‘Tis the season to bedazzle your home with twinkling lights—and thank goodness, because the barren landscape of the winter months can be a real bummer. That said, it’s one thing to wrap a few lights around the living room Christmas tree, but outdoor schemes are an entirely different beast. Not to worry—just take a gander at our guide to the best outdoor Christmas lights and your display will be well worth the effort.
How to Shop for Outdoor Christmas Lights
At the risk of stating the obvious, outdoor lights must be waterproof...but that’s not the only thing that matters when it comes to making your front yard festive. For starters, you might be wondering whether or not it’s worth it to shell out for LED lights. Fortunately, the answer is simple: Yes. Although LED lights have a heftier price tag than their incandescent cousins, they are actually the more economical choice because a) they last much longer and b) they are far more energy efficient, so you’ll save big when it comes time to pay your electricity bill. LED lights also produce much less heat than incandescent bulbs, making them the safer option as well. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s take a look at a couple of other things to consider when choosing outdoor decorations—namely, length and aesthetic.
Getting the right length and quantity of lights is kind of a no-brainer, but it bears repeating since planning ahead will spare you considerable frustration and inconvenience when it comes time to string ‘em up. In other words, you’re going to want to bust out the measuring tape before you buy your lights. When measuring areas where you plan to wrap your lights rather than string them in a line, butcher’s twine will come in handy—simply twirl it around the tree or gate in question and then lay it flat and measure to determine the appropriate length.
There are also some safety guidelines that will impact the length you choose for your string lights. Although string lights are designed to be plugged into one another, you should still take some precautions: Each new chain of lights carries its own current plus the current of all the chains before it, so it’s wise to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines to find out how many strings you can safely attach. Can’t find any information on the package? Play it safe and connect no more than three chains of lights to reduce fire risk. (Note: Only attach chains of the same length and never attach incandescent lights to LED lights.) Finally, be sure to buy UL-certified Christmas lights, as these products have been tested for safety by industry professionals.
Now that we’ve got the technical stuff out of the way, let’s talk aesthetics. When selecting a style of Christmas light, consider the size and shape of the bulb as this will affect the overall look of your display. Mini lights are the daintiest bulbs—tiny and slim with a pointed tip that resembles the flame of a candle, these guys are particularly twinkly and pretty. That said, mini lights are more likely to get lost when used to decorate dense outdoor foliage (think hedges and evergreens). Strawberry bulbs are another popular choice with a more traditional feel. As the name implies, this style of bulb boasts a strawberry shape and a not-so-mini size, though you do have options. Strawberry bulbs come in three different sizes—C6, C7 and C9, with the latter being the largest bulb. Finally, there are G-series lights, which are set apart by their globular (i.e., typical lightbulb) shape. Of course, there are some other novelty styles out there, but these are the most popular.
Once you’ve done the legwork and read our guide to bulb types, you’re ready to start shopping. The options are multitudinous, though, so we’ve rounded up some of the best lights on the market to make your life a little easier. Happy decorating!
1. QuWin Waterproof Outdoor LED String Lights
These mini lights may be small, but they boast seriously impressive brightness. The strings can also be set to light up in one of eight different modes—including waves, flashing, fading, twinkling and, of course, steady glow. Best of all, this set features 115 feet of length so you can cover a lot of ground.
2. Lighting EVER 306 LED Curtain Lights
These warm white curtain lights feature eight different lighting effects and a built-in memory, so you don’t have to reprogram them according to your preference every evening. While not a traditional string light style, the curtain design is surprisingly versatile and creates a lovely waterfall effect whether you hang them on the facade of your home, above a sliding glass door or around the perimeter of a covered porch.
3. Toodour LED Icicle Lights
A built-in memory chip, an automatic timer (for six hours on, 18 hours off) and eight different lighting modes are among the bells and whistles that come with these durable outdoor icicle lights. Frost your house with these guys for an instant winter wonderland transformation that looks oh-so pretty.
