Georgia Holiday Happenings
Light Shows, Time Travel, Celebrations and More
by Hope S. Philbrick
The state of Georgia is filled with wonderful things to see and doyear-round, and that’s especially true during the holiday season. Here are just a few of the festive holiday events your new home state has to offer, from giant drive-through light displays to charming excursions into yesteryear.
Christmas Tour of Homes
This merry tradition kick-starts the holiday season in the small waterfront town of historic St. Marys. An assortment of beautifully decorated private homes, bed and breakfasts, museums and churches open their doors on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sparkling trees and winter wonderland décor at each uniquely ornamented location may inspire ideas to deck your own halls. Entertainment includes church choirs and vocal groups caroling along the route. Walk or drive from point to point, as all stops are conveniently located within the downtown district.
Deck the Halls
Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange is decorated for the holidays Dec. 1 through 22, with features including a circa 1940s tinsel-laden tree, brilliant Poinsettias and other fresh, seasonal treasures. Surrounded by the historic Ferrell Gardens, this 1916 Italian-inspired estate is the 30-room, 13,000-square-foot home of the Fuller E. Callaway family, designed by Neel Reid and opened to the public in 2004. Hands-on workshops include wreath making, gingerbread house decorating and more.
Enchanted Garden of Lights
This award-winning Rock City extravaganza features more than 30 holiday scenes that transform the garden’s natural daytime splendor into a nocturnal fantasyland. Witness elves harvesting candy canes and building toys. Visit with St. Nick (nightly through Dec. 23), decorate gingerbread cookies, sip hot cocoa, get a Sugar Plum Fairy Makeover and enjoy nightly entertainment at the North Pole Adventure. The VIP experience includes dinner with Santa (on select nights only, beginning at 5 p.m.) and includes a buffet dinner, a special gift and more. 6 to 9 p.m. through Jan. 5, 2013.
Fantasy in Lights
Recognized as the South’s most spectacular holiday light and sound show, this Callaway Gardens extravaganza has delighted visitors of all ages since 1992. In fact, the five-mile drive-through attraction has been recognized by National Geographic as a top 10 place to see holiday lights. More than eight million lights are arranged in over a dozen scenes set to music. Ride in an open-air Jolly Trolley or drive your own vehicle. Extend the experience with resort packages, including accommodations at Callaway’s Mountain Creek Inn. The extravaganza runs through Dec. 30.
Magical Night of Lights
This annual holiday attraction at Lake Lanier Islands adds some new attractions to its traditional seven-mile driving tour through scenes comprised of millions of twinkling lights. Displays include an animated carousel, 12 days of Christmas, Santa’s elves, the North Pole Express and an icicle tunnel, among other sights. The Holiday Village is a must-see, complete with a bonfire for roasting marshmallows, pony and amusement rides, shopping and much more. Pick up a Christmas tree ornament to commemorate your visit. And what holiday spectacle would be complete without a visit with Jolly Old St. Nick? Through Dec. 30.
TRAVEL THROUGH TIME
SAM Shortline Excursion Train
Ride in vintage train cars while enjoying a unique mix of yesteryear and the excitement of today’s Southern holiday cheer. Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites’ SAM Shortline rumbles into quaint towns filled with fun attractions, restaurants and shopping and hosts special themed trips on select dates.
Holidays in History
Venture inside the cottages of Jekyll Island’s National Historic Landmark District and get a taste of how the holidays were celebrated from the Victorian Era to the Jazz Age. Daily in December, except Dec. 24 and 25.
The Explorations in Antiquity Center in LaGrange, a “living museum” dedicated to replicating the experience of life during Biblical times, features a guided “Follow the Shepherds Christmas Walk” that takes you from Nazareth to Bethlehem, with live actors and animals. Friday and Saturday evenings throughout December.
Victorian Christmas in Thomasville
Journey back to the 1890s for a unique yuletide celebration including horse-drawn carriage rides (complete with jingle bells), street vendors, live musicians and dancers, strolling carolers and, of course, St. Nick himself. Dec. 13 and 14.
Georgia Museum of Agriculture and Historic Village
This 95-acre site in Tifton takes visitors back in time to experience life in 19th-century Georgia. On Dec. 8, partake in a Wiregrass Christmas with caroling, bluegrass music and more. Ride on a 1917 steam locomotive, the North Pole Express, to visit with Santa on Dec. 14-15. And on Dec. 16, take a steam engine to the Victorian Village by Candlelight for an old-fashioned holiday light display.
MORE SEASONAL CELEBRATIONS
Holidays in Olde Lincoln Town
Dec. 1. 706-359-7970, www.lincolncountyga.org.
This annual festival in downtown Lincolnton in Lincoln County, Ga., includes arts and crafts vendors, prizes, trackless train rides and a colorful parade.
Charity Lane Festival of Lights
Dec. 7-9 and 14-16. www.explorerabun.com.
Drive seven miles adorned with Christmas lights in Rabun Gap’s Wollfork Valley.
Christmas Tree Lighting
Witness a tree lighting, carols, hayrides, bonfires and a visit from Santa. Dec. 8 at Vogel State Park in Blairsville, Ga.