The Southeast Tourism Society (STS) is dedicated to promoting and developing tourism in its member states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. In 1985, in recognition of the unique, diverse and unparalleled events in the region, STS began the Top 20 Events award program. A Top 20 Award seeks to bring more publicity and recognition to the best events in the Southeast, whether it be media, attendees or both! STS selects the Top 20 events, per month, and publishes them on a quarterly basis. Recent winners are listed below. Learn more about Southeast Tourism Society at www.SoutheastTourism.org
Current Top 20 Events
October STS 2017
October 1-8, 2017, 21ST Annual Cruisin’ the Coast, Mississippi Gulf Coast, MS, https://CruisinTheCoast.com/
America’s Largest Block Party will celebrate 21 years in 2017. Cruisin’ The Coast began in 1996 as a festival to celebrate antique, classic and hot rod vehicles, nostalgic music and more. Starting with humble beginnings (274 registered cars), the event surpassed all expectations with nearly 8,000 vehicles in attendance last year. Enjoy the beauty of the area while driving the scenic stretch of beachside highway along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi, D’lberville, Gulfport, Pass Christian and Ocean Springs. Each venue celebrates with a mini festival that features bands, food vendors, swap meets and more.
October 1-November 4, 2017, Pumpkin Playground, Creedmoor, NC, www.ThreeBearsAcres.com
Enjoy cooler temperatures and all things fall at the Pumpkin Playground at Three Bears Acres. Celebrate autumn with climbing a hay fort, pumpkin bowling, archery, corn cannon, candy corn hole, hayrides, caramel apples and s’mores at the fire pit. Guests can also enjoy the regular activities at Three Bears Acres with the giant jumping pillow, graffiti walk, tree houses, 300 foot slides, pedal boats on the pond and much more. The season ends with a pumpkin smashing festival on Saturday, November 4th where pumpkins are tossed, crushed, slung, sipped and catapulted. Cheer on local firemen as they use their fire truck hoses to race pumpkins across the pond. The kids will leave with full hearts and full hands with a free pumpkin to take home.
October 1-29, 2017, Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern, Chattanooga, TN, www.HauntedCavern.com
Nightmares return to Lookout Mountain for the 14th year as Ruby Falls hosts the Annual Haunted Cavern. Located in a cave crawling with terrifying monsters, the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is a unique attraction that adds a new level of fear to the traditional haunted house. If you’re brave enough, hop in the elevator and descend 26 stories underground… where no one can hear you scream. This intense event is considered one of the Southeast’s best haunted attractions. Listed number 4 on Buzzfeed’s national haunt list and a 2016 top haunt by the Haunted Attraction Association, you are sure to leave with thrilling memories to last.
October 6-8, 2017, Slaughter Pen Jam, Bentonville, AR, www.VisitBentonville.com/bike/events/slaughter-pen-jam/
Slaughter Pen Jam is an annual mountain biking festival that takes place on the popular Slaughter Pen Hollow trails in Bentonville, Arkansas. The festival takes place over three days and hosts riders of all ages. A BMX event on Friday kicks off the festival in the Downtown Square with over 3,000 spectators and riders. On Saturday, “The Pen” at Slaughter Pen Hollow Park opens with live music, food, vendors, giveaways, drag races, guided rides, kids’ events, a downhill race, Archery/Bike Biathlon and much more. On Sunday, the festival gets serious with the Arkansas Mountain Bike Championship Series Race. Slaughter Pen Hollow has over 20 mils of the finest single-track. The theme is without question flow, but the best- in-class-free-ride-park and 16 skinny Northshore log rides showcase Slaughter Pen as the ultimate mountain biking event destination.
October 6-8, 2017, The North Carolina Seafood Festival, Morehead City, NC, www.NCSeafoodFestival.org
For 31 years, seafood and sea-fun have met at the NC Seafood Festival. Held on the beautiful Morehead City Waterfront, this annual celebration of the North Carolina seafood industry brings over 200,000 fans in search of fresh seafood dishes, arts and crafts vendors, nationally recognized entertainment and much more. Food lovers will swoon sampling dishes such as the traditional “Down East” Clam Chowder, Shrimp Burgers, Charcoal Mullet, Sea Urchin on a stick, Calamari and Marinated Eel. With over 200 vendors, an in-water and on-land boat show, an interactive “Cooking with the Chefs” tent, stages with free musical entertainment, thrilling rides and a moving ceremony that honors the fishing industry, there’s plenty of sea-fun to go around for all ages!
October 7-8, 2017, Cotton Pickin’ Fair, Gay, GA, www.CPFair.org
The Cotton Pickin’ Fair, Georgia’s original AgriTourism Event, began in September 1972 on a 188 year old family farm. It was a single family’s community economic development project. A declining farm industry and the opening of I-85 from LaGrange to Columbus, gave birth to an idea that would boost the economy and keep the Town of Gay in the public eye as an upscale antique center. Today, over two million visitors have enjoyed the work of the best artisans, antique specialists and craftsmen from across the US and Canada every May and October. Return to 1910 where the Farmhouse, the Cotton Gin, and the Cotton Warehouse form a unique backdrop for a great day of old-fashioned fun. New talent keeps the festival fresh and interesting while returning artists welcome loyal customers seeking to add to individual collections.
October 7-29, 2017 (Saturdays and Sundays only) Rock City’s Rocktoberfest, Lookout Mountain, GA, www.SeeRockCity.com/rocktoberfest
Get in touch with Rock City’s German heritage during the 12th Annual Rocktoberfest. Rock City Square will be transformed for a celebration of harvests and fall foliage. This premiere autumn festival includes live German music, polka lessons, German food, the fall Fair, Ik the Troll King and fun for the whole family. Try some German food like bratwursts, beer cheese soup and German chocolate cake. Set out on a guided heritage tour to learn about Rock City’s founder Frieda Utermoehlen Carter and her love of German folklore and fairytales.
