31 Ala. events to brighten your holidays

Alabama's gardens, trails, historic homes and parks light up for the holiday season. Visitors can see historic homes and mansions decorated with lights and holiday finery in Eufaula, Decatur, Opelika, Demopolis, Mobile, Tuscumbia and Montgomery.

Parks in Arab and Florence offer dazzling light displays and winter wonderlands, while gardens in Huntsville and Mobile showcase millions of lights and hundreds of displays.

The Alabama Department of Tourism wants you to catch spectacular holiday displays at these 31 historic homes and holiday light festivals:

Anniston — Home for the Holidays
Dec. 6, admission charged

Area homes are decorated for the holidays and are open for tours. The self-driving tour allows participants to visit and enjoy at their own pace. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., 256.237.6766, www.annistonmuseum.org.

Arab — Christmas in the Park
Nov. 25–Dec. 31, admission for Historic Village, but parking is free

A dazzling display of nearly two million holiday lights transforms Arab's city park into a winter wonderland. Visitors will enjoy holiday music and special decorations in the Historic Complex, which features an old church, a school and an operational gristmill. Village hours are 5:30 – 8 p.m.; park is open until 10:30 p.m., 256.586.3138, www.arabcity.org.

Mobile — Bellingrath Gardens — Magic Christmas in Lights
Nov. 25–Dec. 31

Stroll through a wonderland of more than three million twinkling lights and 928 custom-designed holiday displays throughout the 65-acre estate during Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile. Tour the historic Bellingrath Home decorated in its holiday finery, enjoy nightly entertainment and visit with Santa. Light show and home tours nightly 5 – 9 p.m., closed Christmas Day. 251.973.2217, www.bellingrath.org.

Birmingham — Christmas at Arlington
Dec. 2-4, free

Floral designers transform the interior of the Antebellum home into replicas of Christmas past. This year marks the 54th anniversary of Arlington as Birmingham's historic house museum. Open Sat., 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sun., 1-4:30 p.m., 205.780.5656.

Birmingham — Zoolight Safari at the Birmingham Zoo
Dec. 9-11, 16-23, 26-31

Ride the Zoolight Express train while enjoying a half-million twinkling lights. The spirit is festive and the tradition comes complete with hot cocoa, a light show synchronized to favorite holiday tunes, trail ride and appearances by Santa. 205.879.0409, www.birminghamzoo.com.

Columbiana — Tour of Homes
Dec. 3, free

The City of Columbiana opens various historic homes and museums for tours. 1-4 p.m., 205.669.9075.

Courtland — Christmas Open House and Tour of Homes Dec. 11, free Courtland's Town Square opens its shops and historic homes for a holiday open house. Also enjoy carriage rides, refreshments and a Christmas service in song. 1-4 p.m., 256.637.8895, www.courtlandalabama.com.

Cullman — Christmas in the Historic Homes of Cullman
Dec. 11

Historic homes are decorated and aglow in holiday splendor for visitors to enjoy. Tours are 2-5 p.m. 256.734.4799.

Decatur — Christmas Tour of Homes
Dec. 10, admission charged

Visitors can tour seven traditionally decorated homes and buildings complete with luminaries, fruit and greenery, and thousands of lights in celebration of the holiday season. The self-guided holiday tour provides a rare glimpse into private homes located in the city's two historic districts. Also get holiday decorating tips and an evening of carriage rides, refreshments, and live holiday music. Tours are from 3-8 p.m. 800.524.6181, www.decaturcvb.org.

Decatur — Parade of Lights
Dec. 10, free

The River Walk Marina comes alive with a parade of boats lighting the way along the Tennessee River. New this year, the public will be able to stroll along the docks beginning at 4 p.m. for an up close look at the boats prior to the parade. The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. 256.350.2028 www.decaturcvb.org.

Demopolis — Christmas on the River
Dec. 1-4, free

Four days of activities on the river include a lighted nautical parade with fireworks, candlelight tours of antebellum homes, a BBQ Championship Cook-off and Christmas in the Canebrake. 334.289.0270, www.christmasontheriver.com.

