As you may have seen on Twitter, we recently took a trip Stateside and visited a few Christmas stores along the way. The biggest we visited was City Lights Collectibles in San Diego, one of the biggest Christmas stores in the US.
Last year we were fortunate to take a peek behind the scenes of Bronner’s in Frankenmuth, Michigan. While we could not visit in person, the guys at Bronner’s sent us some amazing photography and did some great interviews with us, giving us an insight as to how the world’s biggest Christmas store functions.
This year, we had the opportunity to visit California and so did a little research to see if there were any Christmas stores we could visit.
In San Diego we found City Lights Collectibles. We did not know how big the store was going to be before arriving, but on arrival in the car park (parking lot!) we were pleasantly surprised at the scale of the building. While the exterior wasn’t particularly exciting – it did look like a large warehouse-style building – it quickly became apparent that the store was rather large!
Exploring City Lights Collectibles
As soon as we stepped inside the store, we were greeted with several giant artificial Christmas trees, each decorated with different themes and colours. As we begun to explore, we saw many traditional style decorations for just about every area of the home. From large and small Santa figurines to swags, greenery, ornaments and baubles. It was a festive feast for the eyes!
The store seemed to show signs of expansion over the years, with small alcoves tucked in to different areas of the store, each brimming with more Christmassy fun.
One of the things that really strikes you is the sheer depth of each product range, or type of Christmas product. For tree decorations, there are ornaments and baubles to match every colour or theme you have in mind.
If you want to make your own Christmas scene, there is lots of choice of ornaments, figurines and snow coverings. And this leads on to our favourite element of the store.
City Lights Collectibles undoubtedly have the best Christmas scenes I have seen. Another selection of alcoves displays each range of Department 56, with all of the old favourites out to look at. However, the City Lights team have also created a masterpiece of a Department 56 display, photos of which can be seen below.
If you’re a keen Dept 56 collector, then a visit to City Lights Collectibles is highly recommended. Not only do they stock the latest models, but they also regularly purchase older, retired models from collectors and offer them for sale in-store. There is a quite incredible range, and one that I took a good half hour looking over.
The scenes themselves are changed once per year, usually ahead of the festive period. So we were looking at the 2015 layout, but the attention to detail in the display was first-rate.
Occasionally when you visit any business or attraction, the staff can make or break your opinion. I found the staff at City Lights Collectibles to be fantastic. They were very friendly and attentive, and one lady took great pride in giving us a short history on the business, explaining the layout of the store and also the Dept 56 ranges. The lady even went and turned all of the lights on for us so that we could see the scenic layouts in all their glory, and allowed us to take photographs.
The lady we spoke to also believed that City Lights Collectibles is probably the second biggest Christmas store in the US, behind only Bronner’s.
If you get the opportunity to visit, make sure you take the time to speak to the staff as well.
In short, City Lights Collectibles was a fantastic place to spend an hour or so. You are transported in to a Christmas wonderland, even if you visit in mid-summer like we did. If you’re ever in San Diego, go check them out.