It’s a holiday wonderland.

Courtesy Canton Tourism

If you’re searching for some small-town magic this holiday season, plan a visit to Canton, Mississippi, where the Canton Christmas Festival lights up the historic downtown square every December. Canton (which, during the holiday season, is known as Mississippi’s “City of Lights”) is a charming small town in the middle of the state, about 25 miles north of Jackson, and it’s not hard to see why this spot has become one of our favorite small towns for celebrating Christmas in the South.

Every year, the Canton Christmas Festival transforms the town into a lights-filled wonderland that delights visitors of all ages. Kids, especially, love the festival’s events and attractions, including carousel rides and parades where little ones can meet their favorite characters from books and movies. The whole family can get in on the fun with horse and buggy rides and trips on trolleys, trains, and fire trucks. There are also animation museums, a Christmas village, and plenty of photo opportunities with Santa. And the best part? It all takes place underneath a canopy of twinkling lights.

More than 200,000 glittering lights decorate the historic downtown square, the architecture of which evokes storied scenes (some of which may be familiar, because films such as A Time to Kill and O Brother, Where Art Thou? were filmed in Canton). It’s also a perfect place to get your Christmas shopping done, as each year the town square’s gift and antiques shops host a Merchants Open House Weekend with extended hours and plenty of holiday gift ideas for your loved ones.

If you’re planning a trip to Canton this season to see the lights, do some shopping, and enjoy the Christmas Festival, check out the Canton Tourism office for ideas on where to stay and where to eat during your visit.

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What are some of your favorite Southern small towns to visit at Christmastime? Let us know if you’re planning a trip to Canton with family and friends this holiday season.