2018 Fort Benning Area Holiday Events Guide

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 if currently available):

Fort Benning Holiday Events

There are several holiday events on Fort Benning that deserve your attention. The first week in December boasts a few annual holiday events: Trees for Troops on 7 December where active duty Soldiers and their spouses receive one free Christmas tree, and Santa at Riverside and Tree Lighting Ceremony on 6 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 typically 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

Photo of Ludy's Christmas Lights by JE Hedges Photography

Columbus hosts a ton of holiday events and performances (too many to list!). A few of our favorites include: Elf the Musical at Springer Opera House, MCoE Band Performance and the Columbus Ballet's "The Nutcracker" both hosted at the RiverCenter, and the Reindeer Hike at FDR park (a good one to get the kids outdoors). All of these events and their details can be found here.

Bi-City Christmas Parade: This annual parade occurring on 1 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 250,000 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 typically 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 typically occurs 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, which plays every weekend from 7-23 December. Throw on your jammies and grab tickets early before they sell out! 

Tree of Light and Celebration of Life Party: Columbus Regional Health hosts an annual holiday event 7 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 on 2 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!

Holiday Events within 100 Miles

Fantasy In Lights at Callaway Gardens: Running from 16 November to 5 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 (see photos above)!

Christmas at The Rock Ranch: This is a great place to bring the kids, 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: Beginning 16 November and reoccurring every weekend until Christmas, 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: This year on 1 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 Christmashosts several activities and events from 10 November through 6 January, to include Snow Mountainthat 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 in 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!

Cover photo by Eufaula Heritage Assoc.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Riley is an active duty US Army Captain and the Founder of Right and Up. She’s currently stationed in Washington, DC, with previous assignments at Fort Huachuca, Fort Bliss, Fort Riley and Fort Benning. 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!