, goes by other animals that live at the farm, and passes twinkling snowflakes and trees in the Deer Park area. Tune in to holiday music on your radio.

Come to Holiday in the Park at Six Flags St. Louis for story time on the North Pole Train, a visit with Santa, live performances, and holiday treats such as fried Oreos and cinnamon sugar Bavarian pretzels. Select days in November and December; tickets required.

The Steinberg Skating Rink—the largest outdoor ice skating rink in the Midwest—starts its winter season on Friday, November 20 and is scheduled to be open every day through Sunday, February 28, 2021, including holidays. COVID-19 protocols are in place for food purchase, skate rental and reduced capacity.

In O’Fallon, about 35 miles west of downtown St. Louis, Fort Zumwalt Park is merry and bright with more than a million lights during the annual Celebration of Lights. Visitors can drive or stroll through the park, or, on designated nights, take carriage, train and sleigh rides. Advance reservations required. Open most nights November 27–December 30.