For those of you that love to celebrate the festive season in warmer climates but want to stay in the Northern Hemisphere, why not head to the Gulf Coast to experience the holidays and embrace the gorgeous weather that you can frequently find in this part of the US. While Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is an area of Alabama that we love to visit all year round, there is something quite magical about experiencing this part of the state during the holiday season. We want to share why visiting this stretch of coastline during November or December is a great way to experience Christmas lights at the beach (along with everything else you love about the holiday season).
From Pumpkin Spice Lattes to Holiday Lights, Thanksgiving and Christmas are two holidays that most Americans are generally excited about. The stereotypical holiday season may involve that picture perfect Winter Wonderland scene, but heading to the Gulf Coast will allow you to pick out your favorite shorts and t-shirt and and still experience everything there is to love about the holidays.
The primary destinations along the Gulf Coast are Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but when it comes to the holiday season, the nearby town of Foley (just a short 5-10 minute drive from the coastline) is definitely the place to be to enjoy plenty of festive cheer.
Let’s take a look at why Foley, along with Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and other coastal Alabama locations, is the perfect place to head to this year to enjoy holiday lights, Christmas festivities and much more, while still being able to enjoy the 30 miles of white-sand beaches that is perhaps the highlight reason for most visitors to this region.
Explore Heritage Park in Foley
Located just off Highway 59 in the heart of Foley, Heritage Park is the focal point of Christmas festivities in Foley. Take some time to explore the downtown area during the day before heading over to this urban park after dark to fill yourselves with Christmas spirit. Throughout the park, Christmas lights have been scattered around the foliage while the iconic Centennial Plaza monument is decked with seasonal decorations to spark festive delight.
The large gazebo area is perhaps the ultimate Christmas experience as there are a number of festive scenes on display inside this outdoor space. Whether you are intrigued by the thought of sitting on Santa’s chair or perhaps reading The Night Before Christmas with the festive bears, this area of Heritage Park is sure to fill all the family with enough festive spirit to last throughout the holiday season.
Each year, Foley plays host to “Christmas in the Park” which is an opportunity for all the family to enjoy the gorgeous Christmas light display while taking a stroll through the miniature Christmas Village and Christmas Tree Lane. Whether you have the opportunity to visit this event or perhaps you visit on another day, a walk around Heritage Park is certainly an unforgettable Christmas experience.
Don’t forget to walk over to the Foley Railroad Museum to admire the locomotive on display and enjoy a collection of photos, and memorabilia documenting Foley’s history since this depot first opened in 1909.
Walk Downtown Foley
After exploring the beauty of Heritage Park with plenty of Christmas spirit, continue the tradition by heading over to Main Street and exploring the festive displays on the historic storefronts of downtown Foley.
As you walk along and admire both the Christmas decorations and perhaps do a little window shopping, you cannot help but admire how Foley has continued to preserve the district’s rich past while encouraging retailers to continue moving forward with economic development.
Downtown Foley is embracing its role as an authentic place with the warm family welcome of a true community that believes in its futureFoley Main Street, 2020
Grab a bite to eat at the French American inspired Oui Oui Paris or head inside Yabba’s Wacky Snack Shack for a more traditional American dish. Regardless of what you choose to explore in downtown Foley, you will feel the spirit of Christmas as you walk along Main Street and appreciate the effort that has been put into creating such a magical experience.
Christmas Lights at the Beach
Foley is perhaps the highlight destination (albeit frequently left of the shadow of the main coastal destinations of Alabama) for Christmas festivities, but both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach can also lay claim to having plenty of things to see and experience for visitors looking to enjoy the Christmas season. Condominiums along the beachfront frequently have Christmas lights scattered around the front of their buildings, along with the interior which makes these an appealing attraction for folks looking to get away for the festive season.
Head over to Orange Beach and see the Christmas lights display by the City Hall/Post Office complex along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. From a traditional nativity scene to a stereotypical Merry Christmas greetings, the display welcomes visitors and locals alike to the Gulf Coast Christmas experience.
The Wharf has perhaps the most spectacular Christmas tree and it’s always an awesome experience to enjoy a little Yuletide spirit during the lighting ceremony at the beginning of December. Listen to festive musical performances while sipping on hot chocolate or your favorite latte from The Southern Grind Coffee House, before watching an entertaining Holiday SPECTRA Laser Light Experience that can be seen every evening at 6PM and 7PM.
A short drive to the other side of Mobile Bay will lead visitors to one of coastal Alabama’s infamous, historic Christmas experiences – the Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens. This Christmas lights extravaganza can be found at the 65-acre public garden and historic home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath in the town of Theodore. If you are staying in either Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, head back towards I-10 and it’s under 30 minutes south of Mobile.
guests stroll through a dazzling light display that features more than 1,100 set pieces, 3 million lights and 15 scenes throughout the 65-acre Garden estateBellingrath Home & Gardens
If you love the sights and sounds of Christmas, Bellingrath Gardens is the place to be. Whether you have the opportunity to explore the historic home or simply prefer to just wander around the gorgeous gardens, a trip to this part of Alabama is a must for any visitors during the holiday season. Strolling around the 65-acre garden and admiring the myriad of Christmas decorations is a fun-filled experience for all the family to enjoy.
Sara from Travel With Sara suggests the “best holiday light show in the United States can be found at Bellingrath Gardens” and after seeing the spectacular experience at this iconic location, it’s difficult to argue with this claim! We would like to thank Sara for sharing the image above with us after visiting Bellingrath Gardens.
Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade
The Gulf Coast may be the home of 30 miles of pristine, white-sandy beaches but it’s also home to a plethora of waterways that is the perfect location for the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach annual Christmas lighted boat parade. This festive experience gives onlookers the opportunity to admire a collection of local vessels displaying their Christmas spirit.
The magical Christmas atmosphere created along Highway 59 as visitors and locals alike enjoy this spectacular display is a credit to the area that make this event such a memorable experience. As boats parade along the Intracoastal Waterway Canal for over three hours, onlookers may also see their favorite Christmas characters and marching bands to create the perfect Yuletide event.
Christmas is the most magical time of the year and what better way to enjoy the festive season than by heading to the Gulf Coast and enjoying the spectacular array of holiday lights on display in Foley, Bellingrath Gardens and beyond. Late November to December is the perfect time to visit this stretch of Alabama coastline because many of the condos and hotels along the beach are quieter, more affordable and allows visitors to truly experience the inherent beauty of this region.
Each time we return to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, we find something unique about the area that helps us fall more in love with this and we hope you will inspired to experience this for yourselves in the near future! Merry Christmas!
Foley looks like a pretty place to spend Christmas time in the northern hemisphere. I’d love to see the boat parade. Christmas time in the warm weather is a reality down under. Beach time, BBQs, and Santa in shorts is quite common (although I don’t now if the Gulf Coast is that warm).
How wonderful, I would love to visit this area this time of year. Lights on the beach and Travel With Sara’s advice to see Bellingrath Gardens all lit us is good enough for me! Lovely.
The Boat Parade and Christmas Lights on the Beach are 2 things that I would love to see for myself.
Well you know Ann will want to visit anyplace with a restaurant called Oui Oui Paris! 😉 Seriously, Foley looks awesome! As does Bellingham Gardens. As if our Holiday Travel To Do List wasn’t long enough already…this one goes right near the top, being so close, and so pretty!
Hi! Thanx for sharing. Indeed, Alabama is beautiful and the climate is great.