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The Nights Before Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time to travel. Faith-based groups can celebrate and reflect on God’s goodness in these destinations, which epitomize the joy of the holidays.

An Ozark Mountain Christmas delights visitors to Branson, Missouri, with miles of twinkling lights, Christmas parades, theatrical extravaganzas and even roller coasters. Seven Virginia cities celebrate with numerous events during 100 Miles of Lights, which takes place from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, caters to groups throughout the year with family-style attractions, and the holidays are no exception. Add in the temperate climate, and groups can enjoy time outdoors too.

One of the country’s longest holiday celebrations takes place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where the Smoky Mountain Winterfest stretches from early November through February. And in Michigan, Frankenmuth’s Bavarian charm is sure to be memorable, especially during the holidays.

Ozark Mountain Christmas

Branson, Missouri

An Ozark Mountain Christmas in Branson celebrates the holidays with more than 150 outdoor Christmas trees, plus lavish holiday decor in the city’s theaters and attractions. There’s no better way to kick off the season than by attending Branson’s 70th annual Adoration Parade on December 2. Dozens of elaborate floats and marching bands parade through downtown during this long-standing tradition, which is focused solely on the true meaning of Christmas. The evening concludes with the lighting of a giant Nativity scene on Mount Branson that overlooks downtown.

Silver Dollar City transforms into An Old Time Christmas with more than 6 million lights and a five-story musical Christmas tree in the park’s central square. The light and sound show “Christmas on Main Street” takes place several times each evening. Not to be missed are the Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade and two holiday productions, including “A Dickens Christmas Carol.” New last year, Christmas in Midtown features animated LED light displays on park buildings.

Entertainment is always a draw in Branson. The Branson Showboat Belle dinner theater cruise entertains groups with a holiday show on the water. Returning for 2018, “The Andy Williams Ozark Mountain Christmas Show” will feature the Lennon Sisters and host Jimmy Osmond on select dates. “The Prophecy: A Trans-Siberian Orchestra Style Show!” will be performed in the style of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for an evening of holiday rock. Sight and Sound Theatre treats groups to the large-scale theatrical performance of “Samson.”

For drive-through displays, head to Branson’s Gift of Lights, which features more than 300 displays that combine music, Christmas carols and animation. The Promised Land Zoo’s new Let There Be Lights features dozens of LED displays, a living Nativity, a petting zoo and Christmas movies. At the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, your group can enjoy the two-and-a-half-mile Trail of Lights.

Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.