The 10 Best Outdoor String Lights of 2023 | by Real Simple – Real Simple

One of the easiest ways to spruce up the look of any outdoor space is to hang string lights around the exterior. Not only do they illuminate outdoor spaces during the night, string lights add a warm and cozy ambiance to outdoor spaces, too. 

“Outdoor string lights are a great way to add functional and ambient lighting in an aesthetic fashion to any backyard, whether that is a patio, deck, screened in porch, or other outdoor space,” says Kevin Leary, sales manager at Carolina Outdoor Lighting Professionals

“The main benefit we see of adding string lights is ambient light that is functional, but also elegant,” adds Skeets Fish, owner of L&L Outdoor Lighting Co. “String lights provide good coverage without the annoying feeling of glare from more conventional lighting applications.”

To find the best outdoor string lights on the market, we researched options in a wide variety of styles, shapes, and price ranges. Our favorite lights are the Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Non Hanging Patio Lights, because they use sunlight during the day to emit a warm glow at night. Plus, they’re made to withstand all sorts of weather and feature classic, Edison-style bulbs.

Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Non Hanging Patio Lights

Amazon


Who it’s for: People who want solar-powered string lights that emit a warm glow. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want ultra-bright string lights.

For the very best outdoor string lights on the market right now, check out this option from Brightech. These beautiful ambient lights feature vintage Edison-style bulbs that emit an ultra-warm glow, all strung on a black cable cord. The lights are solar powered, so you don’t have to worry about changing the batteries after lots of use, and they’re also weather resistant, so they can withstand rain and snow during the winter.  

Because these lights are solar powered, they’re more sustainable than traditional lights, as they use less electricity, and they also turn on automatically once the sun sets. And they turn off once sunrise occurs, saving you the time and hassle of having to remember to flip a switch every morning.

Price-wise, these lights are just about average, and they’re durable enough to last a long time. Just keep in mind that they’re a bit dimmer than some other string lights out there, if you’re looking for the utmost brightness. Also, the bulbs come spaced fairly far apart on the cable, but you can adjust the looks of the lights to your preference fairly easily if that’s an issue for you.

Price at time of publish: From $48

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: LED
  • Cord Length: 27 or 48 feet
  • Power Source: 1-watt solar panel for outdoor use
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP65

Better Homes & Gardens Clear Glass Globe Outdoor String Lights

Walmart


Who it’s for: People who want inexpensive string lights that are easy to hang up.

Who it isn’t for: People who want especially durable and weather-resistant string lights.

If you’re looking to stay under a tight budget in your search for string lights, we recommend taking a look at this low-priced option from the Better Homes & Gardens collection (Better Homes & Gardens is owned by Real Simple’s parent company, Dotdash Meredith). The lights come in a set of 20 and feature glass globe bulbs strung together on a deep brown wire. You can use these lights both indoors and outdoors, but they’ll look especially nice when emitting their warm, white glow in your backyard or patio space.

These string lights can connect to two other sets for nearly 60 feet of length, if you’re looking to light up a larger space, and come with two extra bulbs in case any of the main ones break or die out. Each lamp holder also features a tiny hanger so you can put them up easily, such as on a fence or tree. 

On the downside, these lights are fairly delicate, so you’ll want to be very careful when placing them around your home. They’re also not as weather resistant as some others out there, so while they can certainly handle some rain, they might not make it out totally intact after a heavier storm. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: G40 glass globe
  • Cord Length: 18.7 feet
  • Power Source: Plug-in
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: Not listed

Koopower 36ft 100 LED Outdoor Battery Fairy Lights

Courtesy of Amazon


Who it’s for: People who don’t have an outlet in their outdoor space.

Who it isn’t for: People who want lights with more traditional bulbs. 

