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Our Favorite Light Trails

We've made a list and checked it twice to present three cheerful
lighting trails sure to ring in the holidays–Southern style.

Texas Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail

Norma Hunnicut of Johnson City, Texas, had an idea. What if several communities in the Texas Hill Country banded together to create a regional Christmas light trail that would encourage people to visit during the holiday season.

“She had a big vision and it worked,” said Debbie Farquhar-Garner, marketing coordinator for the Texas Hill Country Regional Christmas Lighting Trail. Now, more than 15 years later, eight communities showcase their holiday lights and events.

Farquhar-Garner suggests that travelers pick a city and then follow the self-guided trail over two nights. This allows time to enjoy the lights, take in an event, shop, and have a bite to eat.

“Many people plan the trip around a meal, but what’s really delightful is seeing families enjoying the parks at night,” she said. •

(– Deborah Reinhardt)

Info: http://fredericksburgfestivals.com or (830) 997-8515

Cowboy capital camp fire christmas

In Bandera, Texas, “Cowboy Capital of the World,” gather at City Park at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, to see holiday lights, see a Living Nativity, and gather around the campfire for hot chocolate. Free. Call (800) 364-3833.

Light the Night christmas parade

Fredericksburg, Texas, hosts its annual Light the Night parade at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4 at Main Street. The AfterGlow event features shopping, food and wine booths, and free Santa photos. Call (830) 997-5000.

kerr county Lighting Ceremony

The 15th annual lighting ceremony of the courthouse (701 Main St.) and Christmas tree in Kerrville, Texas, will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21. Following is the holiday lighted parade and Santa’s arrival. Free. Call (800) 221-7958.

Johnson City Lights Spectacular

The Blanco County Courthouse boasts 100,000 lights, and fireworks open the season on Friday, Nov. 27. Or visit nearby Stonewall, Texas, on Sunday, Dec. 20, for the 46th annual tree lighting at LBJ State Park. Call (830) 868-7684.


Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights

The Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights has existed for nearly 30 years to enhance the holiday experiences for locals, visitors, and group tours. The trail spans Interstates 20 and 49 in north Louisiana, incorporating the cities of Shreveport-Bossier, Minden, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches, and Alexandria/Pineville.

Festivities generally start in mid-November and run through the New Year. Some of the popular and recurring events include shopping, dining, and entertainment at the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets in Shreveport-Bossier; Fasching Festival in Minden; shopping and dining at Antique Alley in Monroe-West Monroe; the Festival of Lights in Natchitoches; and the Christmas parades in Alexandria/Pineville.

Holiday Light Safari at the Alexandria Zoo features lights, train rides, crafts, and more. It will be Dec. 4 and 5; 11 and 12; 18–23; and 26 and 27.

Celebrate the Christmas season with a visit to Natchitoches. Founded in 1714, it is Louisiana’s oldest city. This year marks the 89th Annual Christmas Festival of Lights, which will be Nov. 21–Jan. 6. More than 300,000 twinkling lights illuminate the downtown Historic District and Cane River Lake. During the holiday event, experience Natchitoches traditions such as carriage tours through the National Historic Landmark District, fireworks, parades, and the Christmas Tour of Homes.

Holiday shopping, live entertainment, carolers, and food and craft vendors create a festive atmosphere for all to enjoy throughout the holiday season. Consider an overnight at one of many B&Bs in Natchitoches to extend your visit.

All along Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights, travelers will find wonderful lights, food, and entertainment. (– Don Redman)

Info: www.holidaytrailoflights.com

LBJ State Park

Above: Lights at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site. Bryan Frazier/Texas Parks & Wildlife Department photo

In Title: ©Fotolia.com/Stillfx

Below: Visit the American Rose Society's 32nd Christmas in Roseland and see buildings, gardens, and pathways twinkle for the holidays. Shreveport-Bossier City CVB photo

Roseland

Fasching fifth season celebration

The German heritage of Minden, La., shines as bright as holiday lights during this event, which will start at 10 a.m. on Nov. 21 and close with fireworks at dusk. In between, enjoy German food, drinks, and music. Children can have their faces painted and photos with Santa. Free tours of the Germantown Colony Museum will be available. Check out the more than 100 life-sized nut -crackers seen downtown. Call (318) 371-4258.

Antique ALley's dancing lights

Holiday shopping at West Monroe's Antique Alley is dazzling–and we're not just talking about the array of items found in the 40 stores. Dancing Lights – Nov. 21–Jan 1 – twinkle to synchronized holiday music through Antique Alley, which is located in the Cotton Port Historic District. Amid the lights and music, shop the antique and boutique stores, then retire to your room at Hamilton House Inn. Call (800) 843-1872.

eat your way across the trail of lights

Shopping and sightseeing can work up one's appetite, but the communities along the Holiday Trail of Lights have it covered.

Stop at Lea's Lunchroom in Lecompte, La., for one of their ham sandwiches and a piece of homemade pie. Closed on Mondays, but open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the week. Lea's Lunchroom has been in the business of serving breakfast and lunch since 1928. Call (318) 776-5178.

