Holiday Attractions and Christmas Events in the Southeast US

Holiday Day Trips, Christmas Getaways and Vacations

Christmas in New Orleans
Matthew D. White / Getty Images

For a holiday day trip, a short getaway, or vacation to the Southeast U.S., here are fun seasonal attractions and festive places to visit. Enjoy Christmas lights, visits with Santa, exploring time-honored traditions and more. In many cases, entry prices range from free to moderate, offering choices for all travel budgets.

Discover the magic of Atlanta at Christmastime, the beauty of candlelit gardens, and the joy of a beach holiday on the coast.

01 of 09


Christmas wreaths covered with snow, Huntsville, Alabama, USA
Danita Delimont / Getty Images
4747 Bob Wallace Ave SW, Huntsville, AL 35805-3390, USA
+1 256-830-4447

Southern hospitality meets the holidays with light displays, decorations, and opportunities to visit Santa in Huntsville and Mobile. The Huntsville Botanical Garden Galaxy of Lights offers a magical experience with lights and lighted figures throughout the garden. You'll see Santa soar over a delightful winter village, watch nursery rhyme characters come to life, and marvel at the creativity of traditional holiday scenes. You can drive through the lights, go on special walking and biking nights and even take your dog with you on a special night just for pet owners.

In historic Mobile head to Bellingrath Gardens and Home for the Christmas lights. You'll be able to stroll through a dazzling light display that features more than 1,100 lighted pieces, 3 million lights and 15 scenes throughout the 65-acre Garden estate. The Bellingrath Home is decorated for Christmas and enhanced with beautiful poinsettias.

02 of 09


Very Merry Christmas Parade

The Walt Disney Company

Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL 32830, USA
+1 407-939-5277

Walt Disney World in Florida pulls out all the stops for the holidays. Celebrations continue at other Orlando Parks like at Universal (where the Macy's Thanksgiving balloons are displayed) and Legoland.

The Walt Disney World Holiday Events include parades, decorations, a candlelight processional, and fireworks. Events take place in all four parks.

At Universal Orlando enjoy the Macy's Holiday Parade and Grinchmas. You can even experience Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are filled with Christmas spirit.

SeaWorld's Holiday Celebration brings the wonder of the season to life with over 3 million twinkling lights. Carols fill the air, and a sea of lighted trees sparkle over the lake. You can watch professional skaters on the ice, and enjoy festive food, live shows, and shopping at the Lakeside Christmas market.

03 of 09


Atlanta at Christmas
WIN-Initiative / Getty Images
Atlantic Station, Atlanta, GA, USA

Georgia offers celebrations of holiday lights, ice-skating, and decorations in Atlanta, Lake Lanier Islands, and the mountains. In Atlanta enjoy Holiday Lights and tree-lightings.

Callaway Gardens Fantasy in Lights is a Christmas tradition. Enjoy the Christmas Village, have your picture taken with holiday characters and ride through the dazzling illuminated forest. Callaway Gardens has 2,500 acres of beautiful natural landscape you can explore during the day and stay overnight at the resort.

Christmas at Stone Mountain is an opportunity to take in some of your favorite park attractions like Summit Skyride and Scenic Railroad. Then, at night the holiday magic begins with music, millions of dazzling lights, spectacular shows, and visits from holiday characters. Furthermore, there's also The Polar Express 4-D Experience and Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony each night before the famous Christmas Parade.

In historic Savannah, in addition to the year-round offerings, the holidays bring special decorated trolly tours and Christmas meals at the popular restaurants. Holiday evening tours by candlelight at The Davenport House are led by skilled interpreters who show visitors through the home.

04 of 09


Winter night in Covington, Kentucky
Posnov / Getty Images
4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511-8400, USA
+1 859-233-4303

Celebrations in Kentucky include events in Berea including a parade and maker's markets and light shows in Lexington and Louisville.

In Lexington enjoy the Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park. Over twenty years ago, the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation presented a beautiful driving tour of holiday lights. Southern Lights has evolved to attract over 120,000 visitors each year from across Kentucky and surrounding states and is regularly chosen as a Top 20 Event in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society. You'll drive through three miles of lights and then park to enjoy the rest of the holiday-themed festivities.

In Berea, fill up with holiday cheer during the 12 Days of Christmas. There are "make it and take it" workshops, a gala Twilight Christmas parade, and opportunities to shop for hand-made holiday decor and gifts.

Louisville is the place to go for Christmas at the Galt House Hotel where children can visit Santa's Workshop and enjoy events like Breakfast with Santa. Also in Louisville, is Lights Under Louisville at the Louisville MEGA Cavern. Enjoy a 30-minute ride through part of the 17 miles of underground passageways. There are over 850 lighted characters to see.

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05 of 09


Christmas in New Orleans, Louisiana
Paul D. Taylor / Getty Images
626 Front St, Natchitoches, LA 71457-4630, USA

New Orleans' mansions decked out in lights are not to be missed. Enjoy festivals in Natchitoches and St. James Parish as well.

The Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights features 300,000 Christmas lights and 100 lighted pieces illuminating downtown Natchitoches and the Cane River Lake every evening at dusk. There is a whole slew of Christmas events taking place in Downtown Natchitoches including a day Christmas Festival with music, entertainment, arts and crafts, food vendors, a parade, fireworks show choreographed to holiday music. 

In New Orleans, Louisiana - Celebration in the Oaks at Oaks City Park provides a magical winter spectacle. The famous oaks are swathed in hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. Light displays are scattered throughout 25 acres of the Park, including the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.

A New Orleans tradition, the Reveillon Dinners are a reincarnation of an old Creole holiday custom updated for modern tastes. What began as a family tradition enjoyed in the home is now a city-wide extravaganza of good food and festive spirits at fifty-two local restaurants.

In St. James Parish, Louisiana celebrate Cajun style at the Festival of the Bonfires. Each weekend night leading up to Christmas there will be a bonfire, food, live entertainment, crafts, Santa’s Very Merry Forest, and carnival rides. Then on Christmas Eve, the spectacular Christmas Eve Bonfires take place.

06 of 09

North Carolina

Biltmore at Christmas
Courtesy of Biltmore
1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803, USA
+1 800-411-3812

The Biltmore Estate in Ashville is stunning year-round, but especially during the Christmas holidays with stunning greenery and traditional decorations. There's commemorative Christmas wine at the Winery, special menus in restaurants, and Antler Hill Village's must-see evening illumination display.

Other celebrations include light festivals and a Dickens-themed Christmas village. The National Gingerbread Competition and Display at the Grove Park Inn is a popular holiday event.

In Clemmons Tanglewood Festival of Lights Tanglewood Park's rolling countryside is transformed into a winter wonderland of giant, twinkling snowflakes and whimsical scenes.

Christmas Town USA is at McAdenville where you can drive or walk through for free. And in Winston-Salem, you'll find Holiday Season at Old Salem where you can visit the decorated buildings, and sit and chat with their interpreters.

07 of 09

South Carolina

Christmas Towne, Myrtle Beach
Courtesy of Visit Myrtle Beach
500 Wildlife Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29210, USA
+1 803-779-8717

Myrtle Beach has some of the best holiday celebrations in the state with fireworks at Broadway at the Beach, a Dickens' Christmas show, and Brookgreen Gardens' Nights of a Thousand Candles. Myrtle Beach would make for a great family vacation because of all the holiday events.

Across South Carolina there are holiday lighting displays to visit or drive through:

08 of 09


Annual Elvis Presley Lighting Celebration
Greg Campbell / Stringer / Getty Images
151 Speedway Blvd, Bristol, TN 37620, USA
+1 423-989-6900

​Tennessee's celebrations include Elvis Presley's decorated Graceland Mansion and Dolly Parton's Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival. Dollywood keeps expanding their holiday offerings and for 2018 visitors can look forward to Glacier Ridge, their new winter wonderland filled with sparkling displays and a 50-foot video motion Christmas tree.

In Bristol, the Speedway hosts a lights display, Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights and in Chattanooga, celebrate a Ruby Red Christmas in Ruby Falls. Ruby Falls is the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public.

Clarksville hosts Christmas on the Cumberland and in Gatlinburg enjoy Gatlinburg Winter Magic.

Winter at Graceland brings decorations and a holiday lighting ceremony at Elvis' Graceland mansion. A line-up of concerts is also planned.

Nashville - Gaylord Opryland's A Country Christmas and ICE! You'll find lavish holiday displays featuring more than three million twinkling lights and festive décor at A Country Christmas. There will be special Christmas packages to help you save on a holiday getaway.

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09 of 09


A soldier in a colonial uniform walks past a house with a Christmas decoration over the doorway in historic Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
Kelly / Mooney Photography / Getty Images
Mt Vernon, VA, USA

​From holiday sing-alongs, miles and miles of sparkling (and sometimes tacky) lights, to Victorian and Colonial celebrations, Virginia is for Christmas-lovers.

In Alexandria, celebrate Christmas at Mount Vernon and enjoy a weekend of events and a parade during Alexandria's Scottish Christmas Walk.

In Charlottesville, Monticello Holiday Events range from visiting the decorated home to a walk/run and Christmas shopping.

In Norfolk visit the Dominion Garden of Lights at the Norfolk Botanical Garden where you can listen to holiday music in your car and drive through the beautiful displays.

Richmond's lighting display is the GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. For those with a sense of humor, check out the Richmond Tacky Lights Tours. Also in Richmond take in the Victorian Holidays at Maymont.

In Vienna celebrate the holidays at the Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long

Always a favorite holiday destination, Williamsburg offers a look at Christmas in colonial times with the annual Colonial Williamsburg Christmas. At Busch Gardens Christmas Town you'll find the largest displays of Christmas lights in North America.

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Holiday Attractions and Christmas Events in the Southeast US