Festive Activities and Holiday Happenings for
the most Charming Christmas Season of all
From culinary events on the coast to a speedway sparkling with two million lights, score Santa sightings and wrap up memory-making adventures all across the Southeast
SEPTEMBER 2018–Have yourself a merry little adventure-filled Christmas with some of the South’s jolliest events. Get in the holiday mood with seasonal shows, tons of twinkling lights and shopping even Santa’s elves can’t beat. And, more than that, turn silent nights into forever memories with scenic tours and festive activities fit for family-friendly fun.
Picture-perfect Abingdon is ready to welcome visitors for a classic small-town Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains filled with the sounds of carolers, the scent of roasted chestnuts and special events to celebrate the season. Historic downtown is full of holiday charm offering plenty of opportunities to do holiday shopping, enjoy cozy eateries and bask in the twinkling lights. Check out Main Street treasures like Holston Mountain Artisans, one of the oldest craft co-ops in the nation with lots of perfect gift items; Heartwood–Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway with regional crafts, music, food and wine; and, on Saturdays, visit the Abingdon Farmers Market for fresh wreaths and garlands, jams, jellies and homemade pies. Visit The Barter Theatre for a heartwarming holiday show in the beautiful, 500-seat historic theatre. A stay at The Martha Washington Inn & Spa will transport folks back to sweet Christmases of yesteryear–just across the street from the Barter, shops and restaurants. Drive 20 minutes to see two million lights at Speedway in Lights, the holiday celebration at Bristol Motor Speedway, www.SpeedwayinLghts.org/. www.VisitAbingdonVirginia.com
Holiday events in Alpine Helen prove magical year after year as the Northeast Georgia Mountain town transforms the Bavarian community into a Christmas wonderland. Head to Babyland General Hospital (birthplace of the Cabbage Patch Kids) on November 17 for fun and frolic with decorations, carolers, prizes, milk and cookies with Mrs. Claus and the lighting of Babyland, www.CabbagePatchKids.com. November 18-December 8 is the time to view beautifully decorated trees and wreaths (available for bid) at Unicoi State Park during the Festival of Trees. Get in the mood to deck those halls by attending the annual Lighting of the Village in downtown Helen on November 23. Victorian Christmas in Nacoochee is November 30-December 1 and features a lovely, gently-dressed historical home while showcasing Victorian holiday traditions, www.GastateParks.org. Downtown Cleveland celebrates with the annual Christmas in the Mountains Festival and Lighted Parade on December 1–a not-to-be-missed nighttime event, www.WhiteCountyChamber.org. The 11th annual Christkindlmarkt on December 1-2 and 8-9 in downtown Helen is chock-full of unique gifts, crafts, sweet and savory treats and more in traditional German event-style. The Helen Christmas Parade is always exciting with floats, bands and lots of merriment winding through town at 2 p.m. on December 8. www.HelenChamber.com, www.HelenGA.org
Capital City/Lake Murray Country, SC
Watch Christmas come alive in the capital city of South Carolina beginning with Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park from November 21-December 31. A blaze of more than a million sparkling lights will light up Saluda Shoals Park while Holiday on the River will feature more than 400 themed, animated light displays on a two-mile loop, www.ICRC.net. See the decorated historic Columbia House Museums from Tuesdays through Sundays during the holiday season and discover how the 19th and early 20th century Columbians celebrated Christmas through the guided tour stories, www.HistoricColumbia.org. An event to relish is Lights Before Christmas at Riverbanks Zoo from November 17-December 30 (closed November 23, December 24 and 25). With more than a million twinkling, magical lights, it’s the perfect venue to bring the kids (and the camera) to this 25-year holiday tradition, www.Riverbanks.org. www.LakeMurrayCountry.com
