The Magic City is nothing short of magical during the holiday season. Communities, businesses, churches, store fronts, and more, go out of their way to make this city and its surrounding areas shine so brightly during the most wonderful time of the year. Perhaps you already have your annual family favorite holiday traditions set this year, or maybe you’re looking for a ‘where to guide’ on how to experience new holiday traditions with your loved ones. Whichever category you fall under, this mama’s got the scoop on how to make the most of this Christmas in Birmingham and it’s surrounding areas.
Santa’s Wonderland: Bass Pro Shop in Leeds
Santa’s wonderland inside the Bass Pro Shop is up and ready for visitors! Santa officially arrived at the store on November 4th, but he will be there ready to listen to the long lists of Christmas wishes until December 24th. Santa’s Wonderland inside Bass Pro Shop is a beautiful sight to see and is a great family-friendly way to experience some wholesome holiday cheer. Visitors are welcomed by elf workers in Santa hats and experience a true winter wonderland with fake snow, Christmas decorations, lights all around, a giant Christmas tree, and more. Perhaps the best part of experiencing Christmas at Bass Pro is the opportunity for FREE photos with Santa! Be sure to sign up here to check times and secure your spot here.
From November 17th until January 15th, the Birmingham Zoo is offering a mystical opportunity for guests to experience a night illuminated by wild animal and sea life lanterns. This is an event that is fun for all ages and is truly an awe inspiring experience! This event includes non-traditional Christmas lights in the form of huge (some over 30 feet tall) colorful lantern animals from around the world. Animals like jellyfish, tigers, dragons, and crocodiles are made from silk covered frames and airbrushed with intricate details. These creations will line the zoo’s paths at night from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Guests will also be able to enjoy a ride on the Red Dragon Express train! If you plan to attend, check out this page for more details on pricing, how to purchase tickets, and specific event dates.
The North Pole Express
The North Pole Express, located at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, is an enchanting Christmas event! (However, I have unfortunately never had the opportunity to enjoy it.) It is always one of the most popular experiences during the holidays for families in the area. I have heard SO MANY good things about how much fun the magical train ride is for the whole family! The train is transformed into a real-live polar express that embarks on a journey to the top of the world. Guided by starlight, guests on the train will get to hear Christmas stories, sing Christmas carols, and watch for glimpses of the North Pole. Hot chocolate and sweet treats are served during the 75-minute ride. Also, photo opportunities with Santa and Mrs. Claus are offered.
Rumor has it that tickets sell out extremely fast (apparently they go on sale in July)! If you’re lucky enough to secure a ticket unlike I was, you and your little passenger will make the best Christmas memories aboard the train. Pajama attire is encouraged 🙂
Alabama Theatre Shows
The Holiday Film Series at the Alabama Theatre has always been one of my favorite Christmas traditions in Birmingham. There is something so magical about seeing a movie in a theater that has been part of Birmingham since 1927. While my favorite Christmas film will forever be “It’s a Wonderful Life,” there are other classics to choose from, including The Polar Express, Home Alone, Elf, and Miracle on 34th street. The price for admission is $10 for each showing, with the exception of the Polar Express which will be $12. Read up on the details for showtimes and dates here, and be sure to get your tickets early!
In addition to the holiday film series, the Alabama Theatre will also be hosting another wonderful Christmas event–the Nutcracker Magical Christmas Ballet! The theater will open its doors for this production on November 19th at 3:00 p.m. Guests of all ages will be wide eyed in amazement from the show’s sensational costumes, colossal puppets, and astonishing acrobatic moves. The show is an international sensation as it features dancers from all over the world, including the Ukraine Ballet.
The Alabama Ballet will be preforming George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker on December at the BJCC Concert Hall from December 15th-17th (accompanied by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra) and 20th-23rd. The Alabama Ballet is one of only eight ballet companies in the world licensed to perform this masterpiece!
I can’t picture Christmas in Birmingham without hearing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s life-giving show play in my mind. Their concert is one of the most popular events of the year, and if you’ve ever been to one you know why. Through a unique combination of rock and orchestra, the extremely talented artists that make up the TSO always manage to put on an incredibly powerful show that leaves a fierce emotional impact on fans. This year they are back with their tour titled “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve: The Best of TSO and More.” They will be performing at the BJCC Legacy Arena on December 20th at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m.
While this would be a great event to experience as a family, parents should note that the show’s powerful energy makes for a very loud concert and the eccentric light shows can be a bit overstimulating for some.
Holiday Market at Sloss Furnace
On December 2nd, the Fellowship House Junior Board will be hosting a Holiday market benefiting charity at Sloss Furnace. Admission is free and there will be a wide variety of vendors and an opportunity to see Santa! This indoor event will run from 10 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. in the East Room. You will even get to watch the Sloss metal artists will be do their holiday metal pour! This is a great opportunity to shop small for Christmas gifts and support local vendors, all for a great cause. For more information, visit the Fellowship House’s website.
Winter Wonders at the Summit- Santa’s Arrival
If you’re looking for a stylish event this Christmas, look no further than Santa’s Arrival at The Summit on November 17th from 4:00-8:00 p.m. This event promises fun for everyone, including live music, face painting, food trucks, seasonal treats (for both kids and adults), snow, a photo booth, and a meet and greet with Santa! There will even be a toy donation station, so you can give back while enjoying the festivities. Santa will be hanging around The Summit until Christmas Eve for photos. You can make an appointment here, but walk-ins are welcome, too! (I love that they have options for sensory sensitive photo sessions with Santa for children with sensory processing issues.)
Adventus at Majestic Caverns
Formerly known as Desoto Caverns, Majestic Caverns is home to some of Alabama’s most historic caverns. On any given day you can find visitors enjoying guided tours, train rides, gemstone panning, and so many more attractions. Every year they put on a beautiful Christmas celebration and this year is no different, even though they have an all-NEW program! Make plans to celebrate at this family-fun event for all ages, with shows, performances, fire juggling, singing, dancing, quests, attractions, games and festive characters. Shows run on December 9th, 16th, and 23rd, from 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. This Winter “Underland” event will be an epic and unique experience for all ages, as guests will get to experience the beauty of the cave decked out with holiday cheer.
Christmas at the Falls
Located in Gadsden, Noccalula Falls is the perfect place to get your holiday fix of lights, displays, and decorations. I mean, what is better than the combination of waterfalls and Christmas?! While this annual Christmas event starts on November 23rd and runs through January First, tickets have already gone on sale! Visitors will be greeted with breathtaking views of millions of sparkling lights lining the park. They will also be able to enjoy those views on a special holiday train ride. Santa will be visiting the falls from November 24th-December 23rd. General admission tickets to enter the falls are sold on location year round. However, tickets for Christmas at the Falls can only be purchased online. Be sure to check out the information on their website!
Walk Through Nativity
Catch this one-of-a kind experience of walking through scenes of the Bible that take you through Jesus’ life at the Walk Through Nativity at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. Hundreds of volunteers come together to depict the birth and life of Jesus in 14 biblical scenes with narrated drama using live actors and animals (including a live camel!). This is happening December 6-8, Wednesday through Friday, between 6:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Take this easy, 1/4-mile stroll that is wheelchair and stroller-friendly. Admission is free!