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Where can you indulge in the joys of Christmas lights without the drag of winter coats, mittens and hats? In the Southeast USA! The temperate weather makes it easy to wander the grounds enjoying the lights in a socially distanced 2020 way without the kids complaining they’re cold! Here’s where to see some of the best Christmas lights displays in the Southeast USA.
While it’s never a guarantee (especially in 2020!), chances are the weather won’t be frightful when you and the family are strolling through the Christmas light displays of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and the rest of the Southeast USA. You likely won’t need more than a warm sweater to enjoy the stunning lights and merry feelings that emanate from these Christmas holiday traditions.
The Southeast lights offer a wide swath of traditional themes and surprising ones depicting regional culture and heritage. Read on for our list of favorite spots to see Christmas lights in the Southeast USA, updated with coronavirus details for 2020.
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Alabama Christmas Lights
Magic Christmas in Lights, Bellingrath Gardens. This made-in-Alabama production features 1,100 set pieces that are designed, welded, painted and lamped by members of Bellingrath’s staff. Three employees work full-time all year on the light display that covers the 65-acre grounds. The annual event incorporates three million lights depicting 15 scenes. Choose lights and gardens only or add in tours of the estate home. 5- 9 p.m. Nov. 27-Dec. 31, 2019 (closed Christmas Day). Online ticket sales open in November.
Florida Christmas Lights
The Nights of Lights display lights up all of the historic downtown in St. Augustine from November 14, 2020, to January 31, 2021. The trains and trolleys offer special seasonal tours of the best areas, along with a variety of specialty tours, from walking to electric cart tours to tours to see the lights from the water and from the air.
Georgia Christmas Lights
The Botanical Garden dubs its light display Garden Lights Holiday Nights. Wander through the 30-acre Midtown attraction to orchestral orbs, a glittering galaxy, the radiant rainforest and massive Tunnel of Light while sipping hot drinks. The 2020 show offers extremely limited capacity and masks/social distancing are required. November 14, 2020 – January 16, 2021. Tickets, available only online. Nonmember ticket prices depend on dates and start at $24.95 for adults and $21.95 for kids 3-12. Children 2 and under are free.
Head to Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens to see eight million Christmas lights and a sound show with 15 scenes. This display was named one of the world’s top 10 by National Geographic Traveler. You can drive your own car through the display or take the Jolly Trolly (mask required). Nov. 20, 2020 – Jan. 4, 2021. Tickets range from $19.95 adults and $14.95 kids ages 3-11 to $34.95 adults and $24.95 kids ages 3-11; children 2 and under are free. Fantasy in Lights tickets are included in overnight stays at Callaway Gardens.
What kid doesn’t like a train ride? Or adult for that matter! That’s the way to see the lights at the Okefenokee Swamp Park Light Show in Waycross. The Lady Suwanee train ride travels 1.5 miles through a Georgia pine forest in the great Okefenokee. Select dates from Nov. 27-Dec. 30, 2020. Trains run every 30 minutes. The first train leaves at 6, the last train leaves at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10-12 for adults and $8-10 for kids ages 3-11; ages 2 and under are free.
Kentucky Christmas Lights
Lights Under Louisville is one of those awe-inspiring attractions. Drive through the Christmas lights at MEGA Caverns. It claims to be the world’s only fully underground drive-through holiday lights show. Plan to spend about 30 minutes driving through the 17 miles of underground passageways to see 3 millions points of light. 6-10 p.m. Monday – Friday, 5-10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Nov. 15 2020 – Jan. 4, 2021. $27 per car/truck/minivan.
Read More: What’s Great About Lights Under Louisville
Louisiana Christmas Lights
The Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights is the way to extend your Christmas lights adventure! Driving east to west on I-20, and north to south on I-49, wind through eight of North Louisiana’s most festive cities — Minden, Shreveport-Bossier, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches and Alexandria/Pineville. Each city has its own special way of lighting up the season. Thanksgiving to New Year’s, although dates may vary a bit in each location.
