The holidays always seem to sneak up on me. Somehow I always find myself scrambling to get gifts bought, packages mailed, and menus planned. Even though there’s plenty of work to be done, all I really want to do is relax with my family and count my blessings. As a northern girl, I’m used to bundling up for snowy weather during the holidays. This year, a more temperate holiday down south sounds amazing. Check out these southern Christmas towns at the top of our list.
6 Best Southern Christmas Towns
1. New Orleans
Everyone knows a little something about New Orleans. Whether you’ve heard stories about the city’s fabulous food, exciting nightlife, inspiring architecture, or haunted past, it’s all true. This vibrant city is unlike any other in the States. And visiting around the holidays may be the perfect time as you’ll enjoy celebrating unique traditions you’ll only find in New Orleans.
New Orleans Holiday Parade
Every time I’ve been to New Orleans, I’ve been lucky enough to watch a fabulous parade. It’s no wonder since New Orleans loves an excuse to put on a show and may just be the parade capital of the United States. The holidays are no exception. This year’s holiday parade occurs on Saturday, December 2. Grab the kids and get your spot along the route early. The parades in NOLA are spectacular and there’s always a big crowd. The fun starts at the French Market, which weaves through downtown and ends in Lafayette Square. Expect more fun in the square with a post-holiday concert. New Orleans knows how to put on a party and this parade is one you won’t want to miss.
Holiday Décor At The Roosevelt Hotel New Orleans
Step into the lobby of the Roosevelt New Orleans at Christmas time and be instantly transported into a magical land of holiday enchantment. The Roosevelt New Orleans, an iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the Garden District, is a must-visit during December. Wander through the lobby, marvel at more than 60,000 dazzling lights, and revel in a world of festive wonder. You’ll find tree after gorgeous tree adorned with dazzling ornaments and lights. It’s a breathtaking sight.
Roosevelt Hotel Teddy Bear Tea 2023
The Roosevelt offers kids the chance to experience a magical version of the North Pole at the much anticipated Teddy Bear Tea. This fun celebration will feature singing and dancing, and of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to visit and share stories. Tasty treats include pastries, savory snacks, hot chocolates, and teas as well as sparkling beverages for the adults. Each child will leave with the adorned Roosevelt Teddy Bear. This ticketed event runs multiple dates through December 27.
Emporium Gift Shop At The Roosevelt Hotel
The Roosevelt gift shop, the Emporium, is filled to the brim with holiday décor and handcrafted ornaments from local artists. You’ll find a special selection of handcrafted ornaments from local artisans and have the chance to pick up unique holiday gifts. While at the hotel, head to the Sazerac Bar and let the creative bartenders pour you a classic holiday cocktail.
Experience A Réveillon Holiday Dinner In New Orleans
New Orleans is a city of many traditions. One of the most loved is a culinary tradition called Réveillon. The Réveillon dinner is a centuries-old holiday custom that’s been updated for the modern diner. Derived from the French word for “awakening,” Réveillon originally was a meal served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve for all the New Orleanian Catholics. Since virtually all the settlers of New Orleans were Catholic, most of the city would return from midnight mass and lay out a spread of food for their hungry family. Everything from eggs to oysters would be at the table and the dinner could last for a few hours! These days, many New Orleans restaurants put on a Réveillon holiday meal. These over-the-top elegant dinners feature multi-course menus with expertly prepared food served in an upscale atmosphere along with select wines. We love the Réveillon dinner at Arnaud’s. Other favorites are Réveillon at the Fountain Lodge, Antoine’s, and the Rib Room. Don’t miss out on this unique New Orleans experience.
Commander’s Palace Wine Tasting Event: CP Sips
Visit the iconic Commander’s Palace for the CP Sips event. Owned by the Brennan family, these legendary New Orleans restaurateurs have kept the amazing Commander’s Palace at the top of the New Orleans food scene for decades. This holiday season, they’re hosting a wine-tasting event, CP Sips, where you can sample a variety of red, white, and sparkling wines. The Commander’s Palace simply requires a visit when you’re in New Orleans and this December 6 event is a great excuse to stop in and see what the fuss is all about.
