Nowhere to go? Drive around and admire the holiday lights

I went looking for good Christmas lights on Monday. Something about the weekend made me restless for lights. Saturday and Sunday were both gray days, and the afternoons felt like it was hard to tell day from night. My Missouri Tigers and the Kansas City Chiefs both lost their football games. The holiday season suddenly felt long and nightfall seems so early in these shortest days of the year.

So I drove south from Platte City. First stop, Zona Rosa. I went in Barnes and Noble, smelled the coffee in the snack shop and perused the books.

“Anything fun going on,” asked an elf sitting at a gift wrapping table.

“Just wandering,” I answered, “and that’s kind of fun.”

Holidays can have you on the go for replacement bulbs for the tree lights, gifts you meant to get bought before the shopping crunch, food and white elephant gifts for the office holiday party that you don’t really want to attend but they’re obligatory.

Political correctness and corporate lawyers worried about legal liability issues took the fun out of office parties long ago. I’m old enough to remember when companies provided music, food, booze and a flirty atmosphere to loosen up employee morale.

But those days are gone.

So now it’s good to have time in holidays with nowhere special to be, maybe wander about looking at lights. I’ll give Zona Rosa credit for tasteful white lights. The streets are walkable and interesting. Platte County is lucky this shopping center was built dead center in our midst, like the brass buckle on Santa’s big black belt.

I got back in the pickup and drove on, circling about, and wound up turning in on the east side of Lake Waukomis. The lake is pretty right now at night. The city has large Christmas tree and star designs lit up on the dam. When you’re driving across the dam, you also see lights at houses across the lake. The distance, water and open sky add a bit of grandeur.

But you have to slow down and really look.

Christmas is always about both the old and the new. I suppose Lake Waukomis is the old. To the east is Platte Brooke North — the new. Or at least a fairly new subdivision as the Northland goes. And I must say, the home exterior lighting there is fairly spectacular in places. A special kudos to the folks with the lights hanging from trees, very large and round orbs that mimic glass ornaments.

You see lights everywhere these days, I thought while circling to Parkville.

In my youth not very many people had exterior Yuletide lights. If they did, it was a strand of bulbs circling the front porch. Nowadays, thanks in part to movies and television making lights campy and competitive, no telling what you’ll see.

Somebody along Highway 9 bought everything they could find and plugged it in.

I thought perhaps the trail along English Landing Park and the new Platte Landing Park in Parkville would be a good place to view Christmas lights. Well, the view regarding red and green bulbs was only fair, although homes in the bluffs did their part.

However, a couple of old favorites brightened the night in the city.

Venerable MacKay Hall lights up Park University’s hillside like a German castle on holiday. We see it all year when we stop to look, but on a winter’s night, somehow it’s brighter.

And standing on the trail beside the Missouri River at night, there’s another view. You can look straight up. A bright moon shone in the early night sky this week and plenty of stars peeked through. Somehow the light pollution is less down in the river bottoms, at least up at the park’s north end by the boat ramp. You can see lots of stars on a cloudless night.

Somehow, stars can seem like the best Christmas lights of all.

Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at