Backstage Pass: Model Victoria Henley gets festive in Gulfport


Beginning in 2015, The Island View Casino and The City of Gulfport joined forces for a collaborative effort that turned into one of the most magical, spectacular holiday events on the Gulf Coast: The Harbor Lights Winter Festival in Gulfport, Miss.

The event– which wraps up for the season on Dec. 31 — features animatronic reindeer, live appearances by Santa Claus, exquisitely curated Christmas decor, create your own s’mores stations, and of course, millions of dazzling lights. The Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival has quickly become a holiday tradition for both local families, and guests from across the U.S., who travel from far and wide to witness this beautifully designed seasonal display.

Stationed onsite at the Gulfport Marina, the festival set up features a sprawling array activities and sights, sure to delight the entire family, beginning with a wonder-filled stroll through Santa’s Village (located within the Barksdale Pavilion).

Upon entry to the village, you’ll be instantly transported to the North Pole as you take in the beautiful views of a giant decorated Christmas Tree, a s’mores station (the perfect place to enjoy a sweet snack in front of the comfort of the provided warming station) , and a winding corridor, carefully decorated with only the finest decorations including candy canes and various festive ornaments…perfect for family photo ops.

Once you reach the end of the hall, you’ll come face to face with the man of the hour, Santa Claus, where you can pose for special photo opportunities amidst a beautiful backdrop and inform him of all your Christmas wishes.

Following your up close and personal tour of the North Pole, you can pay a visit to 3 of Santa’s hardworking reindeer as they perform an adorable variety of skits and songs on a rotation every few mins, a sight sure to thrill all the kids and kids at heart.

Journey outside into the mystical winter wonderland and take a leisurely walk around the park, filled to the brim with lights featuring all the colors of the rainbow as well as various themes, ranging from seahorses and other nautical characters, a sweeping palace, a pirate ship, and several lighted bridges under which you can pose for one of a kind snapshots.

Claim your spot on the bleachers to take in a grand scale view of visitor favorite, and one of the most buzzed about attractions on the coast, The Dancing Trees, highlighting a toe -tapping variety of Christmas music, ranging from your favorite beloved classics to all the best contemporary holiday hits, which are set to the tune of a dizzying display of dancing LED Lights, choreographed in perfect timing to the rhythm of the music.

Should you tire of walking through the lights, make your way down to the train station and hop aboard the (handicap accessible) train for a leisurely ride through the expansive park. (Separate ticket purchase required.)

If you are feeling adventurous, pick up a ticket from one of the ample, easily accessible ticket booths located throughout the park for the Ferris Wheel, which serves as one of the highest peaks of the park (the other is the towering lighthouse, which is set aglow with a variety of colors in the shape of a Christmas tree) and can seemingly be admired from miles away. The Ferris Wheel ride is fast paced and fun, offering a classic carnival ride experience and unparalleled views of the park and the famous Dancing Trees.

The Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival regularly features a variety of local performers who display their talents on select evenings throughout the duration of the festival. (During our visit, a cast of precocious young performers from a local academy called Jess Dance Studio were showcasing their skills.)

There is an exciting line up of food and beverage vendors, including Tony’s Pizzeria and Sea Grapes Winery, which serves up a tasty spread of homemade pizzas, draft beers, cocktails, and some of the most delicious hot chocolate you could ever hope to try.

Should you tire of roaming the grounds of the park by foot, simply climb aboard the heated trolley on Jones Park Drive at any point during your visit, which will transport you from one side of the park to the other for free.

Initially inspired by a lawn Christmas light display by a local councilman, the Gulfport Harbor Lights Winter Festival has rapidly evolved into a premiere seasonal attraction on the coast, all through the support of generous sponsors, passionate visionaries, and gifted beautification committees whom have all joined forces to make the Harbor Lights Winter Festival what it is today.


PHONE: 228-868-5881

Victoria Henley produces Backstage Pass for FCB/iHeart Radio and