US: Southeast, Santa Trains and Holiday Lights - Create Your Own a Family Tradition.
Looking for a quick, fun holiday family adventure? Find a train and climb aboard. From Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia to South Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee traditional “Santa Trains,” and miles of twinkling lights make enjoying Christmas even better.
Tennessee: Pigeon Forge, Smoky Mountain Christmas – Lights, Floats, and Music
(Early November to December). Live Christmas shows and 4 million lights in a spectacular Smoky Mountain light display, Dollywood invites visitors to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. Live shows include Babes in Toyland and Christmas in the Smokies. Other special holiday celebrations include Santa’s Workshop with larger-than-life-sized toys, an 18-foot-tall Christmas tree, a giant wagon, sailboat, doll house and Santa and his helpers. Festivities also include a Parade of Lights, along with a cast of brightly lit floats, colorful characters and Santa. Bonus points:
This year the park hosts a Polar Express 4-D Experience that kids of all ages will love. (Dollywood, 1020 Dollywood Lane, Pigeon Forge, 27863. www.dollywood.com
Tennessee: Pigeon Forge, Annual WinterFest - Dancing Bears, Trolley Rides, and Twinkling Snowflakes
. November through February, this event is highlighted by the most extensive display of lights in the Southeast. More than eight million lights shine from the streets of Pigeon Forge and throughout Dollywood. The theaters in town showcase special holiday productions, and Dollywood transforms into a winter wonderland during the park's Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival. More than four million lights will sparkle throughout Pigeon Forge each year during this four-month-long event. Beginning with the flip of a switch WinterFest lights twinkle across the city. Trolley tours provide the perfect way to enjoy the animated displays of mountain waterfalls, eagles in flight, dancing bears and twinkling snowflakes. Bonus points:
WinterFest Trolley Tours, the annual Wilderness Wildlife Week, annual Saddle Up, and the annual Smokey Mountains Storytelling Festival. (Pigeon Forge Winterfest toll-free 1-800-WINTERFEST (1-800-946-8373) or www.mypigeonforge.com
Tennessee: Chattanooga, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum - Ride the North Pole Limited
(November - December).
Departing from Grand Junction Station for almost a decade, TVRM has been providing delightful rail adventures to the North Pole for a visit with Santa Claus. Each year Santa’s elves prepare the tracks and this year they’ll be routed through locations such as Santa’s Workshop. Wait for it!
Storytellers will be on board with fresh copies of The Polar Express to read to everybody. Elves will be serving chocolate drinks and cookies along the way. Bonus points:
Our Grand Junction Station has a fully equipped deli with indoor picnic seating so everyone will stay warm and dry while waiting for the magical North Pole Limited. (Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (423) 894-8028 or www.tvrail.com
Arkansas: Blytheville, Lights of the Delta – Lights, Music, and Hayrides.
(November and December). This year six million lights and 36 major motion displays on 40 acres, Lights on the Delta is one of the largest lighting festivals in the mid-south, including hayrides and a live nativity scene every night and certain nights will feature live music. Several nights during the season Santa will also make an appearance. Special events include the Lights of the Delta Pageant, the Blytheville Christmas Parade, and Breakfast with Santa at the Blytheville Public Library. (Blytheville, AK 72316. (860) 762-9788 or www.lightsofthedelta.com
Alabama: Calera, Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum – Ride the Polar Express
Board the train at the Calera Depot and let the hour-long magical adventure begin. As the train rolls through the forests of Shelby County, listen to the story of The Polar Express™ - little ones may wear your PJs if they wish. On arrival at the brightly decorated North Pole the land of reindeer, white bears, and twinkling lights Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves will board the train and visit with everyone on board. Everyone will be served milk and cookies, and be encouraged to join in the singing of Christmas carols. Bonus points:
Each child will receive a tiny Christmas gift as a memento of the adventure. Wait for it!
