The Wondrous History of the Christmas City Walkway of Lights

What do the city of Marion, Indiana, an Indianapolis television station and a company called General Plastics all have in common? They all played a large part in the creation of the Christmas City Walkway of Lights.  This well-known, holiday light display originated in Marion and is located along the Mississinewa Riverwalk.


Here is why we say “well-known”. This drive through light display started decades ago and has grown to nearly two continuous miles of 2.5 million lights! Over 65,000 cars are expected to bring 200,000+ Christmas light enthusiasts. In recent years, 26 states have been represented in the eager line of cars. Buses come every year bringing holiday-spirit-seeking tour groups. So yes Virginia. Pretty well-known.

Welcome to the Christmas City of Lights

How did Marion get dubbed Christmas City?

In December, 1965 an Indianapolis television station produced a local half hour television program highlighting noteworthy holiday light displays around central Indiana. At the time, downtown Marion was decked out with strings of twinkling lights and snazzy holiday decorations. Those, plus a festive parade, caught the TV station’s attention. They were dazzled and entitled their half hour special, Christmas City: Marion, Indiana. Like a fat Santa in a narrow chimney, it stuck.

Dazzling Riverboat in lights on the Mississinewa Riverwalk

A Radiant Retrospective

Soon thereafter, General Plastics, a Marion company, had Christmas City, USA copyrighted for the City of Marion. The company began making more and more festive displays with colorful lights incorporated into the design. As a result, the downtown display grew year after year surrounding the courthouse square. Then in 1992, after Marion’s Mississinewa Riverwalk was completed, the light display expanded and became The International Walkway of Lights. Now simply known as the Walkway of Lights, it is one of the longest running and largest light displays in the Midwest.

Welcome to the North Pole igloo

Now is WOW!

This year, you will see more than 130 individual animated displays installed along the Mississinewa Riverwalk from downtown Marion to Matter Park. The lighted displays include perennial favorites such as The 12 Days of Christmas, Welcome to the North Pole, Prehistoric Park, College Row, and the Nativity Scene. You’ll even see everyone’s favorite fat cat, Garfield, twinkling for the holidays! In 2022, the display grew again, adding eleven displays and expanding to Ballard Field. Collectively, these displays sparkle with hundreds of thousands of individual bulbs!

Three Ways to See Christmas City Walkway of Lights

Since it is situated on the Riverwalk, walkers or bicyclists can experience the Walkway of Lights festively on the path. However, most light lovers take in the view from their warm cars. Whichever way, the Christmas City Walkway of Lights is a magical and wondrous celebration of the season.

Grant County has always been the place for nostalgia and cool! Likewise, The Christmas City Walkway of Lights is “where it’s at”! After decades of setting Marion aglow, this Christmas illumination destination has truly become a classic!

Grant County

About Grant County

Grant County, Indiana, is home to nifty attractions, outtasight events and rebellious celebrities. Whether it’s saddle shoes, classic cars, vintage bikes, James Dean, or Garfield, we love everything classic and cool. Have a blast just 90 minutes North of Indy.

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