Is your family ready to get into the Christmas spirit? Well, there’s no better way to do that than to visit the Bentleyville Tour of Lights in Duluth, Minnesota. How many lights are there? Only five million! Bentleyville is the largest walk through light display in the US that is free! There’s Christmas music playing, Santa Claus listening to little kid’s wishes, and twinkling lights everywhere you look. Duluth, Minnesota is a family-friendly and fun city to visit anytime during the year, but you definitely don’t want to miss Christmas time!
-updated after our November 2018 visit
Here are 25 tips for your first trip to Bentleyville Tour of Lights:
- Give back during your visit and bring an unwrapped toy or food item to donate to the Duluth Salvation Army. There are boxes for these donations near the entrances. Bentleyville has free admission, but they do appreciate any cash donation that is made at the various donation boxes throughout the display to “keep the lights on”. You can also find donation information on their website.
- If it’s the weekend, Bentleyville Tour of Lights will be very crowded. I would highly recommend visiting during the week, if possible. Check the crowd calendar on their website before planning your trip, so you know what to expect. This year we went on a 26 degree Wednesday evening and it wasn’t very busy at all. Also check the event schedule at the neighboring Amsoil Arena and DECC so you can anticipate parking issues and crowds.
- The five million lights are turned on at 5:00 each evening. If you are there at the opening (and you should be), you can take part in the countdown to the lights turning on.
- If you arrive at Bentleyville before 5:00, and don’t want to wait outside, step into the gift shop. It’s open, warm, and full of Bentleyville Tour of Lights souvenirs. There are Christmas ornaments, shirts, and every color of stocking cap that you can imagine.
- If you are there at opening, and want to visit with Santa, go right to the Santa line first (follow the signs). The line will be the shortest, and you’ll have plenty of time to see the light displays and get some treats once you are finished.
- At the half way point around the tour of lights, there are fire pits for roasting marshmallows. One building advertises s’more fixings, but you’ll have to pay for them. Go across the way to the marshmallow hut for a roasting stick and two free marshmallows per person. Roast your treat and return the sticks where designated. Maybe have a few wet wipes in your bag for the now sticky fingers.
- Since you’ll be outside while walking thru Bentleyville, dress warm! Snow pants, hats, scarfs, the whole nine yards. Part of the tour has you walking along the shore of Lake Superior, and the wind can be unbearable.
- The first goodies that you’ll come to in Bentleyville are the free cookies and hot cocoa. Cups will only be filled about 2/3 full, but it may be too difficult for the kids to walk thru the crowds while holding the warm drink. The cookies are good though and piled up on platters at the cocoa window.
- The second treat on the tour is a bag of popcorn. You can stay warm while snacking on this by standing next to a fire, or bring the bag home for later. It might be too cold for those fingers to come out of their mittens.
- There are restrooms, but brrrr.
- If you get there before Bentleyville is open, the fire pits will be burning to keep you warm. You just have to arrive extra early for a spot by the fire. Both of the entrances (main entrance and Amsoil Arena entrance) have small fires to stay warm by, and there are numerous fire pits half way through the tour that you can stand by for a quick warm up too.
- Bentleyville is a one way tour, and goes in a counter-clockwise direction.
- It will take almost an hour to make your way through the holiday light tour, this is excluding a visit to Santa.
- If you post any photos on social media, tag them with #Bentleyville2018. You will see the giant reminder when you are there. The best spot for a photo of the giant Christmas tree is by the firepits where you roast your marshmallows.
- Kids can visit with Mrs. Claus too. She has her own display and hands out candy canes.
- You can add your kiddos names to the naughty or nice lists that are displayed by making a donation through the Bentleyville website. The amount is $5 per name. The lists are posted by the fire pits where you roast your marshmallows. See this page for more info. It’s fun to watch the kids hunt for their names, but think twice before you add them to the naughty list. The lists are in alphabetical order by first name and grouped by the week the donation was made.
- Drive by Bentleyville on I-35. You can take in all of the lights at once, and it really is something to see from a distance.
- If you are planning to spend the night in Duluth, check out the area hotels for special rates. We found one hotel in Canal Park that had a Bentleyville rate of $99 for a Monday night. This is a fantastic price for Canal Park.
- Bring a shoulder bag into Bentleyville. You’ll probably have to hang onto cookies, bags of popcorn, and your usual supplies that keep the whole family happy!
- If your plan is to visit with Santa, follow the signs that point you where to go. Kids 10 and under get a free stocking cap from Santa. Santa is only at Bentleyville through December 23rd, and the last day of Bentleyville is December 26th.
- Read thru the parking info and print out the parking map that’s on the Bentleyville website. On weekends, you’ll probably have to take a shuttle or even the holiday train to Bentleyville. On weekdays, you’ll likely be able to park in one of the lots nearby. Cost to park is $5. Free lots are indicated on the parking map. There are signs up along Railroad Street that direct you to the parking lots.
- Take a short walk or drive to Canal Park, and dine in one of the many restaurants before or after your walk thru Bentleyville.
- Bring hand warmers for cold fingers. Also, throw a few blankets into the car so kids can bundle up in them on the drive home.
- As long as you’re out in the cold looking at the lights, drive down to Park Point and walk through the light display at Marcia Hales’ house on Lake Ave. There are close to 400,000 lights on display.
- If you are spending the weekend in Duluth, be sure to visit the Great Lakes Aquarium that is adjacent to Bentleyville. For an extra dose of holiday spirit, take a Christmas tour at Glensheen Mansion.
Your whole family will get into the spirit of the holidays after a walk thru Bentleyville Tour of Lights, and you may be starting a new tradition.
Happy holidays from all of us at That Was a First!
Here’s more info for your visit to Duluth:
- 8 First Experiences for the Whole Family in Duluth, MN
- Reviews of the top hotels in Duluth
- Follow my Family Travel in Minnesota board on Pinterest