Guide to Holiday Shopping Events in Georgia

Downtown Thomasville decorated for the holidays

Shop downtown Thomasville during two festive events: Small Business Saturday Nov. 28 and the Victorian Christmas Festival Dec. 10-11.

Find unique gifts for everyone on your list at these special holiday shopping events throughout Georgia. Stroll through historic downtowns filled with boutiques, specialty stores and galleries while the sounds of the season fill the air. Shop for handmade crafts and gifts you can’t find anywhere else, and treat yourself to a bite in a local café. Make holiday shopping a merry event this year in Georgia!

Nov. 24: Candlelight Shopping on the Square, Historic Downtown Washington

Nov. 24: Shopping by Lantern Light, Statesboro

Nov. 26: Christmas in Possum Snout, Tallapoosa

Nov. 28: Christmas at the Art Center, Blue Ridge

Nov. 28: Small Business Saturday in Downtown Thomasville

Nov. 28-29: Mistletoe Market & Sugar Plum Tea Room, North Georgia Technical College Campus, Blairsville

Nov. 28-Dec. 20 (weekends): Dublin Christkindlmarket (Traditional German Christmas Market), Dublin Carnegie

Nov. 30-Dec. 15: Christmas at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Atlanta

Dec. 1-4: Holiday Book Sale, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens

Dec. 3-4: Christmas Extravaganza, Downtown McRae

Dec. 4: First Fridays in Historic Downtown Brunswick

Dec. 4: First Friday, Downtown Valdosta

Dec. 4: Friday Night Live: Christmas in Downtown Woodstock

Historic Olde Town Conyers business district

Find special sales and promotions in the historic Olde Town Conyers business district during the Dec. 4 Christmas Party.

Dec. 4: Olde Town Conyers Christmas Party

Dec. 4: Downtown in December, Jefferson

Dec. 4-5: Christmas on the River, Savannah

Dec. 4-6: Art Dublin Holiday Gala & Show, Dublin-Laurens Museum & Cultural Center, Dublin

Dec. 5: Christmas in the Mountains, Downtown Cleveland

Dec. 5: Holiday Open House and Christmas Parade, Valdosta

Dec. 5: Back to Nature Holiday Market and Festival, Chattahoochee Nature Center, Roswell

Dec. 5-6: Home for the Holiday Expo, Gwinnett Center, Duluth

Dec. 5-6: Victorian Christmas Open House, National Civil War Naval Museum, Columbus

Dec. 5-13 (weekends): 8th Annual Christkindlmarkt, Helen

Dec. 5-19 (Saturdays): Georgia Winery’s Christmas Open House, Ringgold

Dec. 10: 13th Annual Hometown Christmas, Downtown Warrenton

Dec. 10: Girls’ Night Out, Valdosta

Children visit with Santa in Thomasville

Take the kids to visit with Santa in Thomasville during the Victorian Christmas Festival Dec. 10-11, 2015.

Dec. 10-11: Victorian Christmas Festival, Thomasville

Dec. 11-23 (select dates): Dinner & Shopping in Truett’s Barn, The Rock Ranch

Dec. 12: Nacoochee Village Christmas, Helen

Dec. 12: Christmas Cookie Walk, Good Samaritan Catholic Church, Ellijay

Dec. 17: Christmas in Royston

Through Dec. 22: Mistletoe Market, Arts Clayton Gallery, Jonesboro

Through Jan. 9: Holiday Show and Sale, The Art Center, Blue Ridge

Looking for more unique shopping destinations in Georgia? Read Shopping for Kids this Holiday Season, visit the Shopping Trip Ideas page, and find many more holiday events on the Events page. Subscribe to the Explore Georgia email newsletter to receive the latest events and deals directly in your inbox!

5 Things Worth Bundling Up to Do Outside

Ice skating at Atlantic Station

Go ice skating at Atlantic Station Nov. 21, 2015- Feb. 14, 2016. Photo courtesy Atlantic Station.

Baby it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to hibernate indoors. With the mild weather in Georgia, you can wait a day or two for the sun to come out and warm things up. If that doesn’t happen, here are five activities worth bundling up to do outside this holiday season.

Night Sky Shows at the Okefenokee Swamp, Fargo: There are no camels, kings or gifts, but you can follow a star of your own walking through the woods. Lack of light pollution in the Okefenokee Swamp makes this area of Georgia perfect for stargazing. You can even observe the night sky through a high-powered telescope.

