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Share Holiday Magic Ahead of the Crowds. The holiday season spans more than six weeks and includes Polar Express adventures, popular ballets and iconic plays, and magical Christmas markets in Europe as well as miles of magical holiday lights spanning North America.Pigeon Forge Holiday Lights

Before the madness of holiday schedules diminish the fun factor there are a few places where it is possible to share an early dose of the magic with your family.

Here’s the scoop. Beginning in November millions of holiday lights adorn trees, signs, and rooftops across the country each creating a special magic, each providing families with memory-making ways to celebrate the season. Disney and Universal Studios offer iconic ways but where else does holiday magic prevail? I have found five terrific spots where families can get a jump on the holiday season but dodge the madness. Dollywood Magical Christmas Show in PigeonForge

Winterfest in Pigeon Forge. Beginning in November the annual four-month winter celebration is loaded with things to do with kids including entertainment, special events, shopping bargains, Southern mountain-style hospitality and more than five million twinkling lights. The Pigeon Forge Fun Time Trolleys conduct a Winterfest Tour of Lights with hosts and hostesses onboard serving as guides. There will be music in the air and marvelous starry nights to be enjoyed. Share the magic: Add Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood (Early November to early January). Dollywood adds to Winterfest's light displays with more than four millions lights and the nightly lighted Christmas parade. In addition to memory-making musical entertainment see Polar Express 4-D Experience full of multi-sensory thrills and surprises. (Details at City Christmas Train in Branson

An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City in Branson.  Beginning in November more than five million lights adorn the park and each evening visitors congregate on the square for the lighting of the five-story Christmas tree decorated with more than 250,000 lights coordinated to melodies of Christmas. Visitors are invited to sing Christmas carols as they ride the Silver Dollar steam train through the 1880s-style park. Festive activities include  Christmas on Main Street light and sound show, a nightly holiday lights parade, 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, festive holiday foods plus weather permitting access to more than 30 thrilling rides. An American Christmas market onsite includes demonstrations and one-of-a-kind handmade holiday items. Share the magic: The festival includes the return of two popular musical productions - It’s a Wonderful Life, and A Dickens’ Christmas Carol. (Details at Christmas in Branson)

Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort in West Virginia. Millions of lights mark the first days of November when the celebration begins. Oglebay has one of the nation's largest Christmas light shows stretching along six miles and throughout more than three hundred acres. The magical route is populated with more than 80 larger-than-life light displays and lighted tunnels designed to enchant all ages. The Gardens of Light features more than 150 hanging baskets of light plus thousands of lighted flowers and trees. The impressive Christmas Tree Garden is populated with more than 30 colorfully decorated live trees framing a nativity display. Share the magic: The Good Zoo lights up nightly with a festive musical program and also features its annual model train display. (Details at Gardens Fantasy in Lights

Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens in Georgia. The week before Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the annual Fantasy of Lights. The awesome five-mile auto or trolley route includes more than a dozen holiday scenes plus eight million lights. Visitors will be delighted by Calloway’s version of a Christmas market loaded with specialty food items from the Callaway Gardens Country Store®, unique gifts, nostalgic toys, holiday ornaments, and talented Georgia crafters demonstrating and selling their wares. Share the magic: Inside the Fantasy in Lights Christmas Village join Mrs. Claus storytelling and cupcake decorating. Children are encouraged to make a bag of reindeer food to take home for Christmas Eve. (Details at

McDonald’s Holiday Lights along Virginia Beach Boardwalk.  Each year the week before Thanksgiving Virginia Beach Boardwalk turns on the sparkle and magic. Lights adorn the beach with more than 250 animated nautical displays including a surfing Santa, magical snapping crabs, lively mermaids, dancing dolphins, and a three-story Christmas tree.  During the holiday event motorists are invited to drive on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. Santa, elves, and a 40-foot tall Christmas tree add to the magic. Share the magic: To add to the festivities, each car will be provided with a complimentary CD of holiday music to listen to as they cruise. (Details at

For dozens more festive holiday ideas browse Away for the Holidays

Content researched and posted by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Curator of the Good Stuff for the Family Travel Files. Images courtesy event destinations. Copyright updated 2016. 

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