Everyone knows that we’re passionate about ecotourism and nature conservation. But unless you’re a long-time reader, you might not know that our family is equally wild about spending Christmas in Georgia.
From mid-November right up through Christmas Eve, we make a point of attending as many different Atlanta Christmas events as we possibly can. We won’t even travel in the weeks before the holidays, just to make sure we have ample quality time to celebrate the season!
These 2022 Christmas events will be especially special for us, as my daughter will be coming home for the holidays from college.
Fortunately, her budding independence seems to be making her nostalgic for her childhood, and reliving those holiday memories she holds most dear.
What follows is a list of our favorite Christmas things to do in Atlanta in December, from concerts and theatrical performances to Christmas light displays, fundraising parties, and parades.
Atlanta Christmas Events (by Activity)
- Christmas Lights in Atlanta
- Christmas Events for Kids in Atlanta
- Christmas Shows in Atlanta
- Atlanta Christmas Concerts
- Atlanta Charity Events for Christmas
- Unique Christmas Things to do in Atlanta
- Georgia Christmas Day Trips
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN ATLANTA
(Callaway Gardens, Nov 18-Jan 1)
Rated as one of the Top 10 Christmas Light Displays in the World by National Geographic, Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy In Lights is truly a wondrous sight to behold.
The centerpiece is a drive through 2,500 dazzling acres lined with 8 million holiday lights, divided thematically into 16 sections that include “Snowflake Valley” and “Magical Christmas Garden,” with festive Christmas music playing throughout.
Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, Callaway Gardens will have an all new attraction called Celebration Lake, featuring 30 trees dancing upon the lake to signify 30 years of Fantasy In Lights.
You’ll get to admire this scene as you drive along the seven-mile Fantasy In Lights scenic drive.
If you are wanting to spend the night, you can stay in a Cottage, Villa, or at The Lodge & Spa where you can get special packages starting with added benefits like a shuttle service to the Christmas Village and daily Gardens admission.
(Atlanta Botanical Garden, Nov 12-Jan 14)
One of the best Christmas light shows in Atlanta is back for another year. For the past 12 years, the Atlanta Botanical Garden has been decorating and illuminating their 30 acres with millions of low energy-consuming LED lights.
The pathways of the garden will be lit up alongside the hardwoods and crepe myrtles. On top of the beautiful lights, the Garden also decorates a 27-foot-tall tree with mesmerizing patterns.
Some of the best Atlanta Christmas Lights at this event include the Ice Goddess, the Tunnel of Light, and the glowing Orchestral Orbs, which dance along with light and color to holiday songs.
This event will begin November 12th and last until January 14th with ticket prices ranging from $25 to $63 depending on which dates and ticket type you choose.
(Zoo Atlanta, Nov 21-Jan 15)
This Chinese Lantern Festival, which features over 80 lanterns depicting the world’s most amazing creatures, is one of the most unique Christmas activities in Atlanta.
Each lantern part of IllumiNights is made and hand-painted by Chinese artisans who put in thousands of hours of work. Some of these lanterns even reach up to 20 feet tall!
IllumiNights will be open from November 21st to January 15th and will have warm beverages and food available for purchase, as well as having the gift shop open for your browsing needs.
(Macy’s Lenox Square, TBD)
Though the name and location of the store have changed over the years, this annual celebration of the beginning of the Christmas season has otherwise been the same for over 70 years now.
It all began in 1948, when Rich’s department store put a large pine tree atop its flagship downtown Atlanta location, lighting it on Thanksgiving night. I have fond memories of performing there back in 1980, as a member of the Atlanta Boy Choir.
Though Rich’s and Macy’s merged in 2006, the annual Atlanta lighting of the Great Tree remains one of the city’s most beloved and historic holiday traditions.
(Lake Lanier Islands, Nov 19-Jan 16)
One of our favorite ways to celebrate Christmas in Georgia, this winter wonderland holds a special place in our hearts because it’s where Mary and I shared our first kiss on our second date!
Known for their massive 575-foot-long snow tube slide, Lanier Islands is a great place to visit if you’re looking for things to do for Christmas.
Starting November 19th, the Lakeside Lights Spectacular will be back for another year of holiday lights with this year’s Margaritaville theme. Traditional holiday displays will still be a part of this walking light show attraction.
There will be an assortment of mixed drinks, treats, hot chocolate, and even an opportunity to roast s’mores.
Santa will also make an appearance and there will be carnival rides and holiday games to keep everyone entertained.
(Stone Mountain Park, Nov 12-Jan 1)
The annual Stone Mountain Christmas is back for another holiday season!