October 7, 2017, Rouge et Blanc Food & Wine Festival, Lake Charles, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
Rouge et Blanc is a premier food and wine festival held each October in Lake Charles. It is an event unlike any other in the area and attracts thousands of food and wine lovers who gather under the stately live oaks of McNeese State University to enjoy the best the region has to offer. The main event is a four-hour tasting extravaganza at which visitors meander through McNeese’s beautiful campus. Explore more than 200 wines from all over the world and pair your favorites with delicacies from dozens of local restaurants.
October 12-15, 2017, The 46th Annual National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores, AL, www.MyShrimpFest.com
The Annual National Shrimp Festival is a Gulf Coast family tradition dating back to 1971. What started as a way to bring tourists to the beach after Labor Day has evolved into one of the largest events in the Southeast, drawing in more than 250,000 people each year. Savor fresh from the Gulf seafood with 50 local and regional vendors lining the food boardwalk with mouth-watering delights. This year the festival will play host to more than 70 hours of musical entertainment featuring a lineup of national, regional and local acts. Jam out to Motown, southern rock, jazz, zydeco and country. Activities will include Outdoor Village, featuring fishing, boating and hunting and Singing for Scholarships—a talent competition for local high school students. Families can enter the Annual Sand Sculpture Contest on Saturday. Kids will enjoy the newly relocated Children’s Activity Village, which will include face painting, karaoke and much more. Burn off the good eats by entering the 10K or 5K race on Saturday or take it slow and peruse the 200 vendor booths of Fine Arts, Arts & Crafts and the Retail Market Place.
October 13-15, 2017, Fall for Greenville, Greenville, SC, www.FallForGreenville.net
Discover a world of tempting tastes, fun sights and pleasing sounds at Fall for Greenville. With 40-plus restaurants featuring over 200 menu items, the mouthwatering aromas will carry you along Greenville’s Main Street. While indulging the taste buds, enjoy free entertainment on seven stages as 60 musical acts perform throughout the weekend. This year, indulge in Food Truck Row, which will feature local food trucks in addition to the traditional brick and mortar restaurants that are normally featured at the event. With free admission, creative eats and top tunes, there’s no guessing why around 200,000 people attended Fall for Greenville last year.
October 13-14, 2017, 70th Annual Indiantown Rodeo, Indiantown, FL, http://IndiantownRodeo.com
Throw on a good pair of boots and head down to Western Martin County, Florida this fall to the Indiantown Rodeo, where there is so much more than bucking broncos. This hoedown features live music, tons of entertainment and is a good time for all. The rodeo is even the first tour stop of the 3 Iron Man Tour. Come experience steer wrestling, barrel racing, bull riders, cowboys and team roping at this time-honored tradition that sells out to crowds of thousands each and every year.
October 14, 2017, Big Creek Fall ATV Festival, LaFollette, TN, www.LaFolletteTN.net
For one day every October, the City of LaFollette shuts down its downtown area to host the Big Creek Fall ATV Festival. This allows ATV riders easy access to the mountain trails and fun activities of the festival. Riders can take an organized ride provided by the city or grab a map and ride through the mountains themselves. There are 60+ vendors that set up each year bringing arts, crafts, food, jewelry, clothing and much more. There are also ATV vendors who set and sell ATV’s and accessories. There are lots of fun activities for the kids too, like bounce houses and interactive games. Festivalgoers can also register for over 20 different door prizes. Last year, the grand prizewinner won a brand new Honda four-wheeler! Before the day is over, festivalgoers can enjoy a music concert followed by a magnificent firework show.
October 14, 2017, T.O.O.T. (Taste of Our Town) Lewisburg, WV, http://CarnegieHallWV.com/
The streets of Lewisburg fill with favorite delicacies of local restaurants and organizations during Taste Of Our Town. The event combines sensational food, the beautiful outdoor setting of Historic Downtown Lewisburg (during peak fall colors), family entertainment and a welcoming community. It is a fantastic time of year to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and the amenities of Greenbrier Valley. As a fundraiser for Carnegie Hall, the annual T.O.O.T. festival successfully serves as one of the region’s top tourist events, drawing thousands of visitors to the area each year. While strolling the streets, make sure to get your hands on yearly favorites such as The General Lewis Inn’s Sticky Toffee Pudding and Greenbrier Sporting Club’s Shrimp & Grits, which disappear quickly!
October 21, 2017, Culture Fest Louisiana, Lake Charles, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
Culture Fest Louisiana is an international celebration of cultures and is held at the Lake Charles Civic Center. The festival showcases art, music, dance, fashion and food of the different counties represented in Southwest Louisiana. Four stages feature diverse and celebrated performers, music, dance and dance lessons that span the globe. Entertainment will range from a Chinese Lion and Dragon dance troupe, to Latin dancers and performers and a Bollywood dance team. This event is free to the public and is designed for the entire family. Shop till you drop where unique global wares abound. The Kids Zone offers children’s entertainment and hands-on make- and-take activities. The World Café boasts taste-tempting cuisines from all over the world.
October 21, 2017, The Boudin Cook-Off, Lafayette, LA, www.BoudinCookOff.com
The Boudin Cook-Off is a Cajun food festival devoted to boudin (Louisiana’s extraordinary pork and rice sausage) and other Cajun foods. This daylong, free and family-friendly event celebrates Louisiana’s unique culinary culture with great food, live music, free kids activities, boudin themed games, free ice cream sandwiches and a boudin eating contest. Come taste why Gourmet Magazine ranked the Boudin Cook-Off as a top ten food festival in the United States. For this year’s tenth anniversary, there will be five new boudin themed games, an expanded boudin eating contest and new boudin dishes unveiled exclusively at the event. One lucky participant will win FREE boudin for a year!