Demopolis — Holiday Open House
Dec. 3, admission charged

Visitors can tour beautiful, historic Gaineswood Mansion by candlelight. Enjoy holiday decorations, treats and entertainment during the tours. 1-3 p.m., 334.289.4846, www.preserveala.org.

Eufaula — Christmas Tour of Homes
Dec. 3, admission charged

Visitors can stroll through downtown to see the antebellum homes aglow in holiday splendor. Enjoy a seated luncheon or dinner at the grand, historic Shorter Mansion. Daylight tours 1-5 p.m., twilight tours 5-8 p.m., 334.687.6664, www.eufaula-barbourchamber.com.

Fayette — Christmas in the Park
Nov. 25 – Dec. 31

Beautiful animated Christmas scenes, lights, trees, music, train rides and hot chocolate turn Guthrie Smith Park into a fun park. 5 – 9 p.m., 205.932.4327, www.fayetteareachamber.org.

Florence — Open House & Festival of Lights
Dec. 2, free

Florence businesses and Wilson Park will be decorated in a festival of lights for Christmas. Visitors can shop while listening to music on the street corners and in the park. The jingle of bells on horses giving carriage rides adds to the festive atmosphere. 5 p.m. until, 256.740.4141, www.flo-tour.org.

Gadsden — Noccalula Falls Christmas at the Falls
Nov. 28-Dec. 23, Admission charged

The park is aglow for the holidays with millions of lights that are synchronized to music. Park visitors may stroll through the mesmerizing display on foot or take an exciting train ride through the park. Christmas at the Falls includes a train ride, Pioneer Village, write Santa a letter at the old post office, visit with Santa or kids can write Santa a letter and mail it at the old post office. Visitors will also be able to see the 90-foot waterfall in all its splendor. 256.549.4663, Noccalula Falls Park.

Greensboro — Christmas Open House Dec. 11, free The open house at the Magnolia Grove Historic House Museum is a holiday tradition. Guests can see the home's holiday decorations while enjoying refreshments and musical entertainment. 1-3 p.m., 334.624.8618, www.preserveala.org.

Gulf Shores — Swift-Coles Home at Bon Secour Holiday Open House Nov. 26-27, admission charged The 16 room, 6,000 square foot historic tidewater mansion overlooks the Bon Secour River and will be decorated in a "Dreaming of a White Christmas" theme. Tours are Nov. 26 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Nov 27 noon-4 p.m. The house will be decorated through December with regular hours of Tues. – Fri. 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. 251.580.1897.

Huntsville — Galaxy of Lights Holiday Light Show
Nov. 18–Dec. 31, admission charged

Celebrate the holiday season with a drive or a stroll through the Huntsville Botanical Garden. The walking tours take place November 18-22, from 5 – 7:30 p.m. The driving tours begin at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center from November 24-December 31, with admission from 5:30 – 9 p.m. This magnificent holiday light extravaganza features thousands of lights and more than 700 lighted displays arranged in 125 varied holiday scenes and themes. 256.830.4447, www.hsvbg.org.

Huntsville— Kris Kringle's Candlelight Christmas
Dec. 2-3, admission charged

More than 600 flickering lights will add to the nostalgic feel of candlelight Christmas at Burritt on Mountain. Visitors will enjoy cider, cookies, figgy pudding, holiday crafts and visiting with Kris Kringle on the star-lit mountain. 5- 8 p.m., 256.536.2882, www.burrittonthemountain.com.

Mobile — Candlelight Christmas at Oakleigh
Dec. 2-4

Step back in time and enjoy a festive 19th century holiday celebration. Enjoy seasonal music, horse-drawn carriage rides, Victorian Santa and refreshments 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Candlelight tours 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., 251.432.6161, www.historicmobile.org.

Mobile — Christmas on the River
Dec. 3, free

Alabama's official tall ship, the Joshua will lead lighted, decorated boats down Dog River in Mobile's oldest boat parade. The boats circle and pass the Dog River Bridge as treats are thrown to the cheering crowd. Dusk-8 p.m.251.443.6300, www.grandmarinermarina.com.

