Nothing brings the holiday cheer more than a million twinkling lights and festive celebrations during Christmas time. Luckily, Georgia has holiday festivities ranging from traditional tree lightings to modern, imaginative celebrations to get you in the Christmas spirit. From the big city of Atlanta to the smaller quaint towns of Georgia, there is a wide range of holiday happenings that are perfect for the whole family.
Dubbed the “Peach State,” Georgia may not scream Christmas with its coastal beaches, mountains, and farmland. However, it is home to some of the most noteworthy holiday lights and Christmas events in the country. If you are looking to spend the festive season in Georgia this year, we went through some of our top picks for the best Christmas lights and events happening in 2023, sure to bring joy to you and your family.
Santa’s List For The Best Christmas Lights And Events In Georgia
Trees, Trees, And More Christmas Trees
While Georgia’s national tree is the Live Oak, the flourishing state has no shortage of festive firs and pines. During the Christmas season, fellow Georgians sure know how to bring the holiday spirit by celebrating one of the most iconic symbols — the Christmas tree.
Best Christmas Tree Trail
Open from November 28 to December 31, the Holiday Tree Trail will be on display embodying this year’s theme of “My Favorite Things.” The Atlanta Botanical Garden Christmas Tree Trail features a row of 20 live, 6-foot Fraser firs that are adorned by community members, local organizations, and businesses. The trail is somewhat of a smaller event, but one definitely worth checking out if you are looking for a display that honors the locals in the area. Check out this display of local creativity and pride at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville, Georgia.
Best For Giving Back
Christmas is the season of giving and the Festival of Trees, located at Snellville City Hall, is the perfect celebration of holiday spirit. The festival allows community members to decorate a tree and join in on some friendly competition for a great cause. Visitors vote for their favorite tree by donating money, canned goods, or toys. The tree with the most donations at the end of the contest wins the competition and gets bragging rights for the next year. Meanwhile, the donations are distributed to local charities such as Give Hunger the Boot and Toys for Tots. Visit the Festival of Trees and vote for your favorite decorated tree from November 24 to December 21 and participate in the Christmas season by giving back.
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Holiday Lights
Bring a twinkle to your eye this festive season by visiting Georgia’s best and brightest light displays. From traditional string lights to animated light displays, Georgia offers a gift for everyone to enjoy.
Best Traditional Lights Festival
Holly Jolly Jekyll is one of the most famous Georgia Christmas light displays. From November 24 to January 7, Jekyll Island is adorned with over a million lights, bringing life to chilly holiday nights. Throughout the holiday season, Holly Jolly Jekyll hosts a range of festivities including a Christmas light parade, holiday characters, Christmas shopping events, live music, guided tram tours, and more. And in the center of it all sits the Great Tree, strung with a million LED lights that light up the Christmas village.
Best For A Nocturnal Wonderland
Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights is an award-winning light extravaganza that is one of the area’s most coveted Christmas light displays. Located at the Rock City Gardens, the Enchanted Garden of Lights presents over 30 different holiday light displays that include the Magic Forest, Arctic Kingdom Aurora Lights, Yule Town, North Pole Village, and more. From November 17 to December 31, explore the magic forest that is transformed into a nocturnal wonderland during the Enchanted Garden of Lights. Along with exploring the mesmerizing garden lights, visitors can also enjoy a visit from Santa Claus and get some shopping done at the holiday market during this event, perfect for the whole family.
Best For A Variety Of Light Displays
Located at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Winter WonderLights is one of the most notable Christmas light displays in all of Georgia. The half-mile walk-through light show features a variety of different holiday garden lights that brighten even the coldest holiday nights. While during the day, the coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens features an incredible display of plants, at night, the State Botanical Garden is transformed into the most magical holiday light display that embodies the holiday magic. Stroll through Jingle Bell Lane, Winter Wondercave, and Cone Tree Forest while enjoying Christmas music and festive treats. Check out the wonders of the Christmas lights on select days from November 22 to December 30. From January 4 to 7, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia will also be hosting WonderLights Disco Nights that feature an incredible light display along with the festive music of classic disco hits.
Best Lakeside Lights Spectacular
Margaritaville’s Lakeside Lights Spectacular will be held at Lanier Islands from December 1 to January 3. The new Christmas lights are reimagined this year and are said to be more immersive compared to the previous drive-through experience that the show offered. Now, visitors can take a walk through the dazzling Christmas lights that feature traditional holiday scenes and imaginative Margaritaville twists. The 0.75-mile-long light show is that much more magical alongside the idyllic atmosphere of the beautiful Lake Lanier. Enjoy the festive tunes while admiring the light show at your own pace. The Lakeside Lights Spectacular also features festive goodies to munch on and stunning photo opportunities along the way.
