Menifee Lights Up With Holiday Cheer

It's Christmas in Menifee, and the holiday spirit is shining brightly -- if you know where to l...

It's Christmas in Menifee, and the holiday spirit is shining brightly -- if you know where to look.

In our search for the most spectacular Christmas light and decoration displays in town, we feature two locations within a couple blocks of each other. One is just south of Newport Road and the other just a block north of Newport. Both welcome visitors each night from now through the end of the year, and they're definitely worth the visit.

We start with the Carnes residence at 30035 Calle Pompeii. For 20 years, Chris and Mary Carnes have lavishly decorated their house, both inside and out, and opened it up to visitors throughout the month of December. Starting in 1991 in an Eagle Rock town house and for the last 16 years in their large two-story house in Menifee, the Carnes family has spread holiday cheer through their colorful, animated holiday displays and old-fashioned hospitality.

More than 10,000 lights adorn the outside of the house. In an elaborate outdoor showcase built into the garage entry, a miniature Victorian village and electric train entertain onlookers. But that's the only the beginning. There's much more inside.
Visitors are welcome to tour the entire ground floor of the Carnes home. They are urged to sign a guest book; are invited to leave donations of food items for the Menifee Valley Community Cupboard charity; and are offered soup, meatballs, beverages and other snacks.

The inside displays feature many more miniature villages, showcasing more than 600 Victorian-style houses the Carnes have collected over the years. There are Christmas trees, animated Santa figures and many other collectibles with a holiday theme.

"We've been collecting these things for 37 years," Mary Carnes explained. "I bought my husband a train set for our first Christmas and we've been adding things ever since."

The Carnes home has been open to the public every night starting at 6 p.m. since the first Saturday in December, and it will remain open through New Year's Day. Last year, an estimated 6,000 people visited the location. Last weekend alone, nearly 2,000 stopped by.

In the early years, the Carnes' holiday collection was shown only to friends and co-workers. But when a Los Angeles Times article featured the display after the Carnes won a national contest in 1991, the home attracted a wider audience.

"The next Saturday, I noticed a lot of people I didn't know," Chris Carnes said. "I thought they were co-workers of my wife, and she thought the same thing about me. Then we realized, 'Hey, we don't even know these people.' Right then, we decided if that many people wanted to see it, we should open it up to everyone."

Chris Carnes said he and his wife don't mind at all that visitors walk through their house every night for a month each Christmas season.