Favorite Holiday Traditions of Local Georgians

Every community has its own unique traditions, especially during the holiday season. As a traveler, I like to find the activities and events that even the people that live in the community look forward to seeing. Here are a few tried and true community traditions in Georgia that attract locals as well as visitors.

Thomasville residents dressed up for Victorian Christmas

The Victorian Christmas Festival will be held in Thomasville Dec. 10-11, 2015

Victorian Christmas Festival, Thomasville: On Dec. 10 and 11, Thomasville, Georgia, is transformed into a turn-of-the-century downtown. Enjoy carriage rides with jingle bells, costumed carolers who encourage singing along, and roasting marshmallows or chestnuts over an open fire. There is musical entertainment, shopping, and a live nativity, too.

Become a Sugar Plum Fairy, Lookout Mountain: Children can become part of Inara The Ice Queen’s court by purchasing a princess dress or fairy wings. Afterward, stroll through the kingdom, which includes the nightly Enchanted Garden of Lights from 6 – 9 p.m. Lights are a big part of many holiday celebrations throughout Georgia. Here is a list of 14 places to see holiday lights near Atlanta.

Ride the Pink Pig, Atlanta: My favorite traditions are the ones unique to a particular community. I’d venture to guess there is no other place in the world where you can ride a pink pig through a storybook. This Atlanta tradition started at the Rich’s department store in downtown and continues at the Macy’s at Lenox Square Mall. When you go, tell Priscilla I said “Hi.”

Hills & Dales Estate decorated for the holidays

See Hills & Dales Estate decorated for the holidays Dec. 5-26, 2015.

Build Gingerbread Houses, LaGrange: The Callaway family celebrated many a Christmas at the Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange. Now the family home is open to the public, and locals are creating their own traditions. In addition to tours through the mansion, on Dec. 19, bring the kids for a Children’s Christmas Celebration, including decorating gingerbread houses.

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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Top 5 Holiday Activities in Georgia’s Lake Country

christmas photos - elves

Georgia’s Lake Country is wrapped with traditional and delightful holiday events. From concerts and caroling to ice skating and Santa sightings, Greensboro, Madison, Eatonton and Milledgeville have you covered this holiday season.

1.) Sing Christmas carols, or….
Let others sing them! On December 2, the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center will host the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for a holiday concert.

Then on December 4, Georgia College’s Music Department presents a Holiday Concert at Russell Auditorium in #Milledgeville.

Ritz-Carlton Ice Skating

Go ice skating at the Ritz-Carlton in Greensboro Nov. 25, 2015-Jan. 3, 2016.

2.) Go ice skating — the perfect way to get holiday spirit!
The Ritz-Carlton in #Greensboro will host its annual outdoor ice skating rink at the Pavilion. The rink opens November 25 and lasts until January 3. All the fun is topped off with hot cocoa! It’s an event that’s a blast for the whole family!

Madison Holiday Tour of Homes

Tour historic homes dressed up for the holidays in Madison Dec. 3-5, 3015.

3.) Take a tour of historic homes and sites.
December 3-5, step into #Madison’s Town & Country Holiday Tour of Homes. This event is one that you do not want to miss.

The Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville will be open November 21-25 and then December 1-23. The mansion will be transformed into a winter wonderland!

Stepback, Georgia, in #Eatonton is a recreation of a 1900s community. Join the Pierce family on December 12 to “step back” into how Christmas was celebrated over 100 years ago!

Santa and Mrs. Claus in Milledgeville's Christmas Parade

See Milledgeville’s Christmas Parade Dec. 5, 2015

4.) Of course, See Santa!
Milledgeville welcomes #Santa with a parade down Main Street. This year’s parade is on December 5, and the theme is Sounds of the Season. Enjoy bands, festive floats and Santa!

On December 13, Crooked Pines Farm is bringing back “Santa & Sweets.” This event will wow your kids! Children will decorate cookies and have a one-on-one with Santa himself! Parents will receive a thumb drive with all of the photos of your children.

