FANTASY IN LIGHTS
Now in its 20th year, Callaway Gardens’ annual Christmas celebration has recently been recognized by National Geographic as one of the Top 10 Christmas Light Displays in the World! It’s easy to see why: With 8 million lights comprising 14 different themes (including “Snowflake Valley” and “Magical Christmas Garden”) and stretched across a 5-mile drive filled with holiday music, it’s easily the state’s most high-tech light display. Running from November 18 through December 30, Fantasy In Lights also includes narrated scenes of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Nativity; a Christmas Village offering handmade arts and crafts, food and opportunities to visit with Santa and Rudolph; and a “Jolly Trolley” tour for those who’d prefer not to drive their own cars through the display. Callaway Gardens also offers overnight packages that include a room at the Mountain Creek Inn, Fantasy In Lights admission, a commemorative ornament, breakfast for two, and admission to all of the Gardens’ attractions.
GARDEN LIGHTS, HOLIDAY NIGHTS
Atlanta’s newest holiday celebration, running November 19 through January 7, brightens the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s 30 acres with more than 1 million colorful, energy-efficient LED light bulbs. The popular Midtown tourist attraction will showcase botanical themes that accentuate the natural beauty of the gardens while adding a uniquely festive holiday twist. Guests will be greeted by numerous potted conifers covered in lights, while the Hardin Visitor Center will feature traditional poinsettias and various evergreens, showcasing the natural beauty of the season. All of the garden’s pathways will be lit theatrically, with stars shining down from the canopies of hardwood trees, teal and blue lights illuminate a stretch of crepe myrtles, and a 27-foot-tall Christmas tree stands next to a fountain that reflects the twinkling lights in enchanting patterns. Unlike most holiday light displays, the Botanical Garden’s encourages people to get out of their cars and walk around, passing giant snowflakes, bumblebees and even a huge “praying Santa mantis” while listening to strolling carolers and sipping hot cocoa or tea. It should all make for a wonderful new addition to Atlanta’s beloved holiday traditions.
Atlanta rarely gets cold enough for water to freeze, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lace up your skates for a day (or night) on the ice. Now in its 14th year, Atlanta’s only outdoor ice skating rink offers 90-minute skate rentals, theatrical lighting and Christmas music to liven up the mood. It’s also at the heart of Centennial Olympic Park’s Holiday In Lights celebration, which fills the 21-acre downtown park with thousands of twinkling lights and a picturesque tree, making it a lovely setting for an inner-city stroll. It may not be quite as expansive as some of Georgia’s other light displays, but it’s free (if you’re not skating), offers exceptional views of the downtown Atlanta skyline, is open on holidays and runs through the end of January.
MAGICAL NIGHTS OF LIGHTS
This winter wonderland offers enough holiday joy to get Ebenezer Scrooge into the Christmas spirit. Billed as the world’s largest light extravaganza, Magical Nights of Lights takes over Lake Lanier Islands from mid-November through the end of the year. You’ll begin your visit with a scenic 7-mile drive through some of the most extravagant light displays you can imagine, including themed sections such as “The 12 Days of Christmas” and “Teddy Bear Lane.” At the end, you’ll find a massive Christmas village filled with carnival rides such as a Ferris wheel and old-fashioned carousel, games, pony rides and blazing bonfires for roasting marshmallows. Afterwards, you can warm yourself inside Santa’s Workshop, shopping for Christmas gifts, grabbing a bite to eat and posing for family photos with jolly ol’ St. Nick himself! Those looking for an overnight stay can visit the recently remodeled Legacy Lodge & Conference Center, which offers a variety of packages that include a dinner buffet and/or Breakfast with Santa.
This annual celebration has become one of Atlanta’s most beloved holiday traditions. During the day (starting November 23), you’ll want to visit Snow Mountain, in which the park’s great lawn is transformed into a snowy wonderland where kids of all ages can go sledding, build igloos and snowmen, have snowball fights and more. As the evening sun fades, Crossroads village sparkles with over 2 million lights and a gigantic outdoor Christmas tree, while Georgia’s most famous mountainside is lit up by a holiday-themed laser show. There are sing-along train travel rides, storytellers, the Polar Express 4D film experience and numerous live shows. Kids can visit the Snow Angel in her Snow Palace at Memorial Hall, and pose for pictures with Santa and/or Mrs. Claus. Whatever you do, don’t miss the nightly Christmas parade (which features special appearances by the Snow Angel and the Clauses) as well as the fireworks display that will close out the celebration. –by Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
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