The Best Christmas and Holiday Events in the Southeast U.S. for 2022

Christmas in New Orleans

Matthew D. White / Getty Images

Just because the weather might be warm doesn't mean that the Christmas spirit isn't in full swing. The Southeast U.S. boasts many festive destinations as well as unique seasonal events that make it the perfect place for a holiday getaway. From time-honored traditions such as Christmas lights, visits with Santa, Christmas markets, and beautiful candlelit gardens, you'll have plenty of options. And better yet, in many cases entry prices will range from free to moderate, offering choices for all travel budgets.

If you're looking for a holiday getaway in the Southeast this year, here's what to have on your itinerary.

01 of 09


Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Theodore, Alabama
Photo: Courtesy Bellingrath Gardens and Home
4747 Bob Wallace Ave SW, Huntsville, AL 35805-3390, USA
Phone +1 256-830-4447

Southern hospitality meets the holidays with light displays, decorations, and opportunities to visit Santa in Huntsville and Theodore.

The Huntsville Botanical Garden Galaxy of Lights offers a magical experience with lights and illuminated figures throughout the garden. You'll see Santa fly over a winter village, watch nursery rhyme characters, and marvel at the creativity of holiday scenes. Drive through the lights this year from Nov. 25, 2022 through December 24, 2022.

If you are in Theodore, head to Bellingrath Gardens and Home for the Magic Christmas in Lights from Nov. 25 through January 4, 2023. Stroll through the 65-acre estate's award-winning display that features more than 3 million lights, over 1,100 lighted pieces, and 15 holiday scenes. Don't miss the highly-decorated Bellingrath Home full of colorful poinsettias.

02 of 09


Very Merry Christmas Parade

The Walt Disney Company

Orlando, FL, USA
Phone +1 407-939-5277

Florida pulls out all the stops for the holidays, whether you are visiting Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld, or another desintation.

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

At Universal Orlando Resort, enjoy the Holiday Parade featuring Macy's, as well as the Grinchmas show. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter as Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley are filled with Christmas spirit. Universal's holiday season runs from Nov. 12, 2022 through January 1, 2023.

SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration brings the wonder of the season to life with over 3 million twinkling lights from Nov. 11, 2022 through January 3, 2023. Carols fill the air, and a sea of lighted trees sparkle over the lake. Watch professional skaters on the ice, and enjoy festive food, live shows, the Sesame Street Christmas Parade, and shopping for holiday gifts and treats at the Christmas Market.

03 of 09


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

In Atlanta, the mountains, and other areas of Georgia, you'll find activities ranging from ice-skating and viewing gorgeous decorations to chances to greet holiday characters.

Enjoy a diversity of holiday lights and tree-lightings from November through January at parks, farms, and other venues in the Atlanta area.

Callaway Resort & Gardens Fantasy in Lights, held from Nov. 18, 2022, through January 2, 2023, is an annual tradition. Enjoy the Christmas Village, have your picture taken with holiday characters, and ride through the lovely and well-lit forest. There are 2,500 acres of beautiful natural landscape you can explore during the day, and visitors can also stay overnight at the resort in Pine Mountain.

Stone Mountain Christmas is an opportunity to take in some beloved park attractions like Summit Skyride and Scenic Railroad between Nov. 12, 2022 and January 2, 2023. You can view millions of sparkling lights and enjoy music at night as well as the Snow Angel's Christmas Parade with 40 characters, various floats, and a chance to watch Santa Claus in flight.

In historic Savannah, the holidays bring special Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Lights & Sights tours and Christmas meals at the popular restaurants.

Holiday evening tours in Savannah by candlelight at The Davenport House are led by skilled interpreters who show visitors through the historic early 19th century home from December 26–29, 2022.

04 of 09


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

Celebrations in Kentucky include parades and maker's markets in Berea and light shows in Lexington and Louisville.

