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Perhaps one of the most beloved seasonal experiences is ooh-ing and ah-ing at magnificent holiday light displays — and the South has no shortage of destinations where you can do just that. And, as you may already be making some trips by car this season, we have more than 15 displays throughout the region that will put a jingle in your step!

So if you’re looking to ignite that festive holiday cheer, grab a cup of hot chocolate, turn on some Christmas tunes, and jump in the car. These are the places where you’ll find some pretty amazing holiday light displays throughout the South!

We’ve broken these down into five categories:

  • Garden Wonderlands
  • Enchanting City Centers
  • Multi-Town Routes
  • Stay-the-Night Lights
  • Drive-Through Lights

The South’s Best Christmas Light and Holiday Cheer!

GARDEN WONDERLANDS

Nights of a Thousand Candles | Murrells Inlet, SC
Where: Brookgreen Gardens
When: Through January 2, 2022

How about an epic holiday display without an on-off switch?! Brookgreen Gardens comes to life with an award-winning show of more than 2,800 hand-lit candles and myriad sparkling lights. With a hot cup of cider (or wine!) in hand and carolers’ tunes in the air, stroll through the enchanting pathways of this sprawling coastal South Carolina estate.

Brookgreen Garden

The Lowcountry comes alive at night during Brookgreen Garden’s beloved Night of Thousand Candles. Image: Brookgreen Garden

RELATED: 3 Carolina Towns That Transform Into Magical Holiday Wonderlands

Galaxy of Lights | Huntsville, AL
Where: Huntsville Botanical Garden
When: December 2, 2021, t
hrough January 1, 2022

All of December, Huntsville Botanical Gardens is ablaze with holiday cheer. The 2.5-mile driving experience features 200 larger-than-life animated light displays depicting everything from traditional holiday themes to dinosaurs, nursery rhyme characters, and nature scenes that will tickle the curiosity of both kids and kids-at-heart.

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights | Atlanta, GA
Where: Atlanta Botanical Gardens
When: Through January 15, 2022

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights is one of Atlanta’s favorite seasonal traditions. The expansive grounds of the botanical gardens transform into jaw-dropping scenes of splendor and whimsy that — as cliché as it sounds — you truly have to see to believe. Fan favorites will return, like the Orchestral Orbs in the Great Lawn, the massive draping icicle lights in the Storza Woods, and the giant Ice Goddess in the Cascade Garden … but expect some new surprises this year!

Holiday LIGHTS | Nashville, TN
Where: Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
When: Through January 9, 2022

Savor the sights and sounds of the season at Nashville’s favorite holiday tradition. Cheekwood’s enchanting Holiday LIGHTS experience includes a mile-long stretch of artistically glowing lights, real reindeer, s’mores pits, festive libations to sip while you see, and a Holiday Marketplace to shop. The entire estate is dressed up in its splendor, and there is plenty to do with friends and family.

Magic Holiday in Lights | Theodore, AL
Where: Bellingrath Gardens and Home
When: Through January 5, 2022

Celebrating its 26th year, this Gulf Coast holiday tradition invites you to stroll through a dazzling light display that features more than 1,100 set pieces, 3 million lights, and 16 scenes throughout the stunning 65-acre garden estate. You can also tour or explore the Bellingrath Home, which is all dressed up in its holiday finery and anointed with poinsettias.

ENCHANTING CITY CENTERS

Night of Lights | St. Augustine, FL
Where: St. Augustine Historic District
When: Through January 31, 2022

In its 28th year, the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine, lights up with more than 3 million twinkling lights adorning every corner of the historic district — from ground to roof — for two months. Visitors flock to enjoy Florida’s mild temps, and Downtown businesses stay open later, allowing you to dine and shop with prime views of the lights and decorated buildings. There are also seasonal train and trolley tours that highlight the best areas.

St. Augustine

Seeing the city’s unique Spanish Colonial architecture and coastal vegetation ablaze with intricate lighting for more than 20 blocks is awe-inspiring, to say the least. Image: FloridasHistoricCoast.com

The Alpine Town of Helen, GA
Where: Downtown Helen
When: Through January 1, 2022

Christmas magic comes easily to the German-inspired alpine town of Helen, GA. It makes nearly every list of the country’s can’t-miss holiday destinations. From Thanksgiving through the entire month of December, parks, gazebos, trees, shop windows, and cafes are beautifully decorated and lit up in true European fashion. Visit the first weekend in December for their authentic Christkindlemarkt, or on New Year’s Eve for their annual Dropping of the Edelweiss celebration.

Lights of the Ozarks | Fayetteville, AR
Where: Downtown Square
When: Through January 1, 2022

Every year, The City of Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department spends more than 2,000 hours illuminating the Downtown Square with more than half a million lights. Until the first of the year, visitors can marvel at the lights from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. with some hot cocoa in hand and festive music in the air. For an extra Fayetteville light display, visit the local, family-owned-and-operated Stewart Family Lights, which is back again for the 2021 season with plenty of activities for the kids.

