Saturday, November 18 marks the official start to the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, “Turn on the Holidays,” when Cane River first sparkles with more than 300,000 twinkling lights and 100 set pieces, or tableaux, illuminating and reflecting off the river, lake and bridges. The day includes music on the Riverbank Stage and culminates in a spectacular fireworks show. Saturday, December 2, is an all-day Christmas Festival with music, a Mistletoe Market and a Festival of Lights Parade reminiscent of Mardi Gras, with floats, a bevy of Parade Queens and marching bands.
Visitors during the 45 days also enjoy a Christmas Treasures Art and Craft Show, a boat parade, a holiday tour of homes in the Historic District, Christmas performances and other events, including a Holiday Kids Fest and top bands on the Riverbank Stage. Santa Claus will be at his Santa House nightly from December 3 through December 23, and the fireworks show over Cane River Lake is held each weekend through December 23. Restaurants and food vendors along the banks of the river, Front Street and downtown ensure that no one goes hungry. To snack like a local, try a refreshing eggnog daiquiri and a hot and savory meat pie, or dine in on classic Creole and flavorful Cajun cuisine, but save room to sample everything from Italian to sushi to scrumptious desserts and traditional festival food. For more details and the full schedule, visit www.NatchitochesChristmas.com.
Advance reservations for restaurants and accommodations are strongly suggested. Natchitoches is known as the Bed & Breakfast Capitol of Louisiana with more than 30 to choose from. Film buffs are attracted to the 1830s Steel Magnolia House Bed and Breakfast, the centerpiece of the Southern classic movie of the same name. Hotels range from budget to flagship brands to the Chateau Saint Denis Hotel, the largest inn in downtown historic Natchitoches. To explore all the options, please visit www.Natchitoches.com.
Abingdon, VirginiaThere’s nothing like a Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas. Now, imagine celebrating the holidays by stepping back in time through centuries of holiday customs, history and ambiance, from Colonial to Appalachian to the Civil War to the present. Nestled between the soaring peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Great Appalachian Valley, Abingdon is the ultimate costumed and sparkling backdrop for a magical winter vacation.
Abingdon is one of the oldest English-speaking settlements west of the Blue Ridge, founded in 1778. An enthusiasm for historic preservation and passion for the contemporary makes Abingdon a holiday treat: a walkable, bike-able and drive-able town to fall in love with.
During Christmas in Abingdon, the brick sidewalks and ancient oak trees are lined with lights and street vendors sell fragrant roasted chestnuts and Christmas crafts each weekend. Carolers add to the romance. Virtually every historic structure in town is decorated in period style or in a contemporary fusion, from The Tavern (ca. 1779), the oldest bar in Virginia; to the porches and interiors of the grand old Martha Washington Inn & Spa (ca. 1832); to early settlers’ cabins.
Artisan, boutique and antique shops help customers choose one-of-a-kind gifts while offering refreshments and extended hours. Santa appears in some unique places in this town to delight the young and young at heart. To build an itinerary around interests and activity levels, go to www.VisitAbingdonVirginia.com/christmas-in-abingdon-itinerary
Abingdon’s over 30 independently owned restaurants welcome theatregoers, busy shoppers and leisurely diners, and some offer live music. Sample the famous curried mushroom soup at The Peppermill or treat the family to a cup of hot cocoa and baked goods at Anthony’s Desserts.
Stay in accommodations that are festive during the season. At The Martha Washington Inn & Spa immerse in total pampering without having to leave for breakfast, lunch or dinner. A glass of wine by a warm fire, an atrium-enclosed heated saltwater pool and specialty spa treatments add to the relaxation (www.TheMartha.com). More places to stay: Check in to one of Abingdon’s numerous bed and breakfasts or cottages. Get off-season rates at national chain hotels or enjoy a cozy Virginia mountain cabin. See a full list of lodging options, here.
Check out the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace, an artisans’ gallery, visitors center and a gathering place for food and entertainment, is the gateway to mapped trails of Appalachian music, craft and outdoor recreation. Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace hosts open jams, music series, artisan demonstrations and café specials along with a Santa visit.
Here are just a few of the not to miss holiday happenings in Abingdon. Check the Visitors Center website often for updates and a complete list of holiday events: https://visitabingdonvirginia.com/highlights/destination-christmas-historic-downtown-abingdon.
