Multiple Regions- Holiday de Lights- Southern Arkansas
Begin your tour of holiday lights with a spin on the ice - ice skating that is - on an outdoor rink open during the season in downtown Ashdown. Honored by the Arkansas tourism industry's Henry Award for outstanding achievement, the "Land O' Lights" festival features 15 miles of lights. Details are available from Fonda Hawthorne (870-898-2758 or www.littlerivercounty.org).
Travel south to Texarkana, home to the only Post Office in the United States in two states - Arkansas and Texas. Lights sparkle at Photographers Island and up and down State Line Avenue. While in town, visit the Perot Theater, a refurbished 1920s Saenger Theater with top-rate comedy and musical acts. For more information, contact the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce (903-792-7191). Overnight in Texarkana.
Camden elicits Southern charm, especially during the holidays. The Ouachita County Courthouse is aglow with twinkling lights. Downtown merchants participate in window decorating contests, and the shopping is a must! Tours of the McCollum-Chidester House, which served as Civil War headquarters for Confederate General Sterling Price, then as headquarters for Union General Frederick Steele during the Federals' Red River Campaign of 1864, are available to groups complete with caroling, hot cider, and cookies. Contact Beth Osteen at the Camden Area Chamber of Commerce (870-836-6426 or teamcamden.com).
Five miles of lighted homes on Jones Lake Road show that the South Arkansas town of Strong is ready for the holiday season. Lighted figure displays, including 70,000 lights, depict the true meaning of Christmas, Noah's Ark, Disney's Storybook Christmas, The Good Samaritan, Jonah and the Big Fish, 102 Dalmatians and more. For details, call Joyce Jacobs (870-797-7642).
Enjoy the world's largest man-made Christmas tree, the KTVE-TV tower, in El Dorado. Stroll the downtown square, covered in lights, and see El Dorado's own "Millennium Ball" on the top of the Union County Courthouse. Caroling and horse-drawn carriage rides are available to groups who book in advance. The Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources, just outside of El Dorado in Smackover, tells the story of the region's oil boom in the 1920s and 1930s. Contact Elizabeth Eggleston for more information (toll free 888-921-BOOM or www.eldoradoar.org).
Up Arkansas Scenic Byway 7, Arkadelphia hosts the "Iron Mountain Christmas" display of more than one million lights adorning the lakeside resort of Iron Mountain Lodge and Marina on DeGray Lake Resort State Park in a unique nautical-style fashion. Groups may walk or drive through the display for no admission fee, but donations are accepted for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Worked up an appetite yet? Grab a meal at the wonderful restaurant at DeGray Lake Resort State Park. Details are available from David and Vickie Egleston (870/246-4310 or www.iron-mountain.com).
Visit the resort town of Hot Springs for "Holiday in the Park." Traditional lighting of the historic downtown includes spectacular light effects, luminaries, a live nativity, a candlelight walk, and shopping. Garvan Woodland Gardens joins the festivities with lights sprinkled throughout its 210-acre botanical garden, and crowning the E. Fay Jones-designed outdoor pavilion. Treat your group to one of Hot Springs' famous spas after taking in the holiday lights. Information is available from the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau (toll free 800/SPA-CITY or www.hotsprings.org). Overnight in Hot Springs.
The Arkansas Festival Association's "Festival of the Year" for 2000 lights up Pine Bluff's Jefferson County Courthouse and Main Street with more than 3.5 million lights. "Enchanted Land of Lights and Legends" in Jefferson Regional Park is an animated drive-through of lighted displays. Treat your group with a visit to Pine Bluff"s newest attraction, the Delta River's Nature Center, an innovative outdoor-themed experience featuring Arkansas's largest aquarium, a working houseboat, and a crop-duster simulator you can fly. For more information, contact Greg Gustek (870/536-7660 or www.pinebluff.com).
Wrap up your tour of Arkansas holiday lights with a trip to the Cox Creative Center in Little Rock's River Market District to enjoy "Holidays in the White House," a Clinton Presidential Center Preview Exhibit showcasing an 11-foot glass tree with ornaments, greeting card collection, special gifts and more from the Clinton's eight years as the First Family. A tour through downtown features the Capitol Christmas display on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol with 75 decorated trees representing each county in Arkansas. Don't miss the lighted figures on the grounds of the River Market, made up of over 200,000 twinkling lights. Across the Arkansas River, North Little Rock shines with the Argenta Luminary Festival and thousands of lights in the Argenta Historic District. For details, contact the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau (501/370-3290 or www.littlerock.com).
1 Capitol Mall, 4A-900 - Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 | 1-800-872-1259 or (501) 682-7777 (V/TT)