The 8 Best Outdoor String Lights to Buy in 2018

Brighten up your backyard with these pretty picks

Lights hang outdoors
Alex Levine / Getty Images

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There’s something magical about a summer night. Maybe the kids are running around while you finally kick your feet up, or maybe you’re enjoying the merriment of a backyard barbecue with friends. Either way, a few strands of string lights can transform your outdoor space from just another spot to hang out to the spot to hang out.

And decorating your outdoor space doesn’t have to be limiting. The choices are vast — now there are weatherproof outdoor string lights in nearly every color and style. No outlet? No problem. Choose solar- or battery-powered instead. Hate the harsh blue glow of a white light? Opt for incandescent instead.

Whether you choose paper lanterns, old-timey Edison bulbs, or cafe-style globes, these highly-rated outdoor string lights will add that soft, warm glow that makes your space — be it a vast patio or a tiny apartment balcony — feel like your own personal oasis.

  • 01 of 08

    Best Overall: 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 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.

  • 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 LED: 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.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 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.

  • 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.