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
September 30-October 2, 2016, North Carolina Seafood Festival, Morehead City, NC, www.NCSeafoodFestival.org
For 30 years, Seafood and Sea-Fun have met at The North Carolina 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 more. The NC Seafood Festival, named the 2015 STS Festival Of The Year, has become a family tradition in Eastern North Carolina and beyond. With over 60 food vendors, a boat show, an interactive “Cooking with the Chefs” tent and a moving ceremony that honors the fishing industry, The NC Seafood Festival provides plenty of Sea-Fun for fans of all ages.
October 1-2, 2016, Cotton Pickin’ Fair, Gay, GA, www.CPFair.org
The Cotton Pickin’ Fair, Georgia’s original AgriTourism event, began in September 1972 on a 187-year-old farm. A declining farm economy, a very poor cattle market and the opening of I-185 from LaGrange to Columbus, gave birth to an idea that would supplement farm income 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, craftsmen and antique specialists from across the US and Canada every May and October. New talent keeps the festival fresh and exciting, while returning artists welcome loyal customers seeking to add to individual collections. With the backdrop of an old farm house and cotton gin, return to a simpler time for some 21st century fun at the Cotton Pickin’ Fair.
October 1-8, 2016, Red River Revel Arts Festival, Shreveport, LA, www.RedRiverRevel.com
The Red River Revel Arts Festival attracts more than 100,000 people to downtown Shreveport and the Riverfront each year. For more than 40 years, visitors young and old celebrate the arts in a variety of formats. Enjoy over 120 juried visual artists from across the country as they display and sell their creations, sample delicious regional foods from the 19 food booths, take an art class, sway to the beat at music concerts and watch dancers dazzle on stage. With such a variety of fun, Red River Revel Arts Festival has earned nods from Good Morning America, Top Events USA and AAA Southern Traveler.
Saturdays and Sundays-October 1-30, 2016, Rock City’s Rocktoberfest, Lookout Mountain, GA, http://www.SeeRockCity.com/events/entry/rocktoberfest
Get in touch with Rock City’s German Heritage during the 11th annual Rocktoberfest. Rock City Square will be transformed for a celebration of harvests and fall foliage. This premiere fall celebration includes live German music, polka lessons, German food, specialty beer, costumed characters and fun for the whole family. Join the fun at Rock City as we celebrate our German heritage and honor our founder, Frieda Utermoehlen Carter.
October 2-9, 2016, 20th Annual Cruisin’ The Coast, Throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast, MS, www.CruisinTheCoast.com
America’s Largest Block Party celebrates 20 years in 2016. Cruisin’ The Coast began in 1996 as a festival to celebrate antique, classic and hot rod cars, nostalgic music and more. Starting with humble beginnings (374 registered vehicles), the event surpassed all expectations with more than 7,500 cars in 2015. Drive the beautiful stretch of beachside highway along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, from Bay St. Louis to Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian and Ocean Springs. Each venue celebrates with a mini festival with bands, food vendors, swap meets and more. This event has earned top nods from AAA Magazine among many other accolades. Expect exciting changes this year including celebrity lineups and new events.
October 6-16, 2016, Georgia National Fair, Perry, GA, www.GeorgiaNationalFair.com
The Georgia National Fair has celebrated the state’s heritage, people and agriculture since the first fair in 1990. The fair offers a safe, clean and family-friendly environment. The fair has something for everyone with its livestock exhibits, horse shows, competitions, food, midway rides, games, major concerts and nightly fireworks. This year expect new entertainment, more rides and more concerts. With over $600,000 of free entertainment, everyone will see why the Georgia National Fair is famous for fun!
October 13-16, 2016, Fall for Greenville, Greenville, SC, www.FallForGreenville.net
Fall for Greenville originally began as a one-day event to showcase area restaurants and the downtown Greenville area. Since then the festival has grown to a dynamic four-day event featuring 40 of Greenville’s finest restaurants and almost 200 menu items. Fall for Greenville is currently the largest free admission food street festival in South Carolina and one of the largest in the Southeast, attracting between 150,000-200,000 people from across the United States and beyond. In addition to its diversity of food, Fall for Greenville is known for its free musical entertainment performed by local and regional talents on six different stages. Guests will also enjoy children’s activities, culinary demonstrations, wine tastings, a beer garden featuring 20 craft breweries and various competitions.