Seasonal Ice Skating Rinks, Atlanta: Nothing says the holidays like bundling up and hitting one of the many seasonal ice skating rinks around Atlanta. The Marietta Square is a newcomer to the scene, joining Centennial Park, Atlantic Station, St. Regis, Conyers and Avalon ice rinks.

Santa on a zipline at North Georgia Canopy Tours

Photo courtesy North Georgia Canopy Tours

Ziplining at North Georgia Canopy Tours, Lula: Your heart pumping in your chest will keep you warm as you fly through the air. Ground school gets first-timers comfortable with the heights and the equipment. For experienced zippers, the adventure course gives you a bird’s eye view of the North Oconee River and surrounding forest.

Holiday Lights at the Ruins, Barnsley Resort, Adairsville: The historic Manor House Ruins are the perfect canvas for this extensive light display that extends through the gardens and the village. Garden hours have been extended until 8 p.m. for day guests, or spend the night with the Light Up the Holidays package. Note: some evenings the ruins are reserved for private events and not open to the public. Call before you go.

Senoia’s Candlelight Tour of Historic Homes, Senoia: On Dec. 13, grab your hat and mittens for a tour of six historic homes and the Senoia United Methodist Church.  Afterward, warm up with refreshments at the Senoia Area Historical Society House.

SueSue Rodman is Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer and the editor and publisher of the award-winning family travel blog Field Trips with Sue. Click here for more Smart Travel content from Sue.

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Must-Try Savannah Food Scene

Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel on Savannah's River Street.

Check out the view and the food at Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel on Savannah’s River Street. Photo courtesy Bohemian Hotel.

Savannah, Georgia’s food scene has exploded, offering something old, something new, and something with a breathtaking view! Not to mention, the seafood and unique local flavors make Savannah a must-visit for food fans.

Something old

If you’re looking for a bit of history with your dinner, Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room should be on the top of your “Eat Here” list. The doors open daily at 11 a.m. with communal tables crowded with platters of fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato soufflé, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits. The menu changes daily, so call ahead if you’re looking for something in particular.

Something(s) new

New kid on the block, The Grey, offers a contemporary spin on Southern classics — like roasted chicken, field peas and snap beans, and fruit cobblers — in a beautifully renovated 1940’s era Greyhound bus station.

Burger at The Green Truck Pub, Savannah.

At The Green Truck Pub, try a burger made with grass-fed beef from nearby Hunter Cattle Company. Photo courtesy The Green Truck Pub, Savannah.

The Green Truck Pub provides a laid-back atmosphere and a menu stocked with locally sourced finds, like grass-fed, all-natural, hormone-free burgers. BONUS: They get their beef from Hunter Cattle Company right up the road in Brooklet, GA, (which also offers an annual Peanut Festival).

A breathtaking view

For a bit of glamour and a breathtaking riverfront view with your dinner, give Rocks on the Roof a try. Situated on top of the Bohemian Hotel, Rocks on the Roof offers small plates, exotic cocktails and live music.

Seafood must-stops

If you’re in the mood for uber-fresh seafood, then take a quick trip over the bridge to Tybee Island and try a one-pot tradition of boiled shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn at The Crab Shack, or shrimp and grits at Halyards Restaurant on St. Simons Island. They do a delicious rendition of this popular Golden Isles dish.

Unique local flavors

Want to take some regional goodies home with you from Savannah? Plan your visit around a Saturday and stop by Forsyth Farmers’ Market, open Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Looking for more restaurant recommendations? Check out, and remember to share your favorite food finds on social media with #GeorgiaEats!

jennifer-hill-booker-1436890751-thumb-230-230-438-151-820-444-90Jennifer is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and the author of “Your Resident Gourmet,” full of innovative recipes, cooking trends and fun kitchen gadgets. Click here for more content from Jennifer.

5 Places to See Reindeer in Georgia

Live reindeer at Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell

See live reindeer on Reindeer Day, Dec. 13, at Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell.

1.)  Pettit Creek Farms (Cartersville) – Comet and Cupid await your visit at Pettit Creek Farms, an 80-acre working farm and entertainment venue just north of Lake Allatoona. Through December, you can visit the farm and experience their Christmas Light Show, which gives you the opportunity to visit live reindeer and possibly catch one of Santa’s helpers ready to pose for pictures.

