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Pretty string lights are the cherry on top of a perfectly decorated patio. With outdoor string lights, you can provide ambient lighting in your yard, creating a relaxing space for your family and friends to hang out. You can wrap them around trees, string them along fences, and so much more.
No matter your needs, there are plenty of outdoor string lights on the market today. You can choose from regular plug-in, battery-operated, or solar-power models, as well as different styles of bulbs, from large globes to twinkling fairy lights and everything in between. Plus, many outdoor string lights are incredibly affordable, making them a fun and budget-friendly way to spruce up your garden or patio.
Read on for the best outdoor string lights to brighten up your space.
Best Overall: Hampton Bay 24-Light Indoor/Outdoor 48 ft. String Light
Bulb Type: Edison-style LED | Number of Bulbs: 24 | Cord Length: 48 feet | Wattage: 3 | Power Source: Plug-in
Warm white light
Ability to connect up to 11 strands
Condensation can form inside bulbs
The Hampton Bay 24-Light Indoor/Outdoor String Lights feature pretty Edison-style LED bulbs that will illuminate your outdoor space, turning it into your favorite nighttime lounge spot. The light set has 24 bulbs on a 48-foot string, and you can connect up to 11 strands end-to-end to decorate a larger area.
There’s so much to love about these outdoor string lights. First, they give off a warm white glow that’s comfortable and welcoming, and the LED bulbs will never need replacing. Additionally, the bulbs are impact-resistant, so they won’t shatter if they’re ever dropped. The whole string is also weather-resistant, so you can use it to decorate your deck, pergola, fence, and much more.
Best Budget: Home Accents Holiday 300 Mini Lights Set
Bulb Type: Mini incandescent | Number of Bulbs: 300 | Cord Length: 68 feet | Wattage: 72 | Power Source: Plug-in
Simple enough to be used year-round
Incandescent bulbs use more energy
Get the most bang for your buck with the Home Accents Holiday 150-Light Clear Incandescent Light Set. While often used as outdoor Christmas lights or to decorate Christmas trees, these clear white lights can easily be used year-round to decorate your yard.
These inexpensive string lights provide 68 feet of lighted length with 300 mini glass bulbs, all attached to a green wire. They can be used both indoors and outside, and if one bulb burns out, the others stay lit (saving you from having a half-lit strand). You can connect up to three sets of these lights end-to-end, which is especially convenient for decorating outdoors.
Best Splurge: Addlon Outdoor String Lights, 2 Pack
Bulb Type: Incandescent | Number of Bulbs: 15 | Cord Length: 48 feet | Wattage: 11 | Power Source: Plug-in
Double insulation to withstand elements
Hanging hooks above each bulb
Compatible with dimmer
Not LED bulbs
If you want to light up your entire yard with beautiful lights, consider the Addlon Outdoor String Lights, which come in a pack of two. These bistro-style lights are totally weatherproof, and each strand is 48 feet long with 15 bulbs connected to hanging sockets. Plus, each socket has a hanging hook above it, making it easier to install these lights around your space.
These commercial-grade lights are mounted on a heavy-duty wire and give off a soft white glow—perfect for creating your own little outdoor paradise. You can connect up to five strands together for more coverage, and while they’re on the more expensive side, you’ll love how these lights look in your yard.
Best Edison-Style: SUNTHIN 48ft LED Outdoor String Lights
Durable and weatherproof
Shatterproof plastic bulbs
More affordable than similar options
Not as bright as other options
Dimmer control sold separately
Bulb Type: Edison-style LED | Number of Bulbs: 15 | Cord Length: 48 feet | Wattage: 13.5 | Power Source: Plug-in
If you're looking to add more ambiance to your outdoor space, check out SUNTHIN's LED Outdoor String Lights. With shatterproof plastic bulbs and weatherproof construction, these commercial-grade lights are just as practical as your standard set. What sets them apart is their appearance, which will transform your patio or backyard into a cozy space perfect for outdoor dinner parties and other gatherings.
One thing to note is that these bulbs are a bit dimmer than the others on this list, but this is likely part of their appeal. Each 48-foot long set gives you 15 bulbs (spaced out appropriately), and you can connect up to 12 strands to cover more space. Opting for multiple sets is a great way to offset the brightness issue, giving you the same warm look with a bit more illumination. You can also purchase a separate dimmer by the brand to further customize the light output.
"The apparent durability went beyond looks; we had no blown bulbs in our two-week testing period despite occasional heavy winds. The bulbs were probably in the most danger during installation when we clinked several on concrete with no damage—an action that would’ve certainly shattered a regular glass bulb."—Justin Park, Product Tester
Best LED: Pottery Barn Indoor/Outdoor LED String Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Number of Bulbs: 12 | Cord Length: 24 | Wattage: Not listed | Power Source: Plug-in
Several string lengths available
LED bulbs use less energy
Appropriate for for permanent outdoor installation
Able to connect several strands together
LED bulbs are a popular choice for several reasons, including their longer life span, efficient operation, and cool-to-the-touch exterior. All these features make the Pottery Barn LED String Lights a worthwhile purchase—and it doesn’t hurt that they’re extremely pretty, too!
You can choose from several string lengths, including 12-, 24-, and 48-feet long, all of which feature hanging LED bulbs that use 95 percent less electricity than standard bulbs and last a lifetime. The acrylic bulbs are impact resistant, so they won’t break if they fall, and they’re approved for permanent outdoor installation—there's no need to take them down in the winter. Plus, you can link up to 750 feet of these lights on one outlet, giving you enough length to decorate your whole home or outdoor space.