October 13-16, 2016, 45th Annual National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores, AL, www.MyShrimpFest.com
In its 45th year, the Annual National Shrimp Festival is held the second weekend in October at the public beach in beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama. The festival is one of the nation’s premier outdoor events featuring over 300 vendors that offer fine art, crafts, outdoor village and of course, SHRIMP! Two stages offer continuous local, regional and national entertainment acts. The Children’s Activity Village is a place where little ones can enjoy themselves, create their own art and participate in other fun filled activities. Enjoy seafood cooking demonstrations, a sand castle contest and the Shrimp Fest 10k/5k run.
October 14-16, 2016, Autumn Leaves Festival, Mount Airy, NC, www.AutumnLeavesFestival.com
The Autumn Leaves Festival 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of one of North Carolina’s longest running and most successful events. Explore the unique works of over 200 artisans. Browse through pottery, paintings, textiles and jewelry. Once guests find treasures to take home, they’re sure to have worked up an appetite. Enjoy the best of the South’s soul food—ham, biscuits, collards, cornbread, barbeque, Amish Doughnuts and more. It’s time to work off all those good eats with some toe-tapping, foot-stomping and hand-clapping music. The Autumn Leaves Festival showcases the area’s rich musical heritage with Old-time Bluegrass and Gospel notes.
October 14-15, 2016, 69th Annual Indiantown Rodeo, Indiantown, FL, www.IndianTownRodeo.com
Dust off the Stetson and break out the boots and Wranglers for a foot-stompin’ great time at the Indiantown Rodeo and Hoe-Down. This unique event dates back to 1947 and features live music and endless entertainment. Held in conjunction with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, this sanctioned event is one fans won’t want to miss. Watch the heart-racing action: steer wrestling, barrel racing, bull riders, cowboys and team roping. New this year—Team Ghost Riders, which brings the jungle to the arena with three of the best sheep dog riding monkeys in the business. This action-packed event sells out every year.
October 15, 2016, New River Gorge Bridge Day, Fayetteville, WV, www.OfficialBridgeDay.com
On the third Saturday of October each year, Bridge Day comes to West Virginia. The New River Gorge Bridge is closed to traffic and is opened to attitude as hundreds of BASE jumpers launch themselves 876 feet while 80,000 onlookers enjoy and explore the New River Gorge. Added to the festivities are 200 vendors that provide everything from folk art to funnel cakes. This year the All Veterans Parachute Team and Whiskey 7 have teamed together to bring an aerial demonstration experience to Bridge Day! The All Vets Team is one of the premier veteran parachuting exhibition groups in America while Whiskey 7 was the lead airplane in the second wave of D-Day during the invasion of Normandy. Come experience Bridge Day and celebrate everything that is great about the Mountain State.
October 15-16, 2016, 27th Annual Georgetown Wooden Boat Show, Georgetown, SC, www.WoodenBoatShow.com
The Georgetown Wooden Boat Show offers fun for the whole family. This year’s show will feature one of the Southeast’s best wooden boat exhibits with more than 140 classic wooden boats displayed on land and water, a wooden boatbuilding competition, children’s model boat building, knot tying, maritime arts and crafts, food and music. A special attraction will be the Wooden Boat Challenge when teams of two race to build a rowing skiff within a 4 hour time limit. The teams will then test their boats for seaworthiness in a rowing relay on the Sampit River. These events will take place on the beautiful waterfront along Front Street in Historic Downtown Georgetown.
October 21-22, 28-29, 2016, Wild N’ Wicked Nights, Weeki Wachee, FL http://www.WeekiWachee.com/
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park hosts a special Halloween event held for two weekends each year. Enjoy a unique underwater show by the Weeki Wachee Mermaids, numerous mazes, above-water Halloween shows, costume contests and more. Whether guests are a bit weak-at-heart or looking for spine-chilling thrills—there is something for everyone. Families looking for Halloween fun without a high price can skip the Orlando theme parks and take a trip to Weeki Wachee, an original Florida attraction.
October 22, 2016, Barbeque Festival, Lexington, NC, www.BarbecueFestival.com
North Carolina’s Barbeque Festival features the state’s tastiest pork dishes. While guests chow down on finger-lickin’ treats, they will also be treated to exciting local, regional and national entertainment on seven different stages. This festival features 350+ artisans and craftsman, children’s attractions, car shows, rides, games and many pig themed activities to celebrate Lexington’s famous BBQ heritage. Come see why The Barbecue Festival earned a spot as one of Fodor’s best 15 small town festivals in the United States!
