We Searched for the Best Christmas Lights: These Are Our Go-Tos for Decorating

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Make sure you've got the best Christmas lights—you know the strands that stay on even when one light burns out. Our pros tested and found the best brands for indoor and outdoor decorating.

It’s almost time to trim the tree and string up lights over your porch. That means it’s also time to untangle that mess of lights you brought down from the attic. If you found that those lights are burnt out or past their prime, it’s time to invest in some new strands. And what better way than to grab the best Christmas lights for your decorating projects?

As you know, not all lights are the same. Some are bright, others mellow; some lights stay on even when a bulb is out (a godsend!). But what strings of lights are worthy of your tree and outdoor decorating?

How We Found the Best Christmas Lights

Our Test Kitchen team—which includes not only passionate cooks but experienced designers and Christmas fanatics—loaded up their carts with as many lights as they could find.

For weeks, our offices were full of glowing lights. While this made for some great ambiance, our team was hard at work judging each of these lights according to these criteria:

  • Brightness: Let’s be clear: Brighter isn’t always better. Depending on how you use your string lights, you may want a more subdued glow or something extra bright and shiny.
  • Hue: Some white lights have a warmer cast and others cooler. It’s all personal preference, but our team wanted to take note. For cozy interiors, warmer lights can be better and bright white can look stunning outdoors in the snow.
  • Bulbs: We tested both incandescent and LED bulbs to mark any notable differences. LED lights last longer but often have a cooler hue than traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • Outages: If a bulb goes out, we want the strand to stay lit. Better to have a bulb or two out than the whole string.

Our Test Kitchen-Preferred String Lights

Not every strand held up to our expectations, but we found six amazing brands ready for your decorating. There were a few things each of these top-performers had in common.

First was indoor/outdoor functionality. You don’t want to guess when it comes to safety. Using all outdoor-ready lights means you can rest easy when you plug in your outdoor light display. Here are some other chic outdoor Christmas decorations.

All of our favorite string lights also stayed lit whenever a bulb went out. And if a bulb went missing, only sections of the strand were compromised. This makes it easier to locate that empty spot and grab a replacement bulb. This is how to fix Christmas lights to light up the full strand again.

Wondershop Mini String Lights

Wondershop Mini String Lightsvia target.com

Stay on budget with these Wondershop string lights sold exclusively at Target. For just $5 a strand, these lights emit an incredibly warm glow that’ll have you wanting to curl up by the tree with a cup of cocoa.

  • Bulbs: 100 incandescent bulbs
  • Connectable strands: Five sets
  • Additional options: 50- and 45-light strands and multicolored lights also available
  • Price: $5

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Kringle Traditions LED Mini Light Set

Phillips Incandescent Mini String Lights2VIA HOMEDEPOT.COM

Looking for the brightest lights to illuminate your holiday season? You’ll want Kringle Traditions LED lights from Home Depot. These cool white lights glowed super bright, and the unique shape of the LED bulbs projected a halo of light around each bulb for even more shine. These would go great with these Christmas ornaments for people who love food.

  • Bulbs: 50 LED bulbs
  • Connectable strands: Connect up to 45 sets
  • Additional options: Additional colors available
  • Price: $25

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Philips Incandescent Mini String Lights

Philips 200ct Incandescent Twinkle Heavy Duty Smooth Mini String Lights Clear With Green Wirevia target.com

These incandescent Philips string lights are a great way to add a comforting glow to your holiday decor. These lights shined the warmest of all we tested, making it feel homey and comforting—just like these classic Christmas cookies.

  • Bulbs: 200 incandescent lights
  • Connectable strands: Up to five sets
  • Additional options: 400-lights strands and multicolored lights also available
  • Price: $23

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The Holiday Aisle LED String Lights

The Holiday Aisle Led String Lightsvia wayfair.com

For lights that keep glowing and glowing, grab The Holiday Aisle LED string lights from Wayfair. With a three-year seasonal warranty, rest easy knowing that these will stay shining for many Christmases. Another bonus: These lights use 80% less energy than traditional Christmas lights. This viral video shows how to hang Christmas lights the easy way.

  • Bulbs: 100 LED lights
  • Connectable strands: Connect up to 24 sets
  • Additional options: Additional colors available
  • Price: $35

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Brite Star Clear String Lights

Brite Star Clear String Lightsvia bedbathandbeyond.com

Outdoor decorators take note of these Brite Star string lights. These lights shine super bright and feature brown wiring which blends in perfectly with tree branches and wood trim. Plus, you can connect up to nine sets so you can outline your entire home for that classic Christmas look.

  • Bulbs: 100 incandescent lights
  • Connectable strands: Up to nine sets
  • Additional options: 50- and 300-count light sets also available
  • Price: $10

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The Holiday Aisle Incandescent String Lights

The Holiday Aisle Incandescent String Lightsvia wayfair.com

If you have a white Christmas tree or live somewhere where you’re guaranteed to have a white Christmas, snag The Holiday Aisle string lights for decorating. Outfitted with white wire, these lights will blend right in with the ice and snow while shining a bright warm glow.

  • Bulbs: 100 incandescent lights
  • Connectable strands: Up to five sets
  • Additional options: Additional colors available
  • Price: $23

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Holiday Decorating

With the best Christmas lights in hand, decorating for the holidays is a joy. Be sure to include some favorite vintage Christmas decorations, plenty of seasonal candles and a few DIY pieces to really embrace the season, like these clothes hanger Christmas stars. Also be mindful of these holiday items you might not find in stores this season.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out these 25 Christmas ideas that will make your holiday merry & bright.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.