It’s no secret that our family loves 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 holiday.
Christmas lights are one of our favorite seasonal traditions. So naturally we decorate our home festively every year, both inside and out.
No matter how old we get, we’re still delighted by the shimmering lights and spirit of the holiday seasons. Perhaps that’s why we visit our favorite Christmas light displays in Georgia every single year. Here’s a look at our favorites, as well as numerous others all around the state.
Callaway Gardens, Nov 17 – Jan 6
Now celebrating its 26th year, Callaway Gardens’ annual Christmas celebration is the largest in the state of Georgia. It has even been recognized by National Geographic as one of the Top 10 Christmas Light Displays in the World!
Be sure to check out “Snow Day,” which brings those two magical words every child loves to hear to life in lights depicting scenes of building snowmen, sledding and sipping hot cocoa.
This is just the latest expansion of the state’s most high-tech Christmas light display, which already included over 8 million twinkling bulbs and 14 classic themes (including “Snowflake Valley,” “Magical Christmas Garden” and “Santa’s Workshop”) stretched across a 5-mile drive filled with holiday music.
Fantasy In Lights also includes narrated scenes of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Nativity at Robin Lake Beach. There’s a 22,000-square foot Christmas Village offering handmade arts and crafts, food, and photo opportunities with Santa.
Kids will especially story time with Mrs. Claus and the weekend breakfasts with beloved characters such as Frosty, the Grinch, and Rudolph. Visitors are welcome to view the holiday spectacular via their own personal vehicle or take the “Jolly Trolley.”
For guests who want to spend an entire weekend, Callaway Gardens also offers special packages starting at $129/night that include a room at the Mountain Creek Inn, Fantasy In Lights admission, special Jolly Trolley loading area and reservations, a commemorative ornament, and admission to all of the Gardens’ attractions.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Callaway Gardens
Atlanta Botanical Garden (Nov 11-Jan 7)
Now in its seventh year, Georgia’s greenest holiday celebration brightens the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s 30 acres with over 2 million colorful, energy-efficient LED light bulbs.
Named one of the nation’s Top 10 Holiday Lights Displays by USA Today, the Midtown attraction showcases botanical themes that accentuate the natural beauty of the gardens while adding a uniquely festive holiday twist. This year’s newest section is the high-tech Nature’s Wonders, which showcases our planet’s natural phenomena through countless strands of synchronized dancing lights strung high over Storza Woods.
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.
The perennially popular holiday celebration also offers 21 towering candles of varying sizes and colors along the Walk of Flames and an expanded galaxy of giant stars twinkling in the treetops of the Southern Seasons Garden.
We love the giant trees ranging from 20 feet (at the entrance to Linton’s Restaurant) to 30 feet (atop the Alston Overlook), as well as the countless swirling red, orange, and white lights blanketing the 100-foot-long Tunnel of Light, which leads visitors from the Cascades Garden back to the Fern Dell’s gorgeous galaxy of pulsating stars.
Unlike most Christmas light displays in Georgia, the Atlanta Botanical Garden encourages people to get out of their cars and walk around, passing giant snowflakes, massive Xmas trees and beautiful Chihuly glass sculptures while listening to strolling carolers and sipping hot cocoa or tea. Seven years in, it’s become one of Atlanta’s most beloved holiday traditions.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Lake Lanier Islands (Nov 17 – Jan 3)
Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, this is one of Georgia’s longest-running Christmas light displays. Trivial tidbit: It’s also the place where Mary & I kissed for the first time, on our second date nine years ago!
Taking over Buford’s Lake Lanier Islands, Magical Nights of Lights has been almost completely revamped over the last few years. It starts off with a scenic 7-mile drive through some of the most extravagant Christmas light displays you can imagine, including colorful themed sections such as the Snowflake Bridge and Teddy Bear Lane.
The 25th anniversary marks the return of one of our favorite holiday light displays, The 12 Days of Christmas, which returns better than ever before after a 2-year renovation process.
Back 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 Shop, where you can also grab a bite to eat after posing for family photos with the jolly ol’ elf himself. The Live Nativity section, which returned last year due to popular demand, is back again this year as well.
Unfortunately they seem to have eliminated their Winter Adventure element, which added some adrenaline-fueled “Snow Day” fun to the holiday festivities. We loved how LanierWorld was transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with slides, ziplines, snowball fights, and more. Nonetheless, it’s still one of our favorite places to see Christmas lights in Georgia.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Lake Lanier
Stone Mountain Park (Nov 11-Jan 3)
Atlanta’s most popular tourist attraction is also home to one of the city’s most beloved holiday traditions. As the evening sun fades, the entire 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.
The celebration added tons of new elements last year, including an eye-popping 4D film version of the holiday classic, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and meet-and-greets with live characters such as Rudolph, Clarice and Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster.
They also introduced a new light display, “SkyLights Spectacular: A Musical Walkthrough Experience.” This immersive attraction puts you smack dab in the middle of a holiday celebration in Santa’s workshop, where kids’ jaws will drop at the thousands of lights, projections and special effects.