- November 16-December 27- Barter Theatre “Miracle on 34th Street” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”
- Mid November-early January, Festival of Trees at the Abingdon Visitors Center
- November 17-19, November 24-26, December 1-3-Holiday Market on the Barter Green
- November 19-Full Bloom Holiday Cow Photos
- November 19-Abingdon Town Wide Merchant Open House, 1-5 p.m.
- November 19-Tree Lighting for Festival of Trees, Santa, Virginia Highlands Community College Choir and Hot Apple Cider at the Abingdon Visitor Center
- December 2- Abingdon Kiwanis Christmas Parade, 5:30 pm
- December 2-Wreath Making Class at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- December 2-VHCC Women’s Choir at The Arts Depot, 1-2 p.m.
- December 3-Holiday Tractor Photos at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- December 3-Christmas Greenhouse Photos at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- December 4-Holiday Herbal Mixology Class at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- December 7-The Arts Depot 34th Annual Holiday Open House, 6-8 p.m.
- December 9-Holiday Centerpiece Class at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- December 11-Tea and Taro at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- December 16-Cookie Decoration Class at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- December 18-Botanical Ornament Class at the Full Bloom Farmhouse
- The Abingdon Farmers Market opens each Saturday morning with baked goods, crafts and gifts.
- Self-guided walking tours of the charming brick sidewalks and eye-catching architecture of downtown Abingdon, named a Virginia Historic Landmark. Pick up a brochure at the Visitor’s Center,208 West Main Street, 276-676-2282.
- Extended hours for downtown merchants and the Abingdon Arts Depot
Capital City/Lake Murray Country, South CarolinaLake Murray Country, South Carolina, one of the best Christmas towns in the South is located off I-77, I-26, and I-20 is in the center of the Palmetto State. In Richland County, witness the captivating Fireflies Holiday Lights, a 42-night, jam-packed event in Segra Park Stadium featuring holiday shopping, kids crafts and activities, and incredible holiday-themed food and drinks. Marvel at the Wild Lights at Riverbanks Zoo, where 60 larger-than-life handcrafted lanterns, visits with Santa, and nightly snowfall transform the zoo into a winter wonderland.
The Nutcracker presented by Columbia City Ballet promises a timeless and captivating performance that will delight audiences of all ages. Lace up your running shoes for the Sleigh Bell Trot, a fun and spirited 4.2-mile holiday-themed race. Nearby, Lexington County keeps the Christmas Spirit going with Carols Along the River and stroll along the Cayce Riverwalk while listening to holiday tunes and sipping hot chocolate.
The Town of Lexington’s Christmas Carolighting Ceremony will immerse you in the warm glow of community spirit along with dazzling lights and sweet songs. Don’t miss the popular Cayce Christmas Drive-Thru, a unique and safe way to enjoy the holiday lights from the comfort of your vehicle. Don’t miss the opportunity to check out the Cayce Historical Museum’s Annual Christmas Traditions Open House where the museum is decorated, docents are dressed in period attire, and light holiday refreshments are served.
And, in Newberry County, embrace the small-town holiday charm of Prosperity’s Holiday Shoppers Walk and Tree Lighting, the perfect event for those wanting to shop locally and enjoy live entertainment in conjunction with the town’s tree lighting ceremony. A Very Berry Christmas on Main Street will dazzle you with its sparkling lights and festive atmosphere in downtown Newberry. Join in the merriment of the traditional Christmas Parade in Prosperity, or head to the Newberry Opera House to revel in the Celtic-inspired joy and music of Christmas with The Celts.
Don’t miss Saluda County’s time-honored Town of Saluda Annual Christmas Parade, a cherished tradition that brings the community together. And, experience the holiday magic on Lake Murray with the Capital City/Lake Murray Country Christmas Light Boat Parade where residents and visitors will gather at the Lexington Dam Park Site to view the sparkling boats decorated for the season and enjoy the evening by the lake.
Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina Experience undiscovered South Carolina in Thoroughbred Country, just east of Augusta, Georgia, along I-20 and west of Columbia, South Carolina. Comprised of Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties and bordered by Interstates 20, 26 and 95, this region showcases rolling countryside, equestrian events, wide open greenspaces, nature and history, in addition to picturesque downtowns with unique shops, restaurants, museums and lodging. November 25, see how colonists celebrated during Christmas in the Backcountry at the Living History Park in North Augusta. This free event includes tours of the building, demonstrations of daily life by re-enactors in period costume and appearances by Father Christmas. Shop the indoor/outdoor Christmas Craft Show December 1-2, where crafters from all over the Southeast sell handmade treasures. Home For the Holidays: For its annual holiday performance on December 10, the Aiken Symphony Orchestra and Aiken Civic Ballet will present time-honored favorites such as, “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Carol of the Bells,” “Around the World at Christmas Time,” “The Christmas Song” and more.
Hopelands Gardens is a 14-acre former estate park featuring wetlands, an arboretum trail with cell phone tour and a labyrinth. December 9-22, the free, award-winning Christmas in Hopelands offers an enchanting walk-through exhibit with more than 100,000 twinkling lights, two miles of lighted pathways and holiday displays. The DuPont Planetarium at USC Aiken will feature “Mystery of Christmas Star,” a five-time Telly Award-winning, 2,000-year journey to discover a scientific explanation for the star that the wise men followed to Bethlehem, including supernova, comets, planetary conjunctions and other celestial phenomena. See show dates and times here. “Dear Santa” will be playing at the Aiken Community Theatre starting December 8, and for gifts and goodies, the historic Aiken County Farmers Market is open year-round 7:30 to 11:30 a.m., on Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays.
For unique shopping and gifts, plan a trip to the delightful rural towns in Thoroughbred Country. In Denmark, shop for original rural Americana paintings at the Jim Harrison Gallery which also features bronzes, etchings and a variety of limited and unlimited edition reproductions from his 40-plus year career. In Barnwell look up the Little Red Barn Pottery and Art Gallery along US-278. Formerly the Leigh Banana Case Company Commissary, this historic building now houses Master Potter Liz Ringus and her hand-turned Paw Print Pottery, South Carolina face jugs and items from other local artisans. Bamberg is also home to Main Street Garden and Gifts with handcrafted pottery, mosaics and paintings by local artist Angie Sandifer.
To rest and recharge, find a unique stay in historic antebellum homes, cozy cottages and unique boutiques, or a four-star historic hotel, all decorated for the season. In downtown Aiken is The Willcox, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and voted one of the best hotels in the world. Famous for its atmosphere, impeccable service and excellent cuisine, this white-columned, old-fashioned Southern hotel offers suites elegantly appointed with period antiques and deep soaking period antiques, cloud soft beds, deep soaking tubs and a serene intimate spa. For details on where to stay and dine, along with additional events, visit www.TbredCountry.org.
Alpine Helen-White County, GeorgiaHave a Bavarian Christmas without leaving the Southeast in Alpine Helen, Georgia, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta in the Northeast Georgia mountains. The town’s alpine architecture and festive holiday décor, cobblestone alleyways and buildings laced in elaborate trim are so delightful that Lifetime Films’ Christmas movies “Christmas Love Letter” and “A Taste of Christmas” were filmed here. For a nighttime experience, don’t miss the Annual Lighting of the Village in Edelweiss River Park, 5-7 p.m., Friday, November 24, 2023. Decorated with 8,000 lights and 800+ ornaments, the 20-foot tall tree and the entire town is dressed up and illuminated every night until February. The town’s shops and restaurants don’t close at 5 p.m. here! Visitors come from all over to see the festive shop windows and streets, savor authentic German beer and cuisine and to buy German Christmas tree ornaments.
Don’t miss the 15th Annual Christkindlmarkt at the Marktplatz on November 25-26 and December 2-3. This traditional German event offers everything from unique gifts and decorations to an assortment of savory and sweet foods, drinks and candied treats. Join in a Victorian Christmas in the historic settlements of Sautee-Nacoochee at two events. At the Hardman Farm State Historic Site see the manor dressed in period holiday décor while learning about traditions from docents in their finest 1870s garb. This open house from 4-7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, from December 1-16, is highlighted by twinkling candlelight and live music. The Sautee-Nacoochee Cultural Center hosts its Holiday Stroll evenings December 15-January 6.
