10 TOP Christmas Light Displays in the Southeast

10 TOP Christmas Light Displays in the Southeast

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Looking at the Christmas light displays puts me in the holiday spirit.

Do you agree?

I feel like the holidays somehow sneak up on us every year!

Does anybody else feel this way?

Best light displays in the U.S. Southeast

Last Updated: July 11, 2022

P.S.Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.

I’m thankful, however, to live in a place where we get to experience all 4 seasons. Every year when I tire of the summer heat, I anxiously await for cooler weather, fall festivals, and a good home cooked Thanksgiving meal. 

Quicker than I can snap my fingers, I walk into the neighborhood hardware store and see Christmas decorations being displayed in September!

May all your troubles soon be gone. Oh, Christmas lights keep shining on.

Anonymous

I’m probably the only person who gets excited about the singing Santa or flashing Christmas lights on display before Halloween. 

Christmas Traditions

Christmas light displays

Growing up, my family always drove through neighborhoods to see homes decorated for Christmas and the holidays. We also lived by some parks that would put up lights and it became tradition to go every year. 

I want to share with you some of the top 10 places to see lights for Christmas and the holidays in the Southeast. 

Top 10 Christmas Lights Displays for the Holidays In The Southeast

North Carolina

1. Tanglewood Festival of Lights | Location: Clemmons, NC

Picture of Winston Tower building in downtown Winston-Salem, NC
Downtown Winston-Salem, NC

Each holiday season, Tanglewood Park hosts their annual Festival of Lights where people come from all over.

  • The Festival of Lights is a 5 mile drive with more than a million twinkling lights hung to capture the Christmas spirit. 
  • Midway through the lights display is the Christmas Village where you can stop, stretch your legs, make s-mores, and do some Christmas shopping in the old red barn.
  • Pre-Covid, you could also get pictures taken with Santa!

Interested in visiting the lights at Tanglewood? Please note that prices are per car. As of 2021, it is $20 cash or $23 card for standard vehicle. Growing up a mile from Tanglewood, I know traffic gets bad closer to Christmas and on weekends. I strongly suggest opting for weekdays or getting there early to avoid 3-4 hour wait times. 

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Clemmons is located 15 minutes outside of Winston-Salem, NC. There are a lot of things to see and do in the Winston-Salem area and even within an hour drive. If you choose to visit Tanglewood lights, I recommend extending your stay. There is so much you can see around this area!

Hotels

Check out downtown Winston-Salem, NC. It is close to shops, restaurants, and is not a far drive from Tanglewood. 

Depending on what you want to spend on a hotel room, there is a price point for everyone.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, the following hotels were ranked the highest. 

  • The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel – Located downtown on main street, this hotel comes with a lot of charm as it is housed in the historic R.J. Reynolds building. Features include a bowling alley, indoor basketball court, billards, pingpong table, and a slide! 
  • Graylyn Estate – This gorgeous hotel is not located downtown, but it is in a very pretty area of Winston-Salem. You may even see a wedding taking place as this is a very popular wedding venue. If you stay here, make sure to check out Reynolda Village and the Reynolda House that is right down the road. 
  • The Historic Brookstown Inn – Another popular wedding venue is the Brookstown Inn. If you are looking for a hotel that is close to Old Salem and that has some historic charm, then this might be the place for you!

Wanting to use those hotel reward points? Don’t worry, I totally get it! There are plenty of other options than the hotels briefly mentioned. 

Attractions

From Winston-Salem, there are several places you can visit that are less than an hour drive. 

Shopping

If you want to get some Christmas shopping in before the holidays, check out Salem Creek for Christmas decor and thruway shopping center in Winston-Salem.

Things To Do

You can explore the furniture capital of the World (aka High Point, NC), discover Richard Childress Vineyards (Lexington, NC), or learn about Moravian heritage at Old Salem in Winston-Salem. 

Food

There are several wonderful restaurants in Winston-Salem and nearby cities. Some of my favorites include Mozelle’s, Village Tavern, Penny Path Café & Crêpe Shop, and Childress Vineyards Bistro. 

2. Charlotte Motor Speedway Christmas Lights | Location: Concord, NC

Car driving through the Concord motor speedway Christmas light display
Concord Speedway Lights

If you’ve ever wanted to drive a race car track then now’s your chance!

  • Concord is home to Charlotte Motor Speedway and every year it’s a tradition for them to put on a huge light show.
  • Over a 4 mile track you will see over 4 million twinkling lights glowing, some even synchronized to Christmas music. 

