Each holiday season, my parents, siblings, Husband, and I pile into their minivan and drive up the Mississippi River to La Crosse, Wisconsin. We have a single destination in mind, the Rotary Lights in Riverside Park. We visited often as young children and stopped for a bit, but in the past few years we have picked up the tradition again. Additionally, we usually have an exchange student or two with us, and they love it as well!

Driving the Rotary Lights

Walking the Rotary Lights

The last few years we have taken to driving halfway into the display and parking on the backside near the river. The gives us an opportunity to get out and walk through the display as well.

While not as popular, we also like to drive across the Mississippi River via Highway 14 to Pettibone Park after seeing the display. The view across the river from Pettibone Park allows you to capture the entire display with the added elements of the river and city skyline.

About the Rotary Lights

The Rotary lights began with a simple mission “to help feed the hungry of the Coulee Region.” In the 22 years it has been running, they have collected over 3 million food items for local distribution. In 2016, twelve different food pantries will benefit from the donations. You can also make cash donations to the cause.

The light display is a joint effort by various Coulee Region Rotary Clubs and other nonprofits. The display sees roughly 300,000 visitors each year and takes nearly 3,200 volunteers from 110 groups to support.

Event Details

The Rotary Lights are held in La Crosse’s Riverside Park. People can either drive or walk through the display. If driving, the line begins at State and 2nd Street (backup during peak times is on State Street and 3rd Street). If using your GPS for directions, you should use 410 Veterans Memorial Drive as the address for the display.

The display opens the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs through New Year’s Eve. The display is open from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m., with special hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (5:00 to 9:00 p.m.).