October 22, 2016, Deep Roots Festival, Milledgeville, GA, www.DeepRootsFestival.com
The Deep Roots Festival is a cultural arts and music festival taking place on a full square block in historic downtown Milledgeville. It beckons travelers from all over offering an antique car show featuring 100 classic cars and an artist market with more than 65 vendors featuring their hand-made items for sale. The KidZone has enough rides, inflatables and activities to keep little ones entertained for hours. Live entertainment on the community stage features demonstrations, local gymnasts, dancers and musicians and is a Deep Roots favorite! This event has a knack for discovering up and coming artists such as Grace Potter, the John Butler Trio Band, Alex Stone and Stokeswood before they hit it big, as well as old favorites like Dirty Guv’nahs and Wet Willie.
October 23-24, 2016, Owl-O-Ween, Kennesaw, GA, www.Owl-O-Ween.com
Voted as a top 3 festival in the Southeast by the Southeast Festival and Events Association, Owl-O-Ween is a visually stimulating event that engages and mesmerizes its audience of more than 42,000. This two-day event is Atlanta’s only hot air balloon festival and has something for everyone in the family. Billed as Atlanta’s largest costume party, step into the mystical world for trick or treating, tethered balloon rides, Oktoberfest, live entertainment, and more.
October 27-30, 2016, 43rd Annual French Food Festival, Larose, LA, www.FrenchFoodFest.com
The French Food Festival is a family-friendly event that offers an art show, pro bull riding tour, amateur boxing tournament, rock concert, old-fashioned carnival, live auction and of course…the best Cajun food in the country! It’s no wonder why this event sees over 35,000 people each year. Food and music lovers can’t get enough of what the French Food Festival has to offer: shrimp boulettes, alligator sauce piguante, crawfish fettuccine are just a few of the food favorites. Past musical performances include Waylon Thibadaux, Chubby Carrier, Amanda Shaw and Category 6. If that doesn’t satisfy your desire for Cajun culture, there are also folk life demonstrations throughout the weekend. Guests can observe trawl net making, cast net building, Tart a la Bouille cooking and even sample the local distillery’s whiskey.
October 27-November 13, 2016, State Fair of Louisiana, www.StateFairOfLouisiana.com
The State Fair of Louisiana is the largest fair held in the State attracting over 400,000+ people annually from all over the Ark-La-Tex region and beyond. It is host to the largest carnival and live stock show in the state as well. Founded in 1906, the State Fair of Louisiana is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year. Enjoy over 60 midway rides, games and delicious fair food. Watch free concerts, explore various exhibits, rodeos, competitions, cooking shows, antique tractors displays and much more. This year rock out to performances by Frank Foster, Wayne Toups, Waylon Thibodeaux, Joe Diffie and others. Take a stroll through the State Fair Zoo, watch Hollywood Racing Pigs, the Great American Duck Race and more.
October 28-30, 2016, Marine Corps Marathon, Arlington, VA, www.MarineMarathon.com
The Marine Corps Marathon is one of the largest and best-organized marathon events in the world. For the past 40 years, the MCM has promoted physical fitness, generated goodwill and has showcased the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps. 30,000 participants from across the globe run each year with 150,000 spectators cheering them on. The Marine Corps Marathon starts in Arlington, Virginia and finishes at the iconic US Marine Corps War Memorial.
October 28-November 5, 2016, West Virginia University Mountaineer Week, www.MountaineerWeek.wvu.edu
Mountaineer Week is the traditional 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, crafts, food and programs. 75,000 people come to this unique event. The centerpiece of the annual event is the Craft Fair, which features traditional and contemporary crafts of tourism and ecotourism—all promoting local goods and artisans. The diverse events scheduled for Mountaineer Week are as fun and educational. Mountaineer Week truly celebrate the sprit of West Virginia and what it means to be a Mountaineer.
November 1-7, 2016, Indie Memphis Film Festival, Memphis, TN, www.IndieMemphis.com
The Indie Memphis Film Festival transforms the city into a connecting point for filmmakers, musicians, artists and audiences. The festival brings a broad range of independent films, documentaries and short films from all corners of the country. This year expect more from the festival. This prized event will continue its long tradition of weekend screenings throughout Overton Square in Midtown, as well as expanding to include theatres in East Memphis and Collierville.
November 3-13, 2016, The Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival, Throughout the Gulf Coast, www.FBISF.com
The Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival is the oldest and largest event of its kind. Every year over 200 Singer/Songwriters gather along the Florida/Alabama Gulf Coast share the stories behind the songs that make up the soundtrack of our lives. From Grammy Award winners to the aspiring stars of tomorrow, artists of all ages and genres of music come together to spend eleven days performing original songs in over two-dozen intimate venues. Audiences can enjoy venues of all types: cathedral quiet listening rooms, romantic dinner spots, family-friendly restaurants or even a gritty roadhouse. Once guests hear a song performed by its original author, they will never hear it quite the same way again. The Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival is an experience of a lifetime—and there is no better place to enjoy it than on the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast.