Open from November 12 to January 1st, you will surely find something for everyone to enjoy at this holiday event. Millions of lights will decorate the park and greet you as you walk through the Musical Frosted Forest, and there will be visits with Santa, a Christmas parade, caroling, and a comedic rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
This year there will also be an all new attraction. The World’s Largest Christmas Light Show includes holiday songs, special effects, and even a firework finale.
The normal Stone Mountain Park attractions will be open during this time as well, including the Scenic Railroad and Summit Skyride.
(Six Flags White Water Parking Lot, Nov 16-Jan 1)
The world’s largest drive-thru animated light show is coming to Georgia for the third year in a row.
Visitors will be able to admire the show, made with over two million animated LED lights alongside synchronized music, all from the comfort of their own car.
There will be amazing glacial peaks, reindeer, mountainous terrain, snowmen, and ice caves, leading you all the way to Santa’s workshop, which is the world’s largest animated toy shop.
Tickets are on sale now and start at $40 per car.
READ MORE: Countries that Do Not Celebrate Christmas
(Battery Atlanta, Nov 26)
One of the newer ways to celebrate Christmas in Georgia, this annual holiday event takes place at The Battery Atlanta, the 1.5 million square foot mixed-use development adjacent to SunTrust Park.
Back for its fifth year, the event takes place from 5:30 to 7PM and will kick off with a performance by The Block Party on the Georgia Power Pavilion Stage. Next, you can help track down Santa with Mark Ownes & Blooper as he gets closer to the lighting of the tree which occurs at 7PM.
After the lighting, visitors are invited to stay and enjoy an outdoor showing of “The Grinch” on the Georgia Power Pavilion screen.
(Atlantic Station, Nov 19)
On November 19 Atlantic Station will be lighting their 50-foot tree on the Atlantic green for the first time of the season! Along with the lighting of the tree, the event will feature an incredible fireworks display and even Santa sightings.
If you can’t make it to the station or just want to enjoy the event from the comfort of your home, you can tune into 11Alive at 7PM where they will be telecasting the event!
READ MORE: 125+ Best Gifts for Travelers
(Six Flags Over Georgia, Select Days: Nov 19-Jan 1)
Returning for their seventh year from November 19th to January 1st, Holiday in the Park brings with it some exciting holiday activities in Atlanta.
You can stroll through ten different Holiday Neighborhoods, where you can see over a million LED lights, themed decorations, and numerous festive Christmas trees that are sure to impress. There will also be a dancing light show and a fully decorated Riverview Carousel and The Six Flags Railroad.
On top of these beautiful Christmas lights in Atlanta, Six Flags will also put on a Christmas show with music and a dancing Christmas tree light show.
Holiday treats and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be available for your enjoyment.
New for the 2022 season is the Holiday Light Spectacular where you can watch the Christmas tree come to life with an awesome animated light experience and Holiday Traditions Around The World where you can hop on the Holiday Express and learn how cultures around the world celebrate the season.
(Life University, Marietta Nov 24- 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.
At just $10 for cars/trucks, it is 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.
There is also a petting zoo, pony rides, train rides. and opportunities to have your photo taken with Santa for additional fees.
(Hobgood Park, Woodstock Nov 25-Dec 23)
The Holiday Lights of Hope is HUGE, with more than two million twinkling lights, traditional and animated displays, and a mile-long Christmas maze!
Enjoy roasting S’mores over a roaring bonfire, and getting pictures taken with Santa. Grown-ups can enjoy shopping at the General Store, strolling down Main Street, and listening to Christmas carolers. Lights in Hobgood Park are walk-through, and the Veterans Park lights are drive-through.
Best of all, your $10 adult ticket (free for children 14 and under) for Hobgood Park benefits the Anna Crawford Children’s Center.
(Cartersville, Nov 25- Dec 30)
If you’re looking for some true Southern charm mixed in with your Christmas spirit, you’re not going to want to miss all the festivities at Pettit Creek Farms.
There is more than a mile of beautiful Christmas lights to experience either in a car for $30 or a hayride for $10 per person.
Both choices will include a visit to the farm’s petting zoo, where you can get up close and personal with two of their live reindeer, Comet and Cupid.
Make sure to stop by the concession stands and treat yourself to s’mores, hot cocoa, warm cider, funnel cakes, and other delicious treats you can enjoy while warming up by the fire.
You can also take a piece of the fun back with you by picking out the perfect fresh-cut tree to fill your home with Christmas joy.
(Lakewood Amphitheater Parking Lot, Nov 25-Jan 1)
ATL Holiday Lights returns and is bringing more lights and more fun than ever before! But this year they’re at a new location, moving from Atlantic Station to the Lakewood parking lot.
There will be hand-crafted displays from some of your favorite holiday movies, a mini neighborhood showcasing local establishments, and plenty of opportunities to spread holiday cheer.
