25 Most Festive Small Towns in the South for a Charming Christmas Getaway
Skip the crowded cities, and spend your Christmas in one of the South’s charming small towns. You won’t regret it. Take a drive to these cozy, Christmas-crazed towns, and you’ll be in for a holiday filled with some of the season’s best. We're blessed with some of the mildest weather in the country during the Christmas season, and we like to take full advantage. When our small towns prepare for the holiday season, they go all out. From stunning light displays to family-fun festivals, there is no shortage of activities for the whole crew to enjoy.
These small towns boast all of their usual year-round appeal—think downtown shops, charming streets, and Southern hospitality—but are specially outfitted with the festive touches of Christmas. You’ll get all the hot cocoa, town square parades (or boat parades on the water!), and rambling horse-drawn carriages you could wish for. No need to ask Santa. Each of these small-town spots is worth a spot on your Christmas travel list. From the Gulf to the Outer Banks, Georgia to Texas, these are the most festive small towns in the South to visit during Christmastime.
If you've been sleeping on Dahlonega's Old-Fashioned Christmas, it's time to wake up and smell the gingerbread cookies. Southerners everywhere travel from far and wide (we ran into a group of girlfriends all the way from Texas!) to catch this place during Christmastime. The North Georgia town is draped in twinkling lights and overrun with rambling horse-drawn carriages. We know, what a problem to have. Its month-long celebration features everything from a hometown parade to a charming tree lighting.
Do you know about the Christmas Capital of Texas? Let us introduce you. Grapevine touts more than 1,400 holiday events throughout the season, but they had us at "Christmas Wine Trains." More family-friendly activities range from The Parade of Lights to watching classic movies or Christmas concerts at the Palace Theatre. The Gaylord Texan Resort is transformed with millions of lights, a rotating Christmas tree that’s more than 50 feet tall, miniature train sets, and even a life-sized gingerbread house.
This small Louisiana town celebrates Christmas in a big way. The annual Festival of Lights runs for 40 days and attracts visitors from all over who arrive with family in tow to see the over 300,000 glittering lights and riverbank holiday decorations on display. The Christmas Festival is also a huge draw, replete with a boat parade, fireworks, and a holiday market. This small town Christmas celebration is well worth a road trip. Grab one of its famed meat pies, and get going.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Enjoy the coastal charm of Myrtle Beach at Christmastime. Don’t miss Brookgreen Gardens, which are filled with Christmas trees, twinkling lights, and flickering candles during the winter season. And be sure to catch a Christmas show with your family at one of Myrtle Beach’s beautiful theatres.
Lewisburg, West Virginia
The Greenbrier resort (in nearby White Sulphur Springs) is reason enough to plan a trip to the Lewisburg area. Families have been spending Christmas at The Greenbrier for centuries, and there are plenty of places here where you can luxuriate in the Christmas spirit, including the lovely shops of downtown Lewisburg and the area performances of the West Virginia Symphony.
Take your Christmas celebrations to the beach for a visit full of coastal festivities and seafood galore. Seaside, Florida, is the perfect coastal holiday destination because there is so much to do on 30A in December. There’s plenty of holiday decorations to enjoy and so many shops and restaurants to browse. We’re dreaming of a coastal Christmas. How about you?
Visit Branson, Missouri, for the Ozark Mountain Christmas festival, a month-long holiday extravaganza, complete with great music, festive lights, and fun parades. Grab the kids and jump on the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express Train Ride for a rollicking time on the tracks and plenty of excitement for the whole family.
If you’re looking for a Bavarian-style winter wonderland, be sure to plan a visit to Helen. From downtown parades to Victorian Christmas celebrations to a Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas market), there is no shortage of Christmas festivities to enjoy in Helen, a small Georgia town with big Christmas charm.
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Drop your anchor at Wrightsville Beach for the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, a boat-filled parade on the water that culminates in a spectacular fireworks show. The flotilla lights up the night, and the weekend is filled with an accompanying tree-lighting ceremony, a visit from Santa, and a family-friendly festival with food and music galore.
Although technically considered a small city, Charlottesville still feels like a town, from the charming streets to the close-knit feel. During the holiday season, you'll find that Charlottesville quiets down as college students head home after finals. Book one of the rare tours of Monticello at night to see the mansion decorated for Christmas as it would have been in Jefferson’s time: full of greenery, candlelight, and 18th-to-19th century holiday hymns like “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful.”
Traverse the charming cobbled streets of Thomasville, Georgia, during the town’s classic Victorian Christmas Festival. Enjoy the carolers, carousel, and ice carvings with your family in tow, grab a coffee from Grassroots Coffee Company, and don’t forget to stop into the rest of the community’s wonderful downtown shops.
