For those looking for something to do while visiting with family and friends during the holidays, the Lake of the Ozarks area offers three free ways to capture the spirit outside, all while staying warm in your vehicle.
Through the end of the year, visitors are welcome to drive through and enjoy Christmas and holiday-themed light displays at the Lake's three drive-through light parks.
The 2013 Laurie Enchanted Village of Lights, which opened two weeks before Thanksgiving, runs through Jan. 1 at the Laurie Hillbilly Fairgrounds in Laurie.
Last year, more than 16,000 people drove through the 27-acre lighted display, which begins each night at 5 p.m. and stays open later on the weekends. There is no charge to drive through the village, but any donations are put back into refurbishing and preserving the displays for the future.
More than 200 displays make this light park the largest at the Lake and an entertaining way to revel in the spirit of the season. For more information, call 573-374-8776 or visit cityoflaurie.com/enchantedlights.htm.
The City of Versailles will light up its City Park for the Unity Circle of Lights through Dec. 31. The holiday light park is named after the "Unity Circle," a monument erected at the park entrance to show cooperation among various entities in the community, according to the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau.
The Unity Circle of Lights is located in the Versailles City Park at the junction of Highways 5 and 52 and will feature as many as 40 lighted displays, including several animated holiday scenes for the family. The park is open from dark until midnight and admission is free.
For more information, call 800-386-5253.
The Festival of Lights at the Shrine of St. Patrick Church on Missouri 5 in Laurie is the oldest light park in the area.
It was started in 1981 with hundreds of lights decorating the buildings and grounds and has continued to grow each year. With 4,000 strings of lights, more than 60 automatic timers and more than 350 extension cords, the Festival of Lights has turned into one of the major places to see Christmas lighted decorations, according to the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau. Instead of animated displays, the focus is on the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus and his mother, Mary.
The Festival of Lights will be open daily from 6-10 p.m. through Jan. 1. There is no admission charge for this light display; however, donations are welcomed. Afterward, visitors are encouraged to stop in the church's hall to enjoy warm cider, hot chocolate and refreshments.
For more information, call the church at 573-374-7855.