To see the lights, you can drive through on value nights (Sunday – Thursday) for $30 per car in advance or $40 at the gate. On peak nights (Friday – Saturday) the cost is $40 per car in advance or $50 at the gate.
If you visit on Thursday, you can walk through for just $15 per adult in advance or $20 at the gate, and kids 15 and under can enter for free!
As an added bonus, after driving or walking through the beautiful lights, you can stop across the street at the ice skating rink if you want some hot cocoa and snacks (available for purchase)!
(The Horse Mansion @ Bouckaert Farm in Fairburn, GA, Nov 25 – Dec 30)
Celebrate the season at Holiday Road with an immersive walking trail filled with dazzling lights and delightful displays that are sure you put you in the holiday spirit.
Located at the Horse Mansion at Bouckaert Farm, the event opens at 5PM and closes at 11PM with designated time slots for the walkthrough starting at 6PM and ending at 9:30PM.
Before or after enjoying the trail, you can visit some of the best food trucks in the area to get a delicious meal or visit the Holiday Bar to pick up a savory cocktail, glass of wine, or beer.
Be sure to stop by Holiday Road’s souvenir shop before you leave to pick out a keepsake to bring home for the holidays!
CHRISTMAS EVENTS FOR KIDS IN ATLANTA
(Colony Square, Dec 3)
Although the annual Children’s Holiday Parade will not be happening this year, Colony Square and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have teamed up to create a new Christmas tradition on December 3rd.
Season on the Square will be a day full of fun activities, a breakfast with Santa, and an hour long street performance on Peachtree Street. This performance will also be broadcast on Atlanta News First and Peachtree TV starting at 11am in case you can’t make it in person.
The honor of lighting the tree will now be taken over by a patient at Children’s, making this one of the more heartwarming Christmas events in Atlanta.
(Alpharetta, GA, Nov 20-Dec 31)
When the holidays roll around the city of Alpharetta is packed with different events where you can gather with friends and family to enjoy the season.
The festivities kick off on November 20 with the Lighting of the Avalon which will feature holiday performances and entertainment, plenty of activities, the official opening of the ice skating rink, and even a magical visit by Santa.
The first three Fridays in December, Alpharetta will also be hosting the Season of Celebration which starts with the annual tree lighting downtown on December 2. Each week the activities will vary from things like falling snow and photos with Santa to carolers and photo opportunities with life-sized Nutcrackers.
There will also be the Jolly Jingle Jam for parents and kids (December 2), the Arts Alpharetta Artists Holiday Market at the Alpharetta Arts Center (December 2-3), and showings of A Christmas Story: The Musical at the ACT1 Theatre (December 2-4, 9-11, & 16-18).
READ MORE: Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta
(Center For Puppetry Arts, Select Days: Nov 9-Dec 31)
If you look forward to watching the stop-motion Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer each year then this event is a must see. The 1964 stop-motion film comes alive with the help of the Center for Puppetry Arts on select days through November 9th to December 3rd.
The story follows Rudolph and his friends Hermey the Elf and Yukon Cornelius as they face the Abominable Snow Monster and the fear of not fitting in.
This is a great way to celebrate Christmas in Atlanta and will surely warm anyone’s heart by showing bravery and self-acceptance alongside amazing holiday music.
(Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Nov 19-Jan 6)
One of the best Atlanta Christmas events is back for its 13th year this holiday season. Taking up two floors of the huge museum, this event will run from November 19th to January 6th with general admission tickets being $25.
Winter Wonderland is a great opportunity to learn about different cultural traditions from more than 25 different countries around the world, including Switzerland, Mexico, Argentina, and India.
There will also be arts and craft, a scavenger hunt, and beautiful ornament displays throughout the museum. And when you step outdoors, the fun continues as themed giant snow globes up to seven feet tall will be on display as well as a giant sock skating rink.
(The St. Regis Atlanta, Nov-Dec)
In collaboration with Lucy’s Market and designer Suzanne Kasler, the Buckhead hotel will be decked out with holiday decor including a massive 206-square-foot gingerbread house.
While the gingerbread house itself is enough of a spectacle, there will also be lifesize nutcrackers, holiday window displays, and silver holiday trees all of which can be purchased by visitors!
The inside of the gingerbread house will also be filled with a variety of holiday goodies for sale like premium candies and chocolates, candles, barware, snow and music boxes, holiday linens, lacquer wreaths, and more.
The Gingerbread House pop-up will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11AM to 6PM and Friday’s and Saturday’s from 11AM to 8PM.
Other Christmas events at the St. Regis Atlanta include tea with Santa and a special Christmas Brunch with Santa on December 25.
(Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Dec 1-Dec 31)
Although Christmas is a hugely celebrated holiday around the world, there are multiple different holidays throughout the season and the Children’s Museum of Atlanta is open to celebrate and teach us about all of them.