Some head for the roads less traveled and quiet mountain cabin hideaways or Unicoi State Park and Lodge adjacent to the Chattahoochee National Forest. It offers on-site dining and nearly every outdoor activity possible, including a spectacular twin waterfall. Others flock to the lively Bavarian-themed town for whimsical Alpine lodgings within walking distance of the festivities. Serious and amateur outdoor lovers rave about the hiking, mountain biking, rafting, tubing, fly fishing, zip-lining and more in “Georgia’s Official Outdoor Adventure Destination.” The Appalachian Trail runs through here, and Yonah Mountain is one of the top three rock climbing spots in Georgia. www.HelenGA.org
Americus, GeorgiaThe town’s Christmas Open House beckons visitors from 5-8 p.m., Thursday, November 16. Giving a quintessential Christmas experience, free carriage rides throughout downtown Americus and pony rides in Rylander Park in Americus are delightful! Stores will be open late so that visitors can do some early Christmas shopping and see the splendor of our town. The lighting of the big tree at Rylander Park will be a highlight.
Other seasonal events that make Americus the best place for Christmas lovers include the Friday December 1, “Home For The Holidays” First Friday. Stores stay open late and free trolley rides are available across beautiful downtown Americus. Hours are 5-8 p.m.
The annual Americus Christmas Parade will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, December 7. More than 70 entries, including marching bands, floats, dancers and Santa Claus, will participate. Come and get lined up early for one of the area’s most festive holiday events!
Nearby, the Plains Christmas Lighting will be on Saturday, November 25. Visitors can ride the SAM Shortline excursion train, Georgia’s only “rolling state park,” to former President Carter’s hometown of Plains for the event. Downtown shops will be open downtown for the event. For tickets, call the SAM Shortline office at 229-276-0755.
Looking for a holiday getaway with mountain air and breathtaking scenery, along with refined in-town shopping, dining and entertainment? Just 90 minutes north of Atlanta off Interstate-575, Blue Ridge is a treasured town in the North Georgia Mountain, at once outdoorsy, earthy, upscale, contemporary and historic. Centered around the historic Blue Ridge Depot, downtown’s restored buildings blend perfectly with modern industrial and mountain architecture, showcasing the arts, galleries, antiques, unique shopping, dining, wineries and craft breweries.
Yet 40 percent of Fannin County is located within the Chattahoochee National Forest, sweeping visitors a million miles away and offering waterfalls, trout fishing, biking and some of the most notable hiking trails in the United States. Among its many accolades, Blue Ridge was named by Southern Living Magazine as one of “2021 South’s Best Mountain Towns.” Photo-ops and memory-making are all around, especially during the holidays.
In all of North Georgia, Blue Ridge has the largest array of specialty shops, boutiques and galleries for fine furnishings, art, antiques, clothing and jewelry.
Looking for unique artisan-crafted items? Blue Ridge has been named one of the “Top Ten Towns for Craft Lovers” in the country and one of the “Top Five Art Towns in Georgia” by the Georgia Council for the Arts. The Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association’s Holiday Art Show and Sale runs from November 18 through December 16, with a multitude of artistic and handcrafted items for sale, from jewelry, pottery, paintings and everything in between, all made by member artists. From November 24 through December 24, climb aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway Holiday Express for a festive one- or four-hour train ride complete with holiday music, Christmas story readings and St. Nick himself. Children will receive a Blue Ridge Scenic Railway jingle bell, candy cane and activity packet while on board. This generation-bonding adventure starts at the historic 1905 depot in Downtown. Vintage climate- controlled and open-air rail cars wind alongside the Toccoa River. Delicious hot chocolate and other snacks are available for sale in the concession car.
Blue Ridge’s Blue Friday, November 24, officially starts the season. Downtown is lavishly decked out in holiday finery; merchants offer store discounts; food vendors and strolling entertainment complete the scene. Don’t miss Gingerbread Village, with elaborately decorated houses, from November 25-December 11 at the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association’s Arts Center (anytime the facility is open). On Saturday November 25, Light Up Blue Ridge is a full day of seasonal cheer, strolling entertainment, food vendors and more. Children can visit Santa Claus from noon to 5 p.m. in the park gazebo. The Christmas Parade starts at 5:30 p.m. followed by the lighting of the Great Tree at 7 p.m. For more area events, go to www.BlueRidgeMountains.com/events.
