501 offers many opportunities to enjoy Christmas light displays

December means the Trail of Holiday of Lights in Arkansas with more than 60 communities around the state taking part and brightening the holiday season for all to see.

The Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism offers a Trail of Holiday Lights brochure, available online at Arkansas.com and in printed version. Printed copies are available at all Arkansas Welcome Centers and at participating Shell, Subway, Bank of America and Best Western locations. A copy can also be requested by calling 1.800.NATURAL or e-mailing [email protected].

Whichever version you prefer, get a copy and start planning your trip or trips. New this year in the electronic copy is a promotion to solicit input and suggested travel itineraries for the different areas of the state.

The parks department has suggested itineraries for one day and overnight trips. Not only will you see the lights of Christmas shine, there are also suggestions for additional things to do while you’re in the area.

Central Arkansas
New in Little Rock is the light show at the First Security Amphitheater in Riverfront Park that will be choreographed with animation and music. The River Lights in the Rock will once again be in holiday colors.

Both Sherwood and North Little Rock’s Burns Park have drive-through displays.

Conway’s 54-foot community tree will be glowing again this year. Sherwood’s annual lights through Sherwood Forest feature a mile of displays and the Santa Express while Jacksonville offers its annual setting downtown aglow. The Saline County Courthouse in Benton is lighted for the season and offers a gazebo for visits with Santa.

North Central Arkansas
In North Central Arkansas, Batesville shines with more than a half-million lights throughout downtown. Ark. 178 and the city limits of Bull Shoals will be twinkling, as will Cotter and Gassville.

The striking Cleburne County Courthouse in Heber Springs is decked out again this year, as is the historic court square in Mountain View.

The Cleburne County Courthouse in Heber Springs is decked out again this year as part of the Trail of Holiday Lights in Arkansas. (Photo courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)

Northwest Arkansas
Twenty-one communities in the Northwest Arkansas area are participating in the Trail of Holiday Lights and the events run the gamut from the huge Lights of the Ozarks in Fayetteville, complete with live camel rides, to ice skating at the outdoor rink in Bentonville. In Jasper you can get a look at “Arkansas Reindeer” – the elk living around the Buffalo National River. Fort Smith offers miniature train rides, while Ozark has horse and buggy rides.

Northeast Arkansas
One of the largest light displays in The Natural State is based in the Northeast corner of Arkansas. The Lights of the Delta are Blytheville’s contribution, with 6 million sparklers and more than 48 major motion displays. The drive-thru covers 40 acres.

Southwest Arkansas
The Southwest area boasts 13 events along the trail. Hot Springs festoons its historic downtown with lights, while Garvan Woodland Gardens features more than 4 million lights. A 50-foot-tall rose tree stands as the garden’s focal point.