‘Tis the season for sparkle and glitz, a time to pile into the car and tour the myriad light displays around Georgia. Below is a list of the 10 biggest and brightest displays in the Atlanta area. Fill the thermos with cocoa, and dig out the holiday tunes; let’s hit the road!
Garden Lights at Atlanta Botanical Garden (Nov. 16 – Jan. 4): This Garden Lights adventure ignites all of your senses! With more than 1 million lights, the garden is alive with seasonal spirit. Orchestral Orbs glow harmoniously with holiday tunes. S’mores on the Twinkling Terrace and treats from the Glow Bar taunt your taste buds. This year, colorful figures from Imaginary Worlds join the Ice Storm Trees and Poinsettia Tower. Listed in Forbes “10 Dazzling Light Displays Around the World,” you’ll want to buy your tickets early for this monumental event.
Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier (Nov. 15 – Dec. 31): Tune your MP3 player to Burl Ives, and drive six leisurely miles enjoying larger-than-life holiday light displays. Your adventure doesn’t end with the light show. Be sure to stop at the Holiday Village and enjoy ice skating, carnival rides, s’mores sticks and a few moments with Santa. Look for double coupon days in November, and fill the car with the entire family because tickets are by car and not by person.
Light Up the Holidays at Barnsley Resort (Nov. 30 – Dec. 30): Visitors (including those who are not staying overnight) are welcome to view more than 1 million lights and festive décor in the historic 1800s manor house ruins, surrounding gardens and English-style village. There is a small fee for the self-guided tour, but those with dinner reservations at one of the resort’s two onsite restaurants can tour the garden at no cost. For a truly special holiday experience, visitors can take advantage of the Light Up the Holidays promotion available for overnight stays from Nov. 30 – Dec. 30, 2013, with luxurious cottage accommodations and more.
Stone Mountain Christmas at Stone Mountain Park (Nov. 9 – Jan. 1): Two million lights, Christmas shows, Rudolph and Bumble create a night to remember. Don’t miss a five-mile excursion on the Singalong Christmas Train, featuring a satellite message from Santa’s elves and a track-side show, The Gift, about the very first Christmas. Be sure to grab a seat for the nightly Christmas Parade where you can see Santa and Mrs. Claus, and end your night with the magic of the Snow Angel flying high to create snow and fireworks.
Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City Gardens (Nov. 22 – Jan. 4): Although it is often associated with Chattanooga, did you know Rock City Gardens is actually in Georgia? Tour the gardens, aglow with more than 30 holiday scenes encompassing more than 1 million lights. Stop in the pavilion for nightly entertainment, gingerbread cookie decorating and warm fire pits. Special VIP tickets are available for Dinner with Santa and early garden entrance.
Global Winter Wonderland Atlanta at Turner Field (Nov. 21 – Jan. 5): Experience the transformation of Turner Field into a lantern festival and multicultural theme park. Debuting in Atlanta this year, illuminating lanterns as large as 50 feet tall and 100 feet wide depict landmarks from countries all over the globe. Families can delight in carnival rides and games, international dining options, live shows, and celebrations of holiday traditions and cultures from all over the globe. Single-entry or season passes are available, and prices include all rides and live entertainment.
Christmas at The Rock Ranch (Dec. 1 – Dec. 31): Guests to The Rock Ranch can cut their lights and slowly roll through the mile-long display of thousands of lights, all strung by volunteers and ranch hands of the property. Bring the family by Truett’s Barn for hot cocoa and apple cider, soups and other treats. Dec. 7 and 14, families can dine with Santa and pose for a keepsake.
Lights of Life at Life University (Nov. 29 – Dec. 31): Families are thrilled that the Light of Life show is back in Marietta after a brief hiatus. Priced by the carload, this light show is an affordable family excursion. Bring cash; no cards accepted. If you are looking for more than lights, visit on the weekend to ride a pony, take a turn on a mini Christmas train or pose with Santa. Concession wagons offer funnel cakes, s’mores platters, fried Snickers and more.
Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens (Nov. 22 – Dec. 30): Bundle up and snuggle tight for a Jolly Trolley ride, or drive your own car through this award-winning display of more than 8 million lights. Each of the scenes are custom built for Callaway, taking more than 3,900 man-hours to complete. Inside the Christmas Village, visitors can purchase unique gifts from Georgia crafters or nibble on specialty treats. Make it a special time for the family with the Fantasy In Lights overnight packages, which include accommodations, entrance to the gardens, and a special loading area for the trolley.
Holiday in Lights at Centennial Olympic Park (Nov. 23 – Jan. 20): Each evening, visitors to downtown Atlanta can stroll in the 21-acre park, relishing thousands of lights that illuminate the cityscape. While you are there, take a spin on Atlanta’s only outdoor ice skating rink or enjoy a treat from Googie Burger. A tour of Centennial Park is the perfect nightcap to a day at Georgia Aquarium’s Festival of the SEAson.
Lesli Peterson is Georgia’s Destination Expert for Trekaroo and founder of 365 Atlanta Family. She is a homeschooling mom to 2 young boys and bonus mom to two teenagers. From her home base of Atlanta, Lesli spends her time life-learning with the kids one road-trip at a time, and sharing her experiences along the way.