Fill up with holiday cheer in Berea. In 2022, you can join the annual Twilight Christmas parade on Saturday, December 3, with opportunities to shop for handmade holiday decor and gifts in the Artisan Village and College Square. This year's parade theme is "A Cartoon Christmas."

In Lexington, enjoy the highly-ranked Southern Lights Holiday Festival from Nov. 25 through December 31, 2022. Drive through three miles of lights, and park to enjoy the mini train rides, visits with Santa, and an exotic petting zoo.

At The Galt House Hotel in Louisville in 2022, families can enjoy Breakfast with Santa at Walker's Exchange on December 4, 11, and 18, 2022.

Another fun activity is Lights Under Louisville at the MEGA Cavern, a 30-minute ride through portions of 17 miles of underground passageways, open between Nov. 11, 2022 through January 1, 2023. There are over 850 lighted characters to see on your journey.

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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 are not to be missed, especially when they are decked out in lovely decor. Visitors and locals have fun at festivals in Natchitoches and St. James Parish as well.

In New Orleans, Celebration in the Oaks at City Park is a magical winter destination: The famous oaks are wrapped in more than 1 million lights, and light displays can be seen throughout 25 acres of the park, including Storyland, the Botanical Garden, and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. Check out the attraction between Nov. 24, 2022, and January 1, 2023.

The Reveillon Dinners are the return of an old Creole holiday custom updated for today's culinary preferences; the family tradition transformed into a city-wide production of tasty food and festive spirits at dozens of local restaurants.

The Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, scheduled for Nov. 23, 2022, through January 6, 2023, features more than 300,000 lights and 100 lighted pieces illuminating downtown Natchitoches and the Cane River Lake each night. A whole slew of Christmas events takes place in downtown Natchitoches, including home tours and a daytime Christmas Festival with a parade, music, arts and crafts, a fireworks show, and food vendors. 

St. James Parish celebrates Cajun-style at the Festival of the Bonfires. On the nights of December 9-11, 2022, there will be a bonfire, carnival rides, food, live entertainment, crafts, Santa’s Very Merry Forest, and more. The spectacular Christmas Eve Bonfires take place at Lutcher Recreational Park.

06 of 09

North Carolina

Biltmore Christmas Tree 2022

Biltmore Company

1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803, USA
Phone +1 800-411-3812

North Carolina offers everything from classic cookies and chocolate to estates filled with lovely decor and festive wines at the holidays.

The Biltmore estate in Asheville is stunning year-round, but especially during the holidays when lovely greenery and traditional decorations shine. The Christmas at Biltmore Daytime Celebration from Nov. 4, 2022, through January 8, 2023, gives you a chance to see beautiful decor, including ornaments on over 55 trees. You can also try holiday wines and special menus, and attend Antler Hill Village's nighttime light display.

Other Asheville celebrations include light festivals and a Dickens-themed Christmas village in historic Biltmore Village, which falls on December 2-3, 2022.

The National Gingerbread House Competition and Display at the Omni Grove Park Inn is a popular holiday event in Asheville. The competition this year takes place on November 28, 2022, with the winning houses on display through January 2, 2023 (certain dates are excluded, so view the website for details before heading out).

Tanglewood Park Festival of Lights from Nov. 11, 2022 through January 1, 2023, is worth seeing: The rolling countryside in Clemmons is transformed into a winter wonderland of giant, twinkling snowflakes and whimsical scenes. Expect long waits Thursdays through Sundays.

You can drive or walk through Christmas Town USA and its famous light display in McAdenville for free.

And at the Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, you can celebrate an evening of holiday cheer at Salem Night taking place on December 17, 2022 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

07 of 09

South Carolina

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

From holiday markets to sparkling light displays, you'll find many fun things to do in South Carolina.

Myrtle Beach would make for a great family vacation because it is home to some of the state's best holiday events, such as The Great Christmas Light Show, taking place from Nov. 21 through December 30, 2022.