Another very budget-friendly option, these battery-powered string lights from Koopower are a great choice for anyone looking to light up their outdoor space. The set of 100 tiny LED lights is controlled by an included remote control, which you can use as needed or to set a timer to have the lights go on and off automatically (six hours on and 18 hours off). The remote control also offers eight different blinking settings (such as twinkle, slow fade, and flash), so you can change the way the lights flicker and how frequently they glow.

These lights emit a gentle and warm white light, with the bulbs attached to a long and flexible clear cord. Plus, the lights are all waterproof and dustproof, so they can handle bad weather. Keep in mind that because these are fairy lights rather than traditional bulbs, the light you’ll get won’t be the absolute brightest, but since there are so many lights included on the cord, they’ll still produce a large amount of light spanning across a big space. 

Price at time of publish: From $10

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: LED
  • Cord Length: 16 or 36 feet
  • Power Source: Batteries
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP65

Brightown Solar String Lights

Amazon


Who it’s for: People who want string lights that turn on and off with the sun.

Who it isn’t for: People who want super bright and durable string lights.

Solar-powered lights can be a great option for anyone trying to prioritize sustainability, since they save energy and turn on only when the sun goes down. This set from Brightown is our top pick for this type of string lights, thanks to its eco-friendly make, eye-catching look, and low price, among other factors.

These lights come in eight colors, ranging from warm white to purple to orange (all on a black cord), so you can pick the option that best fits your taste and outdoor decor. They come with 60 bright LED bulbs and have eight lighting modes, including twinkle flash, sequential, waves, and more. They’re waterproof and weatherproof, so you can use them in any occasion and season, and the solar battery recharges automatically when left out during the day.

On the downside, these lights aren’t quite as bright or as durable as some others; you might need to replace some of the bulbs if they burn out or get damaged. But for their low price and sustainable nature, they’re certainly a worthwhile pick.

Price at time of publish: $20

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: LED
  • Cord Length: 35.6 feet
  • Power Source: Solar 
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP65

Bhclight LED Fairy Lights

Amazon


Who it’s for: People who want a large set of delicate lights.

Who it isn’t for: People who want string lights with big, bright bulbs.

If you don’t love the look of bigger bulbs and want a more intimate feel for your outdoor space, consider opting for smaller, delicate fairy lights. We recommend this option from Bhclight, which contains 200 LED fairy lights, each with a subtle white glow. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they’ll add some serious light and warmth to your space.

These lights are super easy to install—all you need to do is wrap the copper cord around a wall, tree, piece of furniture, or wherever else. They plug into an outlet, with a switch that lets you control the eight different modes offered by the set. Choose between many different speeds and settings for the lights (including a simple and reliable “steady on” mode) and customize the lights to your liking. You can also pick from one of four colors for the lights: warm white, cool white, multicolor, and pink.

These lights are waterproof and don’t tangle easily, and they can work both indoors and outdoors. Just be warned that some of the lights may be slightly dimmer or brighter than others, given how many there are on the cord.

Price at time of publish: From $20

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: LED
  • Cord Length: 66 feet
  • Power Source: Plug-in
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP44

Portfolio White Incandescent Edison String Lights

Lowe’s


Who it’s for: People who want string lights with a vintage look for both outdoor and indoor use. 

Who it isn’t for: People who want solar- or battery-powered lights and people who want inexpensive lights. 

Edison bulbs, aka light bulbs with a vintage design reminiscent of the first light bulbs ever produced, are popular options for string lights, and this option from Portfolio is a great pick. These lights, which can be used both indoors and outdoors, feature 11 warm white Edison bulbs (plus two replacement bulbs and one replacement fuse) on a 24-foot long black cord, ideal for lighting up any backyard or patio space.

These lights are weatherproof and durable, so you can use them in truly any occasion or season. If you need more lights to go around your entire outdoor space, you can string up to seven of these sets together for a grander look. All you need to do is attach the cords to each other and plug them into an outlet, and voila—you’ll be left with a beautiful, warm atmosphere. On the downside, these lights are on the slightly pricier end, so keep that in mind if cost is a big concern for you. But if you’re able to swing the price, you’ll surely be glad you invested in this lovely set.

