Christmas in Birmingham :: Holiday Traditions and Must Dos!

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Christmas in Birmingham is magical! If you’re a long-time resident, I’m sure you agree! Are you new to the area and wondering what to do with the family this holiday season? Or maybe you’re just looking for new holiday traditions in Birmingham to start with your family? I’ve got the scoop on Christmas parades, where to find Santa in Birmingham, incredible Christmas light displays and all other general Christmas merriment!

Here’s a list of traditions to celebrate Christmas in Birmingham!

Just don’t feel badly that you can’t do everything that Christmas in Birmingham has to offer!

The Grand Christmas Tree Lighting at The Outlet Shops of Grand River

Thursday, November 8th, 6:00 p.m.

The Outlet Shops of Grand River are located in Leeds, right off I-20. This is a free event including photos with Santa, interactive entertainment, kids activities (while supplies last), and the lighting of the Christmas Tree.

Christmas in Birmingham - Lights Up at the Summit
Santa rides in on a fire truck at Lights Up at The Summit

Lights up at The Summit

Friday, November 16th, 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Lights Up at The Summit is the annual kick-off to the holiday season! Live music, lighting of the Christmas tree, parade, Santa, and even fireworks!

Too much fun to list here. Check out their Facebook Event Page for all the details!

Christmas in Birmingham - Bass Pro Shops even has a carousel!
Ride the carousel at Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops!

Santa’s Wonderland, Bass Pro Shops, Leeds

On November 10th, Santa’s Wonderland will officially open at 5:00 p.m. with Santa arriving in a Tracker boat — wow! The festivities then proceed to the grand lobby for the lighting of the 18′ Christmas tree and continue in Santa’s Wonderland. Photos will only be taken from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on this night. Santa’s Wonderland will then be open every day (hours vary) November 11th through December 24th.

Santa’s Wonderland includes crafts, games, fun photo-op spots (other than just with Santa!) and free carousel rides!

Seeing Santa arrive on the boat and come in to the lobby to light the tree is fun, but I would NOT try to have pictures made with Santa that night. It’s crazy on Santa’s arrival night! Come back another time. Santa’s Wonderland is open weekends starting at 10:00 a.m. and weekdays starting at 5:00 p.m, until the first week of December when it opens at 10:00 a.m. every day. My best tip is to go on a weekday in early December, at 10:00 a.m., for the smallest crowds. 

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland

Drive through over three miles of lights and music at the Birmingham Race Course! Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is open for the 2018 season starting November 16th and runs through January 6, 2019.

We actually just went to Shadrack’s for the first time last year, and it was great fun! You pay by the car load ($25 for eight passengers or less), so it’s reasonable for large families! My entire family (11 of us!) loaded up in my dad’s motor home last year and went. It was $40 for the larger vehicle and we had a great time!

Christmas in Birmingham - ZooLight Safari!
Bundle up for ZooLight Safari so you can ride the train and see the Christmas lights!

ZooLight Safari at the Birmingham Zoo

From the website: Watch as the zoo comes alive with holiday-centric fun at ZooLight Safari. See over one million lights, listen to holiday music, and delight in festive snowfalls every night. Enjoy a ride on the Candy Cane Train, go for a spin on the Jingle Bell Carousel, experience the thrill of the over 100-foot Yuletide Slide, ride the Santa Rollers and so much more. Take in the beauty of a decorated tree reaching nearly 30 feet tall in Trails of Africa as you dance and boogie to special entertainment each night. 

Doesn’t that sound amazing? My favorite part about Zoolight Safari is that zoo members get in FREE! Certain activities require attraction wristband purchase.

Dates haven’t been announced yet.

A Charlie Brown Christmas Live On Stage at the BJCC Concert Hall

Friday, December 14th, 7:00 p.m.

Ok, so this isn’t necessarily a “tradition” because it doesn’t happen every year. But A Charlie Brown Christmas is touring and it’s coming to Birmingham for one night!  Tickets available through Ticketmaster.

Birmingham’s Christmas Music Station — Magic 96.5

If you didn’t hear that in your head the way the announcer does it and you didn’t sing “Maaaaagic, Magic 96-point-5,” you just haven’t been in Birmingham long enough. Magic 96.5’s holiday Christmas music is the soundtrack to all your holiday traditions and outings! It ranks as a tradition itself.


“Santa! I know him!” :: Favorite spots to see Santa Claus

Wondering where to see Santa in Birmingham this holiday season? Here’s what you need to know:

Santa’s Workshop at the Riverchase Galleria

Pictures with Santa are available November 9th through December 24th. Times and details here.

You are able to reserve a time ahead at this Santa location!

Christmas in Birmingham - Santa at Bass Pro Shops!

Santa’s Wonderland, Bass Pro Shops, Leeds

Santa arrives at Santa’s Wonderland on November 10th. This is where we go to see Santa in Birmingham. Times and details can be found on their Facebook event page. But Santa’s Wonderland is more than just pictures with Santa (more is listed above), so be sure to read up before you go!

