The Best Christmas Tree Lights for Every Style and Budget

Trim your tree with these top-rated strands.

Keep in mind: Price and stock could change after publish date, and we may make money from these links.
October 22, 2021

Found the perfect Christmas tree? Now you need the perfect lights. Christmas tree lights can be really, really good, or just plain terrible. There's really no in-between. And no one should ever have to check each individual bulb à la Christmas Vacation. These days, indoor tree lights are incredibly smart, bright and come in tons of colors and styles. Some are even controlled from your phone! We've rounded up the best of the best, from retro big bulbs to fancy LED strands to twinkling incandescent lights. Take a look at these top-rated spools below and see which indoor Christmas lights are best for your tree.

Christmas Tree Lights 101: What to Know When Buying Christmas Lights

There's a lot to consider when shopping for Christmas tree lights, and the variations can be overwhelming. How many strands do you need? How many lights is enough? Will the bulbs look like soft candles or bright beacons of light? Here’s what you need to know.

LENGTH: Always check the product description for a bulb count and a strand length as these two numbers will indicate if a string of lights is meant for a standard tree or a mini tree. If a box has fewer than 40 lights, it's meant for a mini tree. Typically, standard tree-sized lights come in spools of 100-300 lights with a length around 60 feet long. If you like a really bright tree with loads of lights or you have a nine-foot-plus tree, you’ll want to look for a strand that accommodates connections.

BULBS: A point of confusion for Christmas tree lights is the actual bulb size. The most common bulb shape is called mini, but that doesn't mean it's intended for a mini tree. It's called mini because modern Christmas tree lights are smaller than vintage C7 or C9 bulbs.

DISPLAY: As for appearance, that comes down to the type of bulb. Christmas light bulbs come in two types: incandescent and LED. They both have pros and cons. LED bulbs are more energy-efficient, will last longer and stay cool to the touch. However, the top complaint with LED lights is the cool white color. It can look more like car headlights than cozy candles. Incandescent lights have a more traditional, warm glow, but incandescent bulbs won't last as long and get hot fast so they may not be the best choice if you have curious little ones or pets that like to explore.

Best White Christmas Lights

You get the best of both worlds with this strand. The modern LED design means they'll last, but unlike other LEDs, these have more of a warm glow like traditional incandescents. Plus, they're under $30. Win, win, win.

Best Color Christmas Lights

If you're team multicolored lights, this is the only spool you need. You get 450 lights for $35 with a 25,000-hour promise!

Best Color-Changing Christmas Lights

House divided? Make everyone's spirits bright with a strand of lights that can be both white and multicolored! Yes, really. This smart strand from Amazon can change back and forth so everyone can enjoy their preferred aesthetic. It's also a great investment if you do different tree themes each year.

Best Twinkling + Special Effects Lights

Switching from white to multicolored is just the beginning of the world of smart tree lights. Lowe's has a good selection of strands with constant and twinkling lights, but for something truly magical, check out Twinkly. These smart strands are like having a lighting designer in a box. The customizations are endless, from bulb color to motion and effects, and it's all designed and controlled from your phone!

Best LED Christmas Lights

Like other household lightbulbs, there's value in LED lights. These strands last so much longer than traditional bulbs, and the bright, vibrant display won't diminish for years. These Yuletime cool white and warm white lights on Amazon have rave reviews. For multicolored lights, this GE strand from Lowe's is a solid buy at $28 for about 50 feet.

Best Incandescent Christmas Lights

Wayfair shoppers don't hold back in the comments. So when lights have dozens of glowing reviews, we take note. Reviews say the white lights are perfectly warm and the colors are true to name. The blue is actually blue, not teal like how some LEDs look, and the red is actually red, not pink.

Best Extra Long Christmas Lights

If you hate connecting strands together or have a super-thick spruce tree, you need a long strand of lights. This LED spool from Amazon has nearly 2,000 five-star reviews and it's available in tons of color options, from multicolored to warm white.

Best Budget Christmas Lights

Walmart has a great selection of top-rated lights under $30 and even under $10! We spotted these top-rated, 300-count white and multicolored lights for just eight bucks!

Best Retro Christmas Lights

Big vintage bulbs make a statement just as much as Christmas tree ornaments. And in the last couple of years, retro-inspired C7 and C9 bulbs have made a comeback in a big way. We found the best bulbs at The Home Depot for both multicolored and white lights. These strands are on the shorter end, so you may have to double up.

Best Mini Tree Christmas Lights

Target's Wondershop always has the best selection of mini trees and the mini tree lights are just as great — and budget-friendly! We love these short strands of retro bulbs and the look of these mini Edison bulbs. It would be perfect for a farmhouse-chic or industrial-style Christmas theme.

Christmas Light Accessories

Beyond the right lights, you need the right accessories. A smart plug can be seriously handy for monitoring energy and setting timers. If you have older lights that have gone out, it might just be a bad bulb. This nifty tool (under $20!) nips it in the ... bulb. The Light Keeper Pro helps assess and repair incandescent lights while the LED Keeper works on strands of LED lights. HGTV editors have tried out both of these gadgets and can attest that they actually work.

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