October 21-22, 2017, 28th Annual Georgetown Wooden Boat Show, Georgetown, SC, www.WoodenBoatShow.com
The Georgetown Wooden Boat Show features one of the Southeast’s best wooden boat exhibits. With more than 140 classic wooden boats displayed on land and water, children’s model boatbuilding, knot tying, maritime art, as well as crafts, food and music—this festival has something for everyone in the family. The gloves come off during Saturday’s Wooden Boat Challenge when teams of two race to build a rowing skiff within a 4-hour time limit and then test their boats for seaworthiness in a rowing relay on the Sampit River. Sunday is a fun-filled family day that includes a Cardboard Boat Regatta, sea creature puppetry, kite building, live music and food. All events take place on the waterfront and along Front Street in Historic Downtown Georgetown. Proceeds benefit the South Carolina Maritime Museum.
October 21-22, 2017, Town of Orange Park Fall Festival, Orange Park, FL, www.OPFallFestival.com
The Town of Orange Park Fall Festival is Orange Park’s most popular event of the year and draws 40,000 people from all over Florida and Georgia. The festival began in 1982 with roughly twelve craft booths and a couple guitar players. Thirty-five years later, this two-day festival has over 200 vendors and two stages packed with entertainment from regional and local artists. The kids can bounce on inflatables in the Kids Zone, and of course, the shopping is second to none with unique gifts, handmade quilts, jewelry, pottery and even treats or your furry friends. What’s a festival without great food? The 30+ food vendors have it covered. Attendees will enjoy a wide variety of food from barbeque and local seafood to funnel cakes and turkey legs. Farmer’s Market fans can even pick up some fresh produce. Admission is free, there’s free parking and a shuttle is available. This year enjoy the Atlantic City Boys and Mountain Faith Band as the headline entertainment. Have some old-fashioned fun with eating contests and a pumpkin patch.
October 26-29, 2017, Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium, Cartersville, GA, www.BoothMuseum.org/cowboyfestival
Saddle up the youngin’s for the largest Western themed event in the South—the Southeastern Cowboy Festival and Symposium put on by the Booth Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. A four-day celebration of the West is highlighted by gunfight re-enactments, traditional Native American dancing, western shopping marketplace, cowboy church, petting zoos three stages of entertainment, art activities with featured artist Howard Post and a concert with Sons of the Pioneers. This year, expect more music, western demonstrations, living history performances and children’s programming.
October 28, 2017, The Barbecue Festival, Lexington, NC, www.BarbecueFestival.com
The annual Barbecue Festival features North Carolina’s best pork barbecue. However, there’s more than delicious food to look forward to, guests are treated to exciting local, regional and national entertainment on seven different states, located throughout a 14 square block area. The festival features 350+ artisans and craftsman, children’s attractions car shows, rides, games and many other “pig” themed activities to celebrate Lexington’s famous heritage. Marvel at the 50-ton pig themed sand sculpture, shop the juried arts and craft show, peruse the antique car and corvette shows and enjoy seven stages of outstanding entertainment. The festival is also home to children’s rides and games, bicycle stunt show, lumberjack sports show, rock climbing wall and much more. New attractions will include an expanded Wine Garden, Que-UP Brew-Up, and Thursday and Friday night events. The festival has received numerous recognitions and awards, including one of the best 15 small-town festivals in the United States by Fodor.
October 28-November 5, 2017, Mountaineer Week, Morgantown, WV, http://MountaineerWeek.WVU.edu
Mountaineer Week is a celebration of the state of West Virginia and its Appalachian heritage and culture. Since 1947, Mountaineer Week has been organized as a program that educates University students about the history that has made West Virginia what it is today. Mountaineer Week encompasses the unique aspects of Appalachian life, music, food, crafts and programs. 60,000 West Virginia University staff, students and visitors from around the region attend this event every year. The centerpiece of the annual event is the Craft Fair, which features traditional and contemporary crafts to fit everyone’s taste. The events scheduled for Mountaineer Week are as fun and educational as they are diverse. Mountaineer Week truly celebrates the spirit of West Virginian and what it means to be a Mountaineer. This year, the theme will be “Women in Appalachia”, showcasing women’s crafts, quilts, storytelling, programming and music, as well as the standard yearly Mountaineer Week events.
November STS 2017
November 3-5, 2017, 28th Annual Stuart AirShow, Stuart, FL, http://StuartAirShow.com/
There is a reason this is the most popular AirShow in South Florida! Now in its 28th Year, the Stuart Airshow draws 40,000 spectators to South Florida every year. Get whisked away by amazing performances, fireworks, carnival rides, live music and even helicopter trips and flights on the Warbird Texan Aircraft are available. This event honors aviation’s past while inspiring its future. On Friday night, the Dirty Flight Suit Party offers spectators the opportunity to enjoy spectacular aerobatic performances just as the sun is setting. Attendees enjoy live music, food, drinks and a huge fireworks display. Guests can mix and mingle with the pilots and performers. The Saturday and Sunday Air Show festivities include an authentic WWII battle reenactment, weapons demo, WWII vehicle display, static aircraft displays, vendor booths, food and beverage booths and the popular Kids Zone.
