Delray Beach, Florida
Trade your snowsuit for a swimsuit in Delray Beach this Christmas. The Atlantic Coast city is home to a 100-foot, hollow Christmas tree filled with holiday scenes visitors may tour, including a reindeer barn, Santa’s workshop, and a train house. The fun doesn’t stop there: Cheer on the holiday boat parade December 8, watch a Christmas movie outdoors on a giant, four-story screen December 16, and book a two-hour Cookie Cruise, where you can sail down the Intracoastal Waterway with Santa.
Experience a Bavarian holiday without leaving the country. Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen is designed to look like an alpine village and offers a traditional German Christkindlmarkt the first two weekends in December. Don’t miss the town’s Christmas parade on December 8, when Mr. and Mrs. Claus will arrive on a horse-drawn Bavarian sleigh. After stuffing yourself with schnitzel and stollen, head a mile south of downtown to Hardman Farm State Historic Site to learn about holiday traditions in nineteenth-century Georgia from docents dressed in Victorian garb.
McAdenville, North Carolina
Known as Christmas Town USA, McAdenville is home to fewer than 700 residents but draws 600,000 visitors a year with its astounding Christmas lights display. More than 500,000 red, white, and green lights twinkle from every rooftop and storefront in town; it takes volunteers nearly three months to install the lights and another three months to take them all down. Drive or walk through town to experience the glowing displays, but plan ahead: On weekends, the 1.3-mile trip can take hours by car.
Munch gator-on-a-stick and admire more than 100 holiday light displays at Natchitoches’ Christmas Festival of Lights, a town tradition since 1927. Featured in Steel Magnolias, the 40-day festival winds along the banks of Cane River Lake and through downtown Natchitoches, Louisiana’s bed-and-breakfast capital. Tour several of the historic B&Bs—including the Samuel Guy House and the Steel Magnolia House—on the Christmas Tour of Homes, and be on the lookout for vendors selling Natchitoches favorites, including gumbo and the town’s famous meat pies.
Dreaming of a white Christmas? Look no further than Andalusia, Alabama, where eight snow machines transform the town into a winter wonderland and family fun takes center stage throughout December. At the Snow Show Spectacular, experience a twenty-minute blizzard—even if it’s sixty degrees outside. Race the kids down 100-foot snow-tubing lanes on Polar Bear Tubing Hill, sit back and watch them play in the Candyland Cottages on the town square, or skate the hours away at the outdoor ice rink.
This article appears in our Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Southbound.