See the Light in St. Joseph

December 18, 2019

Written by Rachel McCoy | Photography by Patrick Evenson, Emily Baumann, and submitted by St. Joseph Convention & Visitors Bureau


DEFINITION: Brightness or warmth of color.

December…the time of year for everyone who like shiny things to celebrate and explore.

St. Joseph has an abundance of sparkly, twinkly and shiny objects across historic parks, downtown and neighborhoods throughout December. It’s time for locals and visitors to look up. Take a stroll. Take a drive. Whatever your style for enjoying holiday lights, St. Joseph is one lit city. Here’s a snapshot of some of the best places to get a whole new view on this creative, vibrant town – and a little reminder to slow down a minute and take it all in.

Holiday Park (Krug Park): Completely Uncommon…Completely Worth It

Krug Park opened in 1902 and this 163-acre park is beautiful and interesting any time of year – but during the holiday season it’s downright mesmerizing. An estimated 90,000 local and regional friends, neighbors, visitors and relatives tend to agree, with merry lines bumper-to-bumper most December evenings. The time spent in the vehicle just meandering is part of the charm, since you can tune in to Elf Radio and hear all the classic holiday favorites.

Highlights include the awesome lit up archways; color-changing waterfall; the detailed holiday forest of animals and trees; the classic painted wooden village and cut outs; and the amazingly realistic Santa sleigh and reindeer, once a rooftop part of the historic Mead building in downtown St. Joseph. This work of art looks so cool on a winter’s evening, you just may wonder if the jolly red-suited man has your list this year or not.

As you travel, you’ll pass Santa’s Workshop and a mail station, manned by the man himself most weekends. Another long-time favorite is the super detailed nativity scene in the manger. (Several times throughout the season this draws viewers in with real humans donning those robes.) Nearby are the lights of Bethlehem that lead the way to one of the most iconic holiday elements: The Scary Snowman Tunnel. With horns blaring, cars enter in the tunnel to what appears to the be scary snowman belly. Everything and everyone comes out OK from St. Joseph’s famous snowman, laughing all the way.

Practice your Christmas phrases in many languages along another one of the original elements, the painted Santa Claus characters from around the world. End the journey with a locally-made Cherry Mash candy from area service clubs, and a huge helping of feel-good holiday memories. This is iconic St. Joseph. It’s somehow the same in a comforting way, yet even brighter and better every year. For many residents, Holiday Park is an absolute “must” for the holiday season. And we like it that way, lines of cars and all.

We Sure Love our South Pole, Too

Shining at the south part of the Parkway is Hyde Park, home to the enchanting South Pole holiday light display. This park has a meandering road surrounded by old trees, natural valleys and stone features. In December, dozens of light displays are set alongside these natural elements to create a unique winter wonderland. The pedestrian bridge into the park, covered in lights, is a great place for a selfie or family photo. Many trees are covered in lights, including those that seem to “melt,” and huge snowflakes.

The South Pole is special because of its walkability. Grab your coat so you can walk the concrete path within the park, enjoying the peaceful setting up close. There’s no hurry here and very little, if any, lines of vehicles. You’re free to enjoy this display at your own wandering pace.

Downtown is All Aglow

Downtown St. Joseph combines the best of all festive worlds. You can walk it. Or drive it. Or stop to shop, sip and stroll – all in the glow of sparkling lights. More holiday lights grace these streets every year, with the centerpiece area being Coleman Hawkins Park and Felix Street Square. Take a walk after dinner at several local establishments and enjoy the numerous holiday window displays as you go. It’s the perfect time of year to appreciate the history and architecture that make downtown St. Joseph so uncommon. Don’t forget to take notice of the diverse and tall church steeples that frame downtown. Many are lit at the top all year, but there’s something extra wonderful and quietly calming about their soft glow during the holiday season.

Neighborhood Magic

Across the city, the festive feeling is alive in neighborhoods from every decade. Locals tend to have their crowd favorites, like the Commercial Street house (located just north of the REC Center on Commercial Street). This attraction is much more than lights. It’s a choreographed technological wonder that changes the story, the song and the mood every three or four minutes. Cars take turns parking in front all of December to enjoy the show, one of the few in the city that allows you to tune in the current song on your radio and experience the beat align to the exact rhythm of the lights. (And we mean hundreds of thousands of fast-moving lights). It’s a little hard to describe, in fact. Both kids and adults are all smiles, and all songs, all month. You just have to get out there and get some of that cheer for yourself.

Note: If quirky Christmas is more your style, drive to the city’s east side along Frederick. There’s one large lawn, near Barbosa’s East, that’s absolutely full of Christmas yard art.

Across historic Noyes, Ashland Avenue, Frederick and Lover’s Lane, stately Tudor homes, four-squares, classic Colonials and so many lovingly-restored residences show off some of the remarkable architecture that St. Joseph is known for, all wrapped up in holiday glow. Yes, it looks like a Hallmark movie in several of these neighborhoods, and it’s pretty great by vehicle or casual walk. A drive through Museum Hill, Harris Kemper or the Hall Street historic neighborhoods is equally stunning, with twinkling lights outlining a century-plus of incredible architectural inventiveness. These, and many more, are the kind of neighborhoods that always inspire and always lead you to notice something new.

It’s December, and the lights are bright in this little city. So are the people across businesses, restaurants, parks and neighborhoods. Here’s to pausing to appreciate all the shiny (and uncommon) things about St. Joseph.


St. Joseph Parks


Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, this architectural feat, designed by esteemed local architects Eckel and Mann, is getting a second life thanks to a $20 million shot in the arm from Mosaic Life Care.


In addition to its paved walking paths, the Parkway features miles of rugged biking and hiking trails and serves as a red carpet to some of St. Joseph’s most interesting places.


There’s a lot to love about St. Joseph’s Southside. This tight-knit community is on pace for a major comeback.


Not only does the SBTDC help hundreds of small business owners capitalize on their dreams, it is a great example of how government agencies, higher education, and nonprofit organizations can work together for the greater good.


Games of chance and dining establishments have been a part of St. Joseph, Missouri’s uncommon character since the earliest settlers gathered to let off some steam and gamble on optimistic odds.