These Small Towns in the South Really Know How to Celebrate Christmas
This story originally appeared on SouthernLiving.com.
Holiday magic for all.
Skip the crowded cities, and spend your Christmas in one of the South’s charming small towns. You won’t regret it. Take a drive to these sweet small towns, and you’ll be in for a holiday filled with some of the season’s best—as well as the most festive the South has to offer. Also, these Southern small towns have some of the mildest weather in the country during the Christmas season, which is such a pleasure. When our small towns prepare for the holiday season, they go all out. From lights and trees to festivals and snow (yes, snow!), there is no shortage of activities for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you want to fill your holiday with shopping for friends and family, relaxing on the beach, or taking in holiday parades (on land or in the water), we have a few ideas for your December travels. Each of these small-town spots is well worth a road trip this year. Try the Gulf or the Outer Banks, South Georgia or small-town Texas, and you’ll find festivities big and small in store for your holiday. Which of these communities have you visited? Where is your go-to Christmastime destination? Let us know where you plan to travel this year and which spots you think are worth a visit.
Andalusia is Alabama’s quintessential small town Christmas destination. Each December, you can find snow in this South Alabama town thanks to the Christmas in Candyland celebration, a free event that brings games, ice skating, train rides, kids activities, and a faux-snow tubing hill to the downtown area.
Bardstown’s beloved Main Street is a perfect destination for your seasonal adventures. Light up your Christmas holiday with the Light Up Bardstown event, a Christmas lights-filled festival that signifies the beginning of the holiday season in this small Kentucky town. Don’t miss the much-anticipated visit from Santa Claus or the plentiful browsing opportunities in Bardstown's downtown shops.
Beaufort, North Carolina
Stop by the south end of the Outer Banks for a classic North Carolina Christmas. Don’t miss Beaufort's Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla, a charming yearly parade of boats and holiday lights held in the area every December. There’s also a model train show, a holiday art walk, a candlelit homes tour, and an old-fashioned holiday market each Christmas season in Beaufort.
Visit Branson, Missouri, for the Ozark Mountain Christmas festival, a month-long holiday extravaganza, complete with great music, festive lights, and fun parades. Grab the kids and jump on the Branson Scenic Railway’s Polar Express Train Ride for a rollicking time on the tracks and plenty of excitement for the whole family.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Spend Christmas in Eureka Springs for an unforgettable holiday season. Don’t miss the Eureka Springs Christmas Festival, Silver Tea at the Crescent Hotel, a downtown Christmas parade, and the annual Christmas tree lighting. The kids will love an afternoon with Santa (and reindeer games!) in one of the town’s charming parks. This small town promises music and merriment aplenty.
Small-town Texas gets an infusion of Christmastime charm with the annual festivities held in Fredericksburg, a community located in Central Texas, west of Austin. The town’s old-fashioned celebrations are characterized by carolers, a three-day Christmas festival extravaganza, and plenty of nostalgic downtown shopping every December.
If you’re looking for a Bavarian-style winter wonderland, be sure to plan a visit to Helen. From downtown parades to Victorian Christmas celebrations to a Christkindlmarkt (German Christmas market), there is no shortage of Christmas festivities to enjoy in Helen, a small Georgia town with big Christmas charm.
Lewisburg, West Virginia
The Greenbrier resort (in nearby White Sulphur Springs) is reason enough to plan a trip to the Lewisburg area. Families have been spending Christmas at The Greenbrier for centuries, and there are plenty of places here where you can luxuriate in the Christmas spirit, including the lovely shops of downtown Lewisburg and the area performances of the West Virginia Symphony.
McAdenville, North Carolina
McAdenville is known as Christmas Town, USA. Plan a visit this year to see why. In December, this small town fills up with Christmas cheer, and the town’s homes all light up for the season. It's worth a visit just to drive through the illuminated neighborhoods, but there are also plenty of holiday festivities (including a Christmas tree lighting, a yule log ceremony, a seasonal 5K, and a holiday festival) that will get you in the Christmas spirit too.
This small South Georgia town is legendary for its glittering downtown lights display. The canopied LED lights fill the downtown Moultrie square each December and attract visitors from near and far. The holiday season kicks off on Thanksgiving night with Lights! Lights!, an event in which the community gathers on the square to watch the lights illuminate above. The classic courthouse square is alight with cascading strings of vibrant lights, under which you can find festive events, shopping, and restaurants to enjoy.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Spend your Christmas on the Gulf enjoying all that Naples has on offer, including the Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade and the nearby Swamp Heritage Festival, favorite events of both locals and visitors alike. Meander the Naples Pier, spend some time with your toes in the sand, and do your all your Christmas shopping gulfside.
This small Louisiana town celebrates Christmas in a big way. The annual Festival of Lights runs for 40 days and attracts visitors from all over who arrive with family in tow to see the over 300,000 glittering lights and riverbank holiday decorations on display. The Christmas Festival is also a huge draw, replete with a boat parade, fireworks, and a holiday market. This small town Christmas celebration is well worth a road trip.
This college town has Christmas spirit aplenty, lighting up with glimmering decorations, lush greenery, and seasonal decor each December. Stop into the Gingerbread House Village, Santa’s Workshop, and Holiday Ornament Auction, as well as the Oxford Christmas Parade on the downtown square for good times with great people.
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
Head down to the beach for a mild-weather Christmas celebration of lights, festivals, and holiday magic that spans the length of 30A. No need to do your shopping beforehand, because Santa Rosa Beach and its neighboring beach towns are filled with sweet shops and fantastic restaurants that will spark some December indulgence. Be sure to make a stop at Seaside to take in the glittering trees, then head west for less-crowded Santa Rosa.
Take your Christmas celebrations to the beach for a visit full of coastal festivities and seafood galore. Seaside, Florida, is the perfect coastal holiday destination because there is so much to do on 30A in December. There’s plenty of holiday decorations to enjoy and so many shops and restaurants to browse. We’re dreaming of a coastal Christmas. How about you?
Spend your Christmas in Tennessee for music and holiday magic on the Cumberland Plateau. Book a stay at The Sewanee Inn, located on the campus of Sewanee: The University of the South, and be sure to secure tickets to the university’s annual Lessons and Carols services, which are held each December. The candlelit, music-filled Christmastime services are held in All Saints’ Chapel, which is bedecked in flickering candles and lush greenery hung by students of the university.
Traverse the charming cobbled streets of Thomasville, Georgia, during the town’s classic Victorian Christmas Festival. Enjoy the carolers, carousel, and ice carvings with your family in tow, grab a coffee from Grassroots Coffee Company, and don’t forget to stop into the rest of the community’s wonderful downtown shops.
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Drop your anchor at Wrightsville Beach for the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, a boat-filled parade on the water that culminates in a spectacular fireworks show. The flotilla lights up the night, and the weekend is filled with an accompanying tree-lighting ceremony, a visit from Santa, and a family-friendly festival with food and music galore.