5.) Shop til you drop!
Eatonton hosts Christmas in the Briar Patch on December 5 from 3-6 p.m. Arts and crafts vendors will line the courthouse lawn. This is the perfect place to get your holiday shopping done! Stick around for “Light up the Night Christmas Parade” starting at 6 p.m. where Eatonton will welcome Santa to the square for free pictures with Santa!

For more information on these events, contact Maddie Atkinson with Georgia’s Lake Country.

Maddie AtkinsonMaddie Atkinson is a 2014 graduate from Georgia College in Milledgeville. After falling in love with Middle Georgia, Maddie decided to find a job there. After landing the tourism, marketing & special events position with the Eatonton-Putnam Chamber of Commerce, she began working actively on Georgia’s Lake Country marketing committee. She has since bought a house in Lake Country with her husband and two children.

My 5 Favorite Turkey Day Treats

PeachDish Thanksgiving Holiday Meal kit.

PeachDish Thanksgiving Holiday Meal kit. Photo courtesy PeachDish.

PeachDish Box. Thanks to PeachDish, you can host Turkey Day dinner without having to shop or prep (or really cook). Order a Thanksgiving PeachDish box, and you’ll receive all the ingredients you’ll need to roast your turkey (already brined), your sides (like Pecan & Apple Dressing), and even easy-to-make cream biscuits! The shopping and most of the prep work is done. You get to do the fun part: cook, eat and enjoy dinner with your family and friends. Be sure and place your order by Saturday, November 21 to receive your PeachDish box in time for Thanksgiving.

Dekalb Farmers Market. For those of you who love to cook, this market is the place for you. You can pick up everything you need to make Thanksgiving dinner with just one stop! Dekalb Farmers Market offers a vast selection of exotic and ethnic fruit, vegetables, fresh seafood, organic meats and poultry (like naturally raised turkeys), baked goods, an amazing cheese counter, and even fresh flowers for your table’s centerpiece. I always pick up some freshly roasted and ground coffee beans for a special Thanksgiving breakfast treat.


Chef Sonya Jones’ Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Sweet Auburn Bread Company. There are so many freshly baked treats to choose from — like Lemon Pound Cake, Pecan Pie, and Old Fashioned Tea Cookies — that it’s hard to pick just one. But if I had to, it would be Chef Sonya Jones’ rich and creamy Sweet Potato Cheesecake. Made with fresh, local ingredients and cooked to perfection, this is a dessert worth giving thanks for — and it’s former President Bill Clinton’s favorite dessert.

Red Apple Barn. Enjoy a visit with your family to the Red Apple Barn near Ellijay in the North Georgia Mountains. While you’re there, you can pick your own apples and a bottle of fresh apple cider from their farm store. When you get home, you can turn those apples into pie and that cider into Hot Mulled Cider (recipe below), a warm and fragrant after-Thanksgiving dinner drink.

13th Colony Distillery

13th Colony Distillery

13th Colony Distillery offers a wide array of handcrafted spirits. My favorite is their Southern Bourbon Whiskey — it has a velvety smooth finish. Located in Americus, Georgia, Thirteenth Colony Distillery prides itself on producing unique, small-batch spirits at a friendly price. I suggest adding a splash to your apple cider for a more festive flavor.

Mulled Cider
Yields 6 servings

1 quart apple cider
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 fresh lemon, cut in quarters
1 fresh orange, cut in quarters
2 cinnamon sticks
pinch of allspice
2 whole cloves
1 cup spiced rum

6 whole star anise

1. Combine apple cider, ginger, lemon, orange, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves in a stainless steel saucepan.
2. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
4. Strain mixture, add the spiced rum and serve hot in mugs.
5. Garnish with star anise.


From Field Peas to Foie Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent by Jennifer Hill Booker, © 2014 Jennifer Hill Booker, used by permission of the publisher, Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

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.

Shopping for Kids this Holiday Season

Gift shop at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens

Find artistic gifts for kids at the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens.