HDRM also offers a day adventure – the Santa Special and none other than the Jolly Old Elf himself rides the train from the beginning. As he meets each young child they have the chance to talk with Santa, pose for pictures, and receive a candy cane and a small gift. (Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, toll-free 1-800-943-4490 or www.heartofdixierrmuseum.org
South Carolina: Myrtle Beach, Brookgreen Gardens–See Nights of a Thousand Candles
(Selected date in December). Thousands of lights sparkle from Live Oak trees and illuminate garden paths as musicians perform and carolers sing at Brookgreen Gardens’ Night of a Thousand Nights.Other events include hand bell choirs, choral groups, and others. Bonus points:
Children ages give and under are free and advance adult tickets are can be purchased at a discount. (Brookgreen Gardens 1931 Brookgreen Drive, Murrells Inlet. Toll-free 1-800-849-1931, (843) 235-6016 or www.brookgreen.org
South Carolina: Myrtle Beach, Annual Festival of Trees
(Early November through December). Decked in its finest for the holiday season, Ripley’s Aquarium adds special warmth and sparkle to every corner. 50 seven-foot holiday trees will be placed throughout the aquarium and decorated with unique ornaments representing each of the states of the United States. Discovery: Admission to the Festival of Trees is free with Admission to Ripley’s Aquarium. (Broadway at the Beach. (843) 916-0888 or www.RipleysAquarium.com
) Georgia: Stone Mountain, Stone Mountain Park Christmas – Santa Claus, Fireworks, and a Snow Angel
(Early November to January). During the holiday season, Stone Mountain Park is transformed into a magical winter wonderland with two million lights, live entertainment and the nightly appearance of Santa Claus in a holiday parade, a sing-a-long Christmas train, Holly Jolly Cabaret, and holiday shopping. Bonus points:
The classic Polar Express movie will be screened in a super-fun 4D experience. In addition live shows help visitors get into the holiday experience. Wait for it!
A snow angel will fly across the sky bringing snowfall and a fireworks celebration to celebrants across the park. (Stone Mountain Park, 16 miles east of downtown Atlanta on Highway 78, GA 30086. Toll-free 1-800-401-2407, (770) 498-5690 or www.stonemountainpark.com
North Carolina: Bryson City, Great Smoky Mountains Railroad - Ride the Polar Express.
(November - December). Depart from Bryson City depot on a magical 1 ¼ hour round-trip rail adventure through the wilderness for a special visit at our North Pole. Enjoy hot cocoa and a treat along the way while listening or reading along with the storyteller of the Polar Express. On arrival at the “North Pole” Santa Claus will be waiting. Santa will board The Polar Express™, greeting each child and presenting them with their own sleigh bell. Christmas carols will be sung as they return trip. Bonus points:
GSMR now offers a new upgrade to the most luxurious cars during Polar Express adventure. In addition to riding in exclusive seating, your trip to our North Pole will include a 16 ounce Polar Express cocoa mug with a larger serving of cocoa topped with whipped cream and sprinkles. You will also be served a basket of short bread snacks in addition to the traditional chocolate marshmallow Santa. FYI:
With both ticket levels admission to the Smoky Mountain Trains Museum is included. (Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Toll-free 1-800-872-4681 or toll-free www.gsmr.com
North Carolina: Asheville, Christmas at Biltmore Estate – Celebrate in a Traditional Holiday Atmosphere
(Early November to Jaunary). Recapture the magic of the season with family and friends with our larger-than-life Yuletide celebration. During Christmas at Biltmore Estate, the halls and rooms of America’s largest home are accented with elegant décor. The extravagant ensemble includes dozens of Christmas trees, more than 400 wreaths and bows, 700 poinsettias; miles of evergreen garland; thousands of ornaments, tinsel, and beading; and a 35-foot Fraser fir. Holiday music from ensembles and the Banquet Hall organ complete the experience, filling the halls with Yuletide cheer. Bonus points:
Candlelight Christmas Evenings Each holiday season the Biltmore House transforms into a vision of enchanted beauty - Candlelight Christmas Evenings. Firelight and candlelight fill the house with a warm glow and accent delicate ornaments and priceless treasures. Choirs and musicians perform holiday favorites, while estate restaurants and shops stay open late. (Biltmore Estate 1 Approach Road, 28803. Toll-free 1-800-543-2961 or www.biltmore.com
) Content researched by FTF and images provided by Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Valley Railway, and Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum. Copyright 2012.