November 4-6, 2016, 27th Annual Stuart Air Show, Stuart, FL, www.StuartAirShow.com
The 2016 edition of the Stuart Airshow will be the 27th consecutive year for this beloved event. The Stuart Airshow draws 40,000 spectators and is the largest show in Southern Florida. This exciting show blows guests away with amazing performances, fireworks, carnival rides and live music. On Saturday and Sunday, watch a WWII battle reenactment, weapons demo and WWII vehicle display. If you wish to leave the ground, helicopter rides and flights on the Warbird Texan aircraft are also available. The Stuart Air Show is an event that honors the past, inspires the future and is entertaining to all.
November 5-6, 2016, 38th Annual Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival, Ocean Springs, MS, www.PeterAndersonFestival.com
The Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival was created to honor master potter Peter Anderson, original potter of Shearwater Pottery, founded in 1928 and to celebrate the arts community. This esteemed event has established the Gulf Coast as a regional art destination. The festival brings in over 400 artists, craftsmen and food vendors, drawing in more than 125,000 people each year. This premier art festival has earned top honors from AAA Magazine and the American Bus Association.
November 5-6, 2016, Steampunk and Makers Fair, LaFayette, LA, www.SteampunkAndMakersFair.com
Steampunk and Makers Fair is part costume play, science, county fair and part something entirely new. This is a festival for all ages to showcase and celebrate science, technology, education, art and mathematics. Steampunk celebrates 19th century science fiction fun in the modern world. Steampunkers are diverse innovators—many come and make and showcase their own music, stories, art, costumes and creative 19th century paraphernalia. Makers are diverse innovators—who come and showcase their own work, designs and inventions. The Steampunk and Makers Fair is a unique blending of the two groups that represents something new and unique that is educational fun for the entire family.
November 6-18, 2016, Fall Outdoor Cascading Chrysanthemums of Bellingrath, Theodore, AL, www.Bellingrath.org
The Fall Outdoor Cascading Chrysanthemums display at the Bellingrath Gardens and Home is the nation’s largest outdoor display of cascading chrysanthemums. This show includes fantastic cascades of mums on bridges and balconies in radiant fall colors of red, yellow, bronze, orange and white. The display takes 9 months of meticulous horticultural engineering to create. More than 8,000 people attended this colorful show in 2015.
November 9, 2016, Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff, Gatlinburg, TN, www.Gatlinburg.com
Start the holiday season off right—with a full belly. Gatlinburg, Tennessee will begin the 27th year of the Smoky Mountain Winterfest with the annual Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff in the historic downtown district. City dignitaries will signify the start of Gatlinburg Winter Magic season with a ceremonial lighting of more than 3 million lights throughout the city. Participants in the Chili Cookoff will compete for the coveted People’s Choice Award, Best Booth Presentation and Best Apron. Endless hearty bowls of chili and dazzling twinkling lights will warm both body and soul in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
November 10-13, 2016, Dickens Christmas Show and Festivals, Myrtle Beach, SC, www.DickensChristmasShow.com
Drawing its inspiration from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, The Dickens Christmas Show & Festivals in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has become a premier holiday event. This unique celebration attracts more than 10,000 guests from all over the southeast. The Dickens Christmas Show & Festivals offers holiday shoppers a unique opportunity to experience the magic of Christmas long ago. Attendees enter into an elaborate 19th Century Victorian Marketplace filled with 350 eager period clad vendors hawking their wares—fine arts, crafts, holiday decorations, homemade soaps, clothing, jewelry, gourmet foods and more. The backdrop of this event is a 210-foot panorama of snow-laden London (circa 1880) and an elegant 24-foot Christmas tree. Guests will enjoy strolling minstrels, period clad urchins, Punch and Judy shows, a Victorian Tea Leaf Reader and of course—Jolly Old Saint Nick housed in his very own Victorian castle.
November 11-January 1, 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 two million twinkling lights, acres of stunning decorations and exceptional entertainment, this is the place to be this winter. 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 and ICE!—an astonishing display of colorful sculptures hand-carved from two 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 wreaths and ornate details that provide breathtaking views from every vantage point.