November 4-5, 2017, 39th Annual Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival presented by Blue Moon, Ocean Springs, MS, http://www.PeterAndersonFestival.com
The Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival is an annual event presented by Blue Moon, created to enhance and showcase the arts as well as provide a continual economic driver to the Coast Shops, restaurants, galleries and hotels. The festival makes a significant contribution to developing the Gulf Coast as a regional arts destination. Not only does the festival bring in 400 artists, craftsmen and food vendors from all over, the festival team as created a “festival season” around the event starting months before the main two-day show. Local restaurants host pre-dinners and previews of the Blue Moon Art pieces. Mississippi Seafood Marketing has partnered with the festival team bringing in the culinary arts to the festival, which also ties in the surrounding restaurants. This year, organizers will add even more events to the festival.
November 7-February 28, 2017, Pigeon Forge Winterfest, Pigeon Forge, TN, www.MyPigeonForge.com
Draped in more than 5 million lights, Pigeon Forge creates a winter wonderland for locals and guests alike to enjoy during the city’s annual Winterfest celebration. More than three decades ago, Pigeon Forge looked quite differently during the winter months. The fall and spring “shoulder seasons” in the popular family vacation destination thrived. However, during the winter months, tourism, the city’s only industry saw a sharp decline. To counter this, tourism officials launched Winterfest. The wintertime festival is now one of Pigeon Forge’s most popular events. Enjoy Christmas shows in the many theaters along the parkway. Venture to Dollywood theme park as they present the award-winning Smoky Mountain Christmas festival, adding another four million lights for guests to enjoy. This citywide event offers spectacular light displays, musical entertainment and everything Christmas memories are made of.
November 9-13, 2017, Cucalorus Festival, Wilmington, NC, www.Cucalorus.org
Known for its gorgeous riverside setting and its laid-back, rock ‘n’ roll atmosphere, Cucalorus is a non-competitive festival, which showcases more than 300 films from all over the world. In addition to film screenings, guests enjoy a diverse selection of stage performances and over 50 connect conference events. Cucalorus attracts an audience of over 17,800 cultural travelers who come to celebrate art and connect with peers. The festival’s spirited celebration has been recognized as a breeding ground for young artists, new ideas and lifelong friendships. Moviemaker Magazine has recognized the event as “One of the Coolest Film Festivals in the World” for three years in a row, and “One of the 50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee.”
November 8-14, 2017, World Food Championships, Orange Beach, AL, www.WorldFoodChampionships.com
The World Food Championships is the largest competition in Food Sport, where grand champions of previous events convene for a chance at winning the ultimate food crown and a share of hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. The World Food Championships is also the springboard for many up and coming culinary stars and home cooks as they seek TV fame through many well-known food shows and acting opportunities. Now heading into its 6th season, the 5th Annual World Food Championships boasted the largest Food Sport tournament in history with well over 1,200 contestants on 419 official teams. They came from 48 American states and 14 countries to compete, while more than 20,000 foodies watched and enjoyed the heat of the battle unfold in 10 official categories. In short, the World Food Championships has given birth to “Food Sport” by providing a level playing field, a fair judging system, a creative culinary fest and a process that allows culinary elite to show their chops and earn the respect they deserve.
November 9-12, 2017, 35th Annual Dickens Christmas Show and Festivals, Myrtle Beach, SC, www.DickensChristmasShow.com
Thirty-five years ago in a far-away land known as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, hospitality leaders created a unique art, craft and gift show to attract visitors in the slow winter months. They drew their inspiration from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, and since that time The Dickens Christmas Show & Festivals has become a premiere holiday event, attracting more than 18,000 revelers from all over the southeast. The main event is a 19th century Victorian Marketplace, complete with vendors pedaling arts, crafts, toys, gourmet foods, jewelry, clothing and more. Stroll the streets and be transported to a simpler time where Punch and Judy shows take stage, period clad street urchins perform, strolling minstrels delight and of course Jolly Old Saint Nick himself cozies up in his very own Victorian Castle to greet all of the seaside visitors.
November 9-19, 2017, Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival, Pensacola, FL, www.fbisf.com
200 Musicians from across the globe bring their talents up and down the Gulf Coast during the Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival. This 11-day festival takes place in over two-dozen venues from Pensacola, Florida to Magnolia Springs, Alabama. Musicians perform tunes of all genres throughout the festival, which serves as a time for hit writers, aspiring new comers and an audience that appreciates great music to come together.
November 10-January 1, 2018, A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville, TN, www.ChristmasAtGaylordOpryLand.com
There’s no better place for the holidays than Nashville’s iconic Gaylord Opryland Resort with more than 2 million twinkling lights, acres of stunning decorations and exceptional entertainment. With each passing year, the shows and attractions have increased to more than a dozen and include everything from larger-than-life nativity displays, Christmas dinner shows, to ICE!—an astonishing display of colorful sculptures hand carved from 2 million pounds of ice. The resort’s nine acres of indoor gardens and waterfalls are transformed into a fanciful world of towering Christmas trees, oversized wreathes and ornate details that provide breathtaking views from every direction. This year, guests will experience new décor, ice-skating, snow tubing, scavenger hunts, carriage rides, a breathtaking holiday fountain show and much more. Come see why 1 million visitors make a Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland resort an annual Christmas tradition.
November 10-12, 2017, Christmas City Gift Show, Biloxi, MS, www.ChristmasCityGiftShow.com
Christmas City Gift Show is a magical atmosphere that is about creating memories for three generations of shoppers. The kid will love exploring Santa Land, with crafts, puppet shows and photos with Santa. Breakfast with Santa is another option, which is an exclusive time with Santa, Mrs. Claus and their helpers. Walk through the 20,000 square foot interactive train display, which delights people of all ages. The focus of Christmas City is an unlimited shopping experience featuring over 300 booths where attendees find a huge variety of gifts. Peruse aisle after aisle of jewelry, clothing, framed artwork, handcrafted pottery, glass and metal art. On Friday night, shop for a cause. Shoppers can purchase a $25 ticket for the option of shopping without thousands in attendance, while benefiting a local charity.