North Carolina Christmas Lights
Speedway Christmas at the Charlotte Motor Speedway is, of course, a drive-through display. What else would you expect from this NASCAR mainstay? This will be the 11th year and organizers are promising it will be “bigger and better than ever!” Expect to see more than 4 million lights over the 3.75-mile course that includes most of the oval as well as the infield. Tune in to 101.3 FM to listen to Christmas music while you drive. Thursday-Sunday, stay for a Christmas-themed drive-in theatre with the FOX 46 WJZY Movie Nights on the giant Speedway TV. November 21, 2020 – January 17, 2021. $25 per vehicle. You must print your ticket; mobile tickets will not be accepts.
South Carolina Christmas Lights
At Lights Before Christmas at the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, the creatures and characters will be 1 million lights. Nutcrackers and candy canes are mixed in with the lighted lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Select dates Nov. 21 – Dec. 30, 2020. $12 adults and $10 kids ages 2-12; under 2 free. Timed tickets are required for admission.
Brookgreen Gardens’ Nights of a Thousand Candles was named “Best Christmas Lights in South Carolina” by Travel+Leisure Magazine. The 2020 dates are: November 26-29, December 2-6, 9-13, 16-20 and 26-31. Expect to see more than 2,700 hand-lit candles and countless sparkling lights. From 4-9 pm, walk the paths with a warm cup of cider and listen to carolers singing holiday music. Tickets MUST be purchased beforehand and space is limited. $25 adults; $15 kids. Don’t expect to see large entertainment tents or the food tent this year. Food trucks for take-away meals and snacks will be available.
Tennessee Christmas Lights
A quick drive from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City Garden’s Enchanted Garden of Lights features 30 holiday scenes, live toy soldiers, animatronic polar bears, Inara the ice queen and trees that dance. Four themed paths called “Realms of Wonder” are the Arctic Kingdom, Magic Forest, Yule Town and North Pole Village. Timed tickets are required and available only online. Pricing starts at $26.95 adults and $14.95 for kids.
Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort is an annual tradition. Look for 2 million pounds of hand-carved, colored ice sculptures depicting scenes from Christmas movie favorites such as A Christmas Story, Elf, and The Polar Express. Nov. 13, 2020– Jan. 3, 2021.
Find more Christmas lights at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, when the park is filled with holiday music, a nightly Parade of Lights and the stage production “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Old Mill Square’s Holiday Open House features a holiday light display of a covered bridge that is made out of thousands of twinkling lights that lead to one of the most historic areas of Pigeon Forge. At Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Stampede, see a 60-foot-tall tree, adorned with colorful lights, ribbons and sparkling ornaments. At The Island in Pigeon Forge, see three different Christmas trees with nearly 40,000 ornaments, half a million lights and more than 5,000 feet of garland.
Virginia Christmas Lights
The 100 Miles of Lights display winds through seven Virginia cities — from Richmond, the Virginia capital city, through Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach — Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day. Specific event times available for each city. Lighted boat parades, city illuminations, festivals, parades, living history reenactments, caroling, dining events, music and dance are among the many activities occurring throughout the region.
Vienna: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’ Winter Walk of Lights was named the #1 Botanical Garden with “Wow-Factor Winter Transformations” by Fodors. It’s a half-mile walk of lights with perennial favorites such as the Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk – and new displays each year. November 11, 2020-January 3, 2021. Timed tickets required; available times range from 5:30pm-10pm through Dec. 11 and 5pm-10pm through January 3.
Centreville: Bull Run Festival of Lights & Holiday Village is a 2.5 mile drive-through display. November 6, 2020-January 10, 2021. Monday-Thursday nights from 5:30pm-9:30pm and Friday-Sunday (plus holidays) from 5:30pm-10pm. Order tickets in advance, online, to ensure minimal contact and save $5 per vehicle. Tickets are $20 or $25 in advance depending on the date and $25 o4 $30 at the gate. Everyone must remain in their vehicles during the drive-through. The annual Holiday Village will be open, but will have reduced amenities and activities due to Covid-19. Instead of fire pits and Santa photos, ride a camel or walk through an area full of lights and photo ops.
Washington, DC Christmas Lights
Details for the fabled lighting of the national Christmas tree on The Ellipse near The White House are not yet available. ZooLights at the National Zoo has been canceled for 2020.
West Virginia Christmas Lights
Attracting more than 1 million visitors a year, the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort features 300 acres of twinkling lights along a six-mile drive. Then stroll through the Gardens of Light at The Hilltop. November 5, 2020 – January 10, 2021. Download the map here. Suggested donation is $25 per vehicle.
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