Jump into a shopping frenzy and knock out that list with Christmas Village at the Clarence Brown Conference Center in Cartersville on November 2-3. Choose from 70 artisan, boutique and other booths, grab lunch and take a picture with Santa. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a trip to Grand Oaks. Tour the home, have refreshments and enjoy the open house on November 18. Head to Pettit Creek Farms November 22-December 29 for more than a mile of colorful lights, a visit with Santa (bring your camera), a hayride, a live Nativity (weekends only) and stop by the petting zoo to check in on Comet and Cupid. There are concessions and freshly-cut Christmas trees for purchase. Don’t miss the family-friendly Euharlee Festival of Trees from November 24-December 8. A free event full of heartwarming activities including Santa visits, hot cider and hot chocolate sipping, as well as beautifully decorated trees to be auctioned on the final Saturday of the event. Christmas at the Cabin on December 1 is a celebratory event set in the 1800s where guests are taken back in time to Christmas at the Vaughan cabin at Red Top Mountain State Park. Play with pioneer toys, visit with Santa, help decorate the tree and see Christmas dinner cooked in the fireplace. Enjoy “A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play” by Joe Landry (author) and Kevin Connors (contributor) by the Pumphouse Players at Legion Theatre, December 7-15. It’s Christmas Eve, 1942 and a New York radio station is snowed in with the studio audience. The skeleton crew of actors and technicians recreate Charles Dickens’ famous story to pass the time. Over in Adairsville, take time to celebrate the season on the square with choirs, marshmallow roasting, hot cocoa or coffee, a parade and Santa counting down the minutes till the tree lighting. Christmas on the Square is a family-friendly event on December 1. Christmas Dinner Theatre takes place on multiple weekends in December at the Public Square Opera House inside the historic 1902 Stock Exchange. A delicious dinner coupled with seasonal music is sure to set the Christmas mood for anyone. www.VisitCartersvilleGA.org
As Christmas celebrations go, none are better than those in small towns in the South. Loudon County has several holiday events that will capture hearts and make memories to last a lifetime. The Greenback Christmas Parade on November 24 kicks off a fun day that is followed by a Christmas program, singing and Christmas tree lighting. Vendors will be set up at the historic Greenback Depot for your shopping pleasure. The Lenoir City Tree Lighting and Evening with Santa is a November 29 event at Central Park in downtown Lenoir City. This event includes time with Santa, light refreshments, games and a keepsake photo of your child with Santa. Just a week later on December 6, take in Lenoir City’s Parks and Recreation Christmas Parade in downtown Lenoir City on Broadway where thousands of families come together each year to watch the excitement of a Christmas parade with lots of floats and a first glimpse of Santa. Historic downtown Lenoir City provides beautiful lights and sounds to accompany the parade, Lenoircitytn.gov/welcome/special-events. Come and take part in the Decorating the Tree event in downtown Loudon on December 7 at the large pine tree near the fountain. Everyone is welcome to help decorate. Ages up to third grade who have a parent present are invited to have lunch with Santa on December 8 at the Loudon Parks and Recreation Office (reservations required due to limited seating). Also, on December 8 is the Loudon Christmas Parade and children’s singing following the parade. A Christmas Tour of Homes will be hosted in Loudon on December 15. VisitLoudonCounty.com
Christmas shopping starts early in Martin County with the Shop-A-Palooza Sidewalk Sale on November 17-18 in Historic Downtown Stuart. With 25-plus shops participating, there’s something for everyone on your holiday gift-giving list. Christmas on Main Street in Stuart is November 23 and promises to be a blast as usual with ornament decorating, face painting, balloon art, a living manger, petting zoo and visits/photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Hobe Sound presents their annual Christmas Parade on December 1. A local favorite, this parade is a spectacular kickoff to the holiday season.The Stuart Christmas Parade on December 7 gets the spirit of the holiday season rolling with beautiful floats. Don’t forget the amazing culinary event–A Taste of Jensen–on December 11. Enjoy live music, holiday shopping and good eats. www.DiscoverMartin.com