November 17-19, 2016, Mistletoe and Moss Holiday Market, www.VisitLakeCharles.org
Mark the calendar for the 24th Annual Mistletoe and Moss Holiday Market. A holiday tradition in the Lake Area, the market features over 80 merchants from around the country, showcasing apparel, gifts, accessories, specialty foods and home furnishings. But it’s not just the unique shopping that brings people back year after year. The Market also features great food from local eateries and festive holiday entertainment from local schools and groups. Enjoy a host of specialty events as well, including a Preview Party Gala, Preferred Shoppers Breakfast and Mistletoe & Moss’ Ladies Night featuring a wine tasting. The kids will love being the first in town to tell Santa what’s on their wish list at Cookies with Santa. More than just a shopping market, Mistletoe & Moss is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season and will get your whole family in the holiday spirit!
November 17-December 24, 2016, Christmas at the Galt House Hotel, Louisville, KY, www.ChristmasAtTheGaltHouse.com
There is something for everyone this holiday season at Christmas at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. This magical event will feature a brand new attraction this year— KaLightoscope: 12 Days of Christmas. The classic holiday song will be featured on the larger-than-life- silk luminaries. An audio tour will take guests on a journey with a partridge in a pear tree, past turtle doves and the last stop being 12 drummers drumming. Guests can also enjoy the spectacular Holly Jolly Elf Show, Winter WonderLane, Christmas Village, Snow Fairy Castle, Peppermint Express Kiddie Train, Gingerbread Contest, Mistletoe Marketplace and much more.
November 18-December 31, 2016, Lights of the Ozarks, Fayetteville, AR, www.TheLightsOfTheOzarks.com
Half a million lights illuminate Fayetteville, Arkansas during the Lights of the Ozarks. The festivities kick off with a Lightning Night Parade in the historic downtown square. Get into the spirit every evening with nightly carriage and pony rides, fresh hot chocolate and holiday music. Grab your sweetheart or take the entire family for a stroll or drive through this enchanting winter wonderland at the Lights of the Ozarks.
November 18-20, 2016, Celebration of Seagrove Potters, Seagrove, NC, www.DiscoverSeaGrove.com
Come explore some of the best U.S. made pottery in the pottery capital of the nation—Sea Grove, North Carolina. The Celebration of Seagrove Potters is a fabulous display of art at the historic Luck’s Cannery. The event kicks off with a Gala on Friday night, followed by the Potters Market. One of the most unique offerings is the Collaboration Auction. Many potters step outside their studios to create a unique piece of work with another artist that they donate to the auction. These pieces can only be found at the auction each year and are one-of-a-kind.
November 18-20, 2016, Fine Craft Show, Knoxville, TN, www.FoothillsCraftGuild.org
The Fine Craft Show in Knoxville, Tennessee features original handmade work of over 140 statewide artists. Works are of the highest standards, as members of the Foothills Craft Guild are juried to ensure quality workmanship. Guests will enjoy daily live craft demonstrations and interacting with the artisans. Kids can get in on the fun with the “Make It & Take It” booth. The Fine Craft Show is the perfect place to find the perfect gift going into the holiday season.
November 18-December 31, 2016, 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 LED lights that transform the gardens’ natural daytime splendor into a winter fantasyland. Enjoy gingerbread cookie decorating, hot cocoa and nightly entertainment. Dinner with Santa is back, as well as Jack Frost, Inara the Ice Queen and the Dancing Forest!
November 19, 2016, 21st Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration, Raleigh, NC, www.NCMuseumOfHistory.org
With a history reaching back over 10,000 years in North Carolina, Native Americans continue to shape the history of the Tar Heels state. Each November, the N.C. Museum of History partners with the state’s Native American tribes to host a free festival on Indian history and culture in North Carolina. Over 100 presenters, artists, dancers, musicians, scholars, authors, craftspeople, drum groups and many others participate to make this an entertaining and educational event. In addition to the festival, special exhibits, film screenings and talks will take place at the museum throughout November to commemorate National American Indian Heritage month.
November 19-January 6, 90th Annual Christmas Festival of Lights, Natchitoches, LA, www.Natchitoches.com
Ranked as one of the top three holiday light displays by Yahoo!Travel.com, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights is a 45 night celebration of lights, fun and festivities set along the historic downtown and Cane River Lake. Cane River is illuminated by more than 300,000 twinkling lights and 100 set pieces. This annual event draws over 400,000 visitors each year. Enjoy live entertainment, food vendors and fireworks over the water. The festival includes several specialty events including The Holiday Tour of Homes, Christmas Gala and a local Broadway performance.
