After another very tough year, the best holiday gift you can give the Gulf states is … you! The beaches are expected to be as pristine as ever (sun, wind, and oil-eating microbes are taking care of business quite nicely, says Florida International University coastal scientist Stephen "Dr. Beach" Leatherman), but you don't have to go anywhere near the water. Just let the folks from Florida to Texas show their unrivaled southern hospitality as they celebrate the season in their own unique way. This is what five balmy Gulf Coast cities have in store for you:
It snowed in Galveston on Christmas Day, 2004 — the city's first white Christmas ever. Not much chance it'll happen this year, though Galveston does throw a Texas-size celebration.
- East End Historical District Association Christmas Homes Tour
(Traditionally the first Friday in December) Many of the district's stately Victorian homes throw open their wreath-decked doors for candlelight tours. For the rest of the month, neighborhood homes compete in a holiday-light contest.
- Dickens on The Strand
(December 4 – 5) Every December since 1973, the city's historic dock area has been transformed into a replica of Dickens's London — complete with Beefeaters, strolling carolers, crafts vendors, and even an appearance by "Queen Victoria" herself. The cost is $12 for adults but is half price if you wear Victorian-era garb.
New Orleans, Louisiana
"PEACE YALL" reads the illuminated string of lights hanging from a Royal Street balcony — a uniquely Big Easy holiday greeting. This time of year brings a double bonus: You skip late winter's Mardi Gras madness and enjoy the holidays with a Cajun twist.
- Canal Street Parade
(December 4) Santa Claus customarily shares a float with Mr. Bingle, the snowman character who's been a New Orleans fixture since he was created for the beloved-but-long-gone Maison Blanche department store in 1947.
- St. Louis Cathedral Concerts
(December 1 – 31) The oldest continuously used cathedral in the country (parts of it date from 1789) hosts a monthlong series of free concerts featuring such performers as the Mahalia Jackson Gospel Choir, New Orleans Uptown Brass, and harpist Rachel Van Voorhees.