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. Used to sunny Christmas days in the high 70s, I was delighted to find cooler, but not frigid, holiday temperatures, making the season all the more magical.
Snow is rare in Alabama, but don’t let that deter you. These southerners go all out for the holiday season and entire towns transform into holiday wonderlands. Winters are generally mild, as they are throughout most of the southeastern United States, with average December low temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s.
My husband and I raised our children here, exploring many Christmas attractions and light displays over twenty-five years. We made many wonderful holiday memories, and you can too. Whether you’re in the mood for a walk through wintry woods or your version of a white Christmas is the sugary sands of the Gulf Coast, you’re in luck in Alabama.
So, if you love the sights and sounds of the season, but can do with a little less Jack Frost nipping at your nose, here’s where to see some of the best holiday light displays in the state.
1. Galaxy Of Lights
Huntsville, Alabama, known as Rocket City for its thriving aerospace industry, turns on the charm for the holidays. Galaxy of Lights, located in the Hunstville Botanical Garden, is two and a half miles of magnificent light displays that weave together holiday themes, classic characters, and scenes from the natural world.
Galaxy of Lights offers both driving and walking experiences. Organizers have added more walking nights this year and there are even a couple of opportunities to bring your well-behaved dogs.
If you’re able and up for a bit of adventure, I’d recommend walking for a slower-paced experience where you can fully immerse yourself in the experience. You’ll get the chance to savor the displays (our favorite is the Icicle Forest) and check out the gardens all decked out for the holidays, up close and personal. Of course, Driving Nights allow you to celebrate the warmth of the holidays from the comfort of your vehicle.
Tickets for Walking Nights and Driving Nights are available to pre-purchase online or at the garden’s front desk during regular business hours. For Walking Nights, timed ticket(s) must be purchased in advance to guarantee admission! With limited availability at the gate, gate tickets can not 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 priced per vehicle with ten (10) or fewer occupants.
Pro Tip: If you visit 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 walk through the display of uniquely-decorated Christmas trees anytime. It’s open 24/7. The trees are lit each night at dusk and turned off at midnight. This display will run from November 25, 2022, until January 2, 2023.
2. Rocket City Christmas Light Show And Winter Wonderland
Rocket City Christmas Light Show and Winter Wonderland returns to Toyota Field on November 12 and runs from November 12, 2022, through January 2, 2023. This one-of-a-kind drive-through music and light display might not be as traditional as some of the others on this list, but it is incredible. Hundreds of thousands of LED lights are synced to classic holiday music and a few unexpected tunes. Think “Joy To The Word” with a disco beat or “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” infused with an electric guitar. A very Trans-Siberian Christmas type of production.
Guests will drive through a mile-and-a-half-long maze of bright holiday lights in this immersive experience. Tune in to the designated station on your vehicle’s radio and experience a spectacular synchronization of music and lights! Following the light show, wander into the winter wonderland for some hot chocolate and cookies, ornament decorating, and fire pits to make s’mores. The winter wonderland is open through December 24th, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
3. Christmas At The Falls
Christmas At The Falls located at Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden, Alabama, is a must-see destination encompassing 500 acres of land in the Appalachian Mountains’ foothills. The park is a beautifully landscaped oasis featuring a botanical garden, animal habitat, historical buildings built in the late 1700s and 1800s, and the namesake 90-foot waterfall. Stunning in any season, the park is pure magic decked out with millions of lights.
Enjoy the sparkling 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 viewing area and see the beautiful Christmas star and lights above the waterfall and in the gorge. This walk is accessible on a paved walkway, less than two hundred yards.
Christmas At The Falls opens November 24 and runs through January 1, 2023.
They are closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tickets must be purchased online for Christmas At the Falls.
Pro Tip: If you’d like to ride the train, consider purchasing an Express Train Pass. The line to ride can get long, and the pass will save you some time. You won’t see anything on the train ride that can’t be seen on foot, but it is a lot of fun, and my family always enjoys the narration.
4. Glow Wild
Glow Wild at the Birmingham Zoo is not your typical holiday light display. Instead, the zoo features dazzling animal-shaped lanterns, creations of wildlife, and fantastical creatures from around the world. The zoo comes alive with hundreds of these marvelous animal shapes including giraffes, bears, elephants, dolphins, and a 150-foot-long dragon soaring up to 40 feet high! Some of the sculptures are animated and feature moving body parts.
Be aware that no live animals will be on view at Glow Wild as a night event.
The illuminating, larger-than-life experience will be open on select dates from November 16, 2022, through January 16, 2023. Be sure and check the dates when purchasing tickets.
5. Magic Christmas In Lights
Magic Christmas in Lights at the Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore, Alabama, will celebrate its 27th year in 2022! Guests stroll through a dazzling light display throughout the 65-acre garden estate in this Gulf Coast holiday tradition. In addition, the 15-room, 10,500-square-foot Bellingrath Home built in 1935 is decorated in its holiday finery and enhanced with beautiful poinsettias.
This holiday attraction features more than 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 lamped by members of Bellingrath’s staff, making it a fully made-in-Alabama production.
Magic Christmas in Lights is a walking tour, so dress accordingly; temperatures in south Alabama are famous for their wild variations. Locals always joke that if you don’t like the weather in Alabama, just wait thirty minutes.
All pathways at Bellingrath Gardens and Home are paved and fully accessible. Wheelchairs and wagons are available to rent.
Magic Christmas in Lights has received numerous honors over the years. The display is a 2020 Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Festival & Event winner. It is listed on USA Today’s 2020 and 2018 lists of “10 Best Botanical Garden Holiday Light Displays.”
Pro Tip: Be sure and tour the historic Bellingrath Museum Home and see it in its holiday finery while you’re there. The fifteen-room home features its original furnishings and is lavishly decorated for the holiday season. Guided tours allow a glimpse into Walter and Bessie Bellingrath’s lives and how they celebrated the holidays so long ago. Home Tour tickets can be purchased in the Admissions Building or as part of an online ticket package.
6. Christmas Lights Festival
Take it all in on a stroll or view the scene from a different perspective on the zoo’s Zoofari Skylift — a fun chairlift ride that spans the park and offers stunning aerial views. Don’t miss the twenty-five fully decorated trees in the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum while you’re there.
Christmas Lights Festival runs from December 3, 2022, through December 25, 2022, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information and a complete schedule, visit them online.
This year, amid all the holiday hustle and bustle, why not carve out some time to enjoy one (or more) of these festive light displays? There’s no need 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.
Wishing you and yours a most joyous holiday season.
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