December 15, 2021

7 ways to get in the holiday spirit in Alabama 2021

4.9 min read

One of the best things about the holiday season is the hype. Hear us out. Not only do we celebrate the holidays on the dates of their actual occurrence, we get to spend several weeks preparing for their arrival with events, activities, and parties all jam-packed into the month of December. Since the four weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas often feel like a mad dash to get everything done—from buying gifts to decorating and baking—we’ve narrowed down the endless list of holiday activities into seven manageable categories. Whether it’s seeing a holiday movie, going ice skating, or sipping on a festive cocktail, here are our favorite ways to get in on the holiday hype this year.

(Queen’s Park Birmingham/Facebook)

1. Visit a Christmas Cocktail Bar

Want to make spirits bright this holiday season? It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to do with the right spirits. Several cocktail bars across the state are getting in the holiday spirit by transforming their spaces into certified winter wonderlands and their menus into candy cane, gingerbread, and eggnog dreams. From Nov. 22 to Dec. 30 Birmingham’s Queen’s Park transforms into Miracle on 24th Street, a magical, over-the-top holiday-themed pop-up bar. Try fun and festive cocktails like the SanTaRex, with blanco tequila, mezcal, melon liquor, almond orgeat, lime, and Tiki bitters in special glassware featuring T-rex in a Santa hat. Phat Sammy’s in Huntsville hosts a similar Christmas pop-up bar, only with a Tiki theme. Sippin’ Santa features cocktails like Azul Navidad, Kriss Kringle Colada, and more.

(Alabama Theatre/Facebook)

2. See a Holiday Movie at the Alabama Theatre

It wouldn’t be Christmas in Alabama without this timeless tradition. Every year, the historic Alabama Theatre in downtown Birmingham puts on its seasonal best with a monthlong holiday movie series. Popular titles like “Elf,” “Home Alone,” “Christmas Vacation,” and “A Christmas Story” play several times throughout the month of December. For a bit of nostalgia, you can catch classic flicks like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and” White Christmas”. Each screening starts with a Christmas song singalong led by music from the theater’s iconic Mighty Wurlitzer Organ.

(Alabama Ballet/Facebook)

3. Watch a Performance of the Nutcracker

See the classic Christmas ballet come to life with a performance of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker” at the BJCC Concert Hall in Birmingham (December 17-19 & 21-23). One of only eight companies in the world licensed to perform Balanchine’s original choreography, Alabama Ballet’s dancers really bring this Christmas masterpiece to life. For a twist on the timeless tale, head a few blocks over to the Dorothy Jemison Day Theater in Birmingham for a production of “The Brown Sugar Nutcracker” (December 18 & 19) The unforgettable performance is the work of writer, choreographer, and director Ursula Smith, who reimagined the tale to create a cultural holiday experience for audiences across Alabama.

(Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum/Facebook)

4. Take a Ride on the North Pole Express

All aboard the North Pole Express for a magical nighttime ride to the home of Santa Claus himself. At the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, passengers board vintage train cars then take a one-and-a-half-hour journey to the North Pole. On the way there’s plenty of holiday caroling, a whimsical Christmas story, dancing with elves, and sweet treats to set the mood. Once you arrive at your destination, Santa hops aboard to take pictures and listen to the Christmas wishes of children of all ages. Pajamas are encouraged. Bonus points if they’re Christmas jammies!

(Holidays on the Plaza/Facebook)

5. Go Ice Skating 

Though it may not get cold enough for any lakes to freeze around here, you can still partake in the classic wintertime activity at several outdoor rinks located around the state. In Tuscaloosa, head to Government Plaza for Holidays on the Plaza, featuring ice skating, a tinsel trail, and more. The Huntsville Museum of Art will host Skating in the Park through January 17. In Orange Beach, white sand beaches and a holiday ice rink go hand in hand at Winter at The Wharf. At Heritage Park in downtown Prattville, a rink will be open through the month of December.

(Holidays on the Plaza/Facebook)

6. Walk a Tinsel Trail

It’s not Christmas without a tree. Once you’ve decorated your own, head to one of the state’s many tinsel trails where you can take a gander at firs creatively decked out for the holidays by talented locals. The Shoals Tinsel Trail is set up at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and features dozens of trees sponsored by local businesses, organizations, and more. See more than 300 decorated trees at Tinsel Trail in Downtown Huntsville’s Big Spring Park. Special events including coffee pop-ups, live music, and a Tinsel Trail Trot will take place throughout the season. Tuscaloosa’s annual Tinsel Trail will be held at Government Plaza and feature more than 190 live spruces.

(Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment/Facebook)

7. Shop ‘til You Drop at a Holiday Market

Shopping can certainly be stressful around the holidays, but when you’re shopping local instead of mindlessly hitting “add to cart” on Amazon, it’s a whole different ballgame. Put the fun back in shopping at a holiday market featuring local makers and artisans selling one-of-a-kind, quality goods. Lowe Mill in Huntsville will host the Winter Solstice Market on Saturday, December 18. As the art and entertainment complex’s largest artist market of the year, you’ll have the chance to purchase original work, and in many cases see the studios where they were created.

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