Holiday Lights on the River Walk | San Antonio, TX
Where: Downtown San Antonio
When: Through January 10, 2022

San Antonio’s River Walk is a destination in itself, but its famous Holiday Lights on the River Walk is a must. From dusk to dawn through January 10, 2022, experience a spectacular display of more than 2,250 strings of lights draped over the towering cypress trees that line the River Walk. Take a boat tour or snag a patio spot at a riverside cantina. This year, there are even more lights north of downtown on the river in the Pearl District.

MULTI-TOWN ROUTES

Pigeon Forge Winterfest | Great Smoky Mountains
Where: Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville, TN
When: Through February 15, 2022

Experience a true winter wonderland in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville. Millions of small, twinkling lights come together on streets throughout the mountain towns of the Great Smoky Mountains to form elaborate displays that will leave you in awe. Embark on a driving tour of lights, or plan a holiday-filled itinerary of your own here — there are parades, shows, and arts festivals galore all winter long in these Tennessee towns.

Holiday Trail of Lights | Louisiana
Where: Shreveport-Bossier, Minden, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches, and Alexandria/Pineville
When: Through January 2022

The Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights was formed 30 years ago to create an interconnected holiday experience for Northern Louisiana locals and visitors alike. The trail incorporates Shreveport and Bossier, Minden, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches, and Alexandria/Pineville. The cities are all within driving distance of one another, so you can experience it in one day or take a whole week! Ogle brilliant downtown and neighborhood lights, dine at local restaurants, and shop in all of the eight festive cities.

STAY-THE-NIGHT LIGHTS

A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort | Nashville, TN
Where: Gaylord Opryland Resort
When: Through January 2, 2022

Go for a completely immersive holiday experience at Gaylord Opryland Resort. The 3 million lights and infinite decorations begin upon entrance to the grounds, and the magic continues throughout the property, both indoors and out. Take in the breathtaking scenery by foot or hop on a boat for an indoor river ride. Additional activities include ice skating, ice tubing, gingerbread house decorating, the Soundwaves indoor water park, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Breakfast, and a special Elf-themed interactive multi-sensory experience.

Nashville Gaylord Opryland Resort

You could spend hours just roaming through the garden conservatory and halls of the hotel, but there is so much more to do, too! Image: Nashville Parent Guide

Fantasy in Lights | Pine Mountain, GA
Where: Callaway Resort & Gardens
When: Through January 4, 2022

Listed as one of National Geographic’s “Top 10 Light Displays in the World,” this annual experience features more than 8 million lights that create dozens of larger-than-life Christmas and holiday displays within a gorgeous natural forest. The Christmas Village is open for shopping and meet-and-greets with favorite holiday characters.

RELATED: 6 Dreamy Lakeside Towns in the South

DRIVE-THROUGH

Celebration in The Oaks | New Orleans, LA
Where: City Park
When: Through January 2, 2022

New Orleans offers so much holiday magic, but City Park’s famous oaks swathed in more than a million twinkling lights are truly a breathtaking light display you need to see. The 2.25-mile Driving Tour of the Park takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes, and make sure to tune into 103.7 for holiday classics. If you visit from December 16-19, add Luna Fête to your itinerary — this one-of-a-kind digital light display transforms historic buildings, sculptures, and outdoor areas using video projection mapping.

celebration in the oaks

Celebration in The Oaks (and NOLA in general) is high on our bucket list this winter. Just LOOK at these photos! Image: Celebration in the Oaks

Lights Under Louisville | Louisville, KY
Where: Louisville Mega Cavern
When: Through January 2, 2022

This is one of the South’s coolest holiday experiences and the only underground holiday light show in the world! For about 30 minutes, your carload of pals will explore 17 miles of underground passageways transformed with more than 4 million lights and 900 lit characters.

Speedway Christmas | Concord, NC
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway
When: Through January 16, 2022

One of the Southeast’s largest drive-through holiday light displays, Speedway Christmas is open through January 16, 2022. Four million LED lights are strewn across a 3.75-mile course with more than 800 individual displays! Guests can park amid the displays and visit the Christmas Village to get photos with Santa, shop for gifts, and make s’mores by the fire. Catch a drive-in holiday movie on the enormous 16,000-square-foot screen, or make a reservation to dine at The Speedway Club above the lights.

World of Illumination | Hampden, GA and Marietta, GA
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway (Hampden, GA) and Six Flags White Water (Marietta, GA)
When: Through January 2, 2022

Hampden: This iteration of the world’s largest animated drive-through light show, World of Illumination, invites you on a nostalgic and memorable “Arctic Adventure” with a 32-foot-tall snowman, Sunny, and all of his tundra pals. This storybook adventure for kids of all ages is filled with whimsy and wonder.

Marietta: In another part of Georgia, the same producer puts on a “Rockin’ Christmas.” The mile-long symphony of sight and sound is complete with a retro Santa, giant musical notes, millions of colorful lights, and hundreds of animated displays.

Enjoy the season!

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