November 19-December 31, 2016, Holidays in the City, Norfolk, VA, www.HolidaysInTheCity.net
Holidays in the City is a six-week winter-time party in Norfolk, Virginia. Celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year’s Eve at this multi-cultural event. The festival kicks off with the Grand Illumination Parade. This cherished holiday tradition brings together spectators, participants and volunteers from both near and far. This year enjoy a Holiday Market in the Art District, Festive Fridays—complete with entertainment, food and giveaways and a model train exhibit.
November 25-26, 2016, Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach, Wrightsville Beach, NC, http://NCHolidayFlotilla.org/
The North Carolina Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach is the Southern coastal version of a nighttime holiday parade – on water. The Flotilla Experience is a weekend full of fun events with something for everyone including the Atlantic Marine Launch Party with The Embers featuring Craig Woolard, 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 just before the actual Flotilla. The evening of the Flotilla, families typically gather on the banks of the waterways, in local restaurants, bars, boats and in homes to view the parade and fireworks. When was the last time that you spent Thanksgiving weekend at the beach? Y’all come on down and enjoy the one-of-a-kind Holiday Flotilla.
November 25-26, December 2-3, 9, 16-18, 2016, Winterfest Trolley Tours, Pensacola, FL, www.PensacolaWinterfest.org
All Aboard! for the most wonderful trip this holiday season to the Winterfest Trolley Tours in Pensacola, Florida. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy the snow falling from the sky in Christmas Town at the Courthouse on Palafox Street. Climb on board the flagship tour where favorite holiday characters including: Snoopy, Elvis, Frosty and the Whoos from Whoville give outstanding performances. Kids will also love Santa’s Express Tour where Santa and Rudolph come along for the ride. The tours and performances light up beautiful Downtown Pensacola in this magical event that will suit the whole family.
December 1-31, 2016, A Colonial Christmas, Williamsburg, VA, http://www.historyisfun.org/jamestown-settlement/a-colonial-christmas/
“A Colonial Christmas” at Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center offers a glimpse of 17th- and 18th-century holiday traditions with special tours and interpretive programs. Enjoy a period musical, entertainment and daily appearances from period-clad performers. In the re-created fort, visitors will walk through the wattle-and-daub buildings decorated with greenery and see fancy-cooking demonstrations. At the Yorktown Victory Center, guests will hear accounts of Christmas and winter in military encampments during the American Revolution and witness holiday preparations on a Revolution-period farm. Come see how the earliest Americans celebrated the most wonderful time of year.
December 1-23, 2016, Christmas Underground, Chattanooga, TN, www.RubyFalls.com/Christmas
Visit the Ruby Falls gem mines and discover Joystone—a rare gemstone that helps spread the spirit of Christmas! Experience Christmas 1,100 feet underground and create new memories like never before. An adventure to see Santa leads to an ice cave where you will watch gemstone miners play, catch a view of the Northern Lights and journey through the Sugar Plum Fairy Village. Help Santa and his miners search for Joystone and experience the celebration of this special holiday!
December 1, 2016, Home Town Holidays Parade, Forsyth, GA, www.Forsyth-MonroeChamber.com
Forsyth’s Hometown Holidays Parade is a spectacular display of the season. Lights cover everything from floats, people and even animals. The parade begins in front of the beautiful Tift College and continues around three sides of the historic square of Forsyth. Participants include the high school marching band and cheerleaders, dance troupes, beauty queens, carolers and of course Santa! Come enjoy the oldest and one of the only nighttime parades in Middle Georgia in charming Forsyth.
December 1-31, 2016, Southwest Louisiana Christmas Lighting Festival, Lake Charles, LA, www.VisitLakeCharles.org/CajunChristmas
There’s no excuse not to be in the Christmas spirit with all the parades, performances, concerts and festivities going on in Lake Charles during the holiday season. Join in the fun for Light Up the Lake where the whole family will love all of the activities from gingerbread houses, to parades by land and by sea. If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, then head on over to Sulphur’s Christmas Under the Oaks Festival where it snows every year. Heritage Square is transformed into a winter wonderland with twinkling lights, holly wreaths and the snowflakes falling from the sky. 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 the halls. Southwest Louisiana has it all to help families celebrate the most wonderful time of the year!
December 1-30, 2016, Speedway Christmas, Concord, NC, www.CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com
Speedway Christmas is the area’s premier holiday lights extravaganza and returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for its 7th year in 2016. More than three million lights are strung across a drive-through course of over three miles. During the course, fans even have the opportunity to drive on a portion of the legendary super speedway! In addition to the light course, enjoy drive-in-style movie nights on the 16,000 spare foot HDTV featuring Christmas classics. A Christmas Village is held each Thursday through Sunday night with games and crafts, photos with Santa, vendors, petting zoo, living nativity and more.