November 18, 2017, 22nd Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration, Raleigh, NC, www.NCMuseumOfHistory.org/events
From the minute visitors arrive at the annual American Indian Heritage Celebration, they discover why this is North Carolina’s signature event for recognizing National American Indian Heritage Month. It is the largest celebration of the year at the North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh. North Carolina has the largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi River. Members of all eight state-recognized tribes participate in the celebration and are passionate about sharing their history and culture. Over 100 event presenters include artists, dancers, musicians, craftspeople, drum groups, storytellers, scholars and authors. Visitors have numerous opportunities to gain valuable knowledge about the state’s American Indians, past and present. The highlight of the festival is the Call to Grand Entry at noon, when each tribe processes onto Bicentennial Plaza for the roll call of the tribes and organizations. Then, as drum groups play, hundreds of dancers in brilliantly colored regalia present dance demonstrations. The American Indian Heritage Celebration is a fascinating and memorable experience for thousands of people each year.
November 11- December 31, 2017, Stone Mountain Christmas, Stone Mountain, GA, www.StoneMountainPark.com/events/stone-mountain-christmas
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas at Stone Mountain Park, where the true magic of the season is in the air. Enjoy the glow of more than two million lights, festive music and visits from some of your favorite holiday characters. Start a new tradition and create memories that will last a lifetime for your kids and you. Watch Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer in 4-D, visit Skylights Spectacular: a musical walk through experience where thousands of lights, projections and special effects warm the soul, enjoy live performances such as : The Littlest Christmas Tree, Forever Christmas, Twas the Night Before…A Holiday Cabaret and A Christmas Carol. Climb aboard the Sing-along Train and jam out to favorite Christmas tunes, be dazzled by the nightly Christmas parade and bring your Christmas wishes and visit Santa Claus. With so much to experience and see, it’s no wonder 75,000 guests enjoyed Stone Mountain Christmas last year
November 17-19, 2017, Foothills Craft Guild Showcase of Fine Crafts, Knoxville, TN, FoothillsCraftGuild.org
Stroll through 160 fine craftsman’s booths from across Tennessee at the Foothills Craft Guild Showcase of Fine Crafts. These juried artists ensure quality workmanship at the highest standards. Guests can watch daily live craft demonstrations and interact with artisans. Kids and adults will have fun at the “make-it-take-it” craft area. With so many unique items, the showcase is the ideal place to kick off the holiday shopping season. After you shop, head to the entertainment lounge where Bluegrass musicians take the stage in live performances.
November 17-January 6, 2018, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, Lookout Mountain, GA, www.SeeRockCity.com/lights
For the holiday season, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights is a family tradition. Featured on ABC’s show, The Chew, this light extravaganza showcases more than 30 holiday scenes and nearly a million LED lights that transform the gardens’ natural daytime splendor into a fantasyland. Enjoy gingerbread cookie decorating, hot cocoa and nightly entertainment. Dinner with Santa is also back, as well as Jack Frost, Inara the Ice Queen and the Dancing Forest. As you enter the park through the new entrance, next to the Original 1932 Gatehouse and venture down The North Pole Highway, you’ll have the option to visit each of the themed realms of wonder in the order you choose, or experience the magic in the traditional order beginning with the Grand Corridor in Yule Town. Come see why more than 63,000 people made this spectacular event apart of their Christmas calendar last year.
November 18- December 31, 2017, Holidays In the City, Norfolk, VA, http://HolidaysInTheCity.net
A unique multi-city partnership produces the Holidays in the City season in Hampton Roads. The six-week celebration serves and an umbrella for the holiday events produced by the region’s major cultural organizations. Holidays in the City appeals to a broad demographic and crosses many socio-economic groups. Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are all a part of the Holidays in the City celebration. Created to fill hotel rooms during a typically slow time of the year, Holidays in the City kicks off with the Grand Illumination Parade. Visitors will also enjoy a full calendar of performances, activities, events, and more in Norfolk and Portsmouth. This cherished holiday tradition brings together spectators, participants and volunteers from all over Hampton Roads and the region.
November 24-December 31, 2017, Galaxy of Lights, Huntsville, AL, www.HSVBG.org
This holiday season head to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens for a bright holiday extravaganza—Galaxy of Lights. This spectacular event features larger-than-life animated light displays. See Santa soaring over a delightful winter village. Watch nursery rhyme characters dance and frolic among traditional scenes of the season. Best of all, experience the magic of the twinkling icicle forest. Galaxy of Lights is the perfect holiday treat for the young and young-at-heart. This year, enjoy new light displays, a new layout and the great feeling of holiday tradition it brings year after year.
November 24-January 1, 2018, Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival, Gulfport, MS, https://www.facebook.com/GulfportHarborLights/
This spectacular light show has earned the title of “Most Magical Light Show in Mississippi” by OnlyInYourState.com. Go through this dazzling light display in one of two ways: a leisurely stroll or aboard a heated trolley. Guests can visit with Santa in Santa’s Village every night, take pictures at any of the Elfie Selfie stations and enjoy hot chocolate and other concessions items available for purchase. Live bands will fill the night air with warm tunes for several nights. Guests can also enjoy a carousel, sky racer and train rides. If you need to do some holiday shopping, there will be a night to browse unique artisan wares at the Christmas Market.