Brookwood Village Mall

Birmingham is always abuzz about the SINGING SANTA at the Brookwood Mall. I don’t have an arrival date for Santa at the Brookwood Mall yet, BUT the Signing Santa has his own Facebook page, so if you’re interested in this Santa, I would definitely be sure to follow him for updates!

Santa’s Coming to the Farm at Oak Mountain State Park

Saturday, December 15th, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Santa is stopping by the farm on December 15th and will be in the barn visiting the goats from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.. Also, Christmas movies, a small Christmas ornament craft, and light refreshments for the kids will be available. This is a free event, but you might want to consider “adopting” a Christmas list from one of the farm animals. Starting December 9th, you can pick a wish list ornament off the tree. You get to keep the ornament for your tree at home and bring back the wish list item to donate.


Christmas Parades

I don’t know why, but there is something just magical about Christmas parades! Bonus magic if you get to be in one (like my cute little fella below a few years ago!)

Christmas in Birmingham - Christmas parades!

Just about every city and town has its own. Here are the ones that I know already have dates set, so be sure to put one on your calendar.

Mountain Brook Christmas Parade

Sunday, December 2nd at 3:00 p.m.

Gardendale Christmas Parade

Thursday, December 6th at 6:00 p.m.

City of Trussville Christmas Parade

Saturday, December 8th at 3:00 p.m.

The parade will start at 3:00 p.m. followed by the tree lighting ceremony on West Mall. Find more info here.

Vestavia Hills Christmas Parade

Sunday, December 9th at 2:00 p.m.

This parade starts at the Liberty Park Sports Complex and travels down Liberty Parkway to the Alston Meadows neighborhood and ends at Alston Meadows Park where the celebration takes place. Celebration includes kids’ activities, refreshments, music, pictures with Santa, and more!

Leeds Christmas Parade

Friday, December 14th at 7:00 p.m.

Leeds Christmas parade is on the Parkway through downtown.


Area Attractions

Here are things just a short distance away that you might want to add to your holiday season to-do list as well!

North Pole Express & Santa Special Train Rides, Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum

You have two chances to see Santa and ride a train at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera! The Santa Special runs weekends in December at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m..

Fans of the book or movie The Polar Express will absolutely love the experience of riding HODRRM’s North Pole Express.  The North Pole Express also includes cookies and chocolate milk on your train ride and a keepsake ornament.

Advance ticket purchase for both of these train rides is a must!

Christmas in Birmingham - North Pole Express!
Santa and Mrs. Claus on a train!

Winter Wonderland Christmas Light Display, Sportsman Lake Park

This animated Christmas light drive-through in Cullman is open November 28th through December 23rd (closed December 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th). Santa will also be at Winter Wonderland! Admission is $10 per vehicle. Other highlights include hot cocoa to purchase and Victorian horse and carriage rides for $5 per person. Find more info here.

Christmas at the Cave, Desoto Caverns State Park

Advertised as a Winter “Underland” (cute, huh?), this event in Childersburg takes place Friday and Saturday, December 14th – 15th & 21st  – 22nd, from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.. Fun park attractions include (for an additional cost) blacklight mini-golf, cannon wars, wall climb, blacklight hoops, panning for gemstones, and more! Santa will be at Christmas at the Cave and there will be Christmas movies, caroling and sing-along shows, holiday treats, and more. Christmas at the Cave will also be a Toys for Tots drop off location, so plan to make that part of your tradition!

Christmas at the Falls, Noccalula Falls Park and Campground

Christmas at the Falls in Gadsden opens Thanksgiving Night, November 22nd. Santa will be available nightly for pictures from Friday, November 23rd through December 23rd. There’s a petting zoo, a train, a “letters for Santa” station in the General Store, a special light show set to music at the covered bridge, and millions of lights that will be glowing throughout the park. This attraction is very reasonably priced at $6 for ages four and up, and kiddos three and under are free. Additional vendors will be on location, the gift shop will be open, and you can decorate cookies at the Cookie Workshop. You can get tickets online.

I would love to hear about your favorite things to do during Christmas in Birmingham! Did I miss anything?

Wondering which neighborhoods in Birmingham have the best Christmas lights for driving through? Check out this post!

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Tabitha has spent her entire life living in various parts of St. Clair County . . . small town life but close enough to the city to enjoy all it has to offer. She's been married to her high school sweetheart for 13 years. Tabitha spends her days as a blogger and homeschool mom to Gavin, a 5th grader who loves animals, books, geography, LEGO, Disney, roller coasters, museums, pirates and karate. Indeed, he keeps her life interesting! Part of what makes it interesting is homeschooling an only child - it's a unique journey! Tabitha loves libraries, good books, history, traveling, coffee, Disney, sometimes cooking (but never cleaning up), being a "karate mom", more coffee, scrapbooking in her free time (ha!) and naps. Around town, you're likely to catch her "field-tripping" with her son at one of the libraries, a park, the Birmingham Museum of Art, McWane Science Center, the Birmingham Zoo, or one of the other dozens of interesting places in the city - and she'll probably have coffee.