4. YMing LED Snowflake Icicle Lights
Can’t decide between traditional white and cheerful multi-colored lights? Well, friends, you don’t have to. These charming snowflake-shaped icicle lights boast two different color modes, as well as eight different lighting modes, and a remote control with a 40-foot range. The takeaway? Here’s a set of outdoor Christmas lights that will cater to your whims with the press of a button.
5. PABIPABI C9 Outdoor Christmas Lights
The textured, chunky strawberry bulbs on these string lights give off a retro vibe that feels plain happy. Best of all, the larger C9 size of the bulb ensures a bright and bold glow that won’t get lost in the landscape. There are no fancy features here—just one ‘steady on’ setting—but these fuss-free lights are durable enough to withstand the elements, and they’re fun to look at, too. Available in multicolor and warm white.
6. MZD8391 Indoor/Outdoor Christmas Lights
These color-changing fairy lights, equipped with multiple lighting modes, are an excellent outdoor option for fans of the mini light look, thanks to their safe LED design and thorough weatherproofing. Bonus: You can connect up to four of these 100-feet strands for maximum coverage and a beautifully bright display.
7. NOMA Quick Clip Strawberry Christmas Lights
If you want to create a Christmas scheme straight out of the 1970s, the vintage appeal of these multi-colored string lights will be right up your alley. The multi-colored C9 strawberry bulbs here are similar to the other strawberry lights on our list, but this set has an added bonus: heavy-duty, spring loaded clips that help securely attach the lights and allow for 180-degrees rotation, so you can angle them this way and that.
8. Lyhope LED Christmas Net Lights
These vibrant, colorful Christmas lights boast a lattice design, meaning that they function as a net that can be hung between two trees, spread out on the grass for some ground decor, or used to easily decorate fences and bushes. Plus, this set features a memory chip in addition to the eight lighting modes for maximum convenience.
9. Adecorty Falling Rain Icicle String Lights
If traditional icicle lights don’t make enough of a statement for your taste, these ‘falling rain’ icicles might be what your Christmas scheme is missing. Hang ‘em up as you would any icicle lights for a meteor shower effect featuring streaks of bright light that are sure to stop passersby in their tracks.
10. Brizled Color Changing Christmas Lights
The cream of the color-changing crop, these mini-lights boast 17 single colors, plus 11 dual color combinations and a multi-color option to boot. The 28-key remote control can also be used to change light effect settings and adjust both speed and brightness. Yup, there is no shortage of things you can do with these fancy string lights.
11. Lyhope Solar Christmas Lights
Unless an astronomical electric bill is on your wish list this year, you might want to consider a solar-powered Christmas scheme. These mini lights have a solar panel so they can soak up the sun even on a snowy day—no batteries and no utility bill blues. Best of all, these guys have an auto on/off feature so your outdoor display will operate like a well-oiled machine, even when you’re out of town.
12. Lighting EVER DImmable LED Rope Lights
Rope lights are one of the categories we didn’t cover earlier, but they’re essentially just string lights encased in a flexible plastic tube—a distinction that makes them especially well-suited for wrapping around posts, handrails and the like. We like these ones in particular because they are far sleeker than some of their bulky competitors, and they’re dimmable to boot.
13. Milexing Battery-operated Snowflake String Lights
Good news for anyone dreaming of a white Christmas: you don’t have to leave it to chance. Deck out your outdoor area with these durable but delicate-looking snowflake string lights for a flurry of festive light that’s decidedly more pleasant than an actual snowstorm. Bonus: The bendable copper wire on these ones opens up many decorating possibilities.
14. Toodour 317 LED Outdoor Christmas Lights
These string lights are designed to look like a Christmas tree, with each strand attached to an illuminated star topper. Hang them on an actual tree in your yard or simply let them cascade from an overhanging ledge (like the roof of a front porch, for example)—either way the effect will be dazzling.
15. Toodour LED Globe Christmas Lights
Presenting a set of multi-colored globe lights that promise to impart a little whimsy to your outdoor display. These glowing gumdrops are downright adorable—just keep in mind that they provide a diffuse, pastel-colored light for a more subdued effect. Note: These guys cannot be daisy-chained to one another, so they’re best when used on small patches as a contrast to other lights in your outdoor display.
PureWow may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from PureWow's editorial and sales departments.