November 23, 2017, Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade, Charlotte, NC, www.NovantHealthThanksgivingParade.com
This Thanksgiving Day, venture to Charlotte for the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade. This annual tradition has entertained and inspired audiences since 1947. Complete with dance and choral performances, marching bands from around the region, larger-than-life floats, balloons and some of your favorite characters. Experience parade elements like none other, such as Segwaloons (a cross between a Segway and a 15-foot tall balloon), scented floats and a 20-foot tall marionette. Last year, 110,000 people attended the Novant Health Thanksgiving Parade for the unique entertainment and cheer it provides. This year’s parade will kick off the holiday season, Charlotte-style!
November 24-25, 2017, The 30A 10K, Rosemary Beach, FL, http://30a10k.com
Looking for an excuse to grab that second slice of pie this Thanksgiving? The 30A 10K charity race series is a fantastic way to get moving and give back to the community. This sold out event attracts more than 2,000 participants from 38 states every year. More than just a run, this event includes excitement for the whole family. The running/shopping expo and post-race Black Friday contests mean runners and non-runners can equally participate. In 2017, the race series will add a new 5K race and a 1-mile fun run race. Organizers will also unveil a new countywide scavenger hunt contest that participants can play using an app on their smart phone. In the past five years, the event has raised more than $200,000 for local charities.
November 25-January 8, 2018, Christmas In the City, Knoxville, TN, http://www.KnoxvilleTN.gov/government/city_departments_offices/special_events/christmas_in_the_city
Christmas in the City is Knoxville’s most anticipated winter festival. The city dresses for the holidays with lighted trees and decorations, Up on the Rooftops displays – plus dozens of events guaranteed to bring holiday cheer. The season kicks off with the celebration of Lights and the lighting of the 42-foot Christmas Tree at Krutch Park. Additional festivities and events include Holidays on Ice, open-air skating on Market Square, a Window Wonderland display, Tour de Lights for holiday bike riders, a Christmas Parade down historic Gay Street and New Year’s Eve on the Square. After an incredibly popular debut in 2016, The Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt will return to Christmas in the City in 2017 alongside Peppermint Panda and the Peppermint Trail, featuring peppermint drinks, desserts and gifts.
November 25-26, 2017, The North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach, Wrightsville Beach, NC, www.NCHolidayFlotilla.org
The North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville beach is the Southern Coastal version of a Holiday parade—on water—at night. It’s also the state’s largest Thanksgiving weekend event as it attracts over 50,000 visitors and reaches many more through extensive media coverage. The Total Flotilla Experience is a weekend full of fun events with something for everyone including the Flotilla Launch Party featuring the Embers, an annual tree-lighting ceremony with a visit from Santa on Friday, along with the Festival in the Park for families and children on Saturday afternoon prior to the actual Flotilla. Don’t miss the spectacular fireworks show that evening starting at 6 p.m.
December 1-23, 2017, Billy Graham Library—Christmas at the Library, Charlotte, NC, www.BillyGrahamlibrary.org/christmas-at-the-library/
Come experience Christmas at the Billy Graham Library, featuring a live nativity that offers a glimpse into the awe of that first Christmas night. Guests can also take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the beautiful lights, hear heartwarming sounds of from carol singers and listen to the story time for children of all ages. Enjoy holiday goodies at the Dairy Bar, exclusive library ornaments, holiday shopping in Ruth’s attic and tours of the Journey of Faith at the Billy Graham Library.
December 1-2, 2017, ChristmasFest, Toccoa, GA, www.MainstreetToccoa.com/christmasfest
The city of Toccoa welcomes the Christmas season the first weekend of December with the annual ChristmasFest in the Historic Downtown area. This magical event is guaranteed to ignite the Christmas spirit for all who attend. Take in the sounds of the holiday season, as carolers serenade shoppers while strolling the streets and stores. Take a carriage ride through the town’s historic district to see the beautifully lit streets. A live nativity allows children to enter the manger, pet the animals and experience a taste of the first Christmas. Santa drops in for a visit and pictures and personally collects letters from excited children. Children can also take Santa’s Express Train for a spin around the town. Revelers will also enjoy “Toccoa on Ice,” which brings ice-skating to Northeast Georgia. The Festival of Trees is celebrated at the Stephens County Historic Courthouse from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Visitors are asked to vote for their favorite from a variety of beautifully decorated trees. Sounds of the season fill the winter air as musical entertainment plays throughout the evening.
December 1-2, 8-9, 2017, Festival of Lights and Luminaries, Dillsboro, NC, https://www.DiscoverJacksonNC.com/event/festival-of-lights-and-luminaries/2017-12-09/
Journey back to the days of yesteryear at Dillsboro, North Carolina’s Festival of Lights and Luminaries. Experience the magic as the entire town is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights, candles, laughter and song. 2,500 luminaries light the way to shops and studios. Horse and buggy rides are available each night. Shopkeepers provide live music and serve holiday treats with hot cider and cocoa. Carolers sing and children visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Kids can write a letter to Santa, mail it and expect a written post card back from the big man himself. Also, get a glimpse of the wonderment of the very first Christmas with a live nativity scene.
December 1-23, 2017, Ruby Falls’ Christmas Underground, Chattanooga, TN, www.RubyFalls.com/christmas
Experience nighttime holiday magic all day long at Christmas Underground this year. Journey through the North Pole Village and help spread holiday cheer 1,120 feet underground at Ruby Falls! While mining for Joystone, a rare gemstone that helps spread the spirit of Christmas, an underground passage was uncovered that leads to the North Pole. An adventure to see Santa leads you on a journey through the Sugar Plum Fairy Village where you can watch gemstone miners play and catch a view of the Northern Lights.