Words of advice: Make sure you have your radio on the channel they recommend… took us halfway into the lights display to realize we didn’t have our radio to the right station.🤦‍♀️

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Concord is located 35 minutes away from Charlotte, NC. There are a lot of things to see and do in the Charlotte area and even within an hour drive.

  • Fun Fact: As of 2021, Charlotte, NC is the 15th most populous city in the U.SA 

Hotels

Depending on what you want to do, you could stay in Concord or Charlotte.

  • Just want to see the lights? Stay in Concord to avoid Charlotte traffic.
  • Want to explore uptown (“downtown”) Charlotte? Stay near a light rail system to minimize driving – parking can be tricky!

If you choose to stay in Charlotte, let’s be real – the city is stinkin expensive. If you can’t afford to stay close to the light rail, don’t panic. 

The city can also be unsafe in some places, so safety first! 

Attractions

There are so many areas of Charlotte that you could explore during your visit. NODA and Plaza Midwood are 2 art districts that are very popular among the locals. 

Shopping

In Concord, you can visit Concord Mills. It is a huge shopping mall. As a local, however, I rarely visit this mall due to safety reasons.

  • Birkdale Village is a cute outdoor shopping center in Huntersville, NC. Take a trip to Barnes & Noble, visit the movie theater, or grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. Red Rocks Cafe is my favorite!
  • Southpark Mall is a popular shopping mall with some very nice, upscale shops. While you are here, eating at the Cheesecake Factory is a must!
Charlotte, NC Bank of America football stadium
Bank of America Stadium

Things To Do

There are several museums in uptown to visit, including Discovery Place, the Mint Museum, and Levine Museum.

Visit during foot ball season and experience the Carolina Panthers play at the Bank of America stadium. The stadium has a great view of the city. 

For the kids, head north and visit the Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville or Discovery Place Kids in Huntersville. Lazy 5 Ranch is a drive thru zoo where you can feed the animals from your car. Be prepared to vacuum afterwards!

Virginia

3. Bull Run Festival of Lights | Location: Centreville, VA

U.S. Capitol

If you are looking for a Christmas-themed socially distanced activity while in Virginia, then look no further than the Bull Run Festival of Lights.

This 2.5 mile drive is illuminated by Christmas lights. Enjoy the lights display from the comfort of your own car! 

In addition to a beautiful lights display, spend time enjoying the Holiday village and carnival on site. Kids will have a blast and love you for it!

To get the best price on tickets, purchase in advance online.

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Centreville is located just 40 minutes away from Washington, D.C. Spend time exploring the capital of the USA. 

Hotels

Choose what city you want to be your home base – Where do you want to spend the most time? 

If you choose to spend your time in Washington, D.C. check out this great information from planetware on the best areas and hotels for your upcoming stay! 

Attractions

Centreville is a town with a lot of historical attractions for both kids and adults. Visit the Bull Run Regional Park or relax at the Winery at Bull Run. 

If you have more time to spare, head over to Washington D.C. You can walk, take the subway, or any form of public transportation once in the city. 

Things To Do

In Washington D.C. hit up all of the monuments during your visit: Lincoln MemorialWWII memorialVietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Washington Monument to name a few. 

Visit some museums and be reminded of history: National Simthsonian MuseumHolocaust MuseumNational Air & Space Museum, and the International Spy Museum.

4. Tacky Lights Tour | Richmond, VA

Fall leaves and high rise buildings in Richmond, VA

What’s more fun than a community coming together to put on a light show for the holidays? 

A Richmond tradition dating back to 1985, houses must be approved to be put on the tacky lights tour list. 

To be approved, houses now must have a minimum of 40,000 lights to get on the list. When the tour first started in the 80’s, houses only needed 10,000 lights.

As you can see, people in Richmond take their lights seriously!

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Hotels

If looking to stay at some of the nicest hotels in the area, check out the following as ranked by U.S. News and World Report:

  • The Jefferson Hotel An iconic landmark in Richmond, VA, this hotel has welcomed many presidents ever since it first opened in 1895. The hotel is located downtown and is in close proximity to The Virginia State Capitol and the city’s Museum District sites. 
  • Quirk Hotel This boutique hotel is also located downtown. World of Hyatt members can earn and redeem points here!
  • The Westin Richmond This hotel is part of the Marriott hotel family. Because of this, Marriott Bonvoy members can earn and use points here!

Attractions

Things To Do

During your stay in Richmond, VA, enjoy a visit to Maymont. Maymont is a 100 acre estate that was gifted to the community. Here you can watch otters play, pet goats, tour the mansion, and walk the beautiful gardens. 

Head 20 miles north of Richmond and hit up Kings Dominion, a fun filled amusement park with roller coasters and water rides. 

