Driving to see holiday lights is a tradition among so many families. The memories created together year to year are built upon as you visit displays, new and old. Lights bring out the beauty of the season, and Bentleyville’s “tour of lights” brings families together in the spirit of Christmas.
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We are excited to give you a peek into the awe of the Bentleyville Tour of Lights!
How Did Holiday Lights Become an American Tradition?
Holiday light displays have been around for about 130 years. In 1882 an acquaintance of Thomas Edison, Edward H. Johnson, invented a lighted Christmas tree. He strung the tree with lights and spun it on an electrical crank. By 1895 the white house had their first Christmas tree.
From there, the idea spread and grew by the year. By the early 1900s, several magazines featured Christmas decor and light options. In 1903, General Electric’s first 24 bulb light set to cost $12, compared to $340 at today’s standards.
The trend to decorate homes with holiday lights became popular in the 1960s. By the late 20th century, the tradition grew to many countries across the world.
It is customary for many Christian families to begin decorating on the first day of the advent calendar. However, modern marketing has pushed it earlier in the season in many communities.
What is the History of The Bentleyville Tour of Lights?
The Bentleyville Tour of Lights began in 2005. The display was at Mr. Bentley’s home in Esko and Cloquet for the first five years of the event. For the last ten years, it has been in the Bayfront Festival Park.
Mr. Nathan Bentley first started decorating his home for Christmas in 2001. He added more and more lights every year at his home in Esko. He eventually earned the title, “House with all the lights in Esko.”
His neighbors began calling it “Bentleyville” after the “Whoville” family in Dr. Suess’ Christmas favorite, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. Soon visitors in the community caught on to the name.
His vision continued to grow into what it is today. The Bentleyville website features an in-depth history of the light display.
Why Is Bentleyville Different Than Other Light Displays?
Bentleyville waits until right before Thanksgiving to open the light display to the public. In 2020 the first day of the event will be November 21. The exhibition will run through December 27.
Hours for the event are as follows:
- Sunday to Thursday, 5 pm – 9 pm
- Friday and Saturday, 5 pm – 10 pm
- Bentleyville will be open on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day
The drive-thru light display is a wonder along the spectacular shore of Lake Superior. This is the very first time that Bentleyville is hosting the display as a drive-thru event.
The Bentleyville Tour of Lights features over 5 million lights within a 20-acre park, bringing people together as only Minnesotans can.
Admission to the Bentleyville Tour of Lights is $10 per vehicle. Vehicles must be under 8 feet in height and 20 feet in length. Buses, limos, or other large vehicles longer than 20 feet are not permitted.
Right in the heart of the city of Duluth in Canal Park, you’ll find the Bentleyville Gift Shop. It is a new store location offering a positive shopping experience with unique finds. All guests abide by social distancing guidelines to keep everyone safe through the season.
How Does the Bentleyville Tour of Lights Support Charity?
Bentleyville is proud to be an official drop off site for toys and nonperishable food items for the Salvation Army. All donated toys are to be new and unwrapped.
The goal for donations for 2020 is impressive! They would like to collect 25,000 pounds of food and 15,000 new toys for those in need. The donated food and toys will be given to families in 7 communities throughout Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin.
Are There Any Safety Suggestions in Regards to COVID-19?
Bentleyville has made changes to processes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019 display is available on the website for anyone not attending the 2020 event due to safety.
They also have a calendar of events on the website, so families know when to expect crowds. Saturdays are usually the busiest, with weekdays seeing less traffic. Expect it to be hectic the week of Christmas!
What Else Should I Know About the Bentleyville Tour of Lights?
The display is located at:
700 RailRoad St.
Duluth, MN 55802
Bentleyville Gift Shop is located at:
The Sports Garden
425 S. Lake Ave.
Duluth, MN 55802
Cash and all major credit cards are accepted at the gate. There will be no pre-sale tickets this year. All of the ticket sale transactions are processed at the gate entry.
On the Bentleyville Tour of Lights website, you’ll find a visitors guide with suggested hotels and dining options. Featured hotels include:
- Pier B
- The Edgewater Hotel and Waterpark
- Canal Park Lodge
A little bit farther away is Heartwood Resort. This resort is an idyllic place to stay in Trego, WI. Twin Cities Kids Club has a special discount code. Use TCKC2020 for a special rate at Heartwood Resort.
The following restaurants are great options:
- Grandma’s Saloon and Grill
- The Duluth Grill
No matter where you choose to stay or dine, you are sure to have an incredible holiday season experience!
If You Are Looking For More Ideas, This Holiday Season, Check Out Twin Cities Kids Club
Are you looking for other safe, holiday fun this year? Be sure to join the Twin Cities Kids Club! You’ll find discounts on local holiday events, blog articles on the best holiday ideas for families, and information on experiences for the whole family throughout the season!