Best Fairy Lights: ZAECANY LED String Lights
Bulb Type: Micro LED | Number of Bulbs: 300 | Cord Length: 99 feet | Wattage: Not listed | Power Source: Plug-in
Delicate appearance and thin wires
Several bulb colors available
Optional remote is finicky
Copper wire limits installation options
Fairy lights have small bulbs on a thin wire, and some of the best outdoor ones are the ZAECANY LED String Lights. You can get these lights in warm white, cool white, or blue, and each strand includes 99 feet of lighting with 300 micro LED bulbs—perfect for decorating large outdoor areas.
What gives these lights a fairy-like appearance is their thin wiring, which makes them appear as if they're floating. These lights are weatherproof, but because they’re mounted on copper wires, you should avoid hanging them with any type of metal hook. Overall, these fairy lights are a delicate decoration for any space and an unbeatable value.
Best Battery Operated: Koopower 36ft 100 LED Outdoor Battery Fairy Lights
Bulb Type: LED | Number of Bulbs: 100 | Cord Length: 36 feet | Wattage: 4.5 | Power Source: 3 AA batteries
Battery-powered design can be installed anywhere
Eight lighting effects
Comes with remote control and built-in timer
Remote only works in close proximity
Lights are not very bright
No electrical outlet nearby? No problem! The Koopower LED Outdoor Battery Fairy Lights are powered by three AA batteries (not included), allowing you to display them anywhere—inside or out. These battery-operated string lights are 36 feet long with 100 LED bulbs, and the control box allows you to select between eight modes for different lighting effects.
The battery console for the Koopower lights is water- and dust-proof, allowing you to place it outdoors, and the strand also comes with a remote control so you can easily turn the lights on and off. Or, if you want to make things even easier for yourself, you can use the unit’s built-in timer, which automatically shuts the lights off after six hours.
Best Globe: Brightown Outdoor String Lights
Bulb Type: Globe-style incandescent | Number of Bulbs: 25 | Cord Length: 25 | Wattage: 125 | Power Source: Plug-in
Various lengths and wire colors available
Attractive globe-shaped bulbs
Compatible with dimmer
Incandescent bulbs use more electricity
Bulbs are very fragile
The Brightown Outdoor String Lights have cute globe-shaped bulbs that would look perfect strung up around a patio or other outdoor space. The lights come in four colors, and you can select between 25-, 50-, and 100-foot lengths, depending on your needs.
These inexpensive outdoor string lights give off a warm white light, and there are 12 inches between bulbs, which means the 25-foot strand will have 25 lights on it. The lights are weatherproof for year-round use, and you can connect up to three strands end-to-end. These globe lights come with one replacement bulb, and look stunning at night.
The best outdoor string lights are the Hampton Bay 24-Light Indoor/Outdoor 48 ft. String Lights (view at Home Depot). These lights give off a warm white glow that’s comfortable and welcoming, and the LED bulbs are impact-resistant. If you’re looking for a less expensive strand, go with the Home Accents 300-Light Clear Incandescent Set (view at Amazon), which gives you almost 68 feet of length at an incredibly affordable price.
What to Look for in Outdoor String Lights
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.
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.
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.
Where are the best places to hang outdoor string lights?
There are many different places where you can display outdoor string lights, but you’ll want to take into account their length, UL rating, and power source to find the best location. Be sure to check if your lights are weather-proof before hanging them up—some lights can withstand rain, snow, and more, while others should be kept out of direct exposure to the weather. You’ll also want to make sure your lights will be able to reach an outlet, if needed.
With those logistics out of the way, you may want to hang outdoor string lights between trees or posts in your yard. Other popular options include wrapping lights around deck railings or tree branches, or using them to decorate the beams of a deck or pergola.
How can you determine how long of a set you need?
It’s best to figure out how long your string lights should be before you purchase them—after all, it’s frustrating to realize your lights aren’t long enough when you’re midway through installation. You can avoid this by taking rough measurements of location where you want your lights. For instance, if your patio is 20 feet wide and you want the lights to zigzag across it three times, you’ll need at least 60 feet of light. In general, it’s always best to give yourself an additional 5-foot buffer, if possible.
What’s the best way to hang and secure outdoor string lights?
When putting up your string lights, there are several ways to anchor them. Many people like to use cup hooks to hold up string lights, as it’s easy to place the wire inside the loop yet it still holds the strand in place. However, you can also use a staple gun to anchor string lights into place—just be extra careful not to pierce the wire. No matter how you’re hanging your lights, it’s best to remove glass bulbs during installation, as there’s always a chance they’ll be bumped or even dropped.
Is it safe to leave outdoor string lights on for days or weeks at a time?
Unfortunately, it’s not a good idea to leave any lights on around the clock, for the simple reason that all light bulbs, even LEDs, can heat up with extended use. This can become a fire hazard if they’re located near any flammable object. Instead, it’s best to turn off your string lights when they’re not in use or at least overnight. If you don’t want to do it by hand, a light timer or smart plug can do it automatically.
How often do bulbs generally need replacing?
The lifespan of your outdoor lights will depend on how often you use them and whether they’re properly maintained. In general, high-end LED string lights will last for around six to seven seasons or two to three years if you use them year-round. Lower-quality products and incandescent bulbs will need to be replaced more frequently.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Camryn Rabideau, a freelance contributor for The Spruce. She's done firsthand testing of string lights in the past, and she currently owns several sets, which she uses to decorate her patio during the summer.
This article was edited and researched by Lily Sperry, a lifestyle writer and commerce editor here at The Spruce. When selecting lights to include, she consulted dozens of reviews from both verified customers and third-party sites. She kept the lights' overall durability, pricepoint, and design in mind to find the best picks for you.