December 2, 2016, Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade and Winter Magic Kickoff, Gatlinburg, TN, http://www.Gatlinburg.com/events/details.aspx?id=17
The 41st Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade will be held on Friday, December 2, 2016. More than 60,000 people come to view this spectacular award winning parade. This fan-favorite features illuminated floats, marching bands, equestrian units, giant balloons and of course Santa Claus!
December 2, 2016, Wassail Fest, Columbus, MS, www.ColumbusMainStreet.com
On the first Friday in December each year, Main Street Columbus and its merchants transform the downtown streets and storefronts of Columbus, Mississippi into a Christmas wonderland. With twinkling lights, festive decorations and talented carolers harmonizing throughout the streets, Wassail Fest sets the stage for the holiday season. Here, the centuries-old Christmas carol, “Here We Come A-Wassailing,” takes on a new and special meaning. Guests can sample a variety of Wassail, a drink whose name means “…to your health”. Downtown merchants develop recipes and battle it out for the coveted title of “Wassail Meister.” Along with hot, tasty Wassail, there are in-store promotions, door-prize drawings and picture opportunities with Santa. This fun winter tradition is designed to help everyone catch the holiday spirit and grows more popular every year.
December 2-3, 2016, Holiday Arts Tour, Ruston, LA, www.nclarts.org/holidayartstour
The Holiday Arts Tour is an annual winter event in Downtown Ruston, Louisiana that spotlights the local arts community. This event is hosted by the North Central Louisiana Arts Council and involves nearly 30 local shops, restaurants and other businesses where artists showcase and sell their works. This two-day event features art demonstrations, children’s art activities and live musical and theatrical performances. Guests can paint the town as they stroll through downtown Ruston at this one of a kind holiday event.
December 3 & 10, 2016, Annual Christmas and Candlelight, Washington State Park, AR, www.HistoricWashingtonStatePark.com
Get into the Christmas mood at the Annual Christmas and Candlelight event at Washington State Park. Guests will be in awe of the natural beauty and candlelit streets provide as they stroll through the historic village. Decorations, music, and more set the tone for this historic holiday experience. The homes of yesterday are adorned with historic period decorations of pinecones, grapevines, magnolia, and evergreens. Enjoy daylight tours and candlelight tours where thousands of luminaries will be lit. Take the family on a horse drawn surrey ride or hunt for that perfect holiday gift at the Christmas and Candlelight festival.
December 3-4, 2016, Marietta Pilgrimage, Marietta, GA, www.MariettaPilgrimage.com
The Marietta Pilgrimage is a Christmas Home Tour that takes place in the historic district of the Marietta Square. The tour is a favorite holiday tradition for over 25 years. This special Christmas event showcases 6 private historic homes all lovingly restored and decorated for the season. In addition to private homes, several historic public buildings will also be on display. The Marietta Pilgrimage offers either a day our or an evening Candlelight Tour. Come deck the halls and sing “fa, la, la, la la,” and explore the beauty of Christmas at the Marietta Pilgrimage.
December 3-4, 2016, Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour, Wilmington, NC, www.lcfhs.com
The Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour is a distinguished two-day event that ushers in the holiday season with a festive tour of private homes, churches and historical sites in the beautiful Wilmington Historic District. Since 1974 visitors and residents have been able to indulge in the history, enchanting charm and holiday cheer that this event offers. Enjoy star-studded homes all dressed up for Christmas in an authentic Victorian era style.
December 8-11, 2016, Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, Palm Beach, FL, http://www.pbfoodwinefest.com/
From specialty talks with chefs, to 5-course dinners with premium wine pairings, the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival is a gastronomic experience that foodies can’t afford to miss. Enjoy celebrity chef “Throwdowns”, an evening of craft cocktails and karaoke gone wild. The celebrity chef list includes: Daniel Boulud, Robert Irvine, Marc Murphy, Elizabeth Faulkner and Jeff Mauro. The Palm Beach Food & Wine festival is complete with premium golf, some of the world’s best food, in an unmatched resort destination under the Florida sun.
