Our Top Picks
"You can easily hook these outdoor lights up to a timer or a dimmer."
Best Overall: Sunthin 48-Foot LED String of Lights at Amazon
"More energy efficient than halogen lights and will last forever."
"These lights will withstand the forces of nature."
Best Edison: Mpow 49-Foot Vintage Dimmable Bulbs at Amazon
"Built-in loops make installing this 49-foot strand a breeze."
"These small globe string lights are longer than other similarly priced options."
Best Fairy Lights: HSicily USB 33-Foot String Lights at Amazon
"Comes with handy features like a timer and USB plug-in, plus they look gorgeous."
Best Lanterns: ALED Light Solar LED Lanterns at Amazon
"They’re totally waterproof, so you can leave them up all season."
Best Colored: Fule Light 48-Foot Acrylic Color String Lights at Amazon
"Reviewers say the light is subtle but effective."
01 of 08
Most Popular: Outdoor Lighting Store 50-Foot 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.
Some reviewers note that the glass bulbs all arrive intact, but each purchase comes with 10 extra — just in case. Others love that setup is a breeze, thanks to a comprehensive guide, 100 zip ties, and even a spare fuse.
02 of 08
Best Overall: Sunthin 48-Foot LED String of Lights
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. Most reviewers cite the high-quality construction. 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.
03 of 08
Best Solar: Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Powered LED String Lights
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!
04 of 08
Best Edison: Mpow 49-Foot Vintage Dimmable Bulbs
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!).
Reviewers 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.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Best Budget: Brightown 33-Foot Globe Outdoor 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.
06 of 08
Best Fairy Lights: HSicily USB 33-Foot String Lights
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.
07 of 08
Best Lanterns: ALED Light Solar LED Lanterns
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.
Reviewers love that these outdoor lights are solar-powered, and note how long the light stays on (up to 15 hours on the steady mode; up to 20 hours on the twinkling mode!).
08 of 08
Best Colored: Fule Light 48-Foot Acrylic Color 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.
Products Tested by The Spruce
How We Tested
We bought four top-rated sets of outdoor string lights and our reviewers tested them for 120 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these lights, from their bulb type to the various lighting effects they can produce. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
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.
Test Results: Outdoor Lighting Store 50-Foot Black String Lights (Most Popular)
What We Like
Lighter gauge wiring
Lots of bulbs
Warm, bright light
What We Don't Like
Higher energy cost
Our tester thought that these lights were “attractive” and that they “put off a warm but powerful light.” He also liked that the string gauge was “was lightweight and easy to install.” Long-term durability, however, was a concern, as was their overall value: “The price is really high unless you find a coupon or deal,” he said. “The light cordage seems cheap, especially given the high cost.”
Test Results: Sunthin 48-Foot LED String of Lights (Best Overall)
What We Like
Durable and weatherproof
Shatterproof plastic bulbs
More affordable than similar options
What We Don't Like
Not as bright as other options
Dimmer control sold separately
“These are well-made lights that can be combined with additional sets to cover a variety of needs,” said our tester. “Also, they aren't too bright, so even without the dimmer, they can be used in a wide range of areas.” On the other hand, our tester felt that their maximum power was “a little soft” and that their plastic “may fade if left out in the elements.”
Test Results: Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Powered LED String Lights (Best Solar)
What We Like
Untethered by outlets
No electric cost
What We Don't Like
Can be dim
Short length, no pairing
Our tester loved that these solar lights “don’t add to your energy bill.” He also felt that “their globe bulbs are attractive and they emit a really warm light.” On the other hand, he pointed out that “their reliance on solar means they may not be at full strength when you need them to be.” Another negative was their short length: “You can't combine them with additional strings so you have to buy another complete string with a panel to expand coverage,” he said.
Test Results: Mpow 49-Foot Vintage Dimmable Bulbs (Best Edison)
What We Like
Durable and waterproof
What We Don't Like
Too bright for some applications
Thick cord is hard to hide during daytime
“The Edison-style LEDs do a nice job of combining old-time looks with modern efficiency,” raved our tester. “The 1.5-watt bulbs are bright and seem capable of truly lighting a space or an event.” In terms of downsides, he wished the lights had a dimmer: “They may be too bright for intimate settings,” he said. “Plus, the light is a bit white and might be more attractive on the yellow end of things.”