Charming Christmas Towns
By Sydni Ellis
Turn on Hallmark Channel, go see Last Christmas in theatres or stream practically any Christmas movie ever made, and you’ll notice one thing they all have in common: a delightful town square with fresh fir trees, twinkling lights and charming architecture. That small-town nostalgia is contagious. Who doesn’t want to shop inside quaint boutiques? Or meet friends at the local coffee shop? Or watch the snow fall from a gazebo in the park? Well, you can do all of that and more by visiting charming Christmas towns this month!
No, you don’t have to fly internationally or go back in time to see postcard-worthy small towns. There are many adorable places nearby that look like they came straight from It’s a Wonderful Life! So, bundle up, grab some hot chocolate and get ready to experience the holiday season in a magical new way.
Christmastime in Fredericksburg, Texas combines authentic German traditions with Texas hospitality. The heart of the city is Main Street, a historical shopping area completely ablaze in sparkling lights this time of year. From glowing candy-cane stripes wrapped around pillars to shining wreaths hanging proudly from each door, it’s simply beautiful. This is also a great place to get your shopping done, as there are over 150 shops, art galleries and boutiques here. And if you visit Dec. 6, you can see the Light the Night Christmas Parade, where more than 130 floats, bands and animals come out at nightfall, decked out in holiday colors, lights and costumes.
Next, travel to Jefferson, Texas, located approximately 150 miles from Eastern Collin County near Louisiana. This city is known for its elaborate Candlelight Tour of Homes, which is open from Dec. 5-7 and Dec. 12-14 for $25. Guests can see historical Victorian homes filled with all the glittering tinsel, lights and grandeur you could imagine! Some of these include the Claiborne House, featuring crystal chandeliers, original handcrafted molding and heart-of-pine floors, and the Old Mulberry Inn, a gorgeous inn surrounded by huge pecan trees and a 200-hundred-year-old mulberry.
Walk into these wonderful homes to see the themed-floral arrangements, gorgeous decorations and real Christmas trees trimmed with sparkling glass balls, all lit by candlelight. To add to the old-fashioned atmosphere, ladies in hooped gowns and gentlemen in top hats will be in each home to greet you and share stories from long ago. Afterward, be sure to wander to the Enchanted Forest, where you can admire 125 lighted trees and sit and relax in a real gazebo!
After seeing the adorable city of Jefferson, drive two hours to Natchitoches, La. This town is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory, and it has been celebrating Christmas with a magnificent festival since 1927. This year’s event is Dec. 7 and includes the pretty Festival of Lights parade, an 18th-century holiday re-enactment at Fort St. Jean Baptiste SHS and an impressive firework show that lights up Cane River with the sounds of festive music. Tickets are just $8.
Can’t make the festival? That’s okay! Here, the holiday season lasts until Jan 6. During this six-week celebration, over 300,000 brilliant lights and 100 set pieces are displayed every single night (and the fireworks show happens every Saturday!) These beautiful pieces are so well-known that people from all over come to admire them; in fact, they were even featured in the 1989 film, “Steel Magnolias.” Other favorite Natchitoches traditions include eating the tasty Natchitoches meat pie yum! Seeing carolers, going on a home tour and visiting the Santa Claus House to meet the jolly old fellow inside.
Speaking of Santa, he will also be hanging out in Eureka Springs, Ark., this month. From Natchitoches, drive seven hours north to see this charming little Victorian town, which has no stoplights, has more than 60 natural springs and is the only American city whose entire historic downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But more importantly, it will give you the small-town Christmas feeling that you love watching in classic movies! See Santa at A Night of Merry Making on Dec. 14, then shop boutiques and local stores at the Christmas Market in Basin Spring Park. Later, enjoy the caroling, snow, street theater, living window displays and more! The highlight of the evening is the Night of 1,000 Santa’s event (tickets are $15), where hundreds of people dress as St. Nick for a massive scavenger hunt throughout Downtown Eureka Springs.
More relaxing activities are available as well. Enjoy the yuletide atmosphere by walking through the Christmas Tree Forest at the Crescent Hotel Garden, where over 30 trees are trimmed in tinsel and twinkling lights. Or, listen to the sounds of Christmas music at the Home for the Holidays Concert on Dec. 20. Finally, don’t miss the amazing Drive-Through Light Display hosted by the Great Passion Play, available every Thursday-Sunday night through Jan. 1 for a donation. From the comfort of your own car (where the heat is turned up and warm hot cocoa rests in the cup holders), you can see over 300 lighted Christmas trees and other decorations to celebrate the season.
Afterward, drive an hour to Branson, Mo., a city known for its world-class live shows bursting with holiday spirit. A Branson Christmas show is unlike any otherin fact, you could spend your entire vacation seeing a different one every night. From Dolly Parton’s Stampede, featuring old-fashioned holiday costumes and 32 horses, to the lavish production of Christmas Wonderland that transforms the stage into something more dazzling than the North Pole itself, you’ll be swept away with Christmas cheer.
Another highlight is the annual holiday festival, An Old Time Christmas, taking place through Dec. 30 in Silver Dollar City. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life and A Dickens’ Christmas Carol performed live on stage, complete with exquisite scenery, costumes and Broadway-style music. During this event, guests can also walk through the town to see more than 6.5 million glittering lights strung around trees, buildings and walkways; a parade led by Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; and the new Joy on the Town Square, featuring an eight-story, custom-designed Christmas tree that will amaze guests with its lights, animated imagery and music.
End your charming Christmas town trip in Chickasha, Okla., just 350 miles west of Branson and only three hours outside Wylie. If you love anything shiny and sparkly, this is the place to be. Running on weekends through Dec. 31, the free Chickasha’s Festival of Light transforms the 43-acre Shannon Springs Park into a gleaming holiday wonderland. Walk through the bright light bridge, see favorite Christmas characters sparkling in the night and admire nativity scenes and huge Christmas Trees. Unlike many other light displays, these are available for you to see up close, take your picture with underneath and admire as long as you want. Later, go ice skating under the twinkling stars, ride the holiday Ferris wheel or admire the scenes from a romantic carriage ride.
Just like how you re-watch your favorite Christmas movie every year, you can easily return to these charming towns again and again to re-live the holiday magic. It’s like your very own happily ever after filled with millions of dazzling lights.