What's more fun than slogging through mall traffic? Kidding. This is the money-making time of the year for malls, so you can expect retailers and surrounding buildings to be decked out in their finest seasonal décor. However, driving home after shopping and checking out area Christmas light displays can be loads more fun.
For an immersive, get-outta-your-damned-car experience, I suggest Gardner Village in West Jordan, Thanksgiving Point's Luminaria display in Lehi, The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake, Zoo Lights at Hogle Zoo and The Shops at Riverwoods in Provo. When in Provo, also visit the Christmas in Color display you can drive through at Utah Lake State Park. Want to get wet and cold? Book a lighted Christmas Cruise on the Provo River—for real! Spanish Fork's Canyon View Park has a Festival of Lights featuring 3 million bulbs, and Draper City's Tree of Light is a willow tree that will blow your mind with 1,000-plus strands of lights and more than 100,000 bulbs. If you're heading south, St. George and Santa Clara have some well-decorated homes, too.
If you're reading this and haven't seen Ballet West's The Nutcracker, you should expect coal in your stocking and random people to call you "Grinch." Buying a ticket not only supports a terrific, world-renowned dance company, but also gives you an excuse to dress up, take Trax downtown, eat out, enjoy a show and escape shopping hell. But, then again, you can park free for two hours at The Gateway or City Creek Center if you must drive your sleigh down. There's also the Jingle Bus from 5 to 10 p.m. seven days a week (except Christmas Day). It runs east from The Gateway on South Temple, south on Main Street to 200 South, and then back to The Gateway all season long—and it's free. Jump on and off to stop for hot cocoa or a hot dog, see the Macy's candy window display and fight the crowds at Temple Square ... the lights are totally worth the hassle.
Finally, here are my favorite creatively decorated residences in Salt Lake: 1. A home on 900 West just below 200 South that makes me think the owners offered Santa holiday crack to make the season gaudy and bright; 2. Christmas Street right off 1500 East and 1700 South on Glen Arbor Street (turn off your lights); 3. Cross 1500 East and you'll end up on "Bible Street," where homes depict the story of Jesus' birth; and 4. The place where all Jesuses, plastic angels and Santas go to die: 805 E. 18th Ave. You have to see that one to understand. Ho, ho, ho—and enjoy!