There are also Sing-a-Long Christmas Train rides, storytelling with Mrs. Claus, the new ‘Twas the Night Before… Holiday Cabaret, the live children’s show The Littlest Christmas Tree: Forever Christmas, and A Christmas Carol. Don’t miss the numerous opportunities to pose for pictures with the Snow Angel, Santa and/or Mrs. Claus, and Rudolph and his friends.
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 magical snowfall and rousing fireworks display that close out the nightly celebration.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Stone Mountain Park
Atlantic Station (Nov 18-Dec 24)
In the years before we launched GGT, we helped run an improv comedy company in Atlanta. One of my favorite memories from that time was organizing a group to sing carols in Atlantic Station. This was one of the first years they had their 50-foot-tall Christmas tree there.
The Midtown hotspot’s annual holiday celebration has grown considerably over the past eight years. Their Christmas light display now includes a quarter of a million lights within an 8-block radius, and it’s FREE to walk or drive through.
There’s a surprisingly realistic snowfall that happens at 6PM every Sunday, 7PM every weeknight, and hourly from 6 to 9PM on Fridays and Saturdays (if weather permits).
The celebration offers a lot of other activities as well. You can explore Atlantic Station’s seasonal shopping opportunities, dine at one of its 17 restaurants, or visit Santa’s Cottage in the Central Park area. There’s also an ice skating rink– one of only two outdoor rinks in metro Atlanta.
But the coolest addition to Atlantic Station’s Christmas offerings is the authentic German Christkindl Market. The festive Christmas street market tradition dates back to the late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, but this is Atlanta’s first. There you can find food, drink, and seasonal items in open-air booths, accompanied by traditional singing and dancing.
From December 2-4 visitors will be welcomed to the market by the “Christkind” (originally the boy Jesus, but now more often depicted as an angel-like girl). You can take pictures with her as she roams the market, sharing German holiday traditions and telling Christmas stories.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Atlantic Station
MORE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN ATLANTA
Callanwolde Fine Arts Center (Nov 21-Dec 29)
One of the most upscale places to see Christmas lights in Atlanta, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center’s annual celebration of the season centers around their Designer Show House.
Now in its 40th year, this beloved tradition welcomes visitors to a 27,000 square foot mansion where each room is elaborately decorated by some of the city’s top floral and interior designers.
Your self-guided tour also includes professionally holiday displays, a artists’ market offering one-of-a-kind gifts, and themed events for kids and adults.
At night, the Fine Art Center’s 12-acre campus is all aglow, with the buildings and trees festively decorated by the pros at Illuminating Design.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Callanwolde
Six Flags Over Georgia (Select dates Nov 18-Jan 3)
For its fourth season at Six Flags, Holiday in the Park is upping the ante more than ever before. The raw stats: 29 thrilling rides decked out in Christmas decor, 16 different holiday-themed sections, and more than one million twinkling LED lights.
For the first time, this year’s celebration will include Santa Claus and his reindeer riding their sleigh into the park for the event’s debut on November 18. He’ll welcome guests into a winter wonderland filled with dazzling Christmas trees, exclusive holiday shows, and tons of holiday food fare.
Also new this year will be the expansion into Metropolis Park, where the JUSTICE LEAGUE: Battle for Metropolis and SUPERMAN: Ultimate Flight rides will be open and dressed up with festive holiday flair.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Six Flags Over Georgia
Life University, Marietta (Nov 23- Dec 31)
One of Atlanta’s oldest and most underrated Christmas light displays, Lights of Life nevertheless draws huge local crowds thanks largely to word-of-mouth.
It’s also much cheaper than most– just $5 per car on weeknights until mid-December, and $10 on weekend nights.
That’s a bargain for an expansive display that includes over 100 pieces (including a 65-foot Santa/sleigh display, the tallest in the Southeast) on the 1.5 mile drive through the college’s campus.
For additional fees, there is also a petting zoo, pony rides, train rides. and opportunities to have your photo taken with Santa.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels In Marietta
Hobgood Park, Woodstock (Dec 7-23)
This Christmas light display in Woodstock is so under-the-radar, we live less than 8 miles away and had never heard of it until we were researching this piece!
But Holiday Lights of Hope is HUGE, with more than two million twinkling lights, including traditional and animated displays.
Families will enjoy walking through a mile-long Christmas maze, roasting S’mores over a roaring bonfire, and getting pictures taken with Santa. Grown-ups can enjoy strolling down Main Street, shopping at the General Store, and listening to Christmas carolers along the way.
Best of all, your $10 adult ticket (free for children 14 and under) benefits the Anna Crawford Children’s Center.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels In Woodstock
HOLIDAY IN LIGHTS
Centennial Olympic Park (Closed for 2017)
You’d have a better chance of finding ice cubes in Hades than you would of seeing snow in Atlanta on Christmas.
