Lights Under Louisville stands out as a premier festival of lights show, earning its stripes as one of the most popular attractions in the country. The question on many minds: is this unique underground light show worth the investment?
In this review article, I aim to shed light on that query, drawing from my personal experience with Lights Under Louisville.
Additionally, I’ll share some tips to enhance your experience while ensuring a seamless visit that doesn’t inadvertently disrupt the enjoyment of others. Let’s dive in.
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What is Lights Under Louisville?
Lights Under Louisville, situated in Louisville, Kentucky, is a holiday lights show that invites visitors to drive through a cavern spanning over a mile. This unique experience offers a dazzling showcase of holiday lights and sounds, earning it a widespread reputation as one of the most popular events of its kind in the country.
Lights Under Louisville: brief background
Nestled within the expansive Mega Cavern beneath Louisville, Kentucky, “Lights Under Louisville” is a dazzling spectacle that transforms a colossal 4 million square foot cavern into a radiant holiday wonderland.
Situated 75 to 100 feet below the surface, this cavern, essentially a subterranean masterpiece, weaves beneath notable locations such as the Louisville Zoo.
In its earlier life, this cavern served as a bustling limestone quarry during the 1930s, where miners tirelessly extracted rock for more than four decades. Its multifaceted history includes roles as a Cold War-era fallout shelter and, later, a storage facility, capitalizing on its consistently mild temperatures oscillating around 50 to 60 degrees.
Fast forward about 15 years ago, and Lights Under Louisville emerged, ushering in a new era of holiday enchantment. The cavern’s interior underwent a transformation with intricate decorations, setting the stage for an annual tradition of switching up themes to keep the experience vibrant.
The Light Show has evolved into a colossal display, boasting over 6 million lights and stretching across a 1.3-mile-long path, securing its spot as one of the largest light shows globally.
While the Lights Under Louisville website boldly claims to be “the ONLY underground holiday light show in the world!” there might be some wiggle room in that assertion.
It could be the sole fully underground light show, the grandest of its kind, or perhaps the criteria they use for “light show” might include certain elements like laser displays and holograms. Pinning down the precise qualifiers for this claim could be a bit tricky.
Regardless, when the glittering lights come to life beneath the surface, it undeniably offers a distinctive and memorable experience. So, I’m inclined to cut them some slack on the claim; after all, Lights Under Louisville manages to carve out its own unique niche in the holiday festivities.
How to book a visit to lights under Louisville
Securing tickets for this luminous extravaganza is a breeze, and I’d strongly advise snagging them online for a seamless experience.
Now, for the cost breakdown: a standard vehicle, covering everything from your run-of-the-mill car to SUVs, trucks, and minivans, commands a ticket price of $42.99, plus a modest $3.46 booking fee. Tack on the tax, and you’re looking at roughly $50 per vehicle.
Sure, fifty bucks for a festival of lights might sound a tad hefty, but here’s the kicker – that price tag covers everyone in your ride. Suddenly, the math becomes a lot more palatable.
When we grabbed our tickets, there was no fuss about choosing a specific time slot. Instead, the ticket seemed to grant access for any time during the day (one-time entry).
Since this dazzling display is tucked beneath the earth’s surface, you’re not confined to a night visit.
The gates swing open at 9:30 a.m., and if you hit the scene early, expect a line-up of eager cars.
On the flip side, when we wrapped things up around 10:15 a.m., the queue had magically disappeared. To beat the rush, consider rolling in about 45 minutes after kick-off.
Keep in mind this intel is from early December – as you inch closer to Christmas or venture out on the weekends, the crowd dynamics could shift. Just a heads-up for your luminous adventure planning!
Preparing for your visit to Lights under Louisville [please read this]
Before embarking on your journey, here’s a crucial tip: familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s headlights. If your headlights are easily switchable, you’re in the clear. However, many vehicles come with daytime running lights or intricate settings that can be confusing for drivers who aren’t accustomed to adjusting them.
Upon arrival, you’ll be kindly asked to turn off your headlights. This step is crucial. If you overlook it, your headlights might affect the experience for others by washing out the vibrant colors of the display.
I speak from personal experience—during our visit, we found ourselves contending with constant flashes from other headlights, which not only proved bothersome but also interfered with our attempts to capture photos.
In my opinion, the personnel managing the entrance should be more vigilant in ensuring that visitors have turned off their headlights.
A potential solution could be implementing a separate lane for individuals encountering difficulties with this aspect, allowing them to address the issue without impeding the progress of others. It’s a minor adjustment that could enhance the experience for everyone involved.
Our experience inside the cavern
Upon arrival, anticipate a line, but fortunately, it moves swiftly.
Once you approach the cave entrance, it’s ticket time and a briefing on the ground rules.
As mentioned earlier, keeping your headlights off is a must. Additionally, your vehicle should be in idle mode, gliding through the spectacle.
While I observed many people tapping the brakes to maintain speed, the idea is to idle as much as possible. Remember, stopping or exiting your vehicle is a no-go. Also, adhere to other rules like refraining from vaping and lighting up.
The light show spans a satisfying 25 to 30 minutes, contingent on your pace or group speed.
Now, onto the show itself—prepare for an impressive array of themes. Classic Christmas vibes mingle with traditional holiday scenes—Santa Claus, reindeers, and Nativity scenes. Yet, they sprinkle in modernity with nods to Disney hits like Frozen and Aladdin, along with a dose of superhero magic.
Expect to traverse captivating tunnels adorned with dynamic light displays, and don’t miss the laser shows, perfectly synchronized with music. Speaking of tunes, a medley of melodies will serenade you throughout the journey.
My recommendation? Roll down your window and immerse yourself in the sensory experience.
Given the stable 60-degree temperature underground, it’s a comfortable affair. Plus, the subterranean setting shields you from rain, making it an all-weather adventure (barring flooding issues). Minimize brake taps to avoid inconveniencing those behind you with sudden red lights.
As you’d imagine, there’s a plethora of photo ops and video moments awaiting capture, so have your apps at the ready for a visual feast.
So is the Lights Under Louisville worth it?
Personally, I find Lights Under Louisville to be a worthwhile experience. The novelty of a subterranean holiday light show makes it truly stand out, offering a distinctive and interesting attraction.
What adds to its appeal is the fact that you can enjoy it regardless of the weather or the time of day, providing flexibility in planning your visit. The organizers have done an impressive job curating an array of sights and sounds that captivate, ensuring that time seems to effortlessly slip away as you traverse the underground spectacle.
However, my primary critique revolves around the lax enforcement of the headlight rule.
For those with vehicles boasting bright headlights or unfortunate height placements, the lights from other cars can be a persistent bother throughout the journey. The inability to stop and address this issue leaves you with little choice but to endure it.
I took the initiative to reach out and voice my concern, but the response I received essentially acknowledged the issue without offering anything, such as a second trip through. That was disappointing.
Despite this drawback, the overall uniqueness and charm of Lights Under Louisville make it a memorable experience worth considering, as long as you’re prepared to contend with potential headlight nuisances.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.