THE TEMPERATE, balmy South might not conjure snowy images of Courier & Ives, but at least visions of palm trees and mistletoe, seashells and fireworks may dance in your head. The holiday feast may swap the Christmas goose with sea bass, shrimp and grits, or fried chicken. Colorful peacocks and graceful magnolias donâ??t replace turtledoves and a Douglas Fir, but could be a dandy traditional ornamentation all the same.
In other words, the Southâ??as is true with so many thingsâ??does the holidays in its own way. From Arkansas to the Atlantic Ocean, from the Ohio to the Gulf, and the Blue Ridge to the beaches, our favorite neck of the woods is putting on a spectacular show for you. Here are a few suggestions to consider. Look, book and enjoy the cordial and charismatic Southern-style Christmas!
Actors Theatre of Louisville
â??A Christmas Carolâ?
Louisville, Ky. / Nov. 25â??Dec. 23
(502) 584-1205 / actorstheatre.org
Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Christmas ghost, and even the Christmas goose will be there. The word-renowned Actors Theatre of Louisville is a celebrated hallmark of the holiday season with its rich production of the Charles Dickens classic, â??A Christmas Carol.â? This magical evening has been a family tradition for locals and guests to the River City for nearly four decades. The 2014 production will set design, wardrobe and music that has never been seen or heard before, So, if youâ??ve enjoyed the comfort and splendor of the Pamela Brown Auditorium over the years, there is something new in store.
It was reviewed last year by WFPLâ??s Erin Keane as â?? â?¦ solid acting paired with lovely music, a liberal dose of humor and the cozy familiarity of a timeless redemption story well-told.â? Bring a date, bring your family. The historic Main Street district should be alive with lights, dining, horse drawn carriages, shopping and pubs for an evening of holiday memories
Alabama Christmas on the Water
Gulf Shores, Ala. / Dec. 12-13
Eat, drink and take part in the Merry Market at the Orange Beach Events Center at the Wharf. Something for everyone waits at this festive outpouring of music, food, dance, and activities. Literally, the highlight of the evening is the 29th Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade will be held on Saturday, December 13t at 5:30 pm beginning at Luluâ??s at Homeport Marina. When the sun goes down, the boats come out and itâ??s a majestic sight. The parade will travel east down the Intracoastal Waterway Canal and pass The Wharf (public viewing area), around Bear Point, along the south end of Ono Island, west to Perdido Pass, north into Terry Cove Harbor, south to bridge, and end in Orange Beach.
Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights
Arkansas / Thanksgiving through Christmas / Arkansas.com
Arkansas is open for the holidays! The week of Thanksgiving through the Christmas holiday, back roads, mountaintops, and waterways are hanging lights to mistletoe throughout 60 communities. Itâ??s one of the most collaborative efforts to create a route of Christmas cheer from the Ozarks to the Delta and all are invited. The map goes from the River Valley to the Timberlands and into the Ozarks, and Delta regions of The Natural State. Eureka Springs, Ft. Smith, Pine Bluff, Newport and the road winds on. Keep an eye peeled for Razorback ornaments!
Biloxi, Miss. / Through Christmas
(228) 386-7111 / beaurivage.com
Go for the Gulf! Trade the snowy days of winter for the sand and shore view from this luxury high-rise resort in prime Mississippi real estate. The halls will be decked and the decks will be shuffled in this coveted holiday destination for gaming, dining, entertainment, rejuvenation, and shopping. Award-winning Chef Joseph Friel and his talented crew bring southern charm with a global palette to the restaurants at Beau Rivage â?? BR Prime, Jai, and Stalla. Meet your friends for drinks before the show or hitting the floor at Eight75 and toast you good luck in advance
From Dec. 2 â?? 28, experience â??Santa & Friendsâ? in the 1,500 seat state-of-the-art Beau Rivage Theatre, which has presented artists such as LeeAnn Rimes, Tony Bennett, Blue Man Group as well as comedians and elaborate dance productions. Owned and operated by MGM Resorts, the Beau Rivage is a contemporary palace unto itself rising high above the shoreline and surrounded by the charm and dazzle of Biloxi.
Biltmore House Estate
Asheville, N.C. / Thanksgiving – New Yearâ??s Day / (800) 411-3812 / biltmore.com
When your backyard is 8,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is never a moment without something to capture your imagination or inspiration. The historic architecture and landscape of the Vanderbilt family estate is a world-class destination, offering guided tours, a winery, shopping, gourmet dining, and endless halls and houses to explore. View the opulence of the familyâ??s legacy in â??A Christmas Pastâ? â?? a display of ornaments, music, and other treasures of the era. Packages from Thanksgiving to New Yearâ??s Day make it easy to choose the perfect feast, tours, and rooms at the inn. From the solace of Christmas Candlelight or the fireworks of the New Yearâ??s Eve Celebration, the elegance of the Biltmore will be an unforgettable holiday journey.
