The 8 Best Outdoor String Lights of 2020

Brighten up your backyard with these pretty picks

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Our Top Picks
"You can easily hook these outdoor lights up to a timer or a dimmer."
"More energy efficient than halogen lights and will last forever."
"These lights will withstand the forces of nature."
"Built-in loops make installing this 49-foot strand a breeze."
"These small globe string lights are longer than other similarly priced options."
"Comes with handy features like a timer and USB plug-in, plus they look gorgeous."
"They’re totally waterproof, so you can leave them up all season."
"Reviewers say the light is ​subtle but effective."

String lights are a great way to add ambiance and character to your outdoor space. If you're in the market for lights the choices are vast—there are weatherproof outdoor string lights in nearly every color and style. No outlet? Choose solar- or battery-powered instead. Hate the harsh blue glow of white lights? Opt for incandescent instead. No matter what style you choose, outdoor string lights are sure to add that soft, warm glow to your space.

To help you find the best set, here are the best outdoor string lights.

Most Popular: Outdoor Lighting Store 50ft Black String Lights

When it comes to an outdoor space, durability is crucial. Outdoor string lights need to be able to weather rain, wind, and harsh temperatures (both cold and hot). But a version that’s too rugged won’t do — after all, they’re there to improve the look of your space. These attractive globe-style lights satisfy that criteria.

A single strand has 50 feet of sturdy cable to cover large areas and 60 incandescent bulbs, spaced 12 inches apart, to give your whole space a soft and warm golden glow. As an added bonus, you can easily hook these outdoor lights up to a timer or a dimmer.

Each purchase comes with 10 extra glass bulbs —just in case any break with handling. Setup is a breeze, too, thanks to a comprehensive guide, 100 zip ties, and even a spare fuse.

"We were initially concerned about the durability of the glass bulbs when left outside in the elements, but this set withstood a variety of weather conditions."—Justin Park, Product Tester

Best Overall: SUNTHIN 48ft LED Outdoor String Lights

Excellent

If you’re looking for a long-term solution, LED is the way to go — they’re more energy-efficient (this particular set uses up to 90 percent less energy!) and much longer-lasting than halogen lights.

There’s no need to store these lights in the winter, either. This 48-foot strand of 18 bulbs is made with heavy-duty commercial grade wire and tightly sealed all-weather sockets that won’t sustain damage, no matter how much it rains or even snows.

"The 3-foot spacing of the lights was about perfect for wrapping beams, as a bulb fell pretty much at the base of the beam every time without much adjusting required."—Justin Park, Product Tester

Best Solar: Brightech Ambience Pro

Very Good

If you don’t have an outlet in your backyard, you can still string outdoor lights without running an unsightly extension cord through the window. Simply point the small solar panel towards the sky. Just six hours of direct sunlight will keep your outdoor space illuminated for five to six hours.

The durable plastic shells on this 26-foot strand won’t break like glass ones might, but never get hot enough to cause concern. Still, the LED lights look warm to provide that soft and romantic glow you’re after.

These lights will withstand the forces of nature, too. One reviewer says their lights stayed put through two storms with winds over 50 mph!

"These lights are best as an accent, not a primary light source in your outdoor space. We liked them along our fence line where they threw a bit of warm light on the garden and gave some depth to the backyard patio area beyond the usual exterior lamp light."—Justin Park, Product Tester

Best Edison: Mpow 49ft Led Outdoor String Lights

Excellent

Your outdoor space will feel more French bistro than suburban backyard with these vintage-style Edison bulbs overhead.

Built-in loops make installing this 49-foot strand a breeze, whether you plan to string it along a fence, drape it between poles, or line a pergola. And covered female sockets prevent damage when used singularly, but allow you to add more strands at any time (connect up to 23 strands!).

Users love how bright these lights are, but the strand is dimmer compatible, should you want something a little more delicate.

If you’re not 100 percent satisfied, these outdoor lights come with a 45-day money-back guarantee and an 18-month warranty.

"The color temperature of the bulbs is much further into the soft white range than, say, a more traditional incandescent bulb."—Justin Park, Product Tester

Best Budget: Brightown 33Ft Globe String Lights

If you don’t think such a seasonal space warrants a big purchase, you still have plenty of options. But even the cheaper picks should still deliver on both usability and aesthetics.

At 33 feet long, these small globe string lights are longer than other similarly priced options. And with 100 bulbs filling that space, there will be enough light to eat dinner or walk safely down any stairs or pathways.

Use the included remote to adjust brightness and select one of eight different settings, from twinkles to waves. Reviewers love the great value this functionality provides, but note that the remote can be finicky beyond a short distance.

Best Fairy Lights: HSicily Fairy Lights Plug in

This delicate strand has to be one of the coolest options for outdoor lights. It comes with both a standard plug and a USB plug, so you can string lights virtually anywhere. Bring these to the beach or the park for an evening picnic — all you need is a portable battery pack equipped with a USB port.

Each 33-foot strand has 100 tiny LED lights that can be programmed to eight different settings, from a slow fade to a twinkle. You can amp up or tone down the brightness, too.

Line the edges of your tent to illuminate your campsite, tuck these in a jar to dress up a dessert table, or hang inside the umbrella at your outdoor table.

Best Lanterns: ALED LIGHT Solar LED Lanterns String Lights

Love paper lanterns, but worry they’re not practical for outdoor use? The globes on this strand look like traditional paper lanterns but are made of tarpaulin, a sturdy cloth-like material. This means they’re totally waterproof, so you can leave them up all season.

Small-space dwellers and those with limited storage space will love the fact that each lantern easily collapses, making it a cinch to tuck them away during the off-season.

These outdoor lights are also solar-powered and stay on up to 15 hours on the steady mode or up to 20 hours on the twinkling mode.

Best Colored: Fule Outdoor String Lights

A warm glow is nice, but sometimes the mood calls for something a little livelier. These fun string lights look just like the ever-popular white LED versions, but come with a mixture of fun colored bulbs (purple, yellow, red and blue).

If it’s a soft light you’re after, these bulbs are for you — reviewers say the light is ​subtle, but effective. They’re easy to install, too. Each acrylic bulb has a small hole at the top, making it easy to secure the 48-foot strand to a fence, pole, or other structure.

What to Look for in Outdoor String Lights

Power source To make your outdoor lights twinkle, you’ll need a readily accessible power source that’s compatible with the type of string lights you buy. Many string lights on the market are designed to be plugged into an electrical outlet; the most durable ones also feature protected sockets to keep out moisture. But if you don’t have an outlet available for your outdoor lighting, look for USB-powered or solar string lights.

Bulb type String lights come with a wide variety of bulb types and shapes, but LED bulbs are the most common. These bulbs offer the longest lifespan and best energy savings of any bulb type. However, you’ll still need to decide if you want a bright, vintage light from an Edison-style light bulb or the softer glow of string lights with a globe bulb. For extra durability, some string light bulbs are made of plastic, while others are made of glass and may require a little more cautious care.

Lighting effects You don’t have to settle for a steady glow when it comes to outdoor lighting. Many string lights can be used with a dimmer, or include a remote control that allows you to control various lighting effects. Some strings lights are capable of strobing or flashing effects, and others can twinkle or fade in and out.

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