Who says you have to wait until after Thanksgiving to enjoy holiday lights? If you are already in the holiday mood or want to get into the holiday mood, check out these 14 displays around the South.
1. The Lights of the Ozarks
features over 400,000 twinkling lights illuminating the Downtown Square in Fayetteville, Ark. Enjoy the festive holiday music as you walk or drive through the lights. Amp up the overall experience with a carriage ride.
2. Take in the over million lights and 100 animated light displays along the mile-long trail at the Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens
in Galveston, Texas. Afterward sip on some hot chocolate before lacing up your skates to go ice-skating on the outdoor rink, or sliding down 100-foot long Arctic Slide. Don't forget about the other holiday happenings
at Moody Gardens like the Ice Land Ice Sculptures.
3. There are a few upcoming walking nights for the Galaxy of Lights
in Huntsville, Ala. Enjoy the animated light displays, icicle forest and much more. Bring your four-legged buddy for holiday fun on November 23.
4. Tune in on the radio and watch the lights dance in synchronization with music as you drive through Shadrack's Christmas Wonderful at Smokies Stadium
in Sevierville, Tenn. In its seventh year, the experience has added two “walls of lights” that each span 220 feet that guests drive between, and a half-mile of displays featuring some favorite childhood tales like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack -be-Nimble and others. Finish up the visit with a stop at Santa's Village.
5. For 21 years, Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City
in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been entertaining visitors of all ages. Follow the trail to see over 30 holiday scenes. You never know who you might run into, either. Be on the look out for such characters as Frosty the Snowman, Rocky the Elf and more. Check out all the other activities as well, like the nightly entertainment and Holiday Marketplace vendors.
6. The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights Powered by TVA
at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn., is recognized as the largest holiday light show of its kind in the South. It features four miles of two million glowing lights. Over 200 displays decorate the route. Experience the lights in a new way this year with either the BMS Express (Tuesdays) or the Speedway Sleigh Train Ride (Wednesdays and Thursdays). Don't forget about their ice skating rink.
7. Lights, lights and even more lights - over 5 million through a 100-acre forest- await you at the Lights of the South
in Grovetown, Ga. Walk or take a hay ride to view the many displays. End the visit by roasting marshmallows over the open fire, or exploring the lighted Christmas Tree Maze.
8. Eight million lights sparkle and glow during Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens
in Pine Mountain, Ga. Recognized as one of the world's "Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights" by National Geographic Traveler, it features 15 scenes that include Christmas Tree Lane and the Enchanted Rainbow Forest. Get out of your car and take the Jolly Trolley. Don't forget to stop in the Christmas Village for some shopping and treats.
9. St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, glows warmly from the ground to the rooftops
with over three million tiny white lights during the 22nd annual Nights of Lights
. The lights trace its origins from the Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the Christmas holidays, reflecting a part of the city’s 450-year history. There are many ways you can take in the lights. You can go on foot, by bicycle or pedicab. For something a little different, take the Old Town Trolley or the Ripley’s Red Train, or go by horse and carriage. Be sure to check out the all of the holiday events going on as well.
10. Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, S.C. shines brightly during Lights Before Christmas
. Recognized as the city's longest-running tradition, it features around a million twinkling lights and over 300 animated displays along the paths. Warm up at the Jingle Bell Bonfire while roasting marshmallows or drinking hot cocoa.
11. Said to be the "largest and oldest Christmas attraction in East North Carolina," Meadow Lights
in Benson includes 30-acres of sparkling lights and various displays, with new ones added every year. There are train rides for children of all ages, a carousel and the Old Country Store featuring over 300 varieties of old-fashion candy and more.
12. It's one thing to view holiday lights in general; it's another thing to view them underground. Lights Under Louisville
transforms Mega Caverns into holiday fun with over 2,000,000 lights and over 850 lit character displays. And the best part is you get to drive your car into the caverns and explore the 17 miles of underground passageways decked out for the season.
13. Enjoy the "Fanta-Sea" of lights along the Virginia Beach (Va.) Boardwalk during McDonald's Holiday Light at the Beach
. The colorful light displays include dolphins, porpoises and much more. There is even a rather large "12 Days of Christmas" display. End the journey with a stop in the newly added Santa's Seaside Village.
14. Celebrating its 14th year is the drive-through Christmas Fantasy Light Show
at Krodel Park in Point Pleasant, WVa. Nearly 150 pieces are placed throughout the park and around the lake. Displays include drummers, angels and even the Mothman. Some are animated this year.
photo credits: (top) Lights of the South, personal collection; (left) courtesy of Sevierville Chamber of Commerce; (middle right) Lightner Museum, courtesy of St. Augustine Ponte Vedra and The Beaches VCB; (bottom left) courtesy of Wild, Wonderful West Virginia/West Virginia Tourism