Best Overnight Experience
If you are looking for the perfect atmosphere for an overnight stay, surrounded by holiday light displays, Fantasy in Lights, located at Callaway Resort & Gardens, is the place to be. This getaway in the cozy cottages, villas, lodges, and spas of the resort is a great way to spend a country Christmas. It is an annual tradition for Georgians and visitors alike. Fantasy in Lights is a 7-mile-long scenic drive that features more than 17 different holiday light shows, scenes, holiday music, and more. Callaway Resort & Gardens is also home to the Callaway Christmas Village, which features a forest of twinkling lights, over-the-top Christmas decorations, and holiday events that give a true country Christmas feel. As if over a million lights are not enough, the estate also features a Christmas tree that is over 10 stories tall, and of course, adorned with countless Christmas lights, making the perfect backdrop for your holiday pictures.
Best Unique Lights Display
While traditional holiday displays are a must for the holiday season, newer and more imaginative holiday light displays can bring something different this Christmas for you and your family. IllumiNights: A Chinese Lantern Festival at the Atlanta Zoo is one of the most unique and creative celebrations of holiday lights, animals, and Christmas spirit. The cherished holiday light show takes place from November 16 to January 14. Be sure to grab your tickets early as it is one of the most popular light displays in Georgia. The Chinese Lantern Festival features hand-painted animal lanterns that could reach over 20 feet tall. This installation is truly a unique celebration of Christmas lights and the zoo’s charismatic creatures. With the path being more than a mile long, you can revel in the imaginative holiday lights, inspired by wildlife, while celebrating the holiday season with festive drinks like hot chocolate and holiday spirits.
Best Garden Walk
This year marks the 13th annual Garden Lights, Holiday Nights, hosted at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. This shimmering and immersive display of holiday lights highlights a creative display of artistic talent. This year, the Garden Lights, Holiday Nights display will feature traditional favorites such as the White Rabbit and Skyline Garden Pond, as well as new installations such as Skyline Frost. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens light display is a beloved holiday tradition for many; be sure to grab your tickets early. Fully immerse yourself into a winter wonderland when exploring the Radiant Rainforest, Glittering Galaxy, Tunnel of Light, Orchestral Orbs, and riding the holiday trains. This must-see light display will be held from November 18 to January 14.
Chipper, Cheery, Christmas Celebrations
Hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, classic Christmas tales, powdery white snow, Christmas carols, and festive decorations — there is no better way to bring Christmas cheer than participating in holiday festivals and experiences. It can be hard to please everyone in the family, but with all the different winter-wonderland-filled events that Georgia has to offer, there is sure to be something for everyone.
Best Old Christmas Celebration
Take a step through a time portal and be transported into a Victorian Christmas village at the Thomasville Holiday Festival. A unique and nostalgic event, the Thomasville experience is an ode to Old Christmas traditions and celebrations that will get you in the holiday spirit. The 2-day festival will take place on December 14 and 15 and is perfect for all ages. Get in the mood for Christmas in this historical celebration that features holiday characters, sing-alongs to your favorite Christmas carols, traditional festive foods like marshmallows and chestnuts, Christmas trees, live music, and more.
Best Holiday Train Ride
Holiday train rides are truly a magical experience for kids and adults alike. The Holiday Express in Blue Ridge offers either a 1-hour or 4-hour-long festive ride for you to choose from on select dates from November 24 until Christmas Eve. Get in the holiday spirit while riding the train and enjoying holiday music, tales like The Night Before Christmas, and other fun festive activities. Great for the children, the train ride experience also includes a Blue Ridge Scenic Railway jingle bell, a festive candy cane, an interactive activity packet, and a chance to visit Santa Claus. Sit back and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and festive snacks while taking part in holiday activities. Another notable train ride is the Georgia Coastal Railway, which includes a visit from Santa Claus and his elves. Taking place in Kingsland on select dates from November 24 to December 23, the train ride is filled with festive entertainment, Christmas lights, holiday treats, and musical tunes throughout its 70-minute-long journey.
Best Christmas Show
While many have seen The Nutcracker several times before, this reimagined production, performed by the Atlanta Ballet, is one you won’t want to miss. Catch the captivating show of Atlanta Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Cobb Energy Centre from December 8 to 26. From the iconic musical score to the mesmerizing feats of the dancers, you are sure to be transported into a winter wonderland of the classic tale. The production features falling snowflakes, spinning stars, bold costumes, and video projections while traveling with Marie and her friends through her dreamlike world.