West Virginia

5. Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights | Location: Wheeling, W

One of the largest light displays in the nation, more than one million visitors flock to see the twinkling light show each year. 

  • The Oglebay Winter Festival of Lights is a 6 mile drive with 90 light displays, using more than 1 million LED lights.
  • This is no typical festival of lights! 

Enjoy the other amenities of the Oglebay Festival of lights: Oglebay Good Zoo, go Christmas shopping, take a wagon ride, and eat! 

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Hotels

Wheeling, WV is a small mountain town. Choose a hotel that fits your budget and needs! 

Start your search now! 

Attractions

Not only does Wheeling, WV have a historical past, but it has a lot of fun activities for the entire family.  

Things To Do

During your stay in Wheeling, WV, kids will love a visit to The Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum, as well as the Oglebay Good Zoo. 

The Suspension Bridge is a very popular sight as it is one of the largest suspension bridges built today. You can park and walk across it; however, you may want to hold off if you have a fear of heights. 

Florida

6. Disney World | Location: Orlando, FL

Standing in front of Mickey Mouse lawn art at Christmas

They say Disney is the “happiest place on earth.” I absolutely love Disney! When we went at Christmas time they had every inch decorated. If you time it right, crowds are less than peak season too. 

When planning a trip to Disney World, it is important to be organized and plan out your trip. Disney has made this easier with the use of their app and fast pass system.

Interested in a Disney World Christmas vacation? I suggest checking out mousesavers.com for great tips on all things Disney!

South Carolina

7. Brookgreen Garden Night of a Thousand Candles | Location: Murrells Inlet, SC

Brookgreen Gardens has been recognized by Travel+Leisure as one of the best light displays in South Carolina.  

  • This walking tour lets your take a leisurely stroll through the gardens at night while seeing it come to life under the glow of several lights and 2,800 candles.
  • Please note that pre-purchase of tickets are now required. This can be done online. 
  • Dining options will also be available on site. Reservations are recommended. 

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Take a drive 25-30 minutes away and you will run into Myrtle Beach, a very popular beach to out of town guests.  

Hotels

Because Murrells Inlet is on the south side of Myrtle Beach, you may want to consider lodging in that area. 

  • I personally, prefer to stay in North Myrtle Beach when visiting the area. Myrtle Beach has become more of a tourist trap now, however, because of the excessive crowds and out of town visitors. 
  • North Myrtle Beach to Murrells Inlet is approx a 45-minute drive. There are plenty of high-rise hotels, condos rentals, and Airbnb/vrbos in the area. Decide on the area and then you can start looking up lodging. 

Interested in a quieter beach vacation? Check this out

Attractions

Skywheel located on the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Skywheel at Myrtle Beach

Shopping

There are many opportunities for shopping while at Myrtle Beach. Two popular shopping areas are Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing. If you want to look for some good deals, visit one of the two Tanger Outlets locations. (Make sure you grab a discount book at customer service if you are a AAA member!)

Entertainment

If you find yourself at Broadway at the Beach, check out Ripley’s Aquarium Wonderworks, a mirror maze, or an escape game! Outside of Broadway at the Beach, check out the Skywheel on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk. Putt-Putt (“Mini-golf”) is also popular and courses are everywhere!

Tennessee

8. Gaylord Opryland Resort | Location: Nashville, TN

People touring the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN
Gaylord Opryland Resort

Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort is a full blown Christmas event. You can spend days enjoying the Christmas events, shows, and festivities while getting into the Christmas spirit! 

In addition to Christmas lights, you will find carriage rides, a riverboat Christmas cruise, bumper cars, ice skating, ice tubing, and dinner shows! 

There is fun found here for the entire family, inclusive of all ages!

If you’re like me and your idea of vacation involves a spa, don’t fret because there’s a Winter Wellness Spa as well! There’s limited availability so you better get booking those spa treatments! 

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Also called the Music Capital of America, you are guaranteed a fun filled time in this city! There is no shortage of country music and plenty of country bars to enjoy.

Hotels

Like all big cities, there are options of hotels, airbnbs, and major high rise accommodations. The Gaylord Opryland Resort is a gorgeous hotel, especially during the holidays with the light display. It can get crowded with all the extra visitors.  

If you prefer the traditional Nashville experience with bars, country music, and nightlife, you may prefer staying downtown in the middle of the action. Here you will also be close to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum. Downtown Nashville is also very walkable. Check out the nashvilleguru for hotel recommendations!

Attractions

Things To Do: When in Nashville, there are some touristy things you must see and do. The list is endless, but some popular attractions include The Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Johnny Cash Museum, and, of course, Downtown for some good ol’ country music! 

