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‘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 Christmas tree, but outdoor schemes are an entirely different beast. Not to worry, though: We've come up with a handy guide you can use to figure out how to buy the best outdoor Christmas lights that will be well worth the display—and the best options for getting the job done.

How to Shop for Outdoor Christmas Lights

At the risk of stating the obvious, outdoor lights must be waterproof. That’s not the only thing that matters when it comes to making your front yard festive, however. There are a couple of other things to consider when choosing your outdoor decorations—namely, length, the quantity and the aesthetic. Getting the right length and quantity of lights requires planning ahead that 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 most of these are designed to be plugged into one another, you should still take some precautions: Each new chain 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 the risk of fire (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.

Types of Outdoor Christmas Lights

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 type, size and shape of the bulb, as this will affect the overall look of your display.

  • LED lights: LED lights, or light-emitting diodes, work by passing an electrical current through a microchip to illuminate the light source. If you're wondering whether it's worth it to shell out for LEDs, the answer is simple: Yes. Although they 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.

  • Incandescent lights: The oldest form of electric lighting, these are widely used in households in objects such as lamps or flashlights due to their low manufacturing costs. They work by emitting light from heated filaments.

  • Rope lights: Essentially, these are 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.

  • Mini lights: 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: This is 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. Finally, there are G-series lights, which are set apart by their globular (i.e., typical lightbulb) shape.
  • Globe Lights: These round glass bulbs are typically used for decorative purposes, and were very popular in the 70s.

Of course, there are some other novelty styles out there, but these are the most popular.

Once you’ve done the legwork to figure out what you need, you’re ready to start shopping. Since the options are multitudinous, we’ve rounded up some of the best outdoor Christmas lights on the market to make your life a little easier. Happy decorating!

The Best Outdoor Christmas Lights at a Glance

RELATED: 8 Festive Drive-Thru Christmas Light Events in New York and New Jersey (Plus a Few You Can See on Foot)

Amazon

1. QuWin Outdoor LED Christmas Lights

Best LED Outdoor Christmas Lights

These mini lights may be small, but they boast seriously impressive brightness, according to Amazon customers. 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 UL-certified set features 115 feet of length, so you can cover a lot of ground.

From $29 at Amazon

Amazon

2. Lighting EVER 306 LED Curtain Lights

Best Outdoor 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 they're 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.

$26 at Amazon

Amazon

3. Toodour LED Icicle Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Outdoor Christmas Icicle Lights

A built-in memory chip, an automatic timer (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 will look oh-so pretty.

$40 $34 at Amazon

Amazon

4. Yming LED Icicle Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Snowflake Icicle Lights

Can’t decide between traditional white and cheerful multicolored lights? Well, friends, you don’t have to. These charming snowflake-shaped icicle lights, which come with a 10-foot cord, boast three different color modes, as well as eight different lighting modes. Better yet, they last for up to 60,000 hours, according to the company.

$40 at Amazon

Amazon

5. PABIPABI Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Strawberry Christmas Lights

The textured, chunky strawberry bulbs on these string lights give off a retro vibe that feels just 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. They're available in multicolor and warm white.

$25 at Amazon

Amazon

6. MZD8391 Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Mini LED 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 105-feet strands for maximum coverage and a beautifully bright display.

$28 at Amazon

Amazon

7. NOMA LED Quick-Clip Christmas Lights

Best Quick-Clip Christmas Lights

If you want to create a Christmas scheme straight out of the 1970s, the vintage appeal of these warm white string lights will be right up your alley. The 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 to your gutter and allow for 180-degree rotation, so you can angle them this way and that.

$82 at Amazon

Amazon

8. Lyhope LED Christmas Net Lights

Best Christmas Net Lights

These vibrant, colorful Christmas lights boast a lattice design, allowing them to function as a net that can be hung between two trees, spread out on the grass for some ground décor, or used to easily decorate fences and bushes. Plus, this set features a memory chip in addition to the eight lighting modes, so it will remember your preferences. Keep in mind that the adapter is not waterproof, so it needs to be covered for safety.

$33 $31 at Amazon

Amazon

9. Adecorty Falling Rain Icicle Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Outdoor Snowfall Christmas 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. Every bulb turns on in a quick, one-by-one sequence, resembling a meteor shower or falling snow in the night sky. Hang ‘em up as you would any icicle lights (you can connect five strings together) for a meteor shower effect featuring streaks of bright light that are sure to stop passersby in their tracks.

$20 at Amazon

Amazon

10. Brizled Color-Changing Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Color-Changing Outdoor Christmas Lights

The cream of the color-changing crop, these mini-lights boast 16 single colors, plus two multicolor options to boot. The 32-key remote control can also be used to adjust both speed and brightness. Yup, there is no shortage of things you can do with these UL-certified fancy string lights. For safety, the power adapter needs to be protected when outdoors, and they even come with an auto-shutoff feature.

$34 $29 at Amazon

Amazon

11. Lyhope Solar Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Solar Outdoor 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 eight-mode 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.

$26 at Amazon

Amazon

12. Lighting EVER LED Rope Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Christmas Rope Lights Outdoor

We like these ones in particular because they are far sleeker than some of their bulky competitors, and they’re dimmable to boot. The best part is how flexible they are, as you can bend them to flatter any outdoor decoration. You can even hook them up to your phone charger, as they're USB powered.

$19 $16 at Amazon

Amazon

13. Milexing Outdoor Snowflake String Lights

Best Outdoor Snowflake Christmas 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 illumination in both twinkle and flash modes that is decidedly more pleasant than an actual snowstorm. Bonus: The bendable copper wire on these ones opens up many decorating possibilities.

$15 at Amazon

Amazon

14. Toodour 317 LED Outdoor Christmas Lights

Best Vertical Outdoor Christmas Tree 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 of the eight pattern modes, which reportedly stay on for six hours and off for 18, will be dazzling. These lights will also make your life a little easier with a built-in memory chip to save your mode of choice without needing to reset.

$36 $30 at Amazon

Amazon

15. Toodour LED Solar Outdoor Christmas Globe Lights

Best Outdoor Christmas Globe Lights

Presenting a set of multicolored globe lights that promise to impart a little whimsy to your outdoor display. These solar-powered crystal balls are downright adorable. They can be set to 16 different colors, and can even be operated with a remote that includes a convenient timer function.

$27 at Amazon

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