After living in Southern California for the first 28 years of my life, I discovered the wonders of Alabama when my family moved to the northern part of my husband’s home state. Accustomed to sunny Christmas days in the high 70’s, I was pleased to find cooler but not frosty holiday temperatures, making the time of year all the more magical.
Snow is rare in Alabama, but don’t let that put you off. These southerners go all out during the holiday season, and entire towns are transformed into holiday wonderlands. Winters are generally mild, as they are in much of the southeastern United States, with December temperatures averaging low in the high 30’s and low 40’s.
My husband and I raised our children here and have explored many Christmas attractions and light displays for over twenty five years. We made many great vacation memories, and so can you. Whether you fancy a stroll through wintry woods or your version of a white Christmas is the sugar-sweet sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast, you’re in luck in Alabama.
So if you love the sights and sounds of the season but can’t chomp on Jack Frost a little, here are some of the best Christmas light shows in the state.
1. Galaxy of Lights
Huntsville, Alabama, known as the Rocket City for its thriving aerospace industry, revives its holiday charm. Located in the Hunstville Botanical Gardens, Galaxy of Lights is two and a half miles of magnificent light shows that weave together holiday themes, classic characters and scenes from nature.
Galaxy of Lights offers both driving and running experiences. Organizers have added more walking nights this year, and there are even a few opportunities to bring your well-behaved dogs.
If you are able and ready for a bit of adventure I would recommend going for a slower paced experience where you can fully immerse yourself in the experience. You’ll have a chance to enjoy the exhibits (our favorite being the Icicle Forest) and get an up-close look at the gardens decorated for the holidays. Of course, with Driving Nights you can celebrate the warmth of the holidays from the comfort of your vehicle.
Tickets for Walking Nights and Driving Nights can be purchased in advance online or at the garden reception during regular business hours. For Walking Nights, timed tickets must be purchased in advance to guarantee entry! Due to limited gate availability, gate tickets cannot be guaranteed during Walking Nights. For Driving Nights, tickets can be pre-purchased for any date or purchased upon arrival. All Driving Night tickets are charged per vehicle with ten (10) or fewer occupants.
Pro tip: When visiting Galaxy of Lights, be sure to make the short drive to Downtown Huntsville Big Spring Park for the Tinsel Trail. The Tinsel Trail features 350 trees decorated by local groups, businesses and families. Visitors can always stroll through the exhibition of uniquely decorated Christmas trees. It is open 24 hours. The trees are lit at dusk each night and turned off at midnight. This ad runs from November 25, 2022 to January 2, 2023.
2. Rocket City Christmas Light Show and Winter Wonderland
The Rocket City Christmas Light Show and Winter Wonderland returns to Toyota Field on November 12 and will run from November 12, 2022 to January 2, 2023. This one-of-a-kind drive-through music and light show may not be as traditional as she’s some of the others on this list, but it’s unbelievable. Hundreds of thousands of LED lights are synchronized with classic Christmas music and a few unexpected tunes. Think “Joy To The Word” with a disco beat, or “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” with an electric guitar. A very trans-Siberian Christmas production.
Guests will ride through a one-mile maze of bright Christmas lights on this immersive experience. Switch on the desired station on your vehicle’s radio and experience a spectacular synchronization of music and light! After the light show, stroll into the winter wonderland to enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, decorate ornaments, and make fire pits to make s’mores. Winter Wonderland is open from 5pm to 9pm until December 24th
3. Christmas at the Falls
Christmas At The Falls at Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama is a must-see for visitors and covers 500 acres in the Appalachian foothills. The park is a beautifully landscaped oasis with a botanical garden, animal habitat, historic buildings from the late 17th and 18th centuries, and the eponymous 90-foot waterfall. Stunning at any time of the year, the park is pure magic adorned with millions of lights.
Enjoy the twinkling lights throughout the park with spectacular views from the paved walking trails, and for a special treat, don’t miss a narrated ride on the park’s train. Be sure to take a short walk to the viewpoint and see the beautiful poinsettia and lights above the waterfall and in the gorge. This walk is accessible on a paved sidewalk, less than two hundred meters.
Christmas At The Falls opens November 24th and runs through January 1st, 2023.
They are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tickets for Christmas At the Falls must be purchased online.
Pro Tip: If you plan to travel by train, consider purchasing an Express Train Pass. The line can be long and the pass will save you some time. You won’t see anything on the train ride that you can’t see on foot, but it’s a lot of fun and my family always enjoys the narration.
4. Glow wildly
Glow Wild at Birmingham Zoo isn’t your typical Christmas lights. Instead, the zoo features dazzling animal-shaped lanterns, wildlife creations, and fantastical creatures from around the world. The zoo comes to life with hundreds of these wonderful animal forms including giraffes, bears, elephants, dolphins and a 150ft long dragon that towers up to 40ft! Some of the sculptures are animated and show moving body parts.
Note that Glow Wild, being a nighttime event, does not feature live animals.
The enlightening, larger-than-life experience will be open on select dates from November 16, 2022 to January 16, 2023. Pay attention and check the dates when buying tickets.
5. Magical Christmas in lights
Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Alabama is celebrating its 27th anniversary in 2022! In this Gulf Coast vacation tradition, guests stroll through a dazzling play of light through the 150-acre garden property. Additionally, the 1935, 10,500 square foot, 15 room Bellingrath Home is decorated in its festive splendor and adorned with beautiful poinsettias.
This holiday attraction features over 1,000 set pieces, approximately three million lights and 16 separate scenes.
fun fact: All set pieces for Magic Christmas in Lights are designed, welded, painted and lit by Bellingrath employees, making it an entirely Made in Alabama production.
Magic Christmas in Lights is a walking tour so dress appropriately; Temperatures in southern Alabama are famous for their wild swings. Locals always joke that if you don’t like the weather in Alabama, just wait 30 minutes.
All paths in Bellingrath Gardens and Home are paved and fully accessible. Wheelchairs and handcarts can be rented.
Magic Christmas in Lights has received numerous awards over the years. The display is a 2020 Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Festival and Event Winner. It is listed on USAToday 2020 and 2018 lists of “10 Best Botanical Garden Christmas Lights”.
Pro Tip: Be sure to tour the historic Bellingrath Museum Home and see it in its festive glory while you’re there. The fifteen room house has its original furnishings and is lavishly decorated for the holiday season. Guided tours give a glimpse into the life of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath and how they celebrated the holiday so long ago. Home Tour tickets can be purchased in the Admissions Building or as part of an online ticket package.
6th Christmas Lights Festival
The Montgomery Zoo in the Alabama capital is transformed into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights and festive decorations at the Christmas Lights Festival each December.
Take in it all on a stroll, or see the scene from a different perspective with the zoo’s Zoofari Skylift — a fun chairlift ride that spans the park and offers breathtaking aerial views. Don’t miss the 25 fully decorated trees at the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum while you’re there.
The Christmas Lights Festival will take place from December 3, 2022 to December 25, 2022 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. More information and a full schedule can be found online.
In the midst of all the Christmas hustle and bustle this year, why not take some time to enjoy one (or more) of these festive light displays? You don’t have to travel far to see world-class Christmas lights and displays. You can always find some pretty awesome Christmas lights in an Alabama neighborhood near you.
I wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas.
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