Intown, unique overnight options are possible, ranging from chic lofts overlooking the town to an 1890s B&B or in the new lodge-like Hampton Inn Blue Ridge featuring balcony rooms and the city’s only rooftop bar/restaurant, Hook & Eye. In surrounding Fannin County choices include lodging with stunning mountain views, creekside retreats, riverfront lodges, cabins on the lake and much more. To search for the perfect in-town hideaway or mountain retreat, go to www.BlueRidgeMountains.com/where-to-stay. For dining and itinerary ideas, visit www.BlueRidgeMountains.com.
Get into the holiday spirit in Brookhaven, conveniently located just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, with Holiday on the Town put on by Town Brookhaven, November 30, followed by Light Up Brookhaven put on by the City of Brookhaven, December 6. Both events feature choral singing of holiday tunes, treat vendors, photo opportunities, and the lighting of Christmas Trees and Menorahs! Light Up Brookhaven has a special visit from Santa Claus usually with a grand arrival by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta helicopter, but he’s also been rescued from a chimney in his early-December trial run and has arrived via DeKalb Co Fire Department fire truck.
With a plethora of locally owned and specialty boutiques to check everyone off the list, special holiday events and convenient access to Atlanta and nearby sites, Brookhaven is destination: Christmas!
Race over to Dawsonville, Georgia, the birthplace of stockcar racing, to slow things down for the holidays. Located just an hour north of Atlanta, Dawsonville kicks off the season with the 11th Annual Christmas Parade, Jingle Market and Tree Lighting in Downtown Dawsonville on Saturday, November 18th. Find your perfect streetside spot to experience a true small-town parade as Santa himself makes his way through the town.
Following the Christmas Parade, top off your warm cocoa and stroll through the Jingle Market to find your perfect Christmas gifts. As the sun begins to set and the lights begin to glow, gather with your family and friends around the Christmas Tree and join in a countdown to light up the tree. During the event you can also enjoy food trucks, photos with Santa, live performances, and more. The Christmas in Downtown Dawsonville event is from 2-8 p.m. The parade begins at 4 p.m. sharp, Downtown at the Dawsonville cemetery and runs through the historic downtown area and finishes around the Dawsonville City Hall. All other festivities will take place at Dawsonville City Hall and the Farmers Market Pavilion. Jingle Market is from 2-8 p.m., Tree Lighting at 6 p.m., Food Trucks and performance 4-8 p.m. For more information, visit DestinationDawsonville.com or call the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce at 706-265-6278.
Experience the enchantment of the holiday season in a true winter wonderland situated right in the heart of the South--Kingsland, Georgia. This destination brings visitors an exciting medley of festive events that will undoubtedly fill hearts with joy and fervor. Journey through the heart of Kingsland on the Santa Express, a themed train adventure. Multiple adventures are offered throughout the month of December to give you the most magical experience possible. Prepare for a visit from Santa and friends as you take in the beauty of Coastal Georgia. Following a train ride, take a stroll through Downtown Kingsland with a cozy treat from Blue Bridge Coffeehouse and admire the town’s festive sidewalks, lined this year with decorated Christmas Trees.
For the ultimate small town experience, visit on December 7, as real snow blows into Kingsland at the annual A Snowy Kingsland Christmas event. Enjoy real snow, a visit with Santa, hot cocoa, sugarplum dancers and more at this festive event. As the sun sets, the joy of the holidays comes alive with the Home for the Holidays Holiday Light Contest. Nothing beats the nostalgia of a family drive to take in all of the Christmas lights throughout town. This year marks the second annual contest which includes entries from neighbors and businesses around the city- the Convention and Visitors Bureau provides visitors with a pre-mapped Christmas Lights Road Trip and allows guests to discover and cast a vote for their favorite as they explore Kingsland by the lights of the holiday season! For these events and more, click here.
Christmas isn’t just a holiday, it’s one of the absolute best times of the year to visit St. Marys. With everything from community theatre to shopping available, everyone is excited about the cheery events. Santa and Mrs. Claus head to town to light up the city Christmas tree on November 28th and the holiday spirit spreads from there. The first Saturday of December brings Christmas in the Park, a full day of fun that includes a stocking and time for each child with Santa, lawn games, costumed character, a gingerbread house contest and even a Christmas move on the lawn.
