Ahh the holidays! They’re finally upon us. Doesn’t matter if you replace the ghosts and spider web with garland and lights the day after Halloween, or you patiently wait til Thanksgiving is over to decorate, we are all equally in love with that holiday spirit. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as planning too early. In fact, this article is probably behind the power curve.
Even though we rarely get snow at Fort Benning (and when we do it doesn’t stick!), there’s lots of ways to get into the holiday spirit in Georgia. So with that, here’s a list that we’ve compiled (and checked twice) of some annual Holiday Season events near Fort Benning (*general timeframes are listed as dates change annually, but specific dates for each event are included in its respective link):
Fort Benning Holiday Events
Photo by Patrick A. Albright
There are several holiday events on Fort Benning that deserve your attention. Most notably Santa at Riverside and Tree Lighting Ceremony in early December! Join the Commanding General at his home for this free event. Here you’ll enjoy a visit from Santa and hear music from the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) band. Additionally, the lighting of the Airborne towers just down the street is always a treat. Villages of Benning also hosts an annual Winter Wonderland with visits from Santa and Mr. Grinch, and take a ride on Santa’s sleigh.
Local Holiday Events
Photo of Ludy’s Christmas Lights by JE Hedges Photography
Bi-City Christmas Parade: This annual parade occurring in the first week of December begins in Phenix City and crosses the bridge to go through Uptown Columbus. It includes floats, marching bands, horses and more!
Ludy’s Christmas Lights: Held annually every evening from Thanksgiving through New Years Eve, this computerized light display set to music is a fun and enchanting local experience. This place includes over 155,000 lights set up at a house in an actual neighborhood! Admission is free and all donations go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Pull up in your car to view the lights or park and walk around!
Historic Columbus Holiday Tour of Homes: This one-day holiday event happens in the first week of December. It includes a tour of seven historic homes in Uptown and a ride on the trolley. Afterward, head over to the Mistletoe Market to check out local vendors and listen to some holiday music.
Broadway Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting: Located in Uptown Columbus, this one-night affair in the first week of December includes a parade featuring Santa Claus, the Coca Cola Polar Bear and other VIPs. Enjoy the dozens of decorated Christmas trees that line the streets, grab a hot cocoa and play in the snow!
The National Infantry Museum hosts its annual showings of the Polar Express in its 3D theater. This film typically shows every weekend beginning in early December up until Christmas. Throw on your jammies and grab tickets early before they sell out! Additionally, the NIM has an annual Kids Winter Film Fest with free admission to the public for viewings of several kids movies (not necessarily holiday related).
Tree of Light and Celebration of Life Party: Columbus Regional Health hosts an annual holiday event in early December that’s kid-friendly with multiple activities and a visit from Santa.
Snap a photo with Santa at Chattahoochee Harley Davidson in Columbus! Bring your letter to Santa so it can be mailed to the North Pole (and by your letter, I mean your child’s…or yours, no judgement), then grab yourself a hot chocolate!
Christmas in the Garden: Take in a candlelit walk in Columbus’ Botanical Gardens during this annual event held in the first week of December. Listen to some choir music, grab some refreshments and purchase a Christmas wreath!
Night of Lights: This annual event in Phenix City includes a stage performance and fireworks show at the Phenix City Amphitheater at the end of November. Admission is free and includes dance performances and marching bands!
Breakfast with Santa: Eat breakfast with Santa followed by live entertainment and a photo-op! This event is held annually in early December in Phenix City at the historic auditorium.
Christmas Carnival at Moon Lake: Enjoy this annual Phenix City event in early December where the park is transformed into a Christmas village. There’s live entertainment, amusement park rides, pony rides, and a live nativity petting zoo!
Holiday Events within 100 Miles
Photo by Eufaula Heritage Assoc.
Fantasy In Lights at Callaway Gardens: Running from mid-November to early January, the holiday events at Callaway Gardens are some of the most notable in the region with people traveling from all over to participate. There’s just too many events to list, but their Christmas light display is one for the books!
Christmas at The Rock Ranch: This is a great place to bring the kiddos, as there are several Christmas events here beginning late November through Christmas Day. Drive through and see the lights, visit with Santa in the evenings or join him for breakfast in the mornings, hop on a Polar Express, or take part in a Santa’s Workshop.
Christmas Candlelight Festivities in Warm Springs: Held annually on the third weekend in November, the Candlelight Tour Festival is full of so much charm and spirit! The already eclectic and beautiful small town is lit up as a Christmas Village. Visitors can enjoy events like their Santa parade and yuletide music on the street side.
Eufaula Christmas Tour of Homes: Held annually around the first week of December, this one-night event is great for a Holiday Season date night. Tour some of the South’s most historic homes when they are beautifully decorated for the holidays. Participate in a homes tour or snag a ticket to a limited-seating event for lunch or a Christmas After Hours party. Both events are held at Shorter Mansion.
Festival of Lights at Chehaw: This annual holiday tradition held throughout December includes a view of the Christmas lights in the park from your car. Drive through the park that leads to the zoo and take in the decorations or hop on their Express train. Kids can meet Santa and enjoy playing in the snow.
Atlanta-area Holiday Events: Of note is the Atlanta Christkindl Market, which boasts multiple German-inspired events from mid-November through December. Additionally, Stone Mountain Christmas hosts several activities and events through early January, to include Snow Mountain that is covered in snow for some snow-tubing adventures.
Other notable events that are farther than a day trip, but close enough for an overnight visit: Light up Ellijay – Return of Whoville (~3.5 hours away), Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas (~3 hours away), and the Annual Christmas in the Mountains Festival – Helen, GA (~3.5 hours away).
Special thanks to multiple spouses on the Fort Benning Spouses Facebook group for providing their recommendations that greatly contributed to this list!
About the Author
Riley is an active duty US Army Captain and the Founder of Right and Up. She’s currently stationed at Fort Benning, with previous assignments at Fort Huachuca, Fort Bliss and Fort Riley. You can typically find her eating embarrassingly large amounts of food in local restaurants, or exploring her military town with her husband, Sean and her dog, Gus. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!