The South's Best Christmas Festivals
There’s a chill in the air and a twinkle in every eye. That means the holiday season is just around the corner. When December arrives, light displays appear, peppermint candy canes are unwrapped, 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.
Nov. 3, 2017-Jan.1, 2018
Rather than having a single festival, Branson transforms into a Christmas wonderland immediately following Halloween. From live shows, to Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas, America’s Christmas Tree City has plenty going on this holiday season.
Light Up Bardstown
Nov. 24, 2017, 5:30-8 p.m.
Gather for the official lighting of Bardstown’s city 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!
Holiday Festival of Lights
Charleston, North Carolina
Nov. 10, 2017- Jan.1-2017, nightly starting at 5:30 p.m.
Charleston’s famed Holiday Festival of Lights is known for its three-mile driving tour, but that’s not all the festival brings. Cheerful attractions like a walking trail, Santa’s Sweet Shoppe, gift shops, a climbing wall, and more are worth getting out of the car for.
Christmas in the City
Nov. 3- Dec. 31, 2017
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, the Tour de Lights bike ride, and Christmas Lantern Express train rides.
North Carolina Holiday Flotilla
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Nov. 24-25, 2017
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 are plenty of festive events for the family all weekend long.
Dickens on the Strand
Dec. 1-3, 2017
A weekend-long celebration of Victorian England and the characters of Charles Dickens, the festival is in its 44th year. Dickens on the Strand is filled with nonstop parades, entertainment, and costumed vendors, and if you show up in a Victorian costume, admission is half the price.
Nov. 24-Dec. 23, 2017
During the holiday season, the coastal town of Pensacola transforms for Winterfest, a festival that features an Elf Parade, the Reindeer Games, a Performance Tour, a Polar Express Tour, a Grinch Tour, and more. We hear Santa will even be having a Puppy Party!
Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend
Dec. 1-2, 2017
Celebrate Old Town Alexandria’s Scottish Heritage at the 47th annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend. Not only will there be the Scottish Walk Parade, there are holiday home tours, the Taste of Scotland event, and more bagpipe-and plaid-filled options.
Dec. 14-15, 2017, 6-9 p.m.
Explore the history of Thomasville with its Victorian Christmas. See Victorian-style performances, watch the Magic Lantern show, and stroll the town’s cobblestone streets (or ride in a horse-drawn carriage) to experience Christmas cheer at every corner.
Smoky Mountain Christmas
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Nov. 4, 2017- Jan. 1, 2018
If you’ve never made a trip to Dollywood, Smoky Mountain Christmas is the time to do it. With live shows, the Parade of Many Colors, services at Dolly’s Christmas Chapel, Santa Land, and a Meet Rudolph and His Friends event (plus more), Dollywood one of the most cheerful places to be this season.
Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas
Nov. 24- Dec. 23, 2017
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.
Christmas in Candyland
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-build Candyland cottages and a giant Christmas tree in the middle of the town square. This year, the Christmas installation is adding Springdale on Ice just across downtown from Candyland.
Nov. 18, 2017- Jan. 6, 2018
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 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.
A Colonial Christmas
December 1-31, 2017, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Step back in time and experience Christmas traditions at the Jamestown Settlement with A Colonial Christmas. From December 23-31, the festivities will also include live musical entertainment from the period.
Magical Nights of Lights
Lake Lanier Islands, Georgia
Nov. 17, 2017- Jan. 3, 2017
Drive through seven miles of incredible holiday lights and end up at LanierWorld’s Holiday Village for even more Christmas festivities. This year is the 25th year of Magical Nights of Lights, and there will be special light displays to commemorate it.