Christmas 2011: Best outdoor Christmas lights

San Mateo, California
Flickr/Rebecca Williamson

It's the holidays, and you know what that means: Time for Christmas lights! I know many families who spend nights driving around their neighborhood, taking in the festive holiday decorations. It's great to drive by and admire the homes from a distance, but things change when you're living next door to the second coming of the Griswolds. With all those lights, it's a wonder some of these homeowners can still use their microwaves.

Holiday decorations on a budget
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Without further ado, here are some my favorite over-the-top Christmas displays from this year and years past:

San Mateo, Calif.

This home in San Mateo Park, a neighborhood in San Mateo, Calif., is one of the more low-key displays on this list. Still, with all those bright lights and the reindeer prancing on the roof, it's probable Santa won't miss this block.

Best outdoor Christmas lights 2011
Ambridge, Pa.
Ambridge, Pa.

Named after the American Bridge Company which attracted many residents to this once-booming manufacturing town, Ambridge is home to some beautiful historic homes and buildings. This home, with its nativity scene, light-up train and rooftop star, is a great example of extreme holiday decorating.

Baltimore, Md.

Known as the "Miracle on 34th Street," this light show in Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood draws tourists from the weekend after Thanksgiving until a few days after New Year's. This tradition is now in its 64th year and going strong - if you're in the Baltimore area, head to the 700 block of West 34th street and check it out for yourself.

Christmas 2011: Best outdoor Christmas lights
Richmond, Va.

Richmond, Va.

Christmas traditions in Richmond pay homage to the city's rich history. Visitors and residents alike can experience Christmas the way it was celebrated in Victorian-era Virginia, but there's plenty to do if you'd prefer something more modern. This home, decked to the extreme in lights and light-up lawn ornaments, is a great example of how modern-day Richmond residents celebrate the season.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Overdone Christmas decorations are not confined to the U.S.: Canada has some homes to add to this list. Like this Toronto home; it's small, but the owners still managed to fit plenty of Christmas lights over every square inch available. The neighbors didn't even bother trying to compete with this house.

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