It’s Christmas in the River City! You survived all the fun of 2016. Seriously, ALL the fun. You rode in hot air balloons, you River Clay-ed, you Halloween Hoot-ed, you ate Turkey, and now it’s time to have even more fun as we celebrate the holidays, family, friends, our community, and all the reasons for the season. We have a whole list of festive events below to help your family celebrate Christmas in Decatur!
But before I get to my list of holiday things to do in the River City, I think there’s one particular item that deserves top billing. It’s just a few blocks from my neighborhood and I’ve walked there, I’ve driven there, I’ve forced my family to go there when everyone is grumpy and needs some holiday cheer and a refill on spirit and it always, ALWAYS delivers.
Lights on Harrison Street
Now through New Year’s Eve
Sunday-Thursday, 5pm to 11:30pm
Friday and Saturday, 5pm to 12am
2220 Harrison Street SE, Decatur | FREE
When I tell you that this light show is out of this world, I mean this light show is OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. It has been chronicled by news outlets all over the country, but ABCnews nailed it when they said Decatur’s best light display has “eclipsed Clark Griswold.” Over 30,000 RGB pixels and LED lights are synched to music to create a spectacle so enchanting it would grow even the Grinch’s heart. There’s even a dedicated radio station (FM 107.1 – you’ll need to remember that). The creator and home owner is a computer technician but I like to refer to him as a Christmas genius who’s been bringing joy to the hearts of Decaturites since 2005. If you decide to experience these epic lights (there are seriously not enough amazing adjectives to describe them), please make sure to be courteous to the neighbors and other visitors. Tips can be found on the Lights on Harrison Street website.
Now that my love of the lights (the really, really amazing lights) has been expressed, here’s your guide to the best family events Decatur has to offer for the holidays and some great options to give back if that’s what you’re looking for this season.
Christmas Now & Then 2016
December 2nd-4th and December 8th-11th
Calvary Assembly Epicenter, 4839 Calvary Blvd., Tanner
For over 20 years, this magical show has featured Santa, Frosty, and all of your favorite (live!) Christmas Toys, along with the story of the birth of Baby Jesus. However, this is not your typical holiday program. The music and the acting are so phenomenal that it’s no wonder people drive from all over North Alabama just to experience it. You will surely leave filled with holiday spirit! Read the RCM review.
CASA’s Breakfast with Santa
Saturday, December 3rd, 8am to 11am
Wesley Memorial UMC, 1211 Westmead Street SW, Decatur
Tickets: $5 per person, includes breakfast
CASA of North Alabama will once again host its successful breakfast with the jolly bearded guy. Enjoy pancakes, crafts, a kid-centric silent auction, and of course, have your picture taken with Santa! All proceeds benefit the children supported by CASA of North Alabama.
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Sunday, December 4th, 4pm to 5:15pm
First Baptist Church, 123 Church Street NE, Decatur
Hop aboard the Polar Express for an afternoon filled with Christmas crafts, a reading of the beloved children’s book, “The Polar Express,” and a walk to the newly renovated Old Train Depot for a special surprise. Open to all children in the community, but advance reservations are required. Dress weather appropriate for the short walk to the depot.
Decatur Christmas Parade
Monday, December 5th, begins at 6pm
Downtown Decatur | FREE
Decatur LOVES a parade and you’ll feel the love during this wonderful parade for the whole family in the middle of historic downtown Decatur. Parade route begins at Gordon Drive and 2nd Avenue and will end on Bank Street near the Old State Bank. Grab the kids, park your lawn chair on the sidewalk and enjoy bands, floats, and Santa himself in a sleigh!
December 7th-10th, 6pm to 9pm
Somerville Baptist Church, 41 Main Street, Somerville
Experience the life of Christ like never before. Drive-Thru Christmas is an outdoor production with over 100 actors and volunteers, live animals, and professional orchestration that will depict the true meaning of Christmas. Park your car and climb aboard the Christmas Caravan, riding through each scene before stopping at the Christmas Café for cookies and hot chocolate. Dress warmly and bring blankets for this nighttime outdoor event!
December 9th, 7pm to 12am
Ingalls Harbor Pavilion
Tickets: $175 per person or $350 per couple
Date night alert! Date night alert! If you haven’t been out of the house all year, then THIS is the event you don’t want to miss. Book your best babysitter and join the Decatur Morgan Hospital Foundation as they raise money for cardiopulmonary diagnostic equipment, employee scholarships, and other charitable services. The Foundation will honor Mr. deLoain Burgess and Dr. Rodney Harney, MD with the John A. Caddell Award. Enjoy a top-notch dinner, an out-of-this-world silent auction, and live music and dancing until the stroke of midnight. Attire is black tie and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Santa at Cloud9
Saturday, December 10th, 10am to 1pm
Cloud9, 712 Bank Street NE, Decatur
Have you heard? Santa’s coming to Cloud9! And all are welcome. Cloud9 shows extraordinary generosity in the community throughout the year, but this free event for children is a true testament to their kindness to all families. There will be a professional photographer on site but parents are under no obligation to purchase photos and are even welcome to take their own. No need to schedule, just stop by for this fabulous come-and-go event. If there’s a short line to meet Jolly Old Saint Nick, browse the unique toys at Cloud9 or venture out onto Bank Street to support other local businesses.