The kids will love the indoor activities at NOLA Christmasfest. The theme is winter wonderland and it’s a full-blown extravaganza of fun! The event takes place December 21 through December 30 at the Memorial Convention Center with activities for the whole family. The indoor family holiday fun features an ice skating rink, the Kringle Carousel, carnival rides, inflatables, children’s crafts, stunningly decorated Christmas trees, and more. With skate rentals on site, even if you don’t have your own skates, you’ll be able to glide across the ice like a professional. More ways to have fun here include the Big Blast Blizzard, the bocce court, ice slides, giant trees, and the Gingerbread Village.
You’re bound to work up an appetite having all this fun. But you’re in luck; there are plenty of dining options here. Grab burgers at the Mistletoe Grill or pizza at Prancer’s Pizza. Wash it all down with themed cocktails like a Feliz Navidad cranberry mojito or a peppermint white Russian at the Polar Pub.
Timed tickets for this event are offered online only. Choose morning or afternoon sessions, each about 4 and a half hours long. Make sure you choose the right session for you so you can take full advantage of your time at NOLA Christmasfest.
2. Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez is a small town in Mississippi known for its historic southern homes and sweet southern hospitality. At Christmas time, Natchez shines a light on its charming history with a festive twist.
The Towers Historic House And Gardens
Natchez hosts one of the most unusual holiday tours around. This unique display at the Towers Historic House combines jewelry with Christmas, resulting in gorgeous gems and Christmas delights. USA Today named The Jeweled Christmas at the Towers as one of the top 10 most unusual Christmas displays in the country. The Jeweled Christmas Tour offers candlelight tours on various evenings in December. Your ticket includes the tour, champagne, and light refreshments.
Natchez Christmas Parade
On Saturday, December 2, the annual Natchez Christmas Parade will be held beginning at 6 p.m. Enjoy this fun and festive southern small-town Christmas parade.
Caroling In The Park
Calling all holiday music lovers! Caroling in the Park will take place every Thursday in December at Memorial Park. The beauty of the park will be on full display, with lighted nursery-rhyme-themed displays throughout the park, already glowing in illumination. Come take a stroll amid the oak trees and watch the carolers beginning at 5:30 p.m.
3. Savannah, Georgia
You likely won’t find snow in Savannah during the holidays, but you will get to experience a whole lot of festive fun in this beautiful southern city.
Savannah’s Christmas Market
Savannah’s Christmas Market, one of the city’s best traditions, takes place through January 1, 2024, at the Plant Riverside District — the city’s former power plant now transformed into an entertainment district. Enjoy other events the whole family will love at Plant Riverside including holiday music, street performances, and specialty foods and drinks.
Old Town Trolley’s Holiday Sights & Festive Nights Tour
Celebrate the season in Savannah with a trip on the Old Town Trolley for a holiday light tour. The Holiday Sights & Festive Nights Tour promises a night of enjoying the season as you cruise through historic Savannah neighborhoods, all decked out in holiday décor. As you ride on the heated trolley, you’ll learn all about the history of the city while enjoying caroling and complimentary drinks. With alcoholic drinks available for purchase and an interesting narrative from costumed docents, this tour will put you in a festive mood. The trolley also makes a stop at the Christmas Market at Plant Riverside, so you can get some shopping in and even meet with Father Christmas.
13 Ghosts Of Christmas Past Tour Walking Tour
Did you know that Savannah is home to quite a few haunted spots? On this Christmas-themed walking tour, you’ll visit some of the legendary haunted sites in the city. As you walk through the Historic District, you’ll hear the haunted tales of the city while learning about the spooky ghosts of Christmas past.
The Historic Savannah Theatre
The Christmas spirit is in full swing at the Historic Savannah Theatre. With “A Christmas Tradition” on the stage, the theater is transformed into a festive holiday extravaganza. Enjoy watching Santa, dancing reindeer, and lots of singing and dancing in this 2-hour-long holiday show.
Davenport House Holiday Traditions Tours
The historic Davenport House Museum offers a glimpse into the past through tours of the festively decorated 19th-century home. Celebrate the season with cider and cookies in the Davenport House garden after the yuletide tour.
Sip, Shop, And Spa: Heavenly Spa By Westin
Who doesn’t like to be pampered? Celebrate the holiday season with a night out at the Heavenly Spa by Westin. Indulge in some pre-holiday mini-treatments, check out new skincare and beauty products, and relax with the girls. Limited reservations are available
Christmas Shopping In Historic Savannah
The shoppers in the group will want to explore Broughton Street downtown. This is one of the most wonderfully decorated streets and is also home to some of the city’s best shopping. Visit shops along the street, including the fabulously French Paris Market for elegant, timeless gifts. Be sure to check out all the glowing lights and greenery up and down this festive street.
