Holiday Time

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Fun and Fireworks: 14 Events Celebrating Independence Day (June 2017)

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Five Ways to Experience the Holidays "Louisiana-Style" (December 2016)

"Brighten Up" Your Holidays with These Holiday Light Displays (November 2016)

Red, White, Blue and You: Fourth of July Celebrations in the South (July 2016)

Drops, Celebrations and More: Memorable Ways to Welcome in 2016 (December 2015)

Spark Your Holiday Spirit with the Many Events Happening Around the South (December 2015)

Six Places to Celebrate the Holiday Season (December 2015)

So Many Ways to Kick Off the Holiday Season in the South (November 2015)

14 Dazzling Holiday Light Displays Throughout the South to Enjoy Now (November 2015)

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Move Over Ball Drop - This is How the South Welcomes in the New Year (December 2014)

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2013 Holiday Gift Guide...Packages and Escapes (December 2013)

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Books (December 2013)

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Food and Beverage (December 2013)

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Made in the South (December 2013)

2013 Holiday Gift Guide: Experiences in the South (December 2013)

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From Their Table to Yours: Holiday Recipes from The Carolina Inn (November 2013)

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Absolutely Southern Gift Guide: Secret is in the Sauce at Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley (December 2012)

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Celebrating Mardi Gras 2010 (February 2010)

Published: November 2015
So Many Ways to Kick Off the Holiday Season in the South  

After the table has been cleared, and the leftovers (if any) have been put away, get up and get out and enjoy one of the many happenings kicking off the holiday season in the South.

Holiday Light DisplaysHoliday_Lights_Blytheville

- From now and until the new year, over 60 cities and towns throughout Arkansas sparkling plenty during the 20th annual Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights. There'll be lights and more lights as well as various holiday festivities. Be on the lookout for Jingle, the holiday hog, who'll be visiting different places along the trail.

- Cruise through over 2 million LED lights adorning the 1.5-mile oval track and underneath the grandstand concourse at Texas Motor Speedway Gift of Lights in Fort Worth, Texas, November 26 - January 2, 2016. Head to Santa's Village for a cup of hot cocoa, free popcorn and fun.

- The traditional Idlewild Plantation Christmas Lighting driving tour in Patterson, La.,  takes place November 29- December 31. Ride along a path through Kemper Williams Park to view Christmas light displays enhanced with Christmas music. 

ZooLights 2015 at the Baton Rouge (La.)  Zoo has over 50 illuminated displays on a mile-long trail through the zoo from November 27 - December 30. Displays include sculptures, larger-than-life creations and animated pieces of both animals and traditional holiday symbols.

- Experience a coastal wonderland with Snowflakes in the Bay in Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Miss. Through January 1, century-old live oaks are all aglow with snowflakes.

- See the holiday lights at Jones Park through January 3 during the Gulfport (Miss.) Harbor Lights Winter Festival. Ride Santa's Bigwheel, the 65' Ferris Wheel for a birdseye's view of the lights. Step on the Ship Island Ferry to enjoy cocoa and refreshments.

- Theodore, Ala.'s Bellingrath Gardens and Home's 20th annual Magic Christmas in Lights features over 3 million lights in 15 different scenes that placed throughout the grounds of the 65-acre estate through January 2, 2016. Don't miss seeing the home decked out in holiday splendor.

- Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier Islands in Buford, Ga., includes the six-mile drive through holiday lights. New this year is the Winter Adventure featuring snow zones, one-man bobsled tracks, carnival rides, fire pits to roast marshmallows and much more. Magical Nights of Lights run through January 3, 2016, while the Winter Adventure ends on February 13, 2016

- It's the best of both worlds with Holiday Light Spectacular at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga. Through December 30, not only can you take in the all of the lights and illuminated displays, but also drive on the speedway's oval.sixflags

- From A Main Street Christmas to Peppermint Plaza and more, Six Flags Holiday in the Park in Austell, Ga. (outside of Atlanta) will delight all. Ending on January 3, 2016, if the lights and seasonal activities aren't enough, some of the rides are running too.

- The holiday lights sparkle brightly through December 27 during Zoo Lights 2015 at the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Santa Rosa County, Fla.

- Through January 31, 2016, see the illuminated displays surrounding Lake Chetola during the Festival of Lights at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, N.C. It's only during this drive that'll you see Rudolph catching a “big fish” in Chetola Lake.

- Take in the hundreds of thousands LED Christmas lights and displays at the 6th annual Dancing Lights at Christmas at Jellystone Park in Nashville, Tenn. Scheduled through January 3, 2016, some of the lights sync up with Christmas music. Be sure to stop by Santa's Village.

- The grounds at Cheekwood in Nashville, Tenn., are glowing with holiday lights and displays through January 3, 2016, during Holiday Lights. While visiting, also enjoy the sounds of holiday carolers and treat yourself to s'more or a something sweet from Christie Cookie Co. Sweets Shop. Don't forget to see the live reindeer.

-  The Dominion GardenFest of Lights: H2Whoa at The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va., features 30-acres of lights and hand-crafted botanical decorations. On display through January 11, it highlights the many ways water surrounds us and shapes the world we live in.

- Christmas in the Park in Lebanon, Ky., feature a display of lights around the walking track at Graham Memorial Park. The lights shine through January 2, 2016.

