The Best Christmas Light Displays In Georgia
Updated for 2015
It’s no secret that we love Christmas. Whether we’re heading out to enjoy Atlanta’s Best Christmas Events or staying home to savor our favorite Christmas Traditions From Around the World, we tend to spend the entire month of December celebrating our favorite season.
No matter how old we get, we’re still delighted by the shimmering lights and spirit of the holidays. Perhaps that’s why we annually visit our favorite Christmas light displays in Georgia…
FANTASY IN LIGHTS
Now in its 24th year, Callaway Gardens’ annual Christmas celebration was 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,” “Magical Christmas Garden” and “Santa’s Workshop”) stretched across a 5-mile drive filled with holiday music, it’s easily the state’s most high-tech light display.
Visitors are welcome to view the holiday spectacular via their own personal vehicle or take the “Jolly Trolley.” Best of all, Callaway Gardens offsets 100% of its electricity use by purchasing wind power credits.
Running from November 20th to January 2nd, Fantasy In Lights also includes narrated scenes of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Nativity at Robin Lake Beach; a 22,000-square foot Christmas Village offering handmade arts and crafts, food and opportunities to visit with Santa and Rudolph; and daytime sessions of “Storytime With Mrs. Claus”; and myriad special events.
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 Botanical Garden (Nov 14-Jan 9)
Atlanta’s greenest holiday celebration brightens the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s 30 acres with nearly 2 million colorful, energy-efficient LED light bulbs. Now in its fifth year, the attraction was named one of the nation’s Top 10 Holiday Lights Displays by USA Today.
The popular Midtown attraction showcases botanical themes that accentuate the natural beauty of the gardens while adding a uniquely festive holiday twist. Some of our favorite returning features include Santa Mantis and her Brilliant Bugs fluttering through rows of corn in the Edible Garden; the Ice Goddess’ shimmering locks and the glistening Ice Storm Trees; and the glowing Orchestral Orbs, which dance with color and light to the sounds of festive holiday tunes.
New this year is the Tunnel of Light, a 100-foot-long corridor of dazzling light leading visitors from the Cascades Garden back to the Fern Dell’s gorgeous galaxy of pulsating stars. More than eight feet high and equally wide, the tunnel guides visitors with an intricately woven patchwork of yellow, red and white lights. It look equally magical from within and viewed from the Canopy Walk above.
Unlike most holiday light displays, Garden Lights encourages people to get out of their cars and walk around, passing giant snowflakes, massive Christmas trees and beautiful Chihuly glass sculptures while listening to strolling carolers and sipping hot cocoa or tea. Five years in, it’s become one of Atlanta’s most beloved holiday traditions.
HOLIDAY IN LIGHTS
Centennial Olympic Park (Nov 21-Jan 2)
Atlanta almost never 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 20th year, Atlanta’s first outdoor ice skating rink offers 90-minute skate rentals, theatrical lighting and festive Christmas tunes 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) and offers exceptional views of the downtown Atlanta skyline.
MAGICAL NIGHTS OF LIGHTS
Lake Lanier Islands (Nov 20-Jan 3)
One of Georgia’s longest running Christmas light displays has been almost completely revamped in the last two years.
Taking over the majority of Lake Lanier Islands, Magical Nights of Lights starts off 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.”
In 2014 they introduced a new, expanded Christmas village filled with carnival rides such as a Ferris wheel and old-fashioned carousel, games, pony rides and blazing bonfires for roasting marshmallows. St. Nick still holds court inside Santa’s Workshop, where you can grab a bite to eat after posing for family photos with jolly ol’ elf himself. And the Live Nativity returns this year due to popular demand.
Their all-new Winter Adventure (which runs through Feb 15) adds an adrenaline-fueled “Snow Day” element. The LanierWorld park will be transformed into a winter wonderland: Water slides like the Intimidator and Fun Dunker Drop will be turned into exciting bobsled tracks, wave pools and splash zones will become grounds for building snowmen and having snowball fights, and the Thunderbolt Triple Zipline offers a bird’s eye view of the whole shebang.
STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS
Stone Mountain Park (Nov 21-Jan 3)
Atlanta’s most popular tourist attraction is also home to one of the city’s most beloved holiday traditions. During the day 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 also sing-along train rides, storytelling with Mrs. Claus, the Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas 4D film experience, a hilarious improvised version of A Christmas Carol, meet & greets with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, and a new live children’s show, The Littlest Christmas Tree.
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 snowfall and fireworks display that will close out the nightly celebration. –by Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett
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