Small-town Texas gets an infusion of Christmastime charm with the annual festivities held in Fredericksburg, a community located in Central Texas, west of Austin. The town’s old-fashioned celebrations are characterized by carolers, a three-day Christmas festival extravaganza, and plenty of nostalgic downtown shopping every December—all the while paying tribute to its German heritage. Think kolaches (yeast buns filled with fruit or sausage) and Christmas bratwurst.
This college town has Christmas spirit aplenty, lighting up with glimmering decorations, lush greenery, and seasonal decor each December. Stop into the Gingerbread House Village, Santa’s Workshop, and Holiday Ornament Auction, as well as the Oxford Christmas Parade on the downtown square for good times with great people. Before you leave, make sure to hit Square Books to find a unique gift.
Pine Mountain, Georgia
Nothing will make the kids happier than Christmas at Callaway. Callaway Gardens, which you'll find in the small town of Pine Mountain, hosts what can only be described as "the ultimate Christmas extravaganza." The main attraction: Riding through the dazzling illuminated forest, complete with synchronized Christmas carols. But you can also make merry (and shop for gifts!) in the Christmas Village, meet holiday characters up close, and have an overall festive stay at the Resort.
Bardstown’s beloved Main Street is a perfect destination for your seasonal adventures. Light up your Christmas holiday with the Light Up Bardstown event, a Christmas lights-filled festival that signifies the beginning of the holiday season in this small Kentucky town. Don’t miss the much-anticipated visit from Santa Claus or the plentiful browsing opportunities in Bardstown's downtown shops.
McAdenville, North Carolina
McAdenville is known as Christmas Town, USA. Plan a visit this year to see why. In December, this small town fills up with Christmas cheer, and the town’s homes all light up for the season. It's worth a visit just to drive through the illuminated neighborhoods, but there are also plenty of holiday festivities (including a Christmas tree lighting, a yule log ceremony, a seasonal 5K, and a holiday festival) that will get you in the Christmas spirit too.
Spend your Christmas on the Gulf enjoying all that Naples has on offer, including the Christmas Boat Parade on Naples Bay and the nearby Night Lights in the Naples Botanical Garden, favorite events of both locals and visitors alike. Meander the Naples Pier, spend some time with your toes in the sand, and do your all your Christmas shopping gulfside.
Experience Colonial flavor in Williamsburg at Christmastime. The yearly A Colonial Christmas celebration lets visitors explore the Jamestown Settlement and meander the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown—so you can celebrate Christmas and learn about American history at the same time.
Blue Ridge, Georgia
This is the closest thing you'll get to the Polar Express down in these parts. This mountain getaway feels as magical as the Man in Red himself. Start your holiday journey by hopping on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway's Santa Express. Your family will hear a Christmas story, sing Christmas carols, meet Christmas characters, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus as they make their way through the train.
Beaufort, North Carolina
Stop by the south end of the Outer Banks for a classic North Carolina Christmas. Don’t miss Beaufort's Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, a charming yearly parade of boats and holiday lights held in the area every December. There’s also a model train show, a holiday art walk, a candlelit homes tour, and an old-fashioned holiday market each Christmas season in Beaufort.
The Panhandle, Florida
Head down to the beach for a mild-weather Christmas celebration of lights, festivals, and holiday magic that spans the length of 30A and then further down both ways via Highway 98 to Destin and Panama City Beach. No need to do your shopping beforehand, because Santa Rosa Beach and its neighboring beach towns are filled with sweet shops and fantastic restaurants that will spark some December indulgence.
Andalusia is Alabama’s quintessential small town Christmas destination. Each December, you can find snow in this South Alabama town thanks to the Christmas in Candyland celebration, a free event that brings games, ice skating, train rides, kids activities, and a faux-snow tubing hill to the downtown area.
Spend your Christmas in Tennessee for music and holiday magic on the Cumberland Plateau. Book a stay at The Sewanee Inn, located on the campus of Sewanee: The University of the South, and be sure to secure tickets to the university’s annual Lessons and Carols services, which are held each December. The candlelit, music-filled Christmastime services are held in All Saints’ Chapel, which is bedecked in flickering candles and lush greenery hung by students of the university.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Spend Christmas in Eureka Springs for an unforgettable holiday season. Don’t miss the Eureka Springs Christmas Festival, the 53rd Annual Silver Tea at the Crescent Hotel, a downtown Christmas parade, and the annual Christmas tree lighting. The kids will love an afternoon with Santa (and reindeer games!) in one of the town’s charming parks. This small town promises music and merriment aplenty.
This small South Georgia town is legendary for its glittering downtown lights display. The canopied LED lights fill the downtown Moultrie square each December and attract visitors from near and far. The holiday season kicks off on Thanksgiving night with Lights! Lights!, an event in which the community gathers on the square to watch the lights illuminate above. The classic courthouse square is alight with cascading strings of vibrant lights, under which you can find festive events, shopping, and restaurants to enjoy.