Whoville on Ice
December 10th at 1pm and 6pm
December 11th at 2pm
Point Mallard Ice Complex, 2901 Point Mallard Drive SE, Decatur
Join the Point Mallard Figure Skating Club and journey to Whoville for a holiday adventure on ice as the Grinch and all his friends perform a spectacular skating show. Proceeds from the $1 children’s tickets will be donated to the Special Olympics and discounts will be available for all LEO, Active Military and First Responders.
Historic Decatur Christmas Tour 2016
Saturday, December 10th, 3pm to 8pm
Historic Decatur Residential Districts
Tickets: $25 each (Group discounts available.)
Embark on a whimsical tour through the city’s beautiful historic districts, Albany and Old Decatur, as you tour the grandest of homes the River City has to offer. Enjoy live music, caroling, artwork, and carriage rides. Yes, CARRIAGE RIDES (that makes me so excited)!
Decatur Parade of Lights
Saturday, December 10th, 6pm
Riverwalk Marina and the Tennessee River
Sponsored by the Riverwalk Yacht Club, the annual Parade of Lights, featuring 15 to 20 boats of all types and sizes decorated with lights, will take to the waterway, illuminating the Tennessee River and Wheeler Lake. Stroll the docks of Riverwalk Marina beginning at 4pm to admire the boats and their holiday decorations up close before they set sail. Best place to view from land is Rhodes Ferry Park, the Hard Dock Café, or the marina.
Christmas at Wheeler
Sunday, December 11th, 1pm to 5pm
Joe Wheeler Home, Hwy 20/Alt 72, Hillsboro, AL (20 miles west of Decatur)
Admission: $8 adults, $5 seniors and students, $3 children, kids under 6 are FREE!
(256) 381-5052 or
Tour historic Pond Spring, the General Joe Wheeler’s Home as you and your family learn about the rich history of the area. The over 100-year old home is one of the most complete house museums in the nation, furnished almost entirely with items original to the site, including china, military uniforms, furniture, and family letters and photographs. Enjoy live greenery and decorations, refreshments, sleigh rides in a horse drawn buggy, and choral concerts featuring local choirs and music groups.
‘Tis the Season of Giving in Decatur
There’s currently a commercial airing for a national charity that says we may not remember the gifts we receive, but we’ll always remember what we give, as it depicts a young child giving to the charity. I truly believe this. I couldn’t tell you which Barbie Santa brought me in 1982 or which Corey Haim/Feldman VHS I fought my sister over during Christmas of 1990, but I can remember the first time my mom took me shopping to buy canned food for a holiday food drive and the first time I picked an “angel” off a Christmas tree in the mall and spent my birthday money buying gifts for another kid. Those memories have stuck with me and they’re why I truly believe in the gift of giving both during the holiday season and year round. Here are just some of the ways you can give back during the holidays in the River City.
Committee on Church Cooperation (CCC)
119 1st Avenue NE, Decatur
Donate used or new unwrapped toys by December 12th for children ages newborn through high school. Donate non-perishable food items any time of the year, but especially now during the holidays when the need is greatest. Opportunities to volunteer/serve are also available as the CCC serves regular free meals to those in need and they currently need volunteers for their toy room now through Christmas Eve.
Neighborhood Christian Center (NCC)
619 Bank Street, Decatur
Check their website for current needs or call to sponsor an individual or family for Christmas. The NCC supports community residents in need through a compassion ministry geared specifically for meeting emergency needs, has year-round children and youth programs, an outstanding jail/prison ministry, a workforce development program, and three transitional homes.
Salvation Army of Decatur
100 Austinville Road SW, Decatur
You can help meet the Decatur Salvation Army’s goal of $250,000 simply by dropping a few coins in a red kettle outside your favorite stores. They will also be accepting donations of Christmas gifts for children under 12 and you can still sponsor a child from their Angel Tree through December 12th.
Families and Children Experiencing Separation (FACES) of Morgan County
507 14th Street SE
FACES supports children in the Morgan County foster care system. Sponsor a child throughout the year through the Special Friends program or request a Christmas list and drop off donations of new unwrapped items by December 16th.
Want more options to give or to volunteer? Contact the Volunteer Center of Morgan County at (256) 355-8628. They can help you “be the change” you want to see in your community.
From my family to yours, from the River City to wherever you call home, I wish you all the happy, merry joy of the season. Until next year…
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