The second Saturday (December 9) brings so many activity options you’ll wish you could be in two places at once. The Christmas Tour of Homes, 5:30–9:30 p.m., which includes tours of private homes and historic churches is sure to get you in the holiday spirit. You can head to the waterfront at 5:30 p.m. and watch our annual Set Sail with Santa Boat Parade where Santa trades his sleigh for a boat and view the Tinsel Trail’s fifty plus lighted and decorated Christmas trees at the waterfront park beginning December -31. Christmas in St. Marys is never complete without a viewing of St. Marys Live Nativity on the grounds of the historic antebellum mansion Orange Hall on the evening of December 12. More information on these events can be found on www.VisitStMarys.com.
The City of Woodstock is full of cheer through the holiday season with a Christmas Jubilee and Parade of Lights ringing in the season on the first weekend of December. This festive evening parade has quickly become one of the region’s most popular holiday kick-offs, as the city gathers together to view lighted holiday floats, listen to local bands and musicians, and welcome Santa Claus himself for the conclusion of the parade route. But that’s not all! Follow the festivities into the park after the parade for a personal visit with Santa, plus many fun activities including Sugar Plum cupcake decorating, a Kris Kringle Kraft area, Polar Express readings and more. Food and beverage vendors abound at the park, with plenty for the entire family to enjoy.
The city remains beautifully lighted for the duration of the holiday season, making shopping and dining in the many locally owned boutiques and restaurants great fun throughout the season.
For those seeking artistic activities through the holidays, Woodstock Arts performance of “A Christmas Carol” throughout the month of December at the local theater is a must-see.
The Christkindl Market and Festival on the Events Green in the heart of the city will be bringing the community together yet again for this festive event December 3rd and 4th, just as MadLife Stage & Studios brings about cheer through their many holiday-themed performances. Visitors also enjoy the holiday classes at Made Mercantile, from holiday candle making and jewelry, to wreaths and gifts; this makers space is a must for all seeking unique seasonal gifts.
Don’t miss the Magic of Lights show this holiday season at the Historic Dixie Speedway! This spectacular show offers fun for the whole family and is the first drive through light event for Woodstock and the north metro area.
Located only 30 minutes from Atlanta, Woodstock is a most unexpected destination offering a vibrant downtown and authentic opportunities for diverse experiences with the arts, culinary delights, outdoor adventure and more. The area serves as a convenient basecamp for explorations in North Georgia, and also makes for easy day trips to surrounding attractions such as Kennesaw Mountain, Lake Allatoona and Gibbs Gardens. In the heart of Woodstock, find a refreshing downtown with local shopping, as well as Atlanta’s closest outlet with more than 90 of the best shops and deals to be found.
Often called home of the world’s most famous beaches, Daytona Beach, Florida, is a holiday standout that sets the stage for a season of magical memories and warm weather along 23 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline and inland fun. It’s located on Florida’s east coast, midway between St. Augustine and the Kennedy Space Center (only an hour’s drive from each) and just an hour east of Orlando.
From mid-November through the New Year, Daytona International Speedway is transformed into Magic of Lights®—a slow ride through a dazzling display of over a million holiday lights. At the “World Center of Racing,” Magic of Lights is a slow drive in the fast lane, a dazzling display of twinkling, sparkling lights and magical scenes with the latest LED technology and digital animation, all viewed within the comfort and safety of the guest’s vehicle. Check the website for dates, hours and pricing. Walk across the pedestrian bridge or drive across the boulevard for a million square feet of world-class shopping, restaurants, entertainment and hotel accommodations at ONE DAYTONA. Each weekend brings family-friendly events. Stay on-site at Fairfield Inn & Suites Daytona Beach Speedway/Airport or the Daytona Autograph Collection Hotel for an immersive race-fan and festive holiday experience. Built in the late 1800s as an ornate bed and breakfast, the exquisite Rose Villa Southern Table & Bar puts on a stunning decorative display that lights up historic downtown Ormond Beach. From November 17, 2023, through January 5, 2024 in the Granada Boulevard district, Rose Villa Gingerbread Fantasy invites visitors to the one-of-a-kind Victorian jewel and explore its rich history along with a delicious dining experience, gingerbread snacks and signature cocktails. Make reservations well in advance. No reservations are needed to view the colorful lights reaching from the ground to the top of the two and a half story rooftop, larger-than-life Gingerbread men, towering lollipops, unique topiary snowmen, the “dogs of Rose Villa,” stained glass windows reflecting gingerbread men, gold bells, candy canes and candied fruit. For more events and accommodations details, visit www.DaytonaBeach.com.