December 1-31, 2017, Southwest Louisiana Christmas Lighting Festival, Lake Charles/Sulphur, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
There’s no excuse not to be in the Christmas spirit with all of festivities going on in Lake Charles during the holiday season. Join in the fun for Light Up the Lake, where the whole family will enjoy activities from gingerbread houses, to parades by land and by sea and a spectacular fireworks display over the beautiful lake. If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, then head over to Sulphur’s Christmas Under the Oaks Festival where it snows every year. Located at the Brimstone Museum complex, Heritage Square is transformed into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, holly wreathes and yes, even snow! Get an early start on Christmas shopping at the Holiday House, featuring more than 25 different shops with Christmas decorations, gifts, ornaments and more that will make it easy to deck your halls. Southwest Louisiana has it all to help your family celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. With great food, music, parades, shopping and Santa, it’s easy to see why the Southwest Louisiana Christmas Lighting Festival is a holiday favorite.
December 1, 8, 15, 2017, The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas, Roanoke, VA, http://www.DowntownRoanoke.org
The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas transports you back to a simpler time and is fun for the entire family. Enjoy horse drawn carriage rides, carolers, street performances, re-enactors dressed in period costumes, a variety of craft vendors, foods and goodies, fresh roasted chestnuts, Santa’s Workshop, photos with Santa, an outdoor Ice Rink and much more. Downtown retailers extend their hours and give away free hot chocolate, hot apple cider and goodies to customers. Festival activities include the city of Roanoke Christmas Tree Lighting, the Roanoke Parade, a pet costume contest, a snow zone and a kids’ zone full of fun inflatables and games. The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas is free for all to enjoy with carriage ride tickets for only $5. Come downtown and explore this wonderful holiday celebration filled with a variety of entertainment that is sure to leave you full of the season’s spirit.
December 1, 2017, Wassail Fest, Columbus, MS, www.ColumbusMainStreet.com
Every year, the streets of Columbus, Mississippi transform into a winter wonderland. With twinkling lights, festive decorations and talented carolers performing from balconies and inside establishments, Wassail Fest sets the stage for the holiday season. The centuries-old Christmas Carol, “Here We come A-Wassailing,” takes on a new and special meaning. Guests sample a variety of Wassail, a drink whose very name means, “to your health.” Downtown merchants prepare months in advance for the battle of becoming the “Wassail Meister.” As visitors shop and sample wassail, they cast a vote for their favorite. This community tradition is designed to help everyone catch the holiday spirit and grows increasingly more popular and competitive each year. Come enjoy artificial snow, children’s activities, and of course the signature juice made with spices that dates back to Robin Hood and his merry men and feel the warmth of the holidays wash over you.
December 7, 2017, Hometown Holidays Parade, Forsyth, GA, www.Forsyth-MonroeChamber.com/hometown-holidays-parade/
As one of Middle Georgia’s only nighttime parades, the Hometown Holidays Parade is a spectacular display of lights. The parade begins in front of Tift College and travels around three sides of the historic square. 2016 was one of the biggest parades yet, with nearly 70 entries and over 5,000 people in attendance. Competition is steep as float creators compete for the titles of Best in Show, Best Use of Lights and Most Creative awards. As the parade commences, the annual Christmas tree-lighting lights up the night even more.
December 7-23, 2017, Reflections of the Season, Port Allen, LA, WestBatonRouge.net
Reflections of the Season is a Christmas event you won’t want to miss! This walk or drive through holiday display is located on the transformed grounds of the West Baton Rouge Conference Center. Inside the conference center, you will see animated displays with polar bears in a wintry iceberg and water scenes, talking reindeers, brown and black bears in the wood and a dog sled with animated dogs. Enjoy a special area decorated for Santa to greet the children on Friday and Saturday nights. The 8 acres of property adjacent to the tourist center is lit up with huge lighted displays including a 40-foot dancing Christmas Tree with lights that change with the music. This family event includes carnival rides, horse and buggy rides through the lights, special ice fishing Louisiana style—where children fish for real fish through ice holes. Three tons of crushed ice cover the area on Snow nights for the children to play in. Last minute shoppers can peruse the wares from crafters and vendors.
December 2-3, 2017, The 31st Annual Marietta Pilgrimage, Marietta, GA, http://www.MariettaPilgrimage.com/
Make plans to attend this year’s Marietta Pilgrimage Christmas Home Tour! Get a glimpse inside six private Marietta homes. Each home has been lovingly restored and will be decorated for the holiday season. The Marietta Visitors Bureau and Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society organize this tour, which has been featured in Southern Living and named a Top 100 Event in North America.
December 8, 2017, 29th Annual Downtown Hampton Lighted Boat Parade, Hampton, VA, www.DowntownHampton.com/calendar
Revel in the pageantry and whimsy of the holiday season at the 29th Annual Downtown Hampton Lighted Boat Parade. For 29 years, more than 20 watercrafts don their holiday best with hundreds of strings of lights and sail up the Hampton River. The festive boats cruise along the downtown waterfront and light up the night. The event is free to spectators who can view the parade from either side of the Hampton River.
December 8-9, 15-16, 2017, Winter Waterland, Weeki Wachee, FL, http://WeekiWachee.com/
Winter Waterland is a yearly event held for two weekends at the famous Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Highlighting the event, the Weeki Wachee mermaids perform an underwater Christmas show. The performance is new every year and is a sight to behold. There are also above-water performances by state park staff, light displays and a special visit from Santa Class and his mermaid elves. Extra activities include a petting zoo, bounce houses and a live nativity scene. Cost is $6 for adults and $4 for children. This year, take the family to a Christmas festivity so unique, it is sure to be remembered as a favorite holiday experience.