2.)  Center for Puppetry Arts (Atlanta) – Each year, the Center for Puppetry Arts presents its production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a show adopted from the classic television movie. Each ticket gets attendees into the Build Your Own Puppet Workshop after the show, where they’ll have the opportunity to put together a version of the puppets used during the show for at-home play.

3.)  Reindeer Day at the Chattahoochee Nature Center (Roswell) – Each year, the center hosts Reindeer Day, the opportunity for locals to meet and greet live reindeer and celebrate the creatures with learning opportunities about the species and crafts.

4.)  Caroling by Candlelight (Madison) – Bring your family to downtown Madison and participate in a carols sing-a-long Dec. 12, 2015, to raise your spirits as Christmas nears. While you’re there, be sure to take a minute to visit with reindeer who may or may not have flown into town from the North Pole for the occasion.

5.)  Annual Lighting of the Ruins at Barnsley Resort (Adairsville) – On Nov. 25, 2015, watch as the ruins of the former home and gardens of Mr. Barnsley are lighted with 1 million bulbs while one of Santa’s helpers and his reindeer friends make an appearance during the annual special event. If you can’t make it to the lighting, be sure to visit Barnsley Resort’s light display on one of the days when it is aglow throughout the holiday season.

eileen-1437426635-thumb-230-230-10-58-1000-783-90Eileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Clickhere for more Festival content from Eileen.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday Hikes

Sweetwater Creek State Park in the fall

Sweetwater Creek State Park in the fall. Photo by Candy Cook

Get outside over the Thanksgiving holidays to enjoy the fall weather and take in the scenery at Georgia’s parks and trails. Below are a few easy-to-get-to spots for Thanksgiving and day after Thanksgiving hikes.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Nine miles of hiking trails wind through the woods near the rapids of Sweetwater Creek. The 2-mile out-and-back History Hike winds near the banks of Sweetwater Creek for a mile before reaching the impressive New Manchester Mill ruins. The hike is easy, with some gradual climbs and many beautiful views. Energetic trailblazers extend this hike by continuing along the white trail at the intersection near the ruins. The white trail adds several miles of more challenging, rocky terrain before turning away from the creek and leading hikers back to the visitor center.

Red Top Mountain State Park Sweet Gum Loop

Red Top Mountain offers 15 miles of hiking and biking trails with an additional paved, ADA-accessible trail. The scenic trails lead visitors through the woods over moderate terrain to view historic and natural sites. Sweet Gum Loop is perfect for families. This relatively easy 3.5-mile hike through the woods connects with the paved Lakeside Trail, featuring lake views for a short distance. Explore more of the lakeshore on the 5.5-mile Homestead Trail, or bring mountain bikes to ride nearly 4 miles on Iron Hill.

Island Ford rock outcrop

Rocks at Island Ford. Photo by Candy Cook.

Chattahoochee River NRA Island Ford Loop

The Island Ford Unit of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area features a 3-mile loop beginning with a long walk near the banks of the river. The trail passes several interesting rock outcrops that make fun photo ops. Keep the hike easy by making the return trip along this riverside stretch of trail, or extend the hike by gradually climbing into the forest along the loop.

High Falls State Park

High Falls State Park. Photo by Candy Cook

High Falls State Park

The Falls Trail begins with a short walk to a sweeping view of the falls tumbling over rock outcroppings in the Towaliga River. Following the loop for just over a mile takes hikers from the falls through the forest, where the trail climbs in elevation. Hikers looking for more also visit the history trail on the other side of the river. The history trail offers two more miles of hiking and includes the remains of an old hydroelectric power plant.

Little Ocmulgee State Park

Little Ocmulgee’s Oak Ridge Trail offers a fascinating look at the threatened longleaf pine ecosystem. The relatively flat sandhill terrain makes this an easy 2-mile hike with virtually no elevation change. A boardwalk about halfway into the loop leads visitors onto the blackwater streams for tranquil, mesmerizing walk among tupelo and bay trees.

Biking on the Silver Comet Trail

Biking on the Silver Comet Trail. Photo by Candy Cook

Paved trails in every Georgia region

From the Silver Comet to the Atlanta BeltLine, Georgia features paved multi-use trails in every region. These paths make up some of the longest, easiest stretches of trail in the state, catering to pedestrians and bikers. Many of these paved trails offer wooded areas, landscape views, and unique sights along the way.

candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.