Price at time of publish: From $35

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: Incandescent
  • Cord Length: 24, 48, or 96 feet 
  • Power Source: Plug-in
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: Not listed

Hampton Bay Smart Color-Changing String Lights

The Home Depot


Who it’s for: People who want colorful string lights that can be controlled using a smart device. 

Who it isn’t for: People who prefer more traditional white lights and people who want extra-bright lights. 

Although classic white string lights can make for a beautiful scene, sometimes it’s fun to switch things up with a set of color-changing string lights, such as this pick from Hampton Bay. These unique, pear-shaped bulbs come in either a black or white fixture and switch between several bright and fun colors, including red, green, yellow, and purple. Even more, you can customize the colors and create your own color scheme however you like best.

Another great perk of these lights is that they’re smart tech-enabled, meaning you can control them using Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or the Hubspace app. No need to flip a switch or click a button when you want the lights to go on or off; just tell your device, and it’ll take care of the hassle for you. These lights are also durable and waterproof, so you shouldn’t need to replace them frequently. Just make sure to note that the light might not be as bright as some of the others on our list— the bulbs’ colors are more notable than the actual light they produce.

Price at time of publish: From $65

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: LED
  • Cord Length: 24 or 48 feet
  • Power Source: Plug-in
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: Not listed

Bayou Breeze Lafollette Bulb Globe String Lights

Wayfair


Who it’s for: People who want bright string lights with a classic, versatile design.

Who it isn’t for: People who want ultra-durable string lights that can withstand severe weather.

As popular as Edison bulb lights are, there’s also a lot to love about globe string lights, which are both incredibly common and versatile, thanks to their simple, classic design. Don’t miss this great option from Bayou Breeze, which is meant to be used either indoors or outdoors and can work with truly any decor style. The 25 bulbs emit a warm white glow and are strung on a durable black cord.

If one set of these lights isn’t enough for your whole space, you can connect them to up to six more sets for a fuller, more inviting look and feel. These lights are known for their brightness, so you won’t have to worry about adding any additional light to your backyard or patio; they’ll surely be enough to provide plenty of light for anyone in the space. Pricewise, the lights are on the lower side, so you won’t have to break the bank picking up multiple sets if you choose to go that route. The lights are a bit fragile, though, so be careful in handling them as well as displaying them on a day with super high wind.

Price at time of publish: $25

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: Incandescent
  • Cord Length: 25 feet
  • Power Source: Plug-in
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP44

Threshold Incandescent Outdoor String Mini Lights

Target


Who it’s for: People who want small, pliable string lights that are more for looks than brightness.

Who it isn’t for: People who want large bulbs for added light. 

If you’re looking for a set of string lights that’s more about aesthetics than power and brightness, we highly recommend this popular option from Threshold. The 100 clear incandescent bulbs are tiny and delicate, perfect for adding some flair to your outdoor space. You’ll want to use these lights as decorations for parties or other outdoor events, either to span the whole space or to act as a photoshoot background in a specific location.

These decorative lights are lightweight and bendable, so you can move them around your space with total ease. The plastic cord comes in three colors (white, green, and black), so you can pick whichever option best fits your needs and design tastes. Plus, there’s no battery needed to operate the lights; just plug them into an outlet and you’ll be good to go.

Price-wise, these lights are super inexpensive, but be warned that they’re not as durable as some other lights of similar size and length. You may need to replace them after a while, but while they do work, they’ll undoubtedly make for a great addition to your space. 

Price at time of publish: $8

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: Incandescent
  • Cord Length: 22.4 feet
  • Power Source: Plug-in
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: Not listed

Brightown LED Curtain Lights

Amazon


Who it’s for: People who want an elegant, eye-catching display of string lights.

Who it isn’t for: People who want traditional string lights with large bulbs.