December 9, 2017, Christmas Candlelight Tour, Beaufort, NC, www.BeaufortHistoricSite.org
The Beaufort Historical Association’s 10th Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour showcases Beaufort’s holiday hospitality and provides a rare glimpse into private historic homes, several inns, bed & breakfasts as well as churches—all elegantly decorated for the season. These private homes represent a wide variety of Beaufort’s unique architectural styles from different periods of the town’s history. Guests will have the opportunity to stroll through candlelit streets or join the carolers aboard the BHA’s 1967 English double-decker bus for a free ride to their destinations. In addition, the Beaufort Historic Site and buildings will be open for free tours to the public that day from 2p.m.-4p.m. An ongoing raffle and silent auction will also be taking place at the Visitors Center, where guest can place bids on a wide variety items. In addition to the Christmas Candlelight Tour, the Beaufort ArtWalk celebrates its sixth year from 2p.m.-5p.m. in Historic Downtown Beaufort. Every year, guests can expect to see something new. With a unique selection of homes and artists, you’ll never see the same tour twice.
December 9-25, 2017, Community Holiday Light Show, Danville, VA, http://PlayDanvilleVA.com/
Every December, Danville Parks and Recreation invites the community to decorate one of the oldest civic owned parks in Virginia for the holidays—all in the name of giving back. The Community Holiday Light show is a drive-through spectacle featuring displays built by local families, organizations and business complete with complimentary photos with Santa! While the event entertains thousands of visitors each year, is has also contributed more than $20,000 to civic organizations, volunteer groups and local nonprofits in its first three years of existence. The 15-day event is open nightly to the public. A portion of the gate fees are donated to the volunteer groups working the show that night, while another portion is turned into prize money, which is donated to a local nonprofit courtesy of the display that is voted as ‘Best in Show’ by the public. For just $7, families, friends and neighbors are whisked away to a magical winter wonderland of lights and then to Santa’s workshop for photos, hot chocolate and crafts, all while supporting the community. This year, expect an expanded Children’s Village and opportunities to take a horse drawn carriage ride around the park.
December 9, 2017, Historic Alabama Christmas Tour Homes, Decatur, AL, www.DecaturChristmasTour.com
The Historic Alabama Christmas Tour of Homes showcases the Old Decatur Historic District and Albany Historic District, which contain some of the of the finest and largest collections of Victorian and early 20th century craftsman and bungalow homes in the state. See the gorgeous halls decked out for the holidays. Local stores and restaurants join in the revelry by offering specials and refreshments. The annual event also offers holiday decorating tips, carriage rides, refreshments and holiday music.
December 9, 2017, Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale, FL, https://WinterfestParade.com/
The world’s most watched parade travels the Intracoastal waterways, 12 miles in Broward County from Fort Lauderdale, north to Lake Santa Barbara in Pompano Beach. The parade hosts brightly embellished boats carrying celebrities, musical groups, beauty queens and other thrilling entries such as a floating broadway barge. The theme for the parade is “Broadway on Parade.” The International Festival and Events Association named Winterfest to its top 20 Parades in the World. Come see why 1 million people come to watch this holiday spectacle every year!
December 14-15, 2017, Victorian Christmas, Thomasville, GA, www.ThomasvilleGA.com
Journey into the past as a turn-of-the-century downtown ushers you into the spirit of Christmas long ago. Tantalizing aromas drift from street vendors offering scrumptious seasonal delicacies. Visit with St. Nick in a snowy winter scene. Take a carriage ride complete with jingle bells among the twinkling lights. Carol singers fill the air with traditional tunes while colorful characters capture the imagination with street theatre. Chestnut roasting and marshmallow toasting will put you in the mood for the holiday. Festival favorites include strolling the brick paved streets, live nativity scene and a bustling food court. Come see why this award-winning downtown has become a distinguished shopping center and a favorite holiday destination.
December 31, 2017, New Year’s Eve Celebration—Island of Lights, Carolina Beach/Kure Beach, NC, www.IslandOfLights.org
This small island community really knows how to throw a party. For 20 years, The New Years Eve celebration has rotated yearly between Carolina and Kure beach. Enjoy music, fireworks and a heaping dose of Southern hospitality. The party kicks off at 9 p.m. and the giant beach ball drop is at midnight. This free family-friendly event will feature a DJ, dancing, refreshments and party favors available for purchase and a raffle.
December 31, 2017, New Year’s Eve Pier Park Beach Ball Drop, Panama City Beach, FL, www.ShoppierPark.com
Ring in the New Year with a beachside celebration like no other. The New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop is celebrating its 10th year in 2017 and continues to grow in attendance and programming year after year. The festivities begin on December 31st at 5:30 p.m. and will feature a family celebration complete with live music, street vendors, stilt walkers, balloon artists and the popular countdown to 8 o’clock, with a ball drop featuring 10,000 colorful beach balls released onto Pier Park Drive. This leads into the Midnight Celebration with live entertainment, breath-taking fireworks and the New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop that features an LED illuminated beach ball which will be lowered down the Celebration Tower as the clock strikes midnight. Two firework shows, 10,000 beach balls and 40,000 closest friends come together to make the most family-friendly and unique New Year’s celebrations in the Southeast.
December 31, 2017, Pensacola Pelican Drop, Pensacola, FL, www.PensacolaPelicanDrop.com
Pensacola’s Pelican Drop Celebration is designed to entertain spectators of all ages with a unique gulf-coast experience. While New York has their ball drop and Atlanta has the peach drop, Pensacola is proud to stake claim to the one and only Pelican drop. Throughout the evening, the giant illuminated Pelican will be perched above the celebration on a 100-foot platform. Live music and activities abound throughout the evening. The celebration’s high point will be the giant illuminated pelican descending at the stroke of midnight amidst fireworks and confetti.