- Fairmont, WVa.'s 8th annual Celebration of Lights features 1.3 miles of bright Christmas displays at Morris Park through December 27. Special walker’s nights take place November 30 and December 10.

City Celebrations

- The annual Elf Parade and Lighting of the Greens begins at 4:30 p.m. on November 27. Traveling throughout downtown Pensacola, anyone may participate. Hundreds of children dressed as elves, adults and holiday characters meet Santa Claus at the Escambia County Courthouse for the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree and a blizzard of Southern-made snow.

- Beach Home for the Holidays kicks off the holiday season with Christmas concerts, a Christmas tree lighting and fireworks display November 27 - 28. Gather at Aaron Bessant Park Amphitheater to enjoy John Berry’s Christmas Concert on Friday evening and Panama City POPS Orchestra Christmas Concert on Saturday evening.

- On November 28, starting at 6 p.m., there'll be eggnog, caroling and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus during Light Up Key Largo (Fla.) The annual tree lighting will be held at the Murray E. Nelson Government Center and Key Largo Cultural Center, MM 102.

- The Annual Lighting of the Village in Alpine Helen-White County (Ga.) on November 27, features live music, and the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. Festivities begin at 6 p.m.

- Dickens Christmas in Lebanon, Ky., on November 28 features carolers, Trail of Treats, a live nativity and more. The Lebanon Main Street parade starts at 7 p.m., and there is an arts & crafts fair at the Marion County Heritage Center on Friday and Saturday, November 29.

KitesWithLights-OuterBanksNC-17- Join Kitty Hawk Kites and visit Santa, then stick around for the Kites with Lights as multiple 19ft-30ft kites flying high over Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, N.C., on November 28. The kites are decked out in holiday lights and swaying to holiday music. Stay warm with cocoa and cookies and enjoy other festive actives at Jockey’s Ridge Crossing.

Regattas and Flotillas

- The 31st annual Intracoastal Christmas Regatta Little River S.C., begins at 5 p.m. The event has been a holiday tradition since 1984.


- The 32nd North Carolina Holiday Flotilla & Festival in the Park in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., on November 27-28  has  a daytime festival and an evening showcase of illuminated boats and fireworks. Begin the celebration on Friday night when the island’s Christmas tree is lit at 5:45 p.m. On Saturday, a full day of entertainment starts with a free Festival in the Park from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at Wrightsville Beach Park. At 6:00 p.m. the main attraction—the holiday flotilla—gets underway.

Trains and Trolleys

Departing from Batesville, Miss., on selected dates through December 27, The Polar Express features dancing chefs, singing elves and Santa himself. polar express MSTrain passengers are encouraged to come wearing their pajamas, and can expect the one-hour experience to recreate the sights and sounds of the beloved Polar Express story. 

- Pensacola Winterfest offers old-fashioned trolleys and intimate carriage rides throughout Downtown Pensacola from November 27 - December 23. The music-filled Christmas trolley tours provide all ages the chance to get close to Santa Claus, Frosty, and other classic Christmas characters.

- While on board the Santa Express Train, departing from Blue Ridge, Ga., hear "Twas The Night Before Christmas," sing Christmas carols and enjoy a meet and greet with the Jolly Ol' St. Nick.  The train takes off November 27 and rides throughout December.

Holiday Markets and Open Houses

- Oxford (Miss.) Square Alliance Open House, November 27, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

- Downtown Vicksburg (Miss.) Christmas Open House, November 29, 1:30 - 5 p.m.

- Big Pine & the Lower Keys Island Art Festival, November 28, Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, mile marker (MM) 31.

- Fleur de Lis Arts & Crafts Show, November 28, 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Natchitoches (La.) Event Center.

Additional Holiday Events

- New Iberia's Historic Main Street hosts the Envision da Berry's "Window Wonderland" from November 28 - December 31. Storefront windows display festive holiday themed decor in the style of New York City department store windows like Bergdorf Goodman or Bloomingdale's. This year's decorative theme will coincide with "Magic on Main has Frozen Over" featuring wintry, snowy and icy colors, textures and subjects.

Jeweled Christmas Tour at The Towers in Natchez, Miss., features over 100 Christmas trees, some no more than one inch high and others 14 feet tall, music, collections of antebellum furnishings and decorative arts, and more. Tours are slated from November 28- January 2, 2016.

- New at the Winter at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Ala., is the Live Animal Nativity Trail and Exhibit. Through December 27, view it by foot, car or camel.

- See the Gingerbread Village at the Augusta (Ga.) Museum on display through November 29.

- Join Kevin Harvick, his son, Keelan, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s new mascot, Champ the Cheetah, for the first annual NASCAR Hall of Fame Tree Lighting on November 28. There will also be holiday music, family activities and food trucks. The first 2,000 attendees will receive a complimentary Santa hat. Admission is free.

Don't forget about Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach's Festival of Trees, Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights and pre-Thanksgiving Holiday Light Displays.

photo credits: (top left) Holiday Lights, Blytheville, courtesy of Arkansas Tourism; (middle right) Six Flags Holiday in the Park, personal collection; (bottom left) Kites in Lights, courtesy of Visit Outer Banks NC; (bottom right) courtesy of Visit Mississippi