We scoured Central Florida for holiday displays worthy of Santa's approval.
From Kissimmee to Casselberry, we looked for multicolored lights synchronized to music, inflatable snowmen attached to roofs and baby Jesuses lighted brighter than the Star of Bethlehem.
We noticed a lot of homes across Central Florida that seem brighter and more colorful this year because of LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, which are becoming the must-have item when it comes to holiday decorating.
According to Home Depot spokesperson Craig Fishel, the company has seen a double-digit increase in the volume of LED lights sold this year. Besides the falling costs of LED lights, Fishel said consumers are buying them because they last longer and use almost 80 percent less energy than traditional holiday lights.
"People are trying to be more environmentally conscious," he said.
Target devotes roughly half of its total lights space to LEDs, said spokesperson Tara Schlosser.
"We have increased the number of LED lights that we display to simplify decision-making for our guests," Schlosser said in an e-mail. "We expect that LED lights will continue to remain a popular choice for guests this holiday season."
Joe Lewis, owner of the Mount Dora Boating Center and Marina, known for its over-the-top light display, began switching to LED lights a few years ago. This year, the marina has almost a million lights in its "Boating at the North Pole" holiday display. But despite phasing in LEDs, Lewis said he has yet to see a smaller power bill.
"As we switch over [to LED lights], we put more up," Lewis said. "It keeps getting bigger and bigger every year."
Switching to LED lights has allowed Central Florida residents to create larger, more eye-catching holiday displays. Our highlighted displays aren't necessarily the most elaborate or most expensive in Central Florida. Instead, they are ones we found exemplify the spirit of the holiday season:
5651 GARDEN GROVE CIRCLE, WINTER PARK
Home of Rob and Betty Petersen
What to see: Forget loads of LED lights and synchronized music displays. The Petersens are old-school or, as Rob says, "traditional." The couple's lawn is covered with plastic light-up decorations ranging from Mickey Mouse to the Virgin Mary.
455 LAKEFRONT BLVD., WINTER PARK
Home of Steve and Betty Slack
What to see: The Slacks' lakefront home is awash in lights, candy canes, toy soldiers and Santas. But it's what you can't see that's so amazing. This year, the couple refurbished a plastic foam light-up gingerbread house that sits atop their backyard hot tub.
1692 SUNBURST WAY, KISSIMMEE
Home of Ron Lister
What to see: Ron Lister's light display is one of the most well-known in Central Florida. For almost 20 years, Lister has taken decorating to an extreme, covering nearly every inch of his home. This year, he has snowflakes on the roof, an inflatable manger scene and a tree taller than his house. Lister has a website devoted to the display at christmaswonders.com.
KESWICK COURT, KISSIMMEE
Homes of Jim and Maggie Chubb and their neighbors
What to see: Few blocks in Central Florida have as much Christmas spirit as the folks who live on Keswick Court. Nearly every home on the cul-de-sac is decorated with thousands of lights, plastic decorations and Christmas trees. Asked why the block goes all-out, Jim Chubb said, "We haven't grown up yet."
1672 AND 1680 JAGUAR CIRCLE, APOPKA
Homes of Jim Hayes and Kevin Rogers
What to see: Neighbors Jim Hayes and Kevin Rogers combine forces each year to create one humongous display that even Santa might see from the North Pole. Lights cover their homes and ornaments, including a flying pig, are scattered across their lawns. Through the years, gawkers from as far as England have dropped by. "If you build it, they will come," Hayes joked.
13545 GUILDHALL CIRCLE, ORLANDO
Home of Fred and Lois Akers
What to see: A cabinetmaker by trade, Fred Akers wanted to use his talents to spread a bit of holiday joy. In February, he began a project that took nearly 1,200 hours to complete. The result: A miniature downtown with 14 storefronts including a drugstore, a record shop, a flower shop and a cinema, which plays "A Christmas Story" on a 20-inch screen. The walk-through attraction is housed in the Akers garage and is open every day from 6 to 9:30 p.m. through New Year's Day.
1333 OAK GROVE COURT, KISSIMMEE
Home of David Jordan
What to see: David Jordan figures he spent more than 200 hours and needed 2,200 feet of extension cord to decorate his home this year. The multicolored lights — 9,000 on the roof alone — dance as music from a small speaker plays holiday classics such as " Frosty the Snowman."
111 Carriage Hill Drive, Casselberry
Home of Arnold and Sandi McVige
What to see: Polar bears, a dancing ballerina, penguins and a Santa Claus in a hot-air balloon are scattered around Arnold and Sandi McViges' corner-lot lawn. The McViges have been decorating to the max for almost a decade. Arnold said his neighbors have come to expect their outrageous display. "Everybody loves it," he said.
Jon Busdeker can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-6226.