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Deck The Halls

Southern homes and landmarks glow during the holidays.

Christmas, in all its glorious splendor, is a feast for our eyes. In cities throughout the South, homes, churches, businesses, and landmarks twinkle with strands of lights. Garlands bedeck mantels and staircases. The best is put on display for others to enjoy.

Here is a sampling of tours that will surely put you in the holiday spirit.


Tours of the Victorian Davis Homeplace are part of Shreveport’s candlelight home tour. Shreveport-Bossier City CVB photos

Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights

For almost 30 years, northern Louisiana residents and visitors have experienced the beauty and joy only the holidays can offer. The trail spans Interstates 20 and 49, incorporating events in Shreveport-Bossier, Minden, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches, and Alexandria/Pineville. All cities are within about an hour’s drive of one another, which makes navigating the trail of lights a breeze.

Shreveport’s annual Candlelight Christmas Tour of Homes that includes the Davis Homeplace, which dates to 1916, is scheduled from 6–8:30 p.m. on Dec. 4–5 and 11–12.

The Minden Historic District Candlelight Tour of Homes will showcase four homes, a church, and a downtown building. Minden has two districts on the National Register of Historic Places. The tour will be from 4–7 p.m. on Dec. 13.

Natchitoches Christmas by Candlelight Holiday Tour of Homes will be held on Dec. 10, 12, 17 and 19–tours start at 5 p.m.–and on Dec. 13 and 20, with tours beginning at 1 p.m. Natchitoches, which dates to 1714, has quite a collection of beautifully preserved homes. The tour raises money for the preservation of the city’s cultural resources.

Other holiday events in the region include the 88th Annual Christmas Festival in Natchitoches on Dec. 6. Held along the Cane River, there are more than 100 light displays, 300,000 lights, fireworks, food, and more. The events begin Nov. 22 and run through Jan. 6.


Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa

Gingerbread House

The Arlington’s gingerbread house. The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa photo

Soak up holiday ambiance in Hot Springs, Ark., at the historical Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, located at 239 Central Ave.

The Arlington, established in 1875, is a grand hotel with Southern traditions. Holiday activities start with a Thanksgiving feast and continue into December with a tree lighting, carols and other holiday music, and a gingerbread house scene in the lobby. Christmas dinner is served on Dec. 25.

“Holiday festivities are a tradition that span more than a century here at the Arlington,” said Bob Martorana, hotel general manager.

Carols will be sung, the lobby’s Christmas tree will be lit, and the gingerbread house will be presented on Dec. 5. Other activities include a holiday dinner theater performance on Nov. 29.

The gala dinner and dance for New Year’s Eve will be held in the Crystal Ballroom. A New Year’s Festival Party will be held in the conference center. An international feast will be served for New Year’s Eve.

“We start decorating before Thanksgiving and try to have our large gingerbread house that is displayed in the lobby completed by then,” said Gaye Hardin, administrative assistant to the general manager.

Information: (800) 643-1502,

Holidays at Houmas House


Houmas House in Darrow, La., is beautifully decorated for the holidays. Tours are offered daily. Houmas House Plantation and Gardens photo


In its heydey, this “Sugar Palace” situated on Louisiana’s Great River Road was part of the biggest sugar plantation in the country. Some 98,000 acres were actively worked in the mid-1800s.

The mansion, which was completed in 1828, has had several owners over its history; current owner Kevin Kelly purchased the home in 2003. The 21-room mansion and formal gardens sit on 38 acres and are “lavishly decorated” for Christmas, Kelly says.

“We start decorating the day before Thanksgiving and finish the day after,” Kelly says.

Seems like a lot of work in three days.

“Yes, but we have tons of elves that help get it all done. Christmas is one of our busiest seasons,” he says.

The home’s trees are bedecked with antique ornaments. Garlands, greens, and flowers are placed over doorways, draped on rails, or set on mantels. Twinkling lights and other holiday symbols dot the landscape.

Tours ($24 for adults) are offered daily, except on Christmas and New Year’s Day.

In addition, Kelly said traditional réveillon holiday dinners are offered beginning Nov. 28 and continue until early January.

Hear the music of Christmas performed by members of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 14 (ticket information, 225-383-0500).

Houmas House Plantation and Gardens is located at 40136 state Highway 942 in Darrow, La.

Information: (225) 473-9380,

Little Rock Capitol


A worker dresses a railing inside the Capitol. Photo courtesy Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin

One of Arkansas’s most recognizable landmarks, the state Capitol in Little Rock, has been a holiday focal point since 1938, the first year lights adorned the building’s exterior.

This year, the annual State Capitol Lighting Ceremony, which is hosted by Secretary of State Mark Martin, is set for Dec. 6. While lights and fireworks illuminate the Capitol and the sky surrounding it, the interior of the building also is stunning.

Notice the massive Capitol Christmas tree that rises toward the rotunda’s dome from the first floor. See the decorations and hear the Sounds of the Season as more than 100 school choirs perform holiday music. Stop by Santa’s workshop and see his office, mailroom, and toy assembly line.

Information: (501) 682-1010 Click on news and calendar of events links.

Mississippi Craft Center

If your halls need different decking out material this year, consider attending the 38th Annual Chimneyville Crafts Festival at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson. Sponsored by the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, the show will be Dec. 6 and 7 with a preview party set for Dec. 5.

More than 150 members of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi show and sell their handcrafted items at this juried show. Typically, some 10,000 people turn out for the show.

Nancy Perkins, executive director of the guild, said popular items include handmade ornaments, but there’s also ceramic reindeer and holiday card holders.

The Mississippi Trade Mart is on the state fairgrounds at the intersection of Interstate 55 North and High Street. Tickets to the preview party–that include beverages, hors d’oeuvres, music, and a chance to shop early at the show–are $50 at the door. Admission to the show on Saturday and Sunday will be $10 at the door.

For more than 40 years, the guild has worked to preserve, promote, market, educate, and encourage excellence in regional crafts. Its center is on Rice Road in Ridgeland, Miss.

Information: (601) 856-7546,


November/December 2014 Issue

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