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? We try to keep it simple and focus on giving rather than the gift, settling on four presents each: Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. Even with a minimal shopping list, I love finding just the right gift for my little ones. One of my favorite places to scope out? Gift shops at museums and attractions. Here are 10 of my favorite museums and gift shops in Georgia for gift hunting.

Georgia Museum of Art Gift Shop, Athens. Books, art supplies, games, craft and DIY kits, dolls and stuffed animals are available for the kids. Stationary and decorative items are ideal for adult gift giving.

High Museum Shop, Atlanta. Select from art studio supplies and workbooks, plus a series of fun collectibles from Mo Willems Seriously Silly exhibition.

Tellus Science Museum Store, Cartersville. Pick up a gemstone mining kit or a science experiment. There are also activity kits to help kids learn about magnets, microscopes and more.

Foxfire Museum Gift Shop, Mountain City. A plethora of books include subjects on outdoors, cooking, Appalachian living and more. There are also soaps, craft kits and other unique finds.

Museum of Arts and Science Museum Store, Macon. You’ll find science-related items for all ages, unique art and gifts and nature-inspired jewelry.

Georgia Aquarium Gift Shop, Atlanta. Enjoy books, games, toys and more that focus on the beloved underwater creatures of the aquarium. The website even features a Kids’ Holiday Gift Guide, allowing you to purchase items online.

Gift shop at the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah.

Find choo-choo trains and more at the Georgia State Railroad Museum in Savannah.

Georgia State Railroad Museum Gift Shop, Savannah. Perfect for your train enthusiast, there are dozens of gift-giving ideas here.

Red Top Mountain Visitors Center Gift Shop, Cartersville. You’ll find gifts, books, apparel, toys for children, and much more to please nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The Walking Dead Store and Museum, Senoia. Perfect for the zombie-lover in the family. You’ll find officially licensed TWD products like clothing, games, accessories and collectibles.

Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre Boutique, Atlanta. There is also an extensive gift department at this location, featuring dance books, music, jewelry, statues and collectibles as well as imaginative children’s items like the exclusive Atlanta Ballet Signature Nutcracker, available only during the holidays.

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

4 Awesome Geocaching Challenges in Georgia

Geocaching is a fun adventure game played by using high-tech devices to hunt treasures called geocaches. These caches, hidden in some of the most interesting places around Georgia, contain a variety of items such as trading cards, trinkets, and traveling coins. The game is exciting fun for outdoor enthusiasts and families looking to liven up hikes and explore new destinations.

Georgia State Parks has hidden nearly 50 caches in spectacular parks all over the state. There are treasures to find while viewing waterfalls in the mountains, hiking canyons and forest, or hitting the beach. Geocachers are encouraged to earn souvenir geo-coins for finding 15, 30, and 40 state parks geocaches. Grab a Geo-Challenge Passport from participating parks such as Amicalola Falls, Cloudland Canyon, or Skidaway Island state parks.

Columbus RiverWalk

Columbus RiverWalk

Explore Columbus with the RiverWalk GeoTour, which includes over 30 geocaches to find between hiking, rafting, and ziplining around town. Six unique series lead visitors to Columbus’ historical sites, incredible views, and various attractions. Complete each series to collect trading cards and custom geo-coin souvenirs.

Columbus GeoTour Souvenirs

Collect trading cards and custom geo-coin souvenirs when you complete portions of the Columbus GeoTour.

Peachtree City’s GeoTour highlights historic landmarks and reveals hidden spots to enjoy nature along the 90 miles of paved cart paths. Each cache holds trinkets and trading cards featuring fun facts about the location. With just under 20 caches to find, the tour can be completed in a day or weekend trip. Stay at the Wyndham Peachtree Hotel and borrow a golf cart for the adventure.

Jackson County geocache

Find surprises at each destination on the Jackson County Geocaching Heritage Trail. Photo by Candy Cook.

The Jackson County Geocaching Heritage Trail celebrates history and countryside with 30 creative caches. The unique treasures on this tour add puzzles and games to the thrill of the hunt. Explore local attractions and landmarks collecting stamps for the official tour passport.

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.