Mobile — Christmas at the Mansion
Dec. 4, admission charged

As visitors step inside the historic Bragg-Mitchell Mansion they will be treated to an afternoon of seasonal music, sleigh rides, holiday decorations and refreshments. 1-4 p.m., 251.471.6364, www.braggmitchellmansion.com.

Mobile — Christmas Celebration at Richards-DAR House
Dec. 3-4, admission charged

Each room in the Victorian townhouse is decorated in an annual theme. Guests will be treated to refreshments, holiday music and a visit with Santa. Sat., 10 a.m.-5p.m.; Sun., 1-5 p.m., 251.602.0324, www.richardsdarhouse.com.

Montgomery — Governor's Mansion Candlelight Open House
Dec. 5, 12 & 19, free

For three Mondays in December the Governor and Mrs. Robert Bentley will open the Governor's Mansion for candlelight tours from 5:30 - 7:30 p.m. The 1907 Colonial Revival mansion located at 1142 South Perry Street in Montgomery will be aglow with lights and filled with the spirit of the season. Guests should pick up their free ticket at the Governor's Mansion Gift shop across the street on Finley Ave. then proceed to the Hill House next to the mansion. The first Monday will feature live music, the second a cooking demonstration and the third will feature the Christmas story. 1.800.ALABAMA, www.alabama.travel.

Montgomery Zoo — Christmas Light Festival
Dec. 1-31, admission charged

Thousands of lights illuminate the pathways for a leisurely stroll through the Montgomery Zoo during the city's Holiday Lights Festival. Visitors can ride the train through the forested wonderland and see animals come alive in lighted displays. Check for times and dates ahead of time. Hours: 5:30 – 9:30 p.m., 334.240.4900, www.montgomeryzoo.com.

Montgomery — Old Alabama Town Celebration
Dec. 1-31

The house museums at Old Alabama Town will be decorated for the holidays for visitors to tour. Self guided tours: Mon-Sat 9a.m. – 3p.m.; Guided tours by reservation for 10 or more. 334.240.4500, www.oldalabamatown.com.

Gadsden — Noccalula Falls Christmas at the Falls
Nov. 28-Dec. 23, Admission charged

The park is aglow for the holidays with millions of lights that are synchronized to music. Park visitors may stroll through the mesmerizing display on foot or take an exciting train ride through the park. Christmas at the Falls includes a train ride, Pioneer Village, write Santa a letter at the old post office, visit with Santa or kids can write Santa a letter and mail it at the old post office. Visitors will also be able to see the 90-foot waterfall in all its splendor. 256.549.4663, Noccalula Falls Park.

Oneonta — Christmas Lights at Palisades Park
Dec. 1-31, free

Thousands of lights will be glowing for the visitors to drive through and see. Open 5- 9 p.m. except Dec. 24 & 25. 205.274.0017, www.blountcountypark.com.

Opelika —Victorian Front Porch Christmas
Dec. 7-12, free

Step back in time with a visit to an Ole World Christmas wonderland in Opelika. On the Victorian Front Porch Christmas Tour, visitors will see more than 60 turn-of-the-century homes in all their lighted glory featuring life-sized Santas, angels, toy displays and carousel horses. Also enjoy live holiday entertainment. 334.887.8747, www.aotoruism.org.

Tuscumbia — A Plantation Christmas
Dec. 4, admission charged

Visitors will enjoy a holiday event at Belle Mont Mansion that's reminiscent of the "Old South." Traditional decorations, period Christmas music, vintage ballroom dancers and more await guests at the historic 1828 mansion, 1-5 p.m., 256.383.0783, www.colbertcountytourism.org.

Tuscumbia — Christmas Open House at Ivy Green
Dec. 17, reduced admission for this date only

Visit the historic house that was Helen Keller's Birthplace and Home as it's decorated in holiday splendor. 1-4 p.m., 256.383.4066, www.visittuscumbiaAL.com

For more holiday celebrations, visit the Alabama Tourism Department website at www.alabama.travel.