Festival of the Bonfires
Lutcher, La. / Dec. 12-14
â??Joyeux Noel!â? You canâ??t imagine the rising flames into the teal blue skies of a Louisiana winter until you get close to the Festival of the Bonfires. The entire weekend is filled with music, food, carnival rides, Santaâ??s Very Merry Forest, classic car show and more that leads up to a spectacular Christmas Eve ritual of 120 bonfires create a trail of light along the Mississippi levee.
Christmas on Caddo Fireworks
Welcome to beautiful Lake Caddo in â??Louisianaâ??s Other Side,â? Shreveport-Bossier in the northwestern quadrant of the state. This year is the 20th annual fireworks and festival at Earl Williamson Park in Oil City, part of the Caddo Parish. Shimmering firelight on the water will put you in the holiday spirit, along with much bang and boom! This event provides activities for families with arts and crafts interactive tents, as well pictures with St. Nick himself. Bring a date and enjoy the brilliant lakeside display as the sun sets on a warm Louisiana Christmas night.
Christmas at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Light Show
South Concord, NC / Nov 21â??Dec. 30
Fuel your family with the holiday spirit. One of the newest annual events added to the world famous speedwayâ??s calendar, this unique holiday event offers a three-mile drive-through holiday light park, with decorations and activities throughout the speedway grounds. Guests will enjoy visiting the Christmas village, including photos with Santa, marshmallow roasting pits, games, and prizes. Catch any of the ten movie nights featuring holiday classics such as â??A Christmas Story,â? â??How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and â??Polar Expressâ? on the trackâ??s giant HDTV. Visions of sugarplums and checkered flags will dance in your head!
Gaylord Opryland â?? Country Christmas
Nashville / Through Christmas
(615) 889-1000 / marriott.com
This Marriot resort becomes a village unto itself this time of year. Whether you attend ICE! featuring â??Twas the Night Before Christmas, Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes, or take part in old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage tours, Delta Riverboat, and Treasures for the Holidaysâ??these are only a few of the attractions included in a selection of Christmas packages. This year, the Arctic Plunge Snow Tubing and Glacier Glide Ice Skating make their holiday debut so there is totally something for everyone when Music City strikes up the band and turns on the lights for a charming and entertaining Christmas.
Tunica, Miss. / Through Christmas
(662) 357-1111 / goldstrikemississippi.com
Send your Christmas cards before you head to Mississippi, then you can play cards for Christmas-Four Card Poker, Let It Ride, and the newest game, Mississippi Stud to name a few. From dice to slots, blackjack, to baccarat, the games are plentiful at this southern MGM resort casino oasis. Dazzling entertainment includes the annual Holiday Ice Spectacular running from Dec. 10-21 in the enchanting Millennium Theatre; and its live rock, blues, country at the fully-stocked bar and nightclub Stage2.
Enjoy fine dining and diverse menus in four in-house restaurants from breakfast at midnight to a formal steak dinner. Just an hourâ??s drive into Memphis you will find historic Beale Street, the Peabody Hotel, Graceland, and all that is the gateway to the Deep South along the Mississippi River.
Memphis, Tenn. / Through Christmas
(901) 332-3322 / graceland.com
The magic of The King will set your Christmas aglow with rock â??nâ?? roll, traditional lights and attractions, and grand tours of mansion halls decked Elvis style. Start by witnessing the Lighting Ceremony on Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. as they flip the switch that officially lights the entire Memphis property for the season.
Experience a Graceland Christmas Nov. 21â??Jan. 8 (Elvisâ?? birthday) is a trip back in time, viewing the Presley family holiday decorations indoors and on the exterior, from the red velvet drapes, Christmas artifacts and heirlooms, a life-size Nativity scene, Santa and his sleigh, and hundreds of blue lights marking the winding driveway. Visit Graceland and see how much Elvis and Santa have in common.
(855) 453-4858 / Greenbier.com
The Greenbrier is the perfect locale for a holiday getaway! The resort features extensive holiday decorations each year, from wreaths to garlands, to decorated Christmas trees and extravagant holiday lights and more. Each year guests of the resort can experience the spectacular 60 days of holiday cheer at The Greenbrier from November through New Years. Travelers can give thanks at the propertyâ??s distinct dining venues, discover the hidden 5th Avenue Greenbrier shopping mall and see tree lightings every Saturday in December.
At the Christmas Shop, guests can meet Mrs. Claus and take part in the â??Ribbons & Bowsâ? Mini-Seminar to learn how to make gift-wrapping extra special. During the holiday season, guests can also enjoy holiday culinary demonstrations, ice skating, listening and joining in with Carolers, taking photographs with Santa Claus, meeting Queen Elsa from Frozen and seeing The Nutcracker Ballet on-property December 27-28. Other activities will include a Christmas Eve Wine Tasting, a Christmas Eve Gingerbread Ball, WVU Puppet Mobile Christmas Show, a New Yearâ??s Eve Gala and New Yearâ??s Day Brunch.
By Cindy Lamb