lighted-boat-parade-downtown-hamptonOne hundred miles of lights in Virginia, a choreographed light show in Florida and Mickey Mouse are all on tap for holiday celebrations in the Southeast.

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland: “Lights on the Bay” is a drive-through holiday light show at Sandy Point State Park along Chesapeake Bay, where there are stationery and animated displays including a glowing lighthouse, Navy midshipmen, oysters and blue crabs. Nov. 19-Jan. 2.

CHARLESTON, South Carolina: Drive or take a train ride through the three miles of “Holiday Festival of Lights” in James Island County Park. Nov. 9-Dec. 31.

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: Drive through “Carolina Christmas,” a Christmas light park and village located at Charlotte Motor Speedway with more than 3 million lights in 600 light displays. The Christmas Village has a realistic Bethlehem-themed village, a Festival of Trees, photos with Santa and areas with food and music. Nov. 23-Dec. 31, except Christmas Day.


GREENSBORO, North Carolina: The Sunset Hill neighborhood displays hundreds of Lighted Christmas Balls made by the community. Bring non-perishable food items to donate; last year more than 4,000 pounds of food was collected.

HALLANDALE, Florida: The Village at Gulfstream Park will present “Symphony in Lights,” a spectacular dancing light display choreographed to the holiday music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The event features more than 250,000 lights choreographed to strobe, twinkle, fade, sparkle and burst by renowned light artist Carson Williams. Shows are on the hour from 6-11 p.m. Nov. 19-Dec. 31.

McADENVILLE, North Carolina: Virtually every home in McAdenville is decorated for the holidays. Nov. 30-Dec. 26.

MIRAMAR BEACH, Florida: Enjoy a festive light show in the Events Plaza at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort set to holiday music at 6 and 7 p.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday leading up to Christmas.

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia: The award-winning Celebration in Lights is Virginia’s longest-running drive-through light event. The two-mile drive through Newport News Regional Park features more than 750,000 lights and 200 displays, including the animated “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa’s Enchanted Kingdom.” Nov. 22-Jan. 2. 

ORLANDO, Florida: Orlando has it all – glittering trees, fireworks and more from Disney World’ “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party”(on select nights Nov. 9-Dec. 21) and Epcot’s “Holidays Around the World”(Nov. 23-Dec. 30) to Sea World’s ”Christmas Celebration” (Nov. 17-Dec. 31), and Macy’s Holiday Parade and “Grinchmas” at Universal Studios (Dec. 1-Jan. 1). At the Gaylord Palms in Orlando where like at other Gaylord properties elsewhere, your family can explore 10 different holiday scenes created entirely of two-million pounds of ice, including ice slides that stand more than two stories tall.  

brookgreen gardens

PAWLEYS ISLAND, South Carolina: Brook Green Gardens’ “Nights of a Thousand Candles” features 5,500 candles illuminating garden paths, festive holiday lights, handbell ringers and carolers. Dec. 7-8, 14-15 and 20-22.

PINE MOUNTAIN, Georgia: Callaway Gardens Resort will present eight million lights stretching more than five miles. Be surrounded by giant glowing soldiers as you pass through the March of the Toy Soldiers, see winter snowflakes in Snowflake Valley and watch dazzling lights in the colorful Christmas Tree Lane. Nov. 16-Dec. 30.   

THOMASVILLE, Georgia: “Victorian Christmas” features 22,500 twinkling lights, Victorian Museum, craft village, horse-drawn carriages, Winter Wonderland for children, carolers and more. Dec. 13-14. Flower Foods’ presents its annual “Christmas in Lights” on the company’s grounds. Features include a Victorian village, an animated train, thousands of lights and holiday music. Nov. 25-Dec. 31. 

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia: Virginia Beach joins five other Virginia cities– Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Portsmouth–to create “100 Miles of Lights” with displays stretching to the ocean. Nov. 24-Jan. 1. “McDonalds’s Holiday Lights at the Beach” along Virginia Beach’s Ocean Front Boardwalk includes a 40-foot tree on the beach and more than 30 blocks of nautical-themed “Fanta-Sea” of Lights. Nov. 16-Jan. 1.

Eileen Ogintz is a leading national family travel expert whose syndicated column Taking the Kids is the most widely distributed column in the country on family travel. She also is the author of seven family travel books. Special thanks to Becca Tasch for her invaluable research assistance on this story.

Check out all 52 Holiday Lights displays across the country:

Southeast Holiday Lights

Celebrating Christmas in the Northeast

Light Up Your Holiday in the Midwest

Holiday Lights of the South and West

Or see them all in our gorgeous ezine, 52 Holiday Light Delights

You can also read the full package of stories on family travel sites, Taking the Kids and Family Travel Forum.