Annual Christmas in Roseland

The American Rose Society gardens in Shreveport are striking during the summer, but for Christmas in Roseland, the gardens shimmer with holiday lights and cheer. Visit Friday–Saturday from Nov. 27–Dec. 20; encore nights are Dec. 21–23. See dozens of light displays, enjoy holiday entertainment, have photos taken with Santa, and ride the Roseland Express train. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $20 per car. Call (800) 637-6534.


Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights

In its 20th year, the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights has grown from a minor observance in a few towns to a statewide celebration featuring more than 60 communities. Centered around spectacular light displays, the festivities include parades, tours, performances, pageants, ceremonies, and more.

“The trail was initially started to help boost local merchants during the holiday season and to highlight the spectacular communities we have across our state,” said Leah DiPietro, communications manager with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “The Trail of Holiday Lights has turned into a treasured tradition for many Arkansas families.”

To help visitors track down the winter wonders, the state publishes a Holiday Lights brochure that’s available through the Parks and Tourism department. In addition to enjoying the sparkling lights, dining, and shopping in the communities, visitors can experience Arkansas’s outdoor adventures.

“Some of Arkansas’s best activities, scenic views, and lodging values can be found during the winter months,” DiPietro said. “Our mild temperatures make outdoor adventures possible year-round.”•

(– Dennis R. Heinze)

Info: www.Arkansas.com or (800) 628-8725

Lights of the ozarks

Visit northwest Arkansas and enjoy the amazing winter wonderland of more than 400,000 lights on Fayetteville's downtown square beginning at 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 with the Lighting Night parade. Through Dec. 31, the lights illuminate the square each evening from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and visitors can enjoy nightly carriage, pony, and camel rides; hot chocolate; and festival holiday music. Call (800) 766-4626.

EnchanTed land of\ lights and legends

Visitors encounter about 250 displays, many of which are animated, along more than a mile in Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park during the Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends from Nov. 17–Dec. 31. One of the longest drive-through light displays in Arkansas, the glowing route is open nightly from 6–9 p.m. The regional park is off U.S. Highway 65B in southeast Arkansas. Call (870) 536-7600.

holiday lights at garvan woodland gardens

More than 4 million bulbs will transform 17 acres of Garvan Woodland Gardens into a magical animated holiday display from 5 to 9 p.m. nightly from Nov. 21–Dec. 31. A number of concerts at the gardens, located near Hot Springs, Ark., will feature handbell choirs, student groups, and professional ensembles. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children 6–12. Call (501) 262-9300.

Big Jingle Jubilee Holiday Parade

Little Rock's annual holiday parade steps off at Second Street and Broadway at 3 p.m. on Dec. 5. The event includes the Capitol Lighting Ceremony that's highlighted by a spectacular fireworks display over the statehouse. Don't forget to check out decorations inside the Capitol, which will host school groups over the following two weeks to sing carols. The lights stay on through Jan. 1. Call (800) 844-4781.

Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights

In its 20th year, the Arkansas Trail of Holiday Lights has grown from a minor observance in a few towns to a statewide celebration featuring more than 60 communities. Centered around spectacular light displays, the festivities include parades, tours, performances, pageants, ceremonies, and more.

“The trail was initially started to help boost local merchants during the holiday season and to highlight the spectacular communities we have across our state,” said Leah DiPietro, communications manager with the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. “The Trail of Holiday Lights has turned into a treasured tradition for many Arkansas families.”

To help visitors track down the winter wonders, the state publishes a Holiday Lights brochure that's available through the Parks and Tourism department. In addition to enjoying the sparkling lights, dining, and shopping in the communities, visitors can experience Arkansas's outdoor adventures.

“Some of Arkansas's best activities, scenic views, and lodging values can be found during the winter months,” DiPietro said. “Our mild temperatures make outdoor adventures possible year-round.”

(– Dennis R. Heinze)

Info: www.Arkansas.com or (800) 628-8725

November/December 2015 Issue


 

Lights and special events at Disney World Resort

If you want to make merry with Mickey Mouse and the gang this year, Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla., has planned another glittering holiday.

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom will take place on select nights in November and December. From 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., guests with a ticket for this event can see snow flurries along Main Street, U.S.A.; the holiday parade and other entertainment; and a spectacular fireworks display.

Tickets for a Very Merry Christmas Party are $74 for guests 10 years and older, $69 for guests 3–9 years. Children younger than 3 years do not need a ticket. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party will be Nov. 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, and 29; Dec. 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 18.

Other holiday fun at Walt Disney World theme parks include the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, offered three times on the evenings of Nov. 27–Dec. 30. Consider a dinner package at one of several restaurants that guarantees seating for the show. Dinner packages start at $52 for adults, $17 for children.

Let your AAA Travel professional help you plan a holiday at Walt Disney World Resort. View a list of offices to serve you.

Disney Ice Castle

More than 200,000 lights will shim- mer on Cinderella's Castle .
© Gene Duncan


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