With the right design, outdoor string lights can provide both lighting and ambiance to your backyard or patio. We researched and tested dozens of options to find the best ones, evaluating them on durability, brightness, and ease of use.
Our best overall pick is the Pottery Barn Indoor/Outdoor LED String Lights Strand, which stand out for their durability, energy efficiency, and range of lengths.
Here are the best outdoor string lights.
Pottery Barn Indoor/Outdoor LED String Lights
Several string lengths available
LED bulbs use less energy
Appropriate for permanent outdoor installation
Able to connect several strands
No replacement bulbs available
LED lights come in many varieties, and they are popular for many reasons: their longer life span, efficient operation, and cool-to-the-touch exterior. These features make the Pottery Barn LED String Lights our top pick—and it doesn't hurt that they're beautiful, drape nicely, and even look stylish when they're not on. In short, they are the perfect outdoor lights if you want something you can install once and leave up all year long.
The strands are available in three lengths—12, 24, and 48 feet—and strung with LED bulbs, which use less electricity than standard bulbs and last a lifetime. They're also impact-resistant, and UL listed for permanent outdoor installation, so there's no need to take them down in the winter. You can link up to 750 feet of these lights to one outlet, giving you enough length to decorate a large outdoor space.
We sent these to our tester in the Pacific Northwest, who installed and used them over several weeks in their backyard. "We left these lights up in one of the rainiest, windiest springs we’ve had in the Pacific Northwest. The lights weren’t under cover at all, so they got the full effect of whatever Mother Nature chose to throw at them. On a particularly sunny evening after a nasty week of rain and wind, I walked out and plugged them in again. Voila, gorgeous lights with no problems."
We also found that the lights were heavier than expected, with the setup process requiring more than one person. Once hung, they had a lovely drape effect and exceptional light quality—bright enough to illuminate the space while still providing just the right ambiance for watching a movie on an outdoor screen. These string lights are one of the priciest picks on our list, but given that LED bulbs use less electricity, are impact-resistant, and can be left outside year-round, we think they are well worth the investment.
Bulb Type: LED | Number of Bulbs: 12 | Cord Length: 24 | Wattage: Not listed | Power Source: Plug-in
Price at time of publish: $89
Home Accents Holiday 300 Mini Lights Set
Simple enough to be used year-round
Incandescent bulbs use more energy
Get the most bang for your buck with the Home Accents Holiday 300-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.
Bulb Type: Mini incandescent | Number of Bulbs: 300 | Cord Length: 68 feet | Wattage: 72 | Power Source: Plug-in
Price at time of publish: $15
Brightech Ambiance Pro Solar String Lights
Weather-resistant and shatterproof
No electricity needed
Not as bright as other options
Can't connect multiple strings
We've tested dozens of solar lights in our lab, and these are our favorite string lights. The 17 vintage-style, Edison bulbs are as practical as they are pretty, and are made of shatterproof plastic. In fact, they held up well during our lab testing, even when we froze, poured water, or dropped a golf ball on the solar panel. Plus, they are backed by a full 2-year warranty and have a 1,000-charge lifespan (around 2.5 years according to the manufacturer). Although you can't connect multiple strands, they are available in a longer, 48-foot strand.
We love that these string lights don't require any electricity, so you can place them just about anywhere. In fact, the solar panel has a versatile design and can either be clipped to a fence or balcony, or staked in the ground. While testing, we appreciated the "moody lighting" these lights emit, and although they weren't bright enough to read under, we think that they are great for decor or entertaining purposes.
Price at time of publish: $30
Bulb Type: Edison-style LED | Number of Bulbs: 12 | Cord Length: 27 feet | Wattage: 1 | Power Source: Solar
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
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 factor to note is these bulbs are a bit dimmer than the others on this list, but this can be 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.
We sent these lights to a tester to use in their own yard, where they withstood storms and installation. "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," they noted.
Bulb Type: Edison-style LED | Number of Bulbs: 15 | Cord Length: 48 feet | Wattage: 13.5 | Power Source: Plug-in
Price at time of publish: $30
Hampton Bay 24-Light Indoor/Outdoor 48 ft. String Light
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 are long-lasting. 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 more.
Bulb Type: Edison-style LED | Number of Bulbs: 24 | Cord Length: 48 feet | Wattage: 3 | Power Source: Plug-in
Price at time of publish: $60
Addlon Outdoor String Lights, 2 Pack
Double insulation to withstand elements
Hanging hooks above each bulb
Compatible with dimmer
Not LED bulbs
If you want to brighten your entire yard with beautiful lights, consider the Addlon Outdoor String Lights. These bistro-style lights are 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 for more coverage. And though they’re on the more expensive side, you’ll love how these lights look in your yard.
Price at time of publish: $70
Bulb Type: Incandescent | Number of Bulbs: 15 | Cord Length: 48 feet | Wattage: 11 | Power Source: Plug-in
Best Fairy Lights
ZAECANY LED String Lights
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 that 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.
Price at time of publish: $20
Bulb Type: Micro LED | Number of Bulbs: 300 | Cord Length: 99 feet | Wattage: Not listed | Power Source: Plug-in
Best Battery Operated
Koopower 36ft 100 LED Outdoor Battery Fairy Lights
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 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.
Price at time of publish: $18
Bulb Type: LED | Number of Bulbs: 100 | Cord Length: 36 feet | Wattage: 4.5 | Power Source: 3 AA batteries
The best outdoor string lights are the Pottery Barn LED String Lights. These indoor/outdoor lights give off a warm glow that’s comfortable and welcoming, and the acrylic bulbs are impact-resistant. If you’re looking for a less expensive strand, go with the Home Accents 300-Light Clear Incandescent Set, 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. Brightech LED Solar String Lights, tested in our lab, have a solar panel that can be clipped onto a balcony, or staked in the ground, so you can string them just about anywhere.
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 they 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, safety rating, and power source to find the best location. Be sure to check whether your lights are weather-proof before hanging them—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 might 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 the 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. A good safety practice is 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, price point, and design in mind to find the best picks for you.