A gorgeous and unique way to add lighting to an outdoor space is to opt for curtain string lights, such as this pick from Brightown. The string lights form a large curtain when hung up on a wall, off a ceiling, or across a patio, making for an intimate feel. They come in a set of 600 tiny LED bulbs that emit a subtle glow, and they can be used both indoors and outdoors. Choose from warm white, white, blue, multicolor, or multicolored and warm white.

The lights feature eight flashing modes, including slow fade, twinkle, and combination, as well as four brightness levels. You can use the included remote control to go back and forth between the settings, or place the lights on a timer for six hours on and 18 hours off. Just plug the lights into an outlet to set them up, and then they’ll be good to go.

These lights are also waterproof and energy-saving, but they are on the thinner side. You might want to opt for a second set to layer on a thicker, more solid fill for your space, especially because you can’t connect the lights to any other set horizontally.

Price at time of publish: $30

Product Details:

  • Bulb Type: LED
  • Cord Length: 10 or 20 feet 
  • Power Source: Plug-in
  • Weather-Resistance Rating: IP44

Final Verdict

Our favorite outdoor string lights are the Brightech Ambience Pro Solar Non Hanging Patio Lights, which are solar powered, weather resistant, and feature classic Edison-style bulbs that emit a warm glow. 

How to Shop for Outdoor String Lights Like a Pro

Bulb Type

String lights come in a variety of bulb types, with LED and incandescent being the two most popular options. LEDs are loved by many for their longevity, brightness, and efficiency, as they consume much less energy than incandescent lights. On the downside, they tend to be pricier. Incandescent lights, meanwhile, have the benefit of emitting a warmer, more traditional glow than LED lights, and are less expensive than the alternative.

Cord Length

String lights all come attached to a cord, which can vary anywhere from a few feet long to a few dozen feet long. Consider the size of the space you’re trying to light up when thinking about which cord length works for you, but also remember that you can usually buy multiple sets of lights and attach the cords together for a fuller look, if needed.

Power Source

Plenty of string lights get their power from electrical outlets while others operate via battery packs or solar panels. Battery packs are more frequently seen with smaller fairy lights, while solar-powered lights are popular for their sustainability but can be a bit more difficult to use on days when the weather is dreary and dark.

Weather Resistance

Many string lights come with an IP rating—a rating on a scale from 0 to 68 that determines the lights’ protection against factors like dust and moisture. The first digit corresponds to the lights’ durability in regards to dust and foreign objects, while the second digit relates to how they handle water and temperature changes. Look for lights with high IP ratings in both digits for ultimate protection. 

Questions You Might Ask

Can you use regular LED string lights outdoors?

That depends on the string lights, as some LED options are designed to be used in both indoors and outdoors, while others are not. Those that can be used in both areas typically feature IP ratings that indicate they can handle moisture and dust, says Fish. Otherwise, “using an indoor string light outside is a hazard as it does not have these weatherproof connections.” Make sure to carefully read the instructions and details on your string lights to determine if they can be used outdoors.

How and where should you hang outdoor string lights?

“The great thing about string lights is that there isn’t a right or wrong design,” says Fish. “Outdoor string lights are very versatile so you can string them in many different configurations. Whether you’re using a pole, anchors, or attaching them to an existing pergola, it is totally up to you how you want to design your string light pattern.” Leary adds that “most people hang their string lights over patios, decks, or inside screened in porches,” if you need some inspiration.

How many string lights can you safely connect?

“It really depends on the type of string lights you are using and the manufacturer’s specifications,” says Leary. Make sure to look carefully at the packaging to see if they list a number of sets that are safe to connect. “Always consult an electrician if you are unsure,” he adds.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by Rachel Simon, a writer for Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple, The New York Times, and many other publications. She frequently covers home products and did significant research on outdoor string lights for this story, including speaking to Skeets Fish, owner of L&L Outdoor Lighting Co, and Kevin Leary, sales manager at Carolina Outdoor Lighting Professionals

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