4. Key West
Key West may be the perfect place to spend the holidays. With holiday-themed attractions and events throughout December, plenty of sunshine, and nice weather, I can’t think of anywhere better to be.
Holiday Walking Tours
Key West is home to many small, historic bed and breakfasts. These quaint homes are uniquely beautiful during the holidays with tons of holiday lights and bedazzled trees. A walk through historic Key West is a fun way to celebrate the season. As you explore the area, take time for a walk down Eaton Street. Known as a haunted part of Key West, legend has it that you may feel a certain spooky energy in this part of town. Don’t let the spooks scare you; Eaton Street will be decorated, carolers will be performing, and various performances will take place along the street.
Key West Museum Of Art And History Custom House Holiday Concert And Bazaar
On Friday, December 8, enjoy fantastic musical performances, a light show, and plenty of festive food and drink during the Custom House Holiday Concert and Bazaar at the Key West Museum of Art and History. You’ll find vendors offering all sorts of holiday gifts for those special people on your list.
Lighted Boat Parade
Key West loves a good celebration. On December 9, it’s time for the annual Schooner Wharf Lighted Boat Parade, a celebration you don’t want to miss. For more than 30 years, boaters have been participating in this parade, competing for prizes as they see who can come up with the best holiday-themed boat decorations. Boats large and small are decked out in their holiday finest, creating a glimmering Christmas light display in the waters off Key West.
Holiday Village And BeLighted Bike Ride
The Wesley House Family Services Holiday Village & BeLighted Bike Ride kicks off the Key West holiday season with Christmas family fun. The Holiday Village features booths and vendors, games, crafts, pictures with Santa, and other festive fun for kids of all ages. The BeLighted Bike Ride also takes place on December 1. This fun parade promises all sorts of decked-out bikes. The best bike wins a prize!
5. Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island, located off the Georgia Coast about 20 miles east of Savannah, is a popular area to visit any time of year. At Christmas time, the island really comes alive. With many festive activities planned, there are plenty of ways to find your holiday spirit.
Christmas Parade Of Lights
Get ready for the annual Tybee Christmas Parade. See the Big Man himself and join along as the parade travels down to the beach during this lighted, nighttime parade on Friday, December 1, from 6–8 p.m.
Tybee Boat Parade
The waters off Tybee Island are the perfect place for a festive boat parade. On Saturday, December 10, the Annual Tybee Boat Parade takes place as all sorts of illuminated watercraft decked out from stem to stern take to the water to show off their holiday spirit.
6. Beaufort, North Carolina
Beaufort, the third oldest town in North Carolina, puts its own small-town spin on the holidays. You’ll find quaint Beaufort oozing southern charm and hospitality.
Olde Fashioned Holiday Market
Shoppers delight in finding just the right gift, and at this market with over 90 vendors, you’re sure to find the perfect item for even the pickiest friends and family. Here, you’ll find all sorts of handmade and homemade gifts from local craftspeople. Discover delicious local foods, divine baked goods, and more. The market takes place on the Beaufort Courthouse grounds on December 16 from 4–8 p.m.
Holiday Brunch With Santa
Bring the kids to 34 Degrees North Restaurant to meet the Big Guy on December 2. Indulge in a scrumptious brunch spread. Favorites include the popular Beaufort Benedict, build-your-own omelet, shrimp and grits, and everyone’s favorite southern specialty, chicken and waffles. Make sure to remember your camera to capture the perfect holiday shot. Reservations are required for this event.
Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla
Come check out the watercraft at the Crystal Coast Christmas Flotilla on December 2. You’ll see kayaks, boats, yachts, and more all done up in holiday-themed décor. The boats will vie for prizes based on the best decorations and creativity. Winners will be celebrated at the Awards Party at the Beaufort Hotel.
Christmas Candlelight Tour
Tour private historic homes, inns, churches, and bed and breakfasts on this fascinating historical Christmas Candlelight Tour on Saturday, December 9. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at architectural styles around town, as well as see marvelously decorated homes for the holidays.
Enjoying a southern Christmas means experiencing all the wonderful southern holiday traditions with good friends and family, amid favorable southern temperatures. Wherever you go this holiday season, find quiet time to enjoy the peace of the season.