Panama City, FloridaSanta Clause. Carriage Rides. Christmas lights. You can experience all your favorite things and well-worn traditions during the holidays in Panama City. Situated in the geographic center of Northwest Florida, Panama City is the largest city between Pensacola and Tallahassee. Known for its funky, salty, and soulful vibe all year round, that doesn’t change during the holiday season either. Mrs. Claus can be found reading stories in the local brewery. Award-winning farmer’s markets transform into an enchanting holiday wonderland. Sounds of Christmas medleys by the local A Capella Chorus can be heard drifting through the air.
Experience a spectacle of maritime merriment at the Boat Parade of Lights. Onlookers can gather along the picturesque shoreline of St. Andrews Bay to watch a display of boats adorned with shimmering lights and festive decorations glide through the water. Hop aboard the Jingle Bell Express, a trolly ride connecting two historic districts, Downtown and St. Andrews. On your journey along Beach Drive, trolley passengers will be delighted with a view of lights reflecting off the water and beautiful, historic houses dressed to impress. At each destination, you’ll find heartwarming carolers, local boutiques and night markets filled with holiday gifts, expansive displays of colorful lights, and unique dining options. On select weekends in December, visitors can take a step back in time with horse-drawn carriage rides through the historic streets of Downtown Panama City. The Panama City Center for the Arts transforms into an immersive holiday art experience, suited for all ages. Hundreds of people fill the streets of Downtown Panama City each year for the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, where you’ll discover Santa sightings, snow, cookie decorating, and hot cocoa. Local stores, art galleries, and restaurants keep their doors open late, offering pop-up markets and special menu options. In Panama City, the holiday spirit fills the air, blending cherished traditions with new delights. Learn more at www.DestinationPanamaCity.com.
Washington County, FloridaThose looking for authentic, Old Florida need look no further than Washington County, Florida, in the state’s predominantly rural northwestern region. Located north of the Panama City beaches along Interstate 10, the county hosts a variety of traditional holiday celebrations. The Chipley Christmas Fest will be December 1-2, 2023. Friday, December 1, includes a lighted parade, carriage rides, a petting zoo, and pony rides. Take a holiday stroll while downtown merchants offer special discounts and treats. At the Farmer’s Market Complex on 7th Street the sounds of classic Christmas tunes drift on the crisp air as little ones get a free photo with Santa. Enjoy kids’ activities and games, inflatables, and great food (and even snow, thanks to technology). Friday night hours will be from 4-8 p.m. On Saturday, December 2, enjoy our Christmas Marketplace featuring local arts and craft vendors, carriage rides, inflatables, petting zoo, and pony rides. Saturday hours are from 11-3 p.m. Wausau, Florida, will hold its annual Christmas Tree Lighting from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday, December 2. Enjoy hot chocolate, live music, vendors, a kid’s craft area and the annual tree lighting ceremony at dark. Area lodging and dining information can be found online at VisitWCFla.com.
West Volusia, FloridaBetween Orlando and Daytona Beach, West Volusia County includes fourteen communities along the St. Johns River, each with their own stories and an eclectic collection of accommodations, dining and attractions. The authenticity that travelers are looking for is here, from the top-rated main street Downtown DeLand, to the gentle-giant manatees at Blue Spring State Park to adventures on the St. Johns River.
Step into the grandeur of the 2023 Stetson Mansion “Christmas Spectacular!” in DeLand. Built in 1886 for famed hat maker and philanthropist John B. Stetson, this winter retreat was the only richly detailed “Gilded Age” mansion built in Florida. Now rescued, restored and updated, its current residents are carrying on the tradition of extravagant gatherings with an event that has been named among the “Top 10 Christmas Homes” by Bob Vila, “Best Holiday Home Tours in America” in the USA TODAY’s “10Best” Readers’ Choice Awards and among the “Top 10 Best Attractions in the US” by TripAdvisor. Self-guided Stetson Mansion Christmas Spectacular includes 10 new room themes each year. Decorations are over-the-top examples of elegant and reverent displays which complement the mansion’s rich architectural details. Geared for adults, the 65-minute tours are held multiple times a day from November 1, 2023, through January 20, 2024. Tickets are $28 adults, $15 youth, plus tax and booking fee; Longer evening guided tours in December, $38. Advance reservations required; booking is available online. www.StetsonMansion.com
The Athens Theatre in the heart of downtown DeLand joins in the holiday celebrations with its presentation of “White Christmas,” a big Broadway version that is perfect for kids of all ages. This historic gem of a theatre opened in 1922 and became the centerpiece of this Central Florida region. Shows run November 25 through December 17. (124 North Florida Avenue, DeLand, Florida 32720; 386-736-1500; Tickets $12-30 plus VIP packages). Additional tours of homes, concerts and a lighted boat parade, add to the reasons to visit for the season.