Georgia

9. Atlanta Botanical Garden | Location: Atlanta, GA

Enjoy the gardens decked out in illuminating lights for the holidays. While this is a walking tour, there are complimentary wheelchairs and electric scooters available for rent.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and there is limited availability due to social-distancing protocols. So don’t procrastinate! 

There are dining options on site. Currently, reservations are a member only perk. Not a garden member? You can still dine without reservations – first come, first serve. 

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

They say New York City is the “city that never sleeps;” however, I feel like Atlanta should also get this nickname.  Atlanta has tons of things to see and do. Be prepared for the traffic you will encounter when entering and exiting the city! Plan your travels accordingly! 

Hotels

Be careful where you decide to stay in Atlanta. Some neighborhoods are safer than others. I don’t have enough time to dive into the details of Atlanta lodging recommendations; however, I recommend first deciding what you will be doing during your getaway.  

If the majority of your time will be spent at the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca Cola, then you may want to stay downtown near these places. 

If you prefer to stay near the Atlanta Botanical Gardens where the lights display is located, then you will want to stay in Midtown. Midtown is characterized by beautiful, elegant architectural designs, while Downtown is more urban. 

Attractions

Husband and I posing for photo on segways in downtown Atlanta, Georgia

Things To Do: Depending on the weather and if you have time, I recommend taking a Segway tour of the city. We had a wonderful time and it’s a great way to see everything without having to battle Atlanta traffic! 

Other must see attractions include the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, and the Atlanta Zoo. 

Kids will love going to the Georgia Aquarium. They have an immersive shark & ray attraction and presentations throughout the day. The aquarium is very interactive and great for kids! Children age 2 and under are free. All other ages are $36.95/ticket. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. 

Another kid favorite is Zoo Atlanta. Here you will find engaging presentations, interactive displays, and hands-on learning opportunities! 

Alabama

10. Bellingrath Gardens and Homes Christmas Display | Location: Mobile, AL

Enjoy a stroll through this gorgeous lights display. 

During your visit, expect to see 16 scenes and 3 million lights throughout the 65-acre estate. 

Stop by the Live Oak Plaza halfway through your visit to grab a hot cup of hot chocolate or a quick snack.

Need some last minute Christmas items or want to grab a souvenir? The Bellingrath  Gift Shop usually stays open until 9pm! (Check times to ensure open before going) 

Wanna make it a weekend getaway?

Hotels

Stay in one of the following hotels. They are full of character and history. They are also located in a walkable area of town. 

  • The Admiral Hotel: A boutique hotel dating back to the 1940’s!
  • Malaga Inn: This inn provides a more intimate experience. It was converted from an 1862 townhouse. 

Attractions

Shopping

Take a stroll down Dauphin Street. You will find cafes, bars, and quaint shops. 

Things To Do

When visiting Mobile, Alabama, save some time to visit the Battleship USS Alabama and the Mobile Carnival Museum. Learn about Mardi Gras in Mobile Alabama when visiting the Carnival Museum.  

Walk the water at Mobile Bay or see a show at the Crescent Theater! 

Have you visited any of these Christmas light displays? Which is your favorite?

Until next time! 

xxx Sara + Josh

Christmas Light Displays FAQ’s

How much does Tanglewood Festival of Lights cost?

Please note that prices are per car. As of 2021, it is $20 cash or $23 card for standard vehicle. Growing up a mile from Tanglewood, I know traffic gets bad closer to Christmas and on weekends. I strongly suggest opting for weekdays or getting there early to avoid 3-4 hour wait times. 

What Nascar tracks do Christmas lights?

Charlotte Motor Speedway

If you’ve ever wanted to drive a race car track then now’s your chance! Concord is home to Charlotte Motor Speedway and every year it’s a tradition for them to put on a huge light show.

How much is it to see the lights at the Opryland Hotel?

Admission is free! Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort is a full blown Christmas event. You can spend days enjoying the Christmas events, shows, and festivities while getting into the Christmas spirit! 

November 12, 2021 – January 2, 2022

How many lights does Bellingrath have?

During your visit, expect to see 16 scenes and 3 million lights throughout the 65-acre estate. 

Looking for more holiday guidance?!

And please do me a little favor and share this article with others, for there’s a good chance that it will help them with their travels!

 

Sara & Josh

While Sara and Josh may be new to the travel blogging world, that doesn't mean they lack knowledge or experience in booking bougie vacations. With a talent for finding travel deals, Sara and Josh are here to teach YOU some of their tricks to traveling "bougie on a budget." Learn more about their story and please reach out with any questions or comments via e-mail at: [email protected].

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