The culturally-rich college town of Oxford knows how to kickoff the holidays with tradition and fun. The Oxford Square Alliance will host Holiday Open House on Friday, November 23, with local retailers on the Square. Snap a photo with Santa from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.–a photographer will on-hand. Then, enjoy free carriage rides from 4-6 p.m. The annual lighting of the City Christmas Tree will be at 6 p.m. in front of City Hall. All are encouraged to attend this great event to open the holiday season. Christmas is in the air with a stunning performance of the Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker on November 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ford Center for Performing Arts. Guests will see world-class Russian artists along with hand-painted sets in this holiday dazzler. Stroll through the Oxford tradition known as Holiday Village starting on December 1 including the Gingerbread Village, a look at holiday traditions from around the globe in the Miniature Christmas Village display and attend story-time for preschool and elementary-aged kids with a visit from Ole St. Nick. Fill your shopping bags with creative gifts made by local artists and craftsmen at the annual Holiday Art Market, www.OxfordArts.com, from November 30 to December 2, at the Powerhouse. All Aboard! Winter Express Family Day takes place 9 a.m. to noon, December 1, at the University of Mississippi Museum. Formerly known as Santa’s Workshop, guests work to create seasonal projects and explore as the museum comes to life with sneaky collections of elves, a holiday market and more. The event is suitable for families with children of all ages and there will be a special area for the youngest learners, ages 0-2. This drop-in event is free and open to the public. Take a walking tour, hear stories and view the holiday decorations at beautiful and unique homes in Oxford’s Historic District during the Doors of Hope Holiday Home Tour, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., December 1. Then, on December 2, join the University of Mississippi Art Draw Down featuring Cathead Holiday Cocktails at 7 p.m. Sing along as the Oxford Civic Chorus Holiday concert at the Nutt Auditorium on the campus of Ole Miss puts you in the Christmas spirit, at 3 p.m., December 9. Participate in the annual Holiday Ornament Auction featuring one-of-a-kind creations from 100 local talents along with a holiday food tasting on December 14 at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center.
Christmas is bright in Thoroughbred Country with more events than can be imagined. Christmas in the Backcountry on November 24 gives a look at how colonists observed the holiday during the 18th century. Buildings at Living History Park in North Augusta will be open for tours, there will be demonstrations, bread and cookies from the bake oven and handmade gifts for sale in the Mercantile. Christmas for the Birds is another event at Living History Park on December 1. Join the party making decorations for the birds to eat throughout the winter, www.Colonialtimes.us/events.html. Downtown Aiken gets set for a unique event on December 6–Night of 1,000 Lights. Luminaries line the streets and shops stay open late. There will be holiday treats, drinks and music available for this festive evening. Kris Kringle gets a job working as Santa for Macy’s in the Mountain Community Theater’s adopted version of “Miracle on 34th Street” presented on December 7-9 and 13-15, AikenCommunityPlayhouse.com/2018-2019. The Aiken Symphony Orchestra presents “Home for the Holidays” on December 9 at the Etherredge Center of the University of South Carolina Aiken. Relax in an afternoon filled with all your favorite holiday melodies and a bonus–the Aiken Choral Society and the Aiken Civic Ballet. On December 18, Saint Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church in Aiken will host the Aiken Symphony Orchestra for a presentation of Handel’s Messiah, which has been capturing listeners for over 250 years, AikenSymphonyOrchestra.com. The 27th annual Christmas in Hopelands will be December 15-23 and 26 at the Hopelands Gardens in Aiken, featuring an enchanting walk-through exhibit that offers over two miles of holiday displays and lighted pathways. www.TbredCountry.org, www.VisitAikenSC.com
Stetson Mansion Christmas tours is as good as it gets for decking the halls and celebrating Christmastime in a grand way. The highlight to holiday visits to DeLand, Stetson Mansion Christmas tours are available November 15-January 15 and reservations are required. The elegant Stetson Mansion is a gorgeous Victorian “Gilded Age” residence built in 1886 with unique, rich architectural details. Each year decorations are different, with world-wide designers taking part in the yearly process. Make this a tradition with your friends and family, www.StetsonMansion.com/christmas-tours. www.VisitWestVolusia.com
Make plans now to find Christmas cheer in places you hold dear across the Southeast.