The South's Best Christmas Festivals

Christmas Festival Lights Tree
Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images

There's a chill in the air and a twinkle in every eye. That means the holiday season is just around the corner. When cooler weather arrives, light displays appear, the scent of peppermint treats fills the air, and families look forward to celebrating the spirit of the season with friends and neighbors at some of the South's best Christmas festivals. These festivals celebrate what is loveliest about the season—community, tradition, generosity, and so much shared joy. From Victorian-style carolers singing your favorite Christmas songs, to carousels sure to delight kids of all ages, the best Christmas festivals will fill your eyes with dazzling lights, your imagination with wonder, your stomach with delicious holiday food, and your spirit with the joy of the season.

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Branson Christmas

Ozark Mountain Christmas

Branson, Missouri

November 5-December 30, 2022

Rather than having a single festival, Branson transforms into a Christmas wonderland after Halloween. Silver Dollar City's Old Time Christmas features live shows, a nightly parade, sing-along train rides, and more than 700 decorated trees, fitting for America's Christmas Tree City.

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Light Up Bardstown

Light Up Bardstown Kentucky
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Bardstown, Kentucky

Nov. 25, 2022–January 6, 2023 5:30-8 p.m.

Gather for the official lighting of Bardstown's Christmas tree, as well as multiple other light displays around town. There will be music and refreshments, and Bardstown's shops stay open late for Christmas shopping. We hear that even Santa will be making an appearance at Light Up Bardstown!

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Holiday Festival of Lights

Holiday Festival of Lights Charleston
Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Charleston, North Carolina

November 11-December 31, 2022, nightly from 5:30-10 p.m.

Charleston's famed Holiday Festival of Lights is known for its three-mile holiday-lights driving tour, but that's just part of the festivities. Cheerful attractions like Santa's Sweet Shoppe, gift boutiques, a carousel, and more are worth getting out of the car for.

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Nights of a Thousand Candles

Myrtle Beach, SC Holiday Town
Courtesy of Brookgreen Gardens

November 26, 2022–January 1, 2023

Bask in the peaceful splendor of Brookgreen Garden's unique holiday light display: More than 2,800 candles, plus twinkling lights, grace the grounds of this South Carolina estate. Carolers and a celebratory glass of wine or cider make the walk even more enchanting.

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Christmas in the City

Christmas in the City
Facebook/City of Knoxville Special Events

Knoxville, Tennessee

November 18–December 31, 2022

There are dozens of events that make up Knoxville's Christmas in the City, including the Regal Celebration of Lights, Holidays on Ice, a Christmas parade ,and the Tour de Lights bike ride.

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North Carolina Holiday Flotilla

North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
Facebook/North Carolina Holiday Flotilla

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

November 26, 2022

If you're looking for a Christmas festival on the water, the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla should be your next trip. Aside from the actual Flotilla, which is a Christmas-light-covered holiday parade on the water, there's a Day in the Park celebration with a car show, food, and fireworks.

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Dickens on the Strand

Dickens on the Strand Galveston

Galveston, Texas

December 2-4, 2022

This weekend-long Christmas celebration of Victorian England and the characters of Charles Dickens is in its 49th year. Dickens on the Strand is filled with nonstop parades, entertainment, and costumed vendors, Show up in period dress to get into the spirit–the festival's website has easy, inexpensive outfit ideas.

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Pensacola Winterfest

Pensacola Winterfest
Facebook/Winterfest Pensacola

Pensacola, Florida

November 20 and 25-27 and December 2, 3, 9, 11, 16-18, 20-24

During the holiday season, the coastal town of Pensacola transforms for Winterfest, a Christmas festival that features a Polar Express ride, a Grinch and a Scrooge Tour, pre-show dance, and sing-alongs, photos with Santa, and more.

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Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend

Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend
Facebook/Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend

Alexandria, Virginia

December 2-3, 2022

For more than 50 years, Old Town Alexandria's Scottish Heritage has been celebrating the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend. This Christmas Festival features the Scottish Walk Parade, holiday home tours, the Taste of Scotland event, and more bagpipe-and plaid-filled options.

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Victorian Christmas

Victorian Christmas
Facebook/Downtown Thomasville, Georgia

Thomasville, Georgia

December 8-9, 2022, 6-9 p.m.

Explore historic Thomasville with its Victorian Christmas festival. Enjoy caroling and plays, see the live nativity, and stroll the town's cobblestone streets (or ride in a horse-drawn carriage) to experience Christmas cheer at every corner.

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Smoky Mountain Christmas

Smoky Mountain Christmas

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Nov. 5, 2022–Jan. 1, 2023

If you've never made a trip to Dollywood, Smoky Mountain Christmas is the time to do it. With indoor and outdoor live shows, Santa Land, a Meet Rudolph and His Friends event, and millions of holiday lights, Dollywood is one of the most cheerful places to be this season.

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Dahlonega's Old-Fashioned Christmas

Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas
Facebook/Visit Dahlonega, Georgia/Jack Anthony

Dahlonega, Georgia

November 25, 2022–January 8, 2023

If you want to visit a Christmas town that's plucked straight from a Hallmark movie, you have to visit Dahlonega, Georgia, and experience Dahlonega's Old-Fashioned Christmas. The celebration begins with the annual Lighting of the Square, and festive holiday events like live entertainment, the Christmas parade visits with Santa, and holiday shows occur throughout the month.

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Christmas in Candyland

Christmas in Candyland
Facebook/Christmas in Candyland

Andalusia, Alabama

Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in December

If you thought you'd never see snow in South Alabama, head down to Andalusia for Christmas in Candyland this season. Along with the fake snow, this magical (and free) attraction has custom-built Candyland cottages, horse-drawn carriage rides, the Skating Experience, and a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the town square.

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Natchitoches Christmas

Downtown Natchitoches Christmas
Robbie Caponetto

Natchitoches, Louisiana

November 19, 2022–Jan. 6, 2023

Would you ever guess that a small Louisiana town is home to one of the oldest Christmas festivals in the country? Come down South and let the 96th annual Natchitoches Christmas prove it to you. With fireworks every Saturday, Christmas parades, light displays, home tours, and a long list of other events, Natchitoches does Christmas right.

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A Colonial Christmas

A Colonial Christmas
Facebook/Jamestown Settlement / American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

Williamsburg, Virginia

December 1-31, 2022

Step back in time and experience Christmas traditions at the Jamestown Settlement with A Colonial Christmas. The first three weekends of December feature Yule Log Processions, Fireworks, and Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum performances, and the area is decked out with Christmas trees, wreaths, and swags.

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Bavarian Christmas

helen georgia Christmas tree
Alpine Helen-White County Convention and Visitors Bureau

November 25–December 31, 2022

Celebrate a cozy European Christmas in Helen, Georgia, nestled in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Old-world events include a lighting of the village tree ceremony, Christkindlmarkt—a holiday market with with German crafts and foods, and a nighttime parade.

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