But Centennial Olympic Park’s annual holiday celebration gives kids of all ages a chance to strap on their skates and take a spin on the city’s first outdoor ice-skating rink, with theatrical lighting and festive holiday music to set the wintry mood.
The 21-acre park is also festooned with thousands of twinkling lights and a huge Christmas tree, with its stunning view of the city skyline making it a picturesque place for a nighttime stroll.
NOTE: This Centennial Olympic Park celebration will be on hiatus for 2017 due to major renovations. Find out more about the changes coming to the park here.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Centennial Olympic Park
MORE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN GEORGIA
Rock City Gardens, Lookout Mountain (Nov 17-Jan 6)
Most of us who grew up in Georgia remember the famous “See Rock City!” signs, which seemed to be painted on every barn in the area. But these days Rock City is nationally known.
Their Enchanted Garden of Lights celebration was selected as a Top 20 Event of 2016 by the Southeast Tourism Society, and recently featured on ABC talk show The Chew.
With more than 30 holiday scenes and nearly a million LED lights that transform the gardens’ usual splendor into a winter wonderland, this is arguably north Georgia’s best Christmas light display.
There are an array of seasonal activities to enjoy, including decorating gingerbread cookies, drinking hot cocoa, and live entertainment every night. For an extra charge, kids can also enjoy Dinner with Santa, Jack Frost, Inara the ice queen, and the Dancing Forest.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near Rock City
Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens, Savannah (Nov 25-Dec 24)
The northern half of the state has more than its fair share of Christmas light displays, but this is a rare gem in central Georgia.
Savannah’s Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens is bedazzled with over a million sparkling lights, with a walking tour allowing you to visit the various garden areas that are illuminated at your leisure.
But of course the lights aren’t the only attraction. Kids can get photos taken with Santa Claus, visit the Coastal Rail Buff’s miniature train display, or stop in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen for a hot beverage or baked Christmas goodies (where your purchase supports local non-profit groups).
NOTE: Because rain causes the lights to trip breakers, this display is weather-dependent.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels In Savannah
Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, Hiawassee (Nov 23-Dec 30)
The Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds are located along the scenic shores of Lake Chatuge in the state’s beautiful northeastern mountains.
The venue is best known as the site of the Georgia Mountain Fair, Georgia State Fiddlers Convention, and concerts by big bands such as the Beach Boys and Casting Crowns.
But the Mountain Country Christmas In Lights is a down-home holiday affair that transforms the fairgrounds with a spectacular light show.
Visitors can also enjoy Christmas music provided by local church groups, shopping for arts and crafts from local vendors, festive holiday food, and, of course, the requisite pictures with jolly old St. Nick!
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels in Hiawassee
Cartersville (Nov 23–Dec 30)
This 80-acre farm in Cartersville has been in the Allen family since 1945, when Lake Allatoona was expanded.
Now run by the grandchildren of the original owners, the farm features over a mile of Christmas lights to drive through ($15 per car, or $10 per person for an old-fashioned hayride). Included in the price is a visit to their petting zoo, where you can also see live Reindeer.
Santa Claus makes appearances for photo ops every Thursday through Sunday, and there’s a Live Nativity scene every weekend.
Bring some extra cash along to purchase hot cocoa, apple cider, marshmallows for roasting, and kits to make S’mores on the campfire. They also have Christmas trees for sale.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels in Cartersville
The Rock Ranch, Barnesville (Dec 1-24)
Located in central Georgia just north of Macon, the Rock Ranch is another family-owned farm. But in this case, it’s a very famous family– that of the late Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy.
He started the “Country Christmas” tradition himself in 2010 when he bought a truck load of lights from Lowes and Home Depot during their annual After Christmas sales.
Now his estate offers more than a mile of twinkling Christmas lights for visitors to drive through. On “Country Christmas Nights”– December 9, 15, 16, 22, and 23– only tractor/trolley rides through the display is available.
But when you’re done, you can visit Santa’s Workshop for an extra charge, making Christmas cookies, having story time with an elf, and writing letters to Santa.
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels Near The Rock Ranch
Columbus, Georgia (Nov 23-Dec 30)
If you’re like us, and festooning your house with Christmas lights is a big part of your annual holiday traditions, visiting the Ludy’s house will provoke a mixture of motivation and envy.
Made famous by the ABC show The Great Christmas Light Fight, this Columbus family’s dedication to spreading holiday cheer would make Clark Griswold burst with joy.
From Thanksgiving Day through New Year’s Eve, their house and lawn are covered with over 155,000 lights and decorations. The display is so elaborate, it takes nearly four months to put it up! All of the Christmas lights are sequenced to music, so make sure you tune your radio to FM 90.1 as you enter their Cottonwood Subdivision.
Admission is free, but you can show the Ludy family some love by donating to the Georgia Chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. –by Bret Love; photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted
WHERE TO STAY: Compare Hotels In Columbus
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