Many people have this memory: As a child, walking out into the backyard on a warm, humid summer night. Maybe there was a cool breeze or perhaps it was just still, with the last few rays of sunlight disappearing in the west. Suddenly, lights begin appearing in the distance; it starts with one and others soon follow it. They appear to be dancing right before your very eyes, a personal light show all for you, with dazzling displays of neon yellow and green cutting through the otherwise dark yard.
There's something truly magical in experiencing fireflies - also known as lightning bugs - for the first time. As kids, we may not have known exactly what they were or how their bioluminescence worked but it was spectacular all the same. As adults, there's still some magic left to this shimmering display and there's a sense of child-like wonder every time we're privy to seeing one of these light shows. If you're itching for that magic once again, these are the destinations around the U.S. that often see the most firefly activity.
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
The best place in the country to see fireflies is the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. These mountains have always had a mysterious air about them with a long history, and witnessing hundreds of fireflies lighting up at once only adds to that. It's dark enough in these mountains that the glowing insects can be seen easily and they're often visible between the months of May and June, disappearing shortly after that.
The best viewing is during the first few weeks of May, with the number of insects dwindling slowly week by weeks following that. Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can take a firefly shuttle in if they want to get the best view of these without hiking through.
Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
There are so many fireflies in the Allegheny National Forest that the town holds a festival every year to commemorate them. The reason why this is such a major spectacle is due to the sheer number of fireflies that gather in one place, making for an extraordinary light show at the end of spring.
The firefly festival is held toward the end of June, also marking the official start of the summer. Allegheny National Forest is a beautiful destination for nature lovers, in general, so a trip here is never wasted.
Congaree National Park, North Carolina
Fireflies enjoy places that are warm and slightly humid which explains why they can be seen in Congaree National Park until roughly mid-June. Visitors are free to enter the park and view the display, which is the best between the hours of 8 PM and 10 PM.
The great thing about heading to Congaree National Park to view fireflies is that there's a viewing platform open to visitors, meaning there's no hiking or shuttles necessary in order to get a good view. People from all over the world head to North Carolina just to see this tremendous firefly activity, with hundreds of people lining the elevated boardwalk just to watch the insects in action.
One specific area to head to in the Great Smoky Mountains is Elkmont. This region is home to the Elkmont fireflies, also known as synchronous fireflies. They've been given this name because of their light patterns; the Elkmont fireflies are synchronized so that they all light up at once, in one specific area.
Whereas most fireflies light up differently according to the message they're flashing to others, these follow a certain pattern that's really incredible to see in person. The display can be watched during the first year of June and was canceled last year but is ongoing this year.
Blue Spring State Park, Florida
A little further south, Blue Spring State Park has become a haven for fireflies. These glowing insects absolutely love the hot and humid weather that exists in the state and this park is the best place to see them. At night, visitors will need a special pass in order to watch the display after dark but it's completely worth it.
Fireflies light up this part of central Florida and with no nearby light pollution, it's easy to see each individual glow as hundreds group together to create an amazing spectacle. The park itself is beautiful, as well, and it's worth getting there a bit before closing to explore some before nightfall.