Best Christmas Parade
The Snow Angel Christmas Parade is just one of the notable events during the Stone Mountain Country Christmas Celebration. Taking place every night in Stone Mountain Park at 6 p.m., the parade makes its path through the Stone Mountain Christmas Town. Guests line the streets to see the iconic Snow Angel Float that is reminiscent of the magical throne of a Disney princess. The beloved Snow Angel Float is followed by other notable holiday characters such as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. The parade makes its way to the North Pole, where it ends with a magical dance set to holiday tunes that will leave everyone feeling merry and bright. Stone Mountain Park also offers a range of different Stone Mountain Christmas events like the Christmas lights of the Frosted Forest, live music, a light show, and more.
Best Christmas Musical
A good Christmas show is sure to put anyone in the holiday spirit. Into the Burrow: a Peter Rabbit Tale will be performed this year by the Alliance Theatre cast. This classic tale is a new musical that will play until December 23 this year at the Hertz Stage. It features well-known characters from Beatrix Potter’s A Tale of Peter Rabbit. Immerse yourself into the world of Peter Rabbit and the forest animals in a tale that reminds us to face our fears and work together to overcome life’s obstacles. Perfect for the whole family, the new musical is sure to bring some holiday cheer this winter season.
Best After Ski Event
Après All Day at Buckhead Village is a festival that captures the vintage “after-ski” culture of the 1950s. The festival will be held from November 25 to December 16 with special events throughout the month. The Après All Day Festival is a unique experience that allows visitors to be immersed into a cozy atmosphere of crackling fires, classical music, live entertainment, seasonal foods, warm beverages, and ski-lift photo opportunities. Buckhead Village encapsulates the culture of “after-ski” with its decorated snow-capped trees, crafted cocktails, vintage snow gear, and more. If you are looking for an ode to vintage ski culture, this festival is one to bookmark. When in Buckhead Village, the rows of stores also allow you to get in some much-needed holiday shopping for your Christmas gifts this year.
Best Winter Wonderland Experience
For an indoor White Christmas experience, Snow Days at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta is the perfect winter wonderland to celebrate the holiday season. Throughout the month of December, the museum offers a host of indoor winter activities that are perfect for kids. Get the feel of a winter wonderland without the hassle of drying off wet garments and defrosting frozen fingers and toes with this unique kid-friendly experience. The museum offers creative interpretations of winter activities such as “skating” in socks at the Sockefeller Plaza and enjoying holiday stores inside a giant igloo. On certain days, the museum also offers special performances, Cocoa Mondays, and interactive seasonal festivities.
Since the Snow Days at CMA is technically not a winter wonderland experience, we had to provide another top pick for a real frosty White Christmas. License to Chill Snow Island is a true winter extravaganza that takes place from November 11 to February 25. The outdoor winter event takes place at Margaritaville on Lanier Island and is the perfect place to participate in a wide variety of winter activities. License to Chill allows families to go snow tubing, ice skating, make snow angels, participate in snowball fights, and ride carnival rides. For those looking for a winter adventure, Snow Island is a great way for the whole family to participate in some festive fun.
Best For Celebrating History
The state of Georgia is known for its history and what better way to honor its rich past than with festive holiday celebrations? Step back into the time period before the Civil War at the Old Governor’s Mansion, located in Milledgeville on select dates from November 11 to December 22. The mansion is decorated with traditional Christmas decorations like poinsettias, live greenery, fresh fruits, streamers, holly branches, and ribbons to take you back in time. Learn more about the history of the Old Governor’s Mansion, which housed the previous governors from 1839 to 1868. For a special tour of the home, the mansion offers candlelight tours in the evening, which guide visitors through the home while enjoying the voices of the choir gathered around the Christmas tree.
Best Theme Park Christmas
Six Flags Over Georgia is enjoyable all year round, but during the festive holiday months, the theme park offers an entertainment-filled Christmas experience at Holiday in the Park. On select dates from November 18 to December 31, guests can immerse themselves in a winter wonderland experience while enjoying the traditional offerings and rides at the park, with a holiday twist. Some of the most popular winter attractions include the Candlelight Carousel, the Holiday Express, the Looney Tunes Family Portrait, Merry Lane, North Pole activities, and more. The theme park is also decked out in holiday lights and decorations that make for a wonderful Christmas atmosphere. You can also enjoy festive treats and themed souvenirs that are only offered during this time of year.
Southern Christmas Charm
If you are looking to visit Georgia during the holiday season, you are in good hands as Georgians sure know how to amp up the Christmas spirit. From local displays of Christmas cheer to big-city events that are sure to dazzle, Georgia is home to some of the most renowned Christmas lights and festivities that become annual traditions during the holiday season.