In 2022, Brookgreen Gardens' Nights of a Thousand Candles in Murrells Inlet features over 2,700 candles and numerous sparkling lights, holiday music, and carolers on select dates from Nov. 26, 2022 through January 1, 2023. South Carolina boasts additional light displays that locals and visitors can stroll through or drive by:

  • Riverbanks Zoo & Garden Lights Before Christmas: Check out this Columbia attraction with almost 1 million lights and Santa visits on select evenings between Nov. 19 and December 30, 2022.
  • Swan Lake Fantasy of Lights: In 2022, experience over 1 million lights every night from December 1–31 in Swan Lake Iris Gardens, Sumter.
  • Holiday Lights Safari Benefit: Hollywild Animal Preserve's event in Wellford goes from Nov. 18 through December 31, 2022. Your admission fee supports the feeding and care of hundreds of animals.
08 of 09


Annual Elvis Presley Lighting Celebration
Greg Campbell / Stringer / Getty Images
151 Speedway Blvd, Bristol, TN 37620, USA
Phone +1 866-415-4158

​Tennessee's celebrations include ice caves, shows, and celebrity attractions like Elvis Presley's decorated Graceland Mansion in Memphis, which features decorations, concerts, and a holiday lighting ceremony.

Also check out Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Christmas through January 1, 2023, in Pigeon Forge. Dollywood visitors can look forward to Glacier Ridge, the winter wonderland filled with bright displays and a 50-foot video motion Christmas tree.

The Bristol Motor Speedway hosts the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights, a display with 2 million lights, from Nov. 18, 2022 through January 7, 2022, where visitors can take a lap around "The World's Fastest Half-Mile." 

If you are in Chattanooga, go on a Christmas Underground adventure to see an ice cave and Santa Claus in the North Pole. The event takes place in Ruby Falls from Nov. 25 through January 1, 2023.

Clarksville hosts the free Christmas on the Cumberland, with over 1 million lights and live entertainment at McGregor Park every night from Nov. 22, 2022 through January 2, 2023.

Gaylord Opryland's A Country Christmas and ICE! in Nashville spans from Nov. 20 through December 31, 2022, bringing lavish displays, more than 3 million twinkling lights, and festive décor. Special Christmas packages help you save on a holiday getaway.

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09 of 09


The Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Every State
The Lights of Christmas
Mt Vernon, VA, USA

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

In 2022, celebrate at George Washington's estate by heading to Alexandria's Christmas at Mount Vernon between November and December.

Enjoy a variety of holiday happenings during Alexandria's Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend & Parade on December 3, 2022.

At Thomas Jefferson's estate in Charlottesville, Monticello Holiday Events range from visiting the decorated home to wreath workshops and Christmas shopping.

The Dominion Energy Garden of Lights takes place nightly from December 15–31, 2019, at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, where you can listen to holiday music in your car and drive through the striking displays.

Richmond's lighting display is the Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, open November 21, 2022, through January 8, 2023, with closures on Thanksgiving and December 24–25.

Those with a sense of humor may prefer the Richmond Tacky Lights Tours, offered between December 3 and 23, 2022. Also in Richmond, take in the Holiday Merriment at Maymont, taking place on December 2-3, 2022, which includes festive decor, wreath workshops, and more.

In Vienna, celebrate the holidays at the Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long at Filene Center on December 3, 2022. This unique event includes a U.S. Marine Band performance and a Christmas carol and Hanukkah song Sing-A-Long with choir and vocal groups.

Always a favorite holiday destination, Williamsburg offers a look at Christmas in days past through illuminations, caroling, and more during the annual Colonial Williamsburg Christmas.

Also, on certain days between Nov. 11, 2022 and January 8, 2023, the city's Busch Gardens Christmas Town shows off one of the biggest Christmas light displays in North America, plus offers food, shows, and shopping.

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The Best Christmas and Holiday Events in the Southeast U.S. for 2022