Downtown DeLand, an award-winning Main Street community, is home to shops, boutiques, galleries and nine museums, complete with a series of murals and one of the incredibly popular #WingsOfTheWest photo ops. Microbreweries, brew pubs and wine bars dot the map and complement an array of fabulous restaurants. Authentic Florida outdoor experiences and plenty of lodging options can be found at www.VisitWestVolusia.com.
North AlabamaHeld at Rickwood Caverns State Park, Wonderland Under Warrior welcomes guests for a unique experience that celebrates the sights and sounds of Christmas and the natural beauty of the cavern. Visitors come to see over 100,000 twinkling lights and to walk the lighted path among the stalactites, stalagmites and other unique geological formations. The whimsical journey underground transforms the already magnificent cave into a special holiday experience.
Families are invited to step into a holiday wonderland at EarlyWorks Museum in downtown Huntsville in December for 12 Nights of Santa. During the Nights of Santa event, children have a chance to meet Santa and his North Pole elves. Additional family-friendly activities adding to the whimsical fun include nightly snowfalls, making holiday crafts, mingling with costumed characters, decorating a freshly made gingerbread cookie and shopping in Santa’s gift shop.
Downtown areas throughout North Alabama are bustling with activities. Downtown Oneonta gets into the holiday spirit with a host of activities for everyone to enjoy including a live nativity, horse drawn carriage rides, holiday lights, visits with Santa, parades and lots of Christmas cheer. Head to Athens for its annual Sippin’ Cider Festival and sip on everyone’s favorite holiday drink while shopping or stop in Decatur for the Historic Decatur Christmas Tour, a self-guided tour featuring around a dozen tour sites including homes, churches and historic places in the cities two historic districts, Albany and Old Decatur.
The must-see attraction at Christmas in Cullman is the towering Christmas pyramid. At 30 feet tall, the Cullman Christmas pyramid is the tallest structure of its kind in the United States. Known in German as Weihnachtspyramide, the Christmas pyramid in Cullman has six tiers with each one featuring a different scene, including one that will pay tribute to the local law enforcement, first responders, as well as everyday citizens. The Cullman Christkindlmarkt features a host of local vendors set up German-style in small wooden tents. The market is a great opportunity to find German ornaments, unique gifts and other handcrafted goodies and treasures.
These are just a few highlights of the many holiday events held in North Alabama. For more information on things to see, do and experience, visit http://www.northalabama.org.
Onslow, North CarolinaOnslow County, North Carolina encompasses Richlands, Jacksonville, Camp Lejeune, North Topsail Beach, Sneads Ferry and Swansboro. Located off I-95, north of Wilmington and east of Raleigh and I-40, the county is a destination full of history, coastal recreation and family fun for all ages and generations. Historic Downtown Swansboro becomes a magical celebration embracing the upcoming holiday season during their Annual Swansboro by Candlelight on November 11th and Holiday Flotilla on November 24th. Local shop owners deck their halls with ribbon & bows, windows display whimsical scenes and patrons are greeted with holiday treats adding the polished touch for a journey back to the days of yesteryear.
Christmas time is absolutely stunning at Mike’s Farm’s Festival of Lights. Come for dinner, a hayride and the weekend Ho! Ho! Christmas Show. November 16 through December 23, Lights adorn the farm entry way, barns, restaurant and gift shop…they even light up owner Mike Lowe’s family tractor. The 30-minute hayride begins its nostalgic journey entering a magical archway of lights with whimsical scenes of farm life, present and past. Covered bridges and creek beds draw you in with their lighted beauty. Also, enjoy good cheer with EJI Farms’ Christmas Town starting November 15th in Jacksonville. Purchase tickets at Santa’s workshop to drive through a myriad of animated Christmas lights, giant toy soldiers, photo ops, and more from either the comfort of your own car/truck or, by tractor ride. www.OnlyinOnslow.com