Bundle up the family and head out to an old-fashioned, lighted evening Christmas parade! The annual Poteau Christmas Parade features floats, cars, bands and Santa Claus himself – along with 50+ entries from the community, as well as entertainment including talented local singers, musicians, high school cheerleaders, a dance team and more. This year’s parade theme is “T’was The Night Before Christmas.”
By Christian Toews
From the Dec. 2020 Biskinik
The holiday season is in full swing, and now is the perfect time to explore some of the most beautiful places and activities in Oklahoma. Spending time with family and friends is what the holidays are all about. While this year might be a little different because of COVID 19, don’t let a virus stop you from safely enjoying the holiday sights that southeastern Oklahoma has to offer.
When was the last time you made some hot chocolate, grabbed a thermos, and went somewhere spectacular to drink it? Maybe you and that special someone want to spend some quality time. Perhaps you and your spouse need to go on a date night. Or maybe you want to pack up the whole family and enjoy an evening out of the house. Southeastern Oklahoma is the perfect place to enjoy the holidays.
Let’s begin in the beautiful city of Poteau, Oklahoma. Nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, Poteau is a unique destination. One of the most popular attractions in the area is Cavanal Hill. Here, you can catch a great view of the Ouachita Mountains and the Poteau Valley from the top. Dubbed “the world’s highest hill,” Cavanal Hill sits at just one foot shy of being designated as a mountain. While it may technically be a hill, the view is well worth the climb or drive. Once you reach the top, you can see for miles on a clear day. This fantastic view attracts visitors from all over the country.
Photo by Christian Toews
The striking beauty of the Talimena Scenic drive can be seen year-round, but the fall is a favorite.
Because you can drive or hike to the top, Cavanal Hill is the perfect place to spend some quality time with your loved ones, hot cocoa in hand, enjoying the scenery. No matter what time of year you visit, this view is sure to stun, but the holiday season offers some exceptional views as the leaves change.
Just a few short miles from Poteau, you will find Lake Wister State Park. Lake Wister is known for its beautiful scenery and unique island. This island allows you to experience the beauty of the area surrounded by water on three sides. Every year, the Poteau Chamber of Commerce and volunteers host a Christmas light display called Lights on the Island.
This impressive light display features over 300 displays in the ¾-mile drive. The displays are surrounded by Lake Wister’s water on three sides, providing a darker area for displays.
“One of our most popular displays is the three giant dinosaurs towering over 15ft high setting on the water’s edge of the lower Northside. The display takes visitors through a huge lighted tunnel, a candle lite forest with many animated displays throughout. One of the most unique displays is the 30ft Statue of Liberty with the American Flag setting just below the hill,” said Karen Wages, CEO of the Poteau Chamber of Commerce.
Some of the light displays that can be seen at the Lights on the Island show. The show has over 300 displays.
Christmas light displays are fun for the whole family and a great way to enjoy the holiday season. Lights on the Island will be open Nov. 17 through Dec. 25 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., according to the Poteau Chamber of Commerce. You can find more information about Lights on the Island at poteauchamber.com/lightdisplay. So, put on that Christmas playlist and treat your loved ones to a dazzling display on the lake. Oklahoma has so many amazing views to offer. Let’s head over to Talihina. If you have never visited this quaint town, you’re missing out on some of Oklahoma’s most spectacular landscapes. The city of Talihina sits in the Kiamichi Valley between the Kiamichi and Winding Stair Mountains. Surrounded by mountains, historic Talihina is a unique contrast from other parts of Oklahoma.
One of the most popular attractions in the area is the Talimena National Scenic Byway. This 54-mile highway winds through the Ouachita National Forest from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas. The highway is popular with motorists, bikers, and even cyclists. The drive offers spectacular views and incredible vistas to sit and take in the majestic Oklahoma scenery. The holiday season is a great time to enjoy these views with your loved ones. If you can get out before the trees lose their leaves, you will see a fantastic display of colors from the Ouachita National Forest.
Our last stop on our list is Tvshka Homma, Oklahoma. Located only 20 miles southwest of Talihina, Tvshka Homma offers a great way to enjoy the holiday season. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma provides a Christmas light display that everyone can enjoy. This year’s Christmas in the Park will feature Christmas displays ranging from Native American to traditional. Hot chocolate and Christmas ornaments will be given on Fridays and Saturdays when you visit the display to top it all off. Find out more information about the Choctaw Nation’s Christmas in the Park.
While southeastern Oklahoma has countless amazing views and things to do during the holidays, this list will get you started on some great ideas for spending quality time with your family during this season. Whether you enjoy a spectacular view or an impressive light display, the holiday season is a magical time in southeastern Oklahoma.
Over a decade ago, with the donation of just a few Christmas lights, Lights On The Island was born. Since then, the annual event has grown into a spectacular light show for hundreds of visitors. Over 300 light displays in several animated displays cover the entire island. Each year, children anxiously await the huge dinosaurs, the tumbling bears and even Santa Claus! Visitors to Lights on the Island wrap up in blankets, climb aboard a lighted carriage and enjoy the short ride through the lights guided by volunteers. A joint effort of the staff at Lake Wister State Park, LeFlore County Development Coalition and Poteau Chamber of Commerce, each new season is bigger and brighter than the year before. Donations accepted.
We recommend starting your adventure at Spiro Mounds, where our friend, Dennis the Archaeologist, will breathe life into the mysterious people of Spiro Mounds. It’s wise to plan a couple of hours to take-in all the indoor exhibits, see all the amazing sites, and walk the interpretive trails along the mounds.
Next, make the short drive to Southern Belle, in Heavener. It’s a lunch you’ll never forget. You’ll enjoy some mouth-watering food and soak-in the fantastic view, all from the comfort of Southern Belle’s retired, refurbished train car. The amount of sheer joy the car now brings to diners handily explains why Southern Belle was lovingly dubbed, “America’s Sweetheart.”
Then, venture out to Heavener Runestone State Park. (What better way to burn-off some of that delicious lunch you just ate?!) Enjoy the incredible views the nature trails have to offer on your way to the Heavener Runestone — said to have been carved by ancient Vikings. Hear the history, see the artifacts, and enjoy your visit!
Finally, head over to Poteau and start your drive up Cavanal Hill. Measuring 1,999 feet – a mere foot shy of being a “mountain” – Cavanal has earned the title of the “World’s Highest Hill.” The view from the top is always breathtaking, but fall colors and sunsets are the icing on the cake.