10 Spectacular Seasonal Celebrations
Georgia’s Best Holiday Happenings
By Anna Bentley
More than 1 million twinkling lights. A leaping, twirling Mouse King.Victorian homes beautifully decorated for the holidays. These are just some of the things you’ll find across metro Atlanta and Georgia this holiday season. Here’s a roundup of our best bets.
Fantasy in Lights
Now in its 22nd year, Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens has become a favorite attraction not just for Georgians, but for those across the Southeast as well. National Geographic Traveler even named it a Top 10 Place to See Holiday Lights. And for good reason: Fantasy in Lights features 8 million lights in 15 dazzling scenes, all accompanied by festive music—some even with lively animation. Plus, in the resort’s Christmas Village, you can take pictures with Santa, have story time with Mrs. Claus, take a Christmas train ride or hear a holiday organ concert. Through Dec. 30. 855-923-7580, www.callawaygardens.com.
Garden Lights, Holiday Nights
With all-new colors for its fourth season (think vibrant, bold reds, oranges and yellows), the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s annual holiday event covers the attraction’s 30 acres with 1.5 million glittering lights. This year, favorites from the Imaginary Worlds exhibit get a twinkling makeover, including the unicorn, frogs and giant butterflies. The Radiant Rainforest, Glittering Galaxy and Orchestral Orbs also return, offering a different take on animated holiday sound and light shows. Through Jan. 3. 404-876-5859, www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org.
Victorian Christmas in Thomasville
On Dec. 11 and 12, downtown Thomasville transforms into a Victorian winter wonderland. This 28th annual celebration features carriage rides with sleigh bells, revelers dressed in period appropriate finery, and joyous carolers singing holiday favorites throughout the downtown area. Other highlights include a live nativity scene, a Victorian museum and craft village, and a special play area for the younger visitors. 229-227-7020, www.downtownthomasville.com.
Christmas in Roswell
Each holiday season, Roswell’s trio of historic homes—Bulloch Hall, Barrington Hall and Smith Plantation—undergo a festive transformation, celebrating both the holiday season and the homes’ unique histories. For instance, Barrington Hall will host a reenactment of the wedding of Theodore Roosevelt Sr. and Mittie Bulloch, which took place on Dec. 22, 1853. Other highlights include self-guided tours, breakfast with Santa, Christmas high teas and a concert by the Joe Gransden Big Band. 770-640-3254 or visit www.visitroswellga.com.
Christmas 1886 with the Gordons
Savannah’s Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace—childhood home of the founder of the Girl Scouts of America—allows visitors to explore holiday customs of the Victorian era during this ongoing event. The National Historic Landmark will be decorated for the season in 1880s Victorian style with the dining room table set for Christmas dinner, a vintage “Game of Merry Christmas” on display and stockings hung on the mantle. Through Dec. 30. 912-233-4501, www.juliettegordonlowbirthplace.org.
Festive Parks And Other Attractions
Stone Mountain Christmas
It’s a busy holiday season at Stone Mountain Park. See one of the park’s four performances, including Forever Christmas, Holly Jolly Cabaret, Toyrific! and A Crossroads Christmas Carol. Visit Santa and hear Mrs. Claus tell her Mistletales at the Gingerbread House. Board the Singalong Train to hear your favorite Christmas tunes, or catch Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas 4D. Have your picture taken with the Snow Angel and her Toy Soldiers, and enjoy a nightly Christmas parade and fireworks display to wrap up the night. Through Jan. 4. 770-498-5690, www.stonemountainpark.com.
Learn about religious cultures and customs from around the world at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Winter Wonderland. The exhibition returns for a fifth year with displays and trees celebrating global holidays and traditions, including Christmas, the Festival of Lights and Hanukkah. While you’re there, check out the museum’s permanent and special exhibits, including Dinosaur Plaza, A Walk Through Time in Georgia and the Star Gallery. Through Jan. 11. 404-929-6300, www.fernbankmuseum.org.
Lanier Islands Christmas
Lake Lanier Islands Resort combines favorites from its famous Magical Night of Lights with new additions to create a new seasonal celebration. Enjoy free skating at the Coca-Cola Polar Rink, carnival rides overlooking the lake, holiday fare at the resort’s restaurants, and a new, extended walking tour of its dazzling light show—not to mention a visit with Santa and his elves. $30 per carload, through Dec. 31. 770-945-8787, www.lakelanierislands.com.
Holiday in the Park
Even Six Flags Over Georgia is getting in the holiday spirit this year. This new event complements the theme park’s thrilling roller coasters and kid-friendly rides with more than 1 million lights, holiday shows, dozens of Christmas trees, great food and, of course, Santa himself. Make sure to stop by the 1910 Riverview Carousel, which promises an impressive light display and walk-through experience “never before seen in Atlanta and the Southeast region.” Through Jan. 4. 770-739-3400, www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia.
Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker
A Christmas tradition for many Atlanta families, Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker brings the timeless holiday classic to life with dazzling visuals and stellar choreography, made all the more magical thanks to live accompaniment courtesy of the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra. Dancing dolls, waltzing snowflakes, an army of mice and the Sugar Plum Fairy—thrill to the sights and sounds that have entranced generations of Atlanta children and adults. Dec. 11–28, with two showings on Saturdays, Sundays and select weeknights. 404-881-2100, www.atlantaballet.com.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
This year, the Center for Puppetry Arts celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1964 television special, as well as the fifth anniversary of its own adaptation of this timeless tale of acceptance. Directed by Jon Ludwig, this family-friendly production uses rod and body puppets to recreate the stop-motion animated adventures of “the most famous reindeer of all.” Through Dec. 28. 404-873-3391, www.puppet.org.
More Seasonal Celebrations
Breakfast or Supper With Santa Train
Enjoy a train ride with jolly old St. Nick over Lake Blackshear on the SAM Shortline, featuring air-conditioned vintage rail cars. 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 20. 877-427-2457, www.samshortline.com.
Enchanted Garden of Lights
Explore holiday light scenes, meet characters including Santa, Jack Frost and Inara the Ice Queen, and enjoy live entertainment at this Rock City Gardens celebration two hours from Atlanta. Through Jan. 3 (closed Dec. 24). 800-854-0675, www.seerockcity.com.