December 8-9, 2016, Victorian Christmas Festival, Thomasville, GA, www.ThomasvilleGA.com
Downtown Thomasville ushers guests into the Christmas of ole’ during the Victorian Christmas Festival. Tantalizing aromas drift from the street vendors offering scrumptious seasonal delicacies. Visit St. Nick this holiday in a snowy winter scene—complete with carriage rides, jingle bells and twinkling lights. Carolers sing traditional favorites while colorful characters capture guests’ imaginations. Be taken away by live entertainment, chestnut toasting and marshmallow roasting. This spirited festival includes a live nativity and a winter wonderland for children. New this year, enjoy the full size Victorian carousel.
December 9-10, 2016, Feast of Seven Fishes Festival, Fairmont, WV, www.MainStreetFairmont.org/feast-of-the-seven-fishes.html/
This Fairmont festival was born when Marion County native Robert Tinnell, writer and filmmaker, wrote his 2005 graphic novel based on his family’s experience celebrating this Christmas Eve tradition. This one-day outdoor party celebrates the region’s Italian heritage with food, crafts, entertainment and a cooking school. The Feast of the Seven Fishes adds several dashes of Italy to the holidays. Learn to craft Seven-course seafood meals from recipes passed down generations. Once you fill up on pasta and pizzelle, enjoy authentic dancing, winemaking, cookie contests, Catholic mass and more at the street festival. Add a new kind of tradition to your Christmas—the old-world tradition
December 9-10, 2016, It’s a Dickens Christmas Y’all Festival, Tuscumbia, AL
This annual holiday festival is reminiscent of the Charles Dickens holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol,” complete with Clydesdale carriage rides, snow falling, trolley tours, music, arts & crafts and food vendors in historic downtown Tuscumbia, Alabama. This Dickens Christmas kicks off on Friday night, December 9th with a Victorian English Christmas dinner with a Southern twist. Eat and be merry as the characters of the “Christmas Carol” serve up the entertainment. Saturday rolls out all the stops—performances by the Nutcracker Victorian Ballroom Dancers, brass and string ensembles and children’s dance groups take place throughout the day. Enjoy the spirit of the season at the holiday market and watch for appearances by Santa Clause and Father Christmas.
December 9-10 & 16-17, 2016, Winter Waterland, Weeki Wachee, FL, www.WeekiWachee.com
Every year Weeki Wachee Springs State Park hosts a special winter event held for two weekends at the park. Enjoy a unique underwater show by the Weeki Wachee Mermaids, above-water performances, light displays and a special visit from Santa Claus and his mermaid elves! Extra activities include a petting zoo, bounce houses and a live nativity. Splash into something different this Christmas season in Weeki Wachee, Florida.
December 11, 2016, 21st Annual Town of Mount Pleasant Christmas Light Parade, Mount Pleasant, SC, www.ComeOnOverMP.com
More than 100 beautifully decorated floats will light up Coleman Boulevard as the Mount Pleasant Christmas Light Parade sets sail to the delight of thousands of residents and visitors. The 9-time State Champion Wando High School Band and several other noteworthy acts delight residents and visitors in one of the few remaining nighttime parades. The evening kicks off with the town tree lighting and fireworks display—just before the parade rolls through town.
December 28-31, 2016, Andrew Johnson Bank Ladies’ Classic Basketball Tournament, Greenville, TN, www.LadiesClassic.GreenevilleSun.com/home
The Ladies’ Classic, featured in USA Today, plays host each year to 16 high school basketball teams from across the nation in a tournament play. The event takes place at Hal Henard Elementary School and is nationally recognized as one of the premier high school girls’ basketball events in the country. One feature that sets the Classic apart from many other of its kind is the presence of Host Families. These Host Families greet the teams at their hotels, support them throughout the tournament, invite teams to their homes for meals, furnish the players with gifts and are a wealth of information on the area.
December 31, 2016, Gatlinburg New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show and Ball Drop, Gatlinburg, TN, http://www.Gatlinburg.com/events/
Since 1987 Gatlinburg, Tennessee has welcomed the New Year in grand style with the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show from the Gatlinburg Space Needle. This family-friendly celebration is one of the largest organized New Year’s Eve events in the nation. 50,000 people attend this rockin’ party every year. Watch the fireworks light up the sky and ring in the New Year in an unforgettable way.
December 31, 2016, Pensacola Pelican Drop, Pensacola, FL, www.PensacolaPelicanDrop.com
Pensacola’s Pelican Drop Celebration is designed to entertain spectators of all ages with a uniquely 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 to help guests ring in the New Year. Throughout the evening, the giant illuminated Pelican will be perched above the celebration on a 100-foor platform. Enjoy live music, a special kids count down at 8 p.m. and vendors. When the clock strikes midnight, the brightly lit bird will make its grand descent amidst fireworks and confetti.