Throughout the month of December, the Museum will educate and excite visitors by celebrating Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Christmas, and Kwanzaa on their own respective dates. On top of learning about these holidays, visitors will be able to hear music, learn dances, and make crafts honoring each celebration.
The museum will also have Sockefeller Plaza starting November 17th, which is a sock-skating rink for children to experience skating without the hassle of skates.
On December 31 the museum will close out the year with their New Year’s Bubble Bash, featuring a family-friendly DJ, dancing, party favors, and, of course, bubbles!
(Georgia Aquarium, Nov 11 – Jan 2)
The Georgia Aquarium’s annual Christmas event returns, transforming Atlanta’s favorite aquatic attraction into a winter wonderland designed to delight attendees of all ages.
Enjoy the lighting of the 40-foot live Christmas tree each day an hour after the aquarium opens and meet with Santa as he welcomes visitors.
There will be photo opportunities with jolly ol’ Saint Nick so that your visit can be even more special. Make sure to check his schedule online so that you don’t miss him!
A holiday themed dolphin presentation will start November 19th, where audience members can learn all about the bottlenose dolphins in a new and festive way.
Scuba Claus will be coming back this year to wow and surprise guests so be sure to keep an eye out as you enjoy the aquatic animals, holiday music, and strolling carolers.
There will also be a chance to catch 4D screenings of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Polar Express.
(Southern Art @ InterContinental Buckhead Hotel, TBD)
Helmed by world-renowned chef Art Smith (a.k.a. Oprah’s personal chef until 2007), Southern Art ranks among our favorite restaurants in Atlanta.
But on December 6 it will be completely transformed with wintry decor (snow included!) in order to welcome Santa Claus and his reindeer for their annual Children’s Holiday Brunch.
Of course, you don’t have to be a child in order to attend. Kids and grown-ups alike are invited to decorate Christmas cookies, drink at the hot chocolate bar, get their face painted, and take fab photos with St. Nick and his hoofed friends.
(Avalon, Nov 11 – Dec 31)
Creators of the beloved Santa’s Fantastical have come together to create this brand new holiday pop-up in Alpharetta. Here, you can find tasty mixed drinks and desserts from NYC based Milk Bar and from other local bakeries.
Some of their seasonally themed cocktails include the Merry Berry Margarita, The Bahumbug, and the Noggin’ on Heavens Door.
This event will be for all ages from 3pm until 5pm but 21 years or over from 5pm to 11pm.
(Blue Ridge, Nov 25-Dec 23)
Hop on the Holiday Express and take a train ride with the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway while getting the chance to hear “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” sing along to Christmas songs, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Clause.
The Holiday Express departs at 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, or 4 PM dependent on the date and lasts for 1-hour.
While onboard, children will get a Blue Ridge Scenic Railway jingle bell, candy cane, and activity packet. Guests can also visit the concession car to purchase delicious hot chocolate or choose from an assortment of other snacks.
This fun holiday ride is not something you are going to want to miss and is sure to bring out holiday cheer in all those aboard!
CHRISTMAS SHOWS IN ATLANTA
(Georgia Tech, Dec 1-4 & 8-11 )
Written by the legendary poet Langston Hughes, Black Nativity is a potent retelling of the most famous Bible story from an African-American perspective.
The play was originally performed Off-Broadway in 1961, and was one of the first productions written by a black playwright ever to be staged there.
The Christmas Play in Atlanta features an African-American cast, gospel-style music (the opening number is the classic spiritual “Go Tell It On The Mountain”), and a Mary and Joseph who never actually speak.
This one-act version takes the audience on a journey from a traditional black church to an Africanized Jerusalem, with African-influenced drums and dancing sprinkled throughout. It’s a soulful, stirring take on the oldest of all Christmas stories.
(Dad’s Garage Theatre, Select Dates Dec 2-Dec 30)
Charles Dickens’ timeless Christmas classic gets a major makeover in this irreverent production from the comedy masterminds of Dad’s Garage, which was recently voted Best Play in Creative Loafing’s annual readers poll.
Director Amber Nash portrays a darker version of the usually cheerful tale providing the audience with a more realistic take on what people living in London in the 1800s would really be like.
The show is performed with a unique mixture of scripted drama and hilarious improv. The main cast rehearses the traditional script and portrays classic characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim.
But each night they’ll be visited by different ghosts (which have, in the past, ranged from The Incredible Hulk and Ted Nugent to a T Rex), all of which are a complete surprise to the cast.
Regardless of who shows up, one thing’s for sure: You’ll never again view this hoary holiday chestnut in quite the same way!
(The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, Dec 3-23)
Though it may not be the biggest production of the Charles Dickens classic in Atlanta this Christmas, for over 20-years the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s A Christmas Carol has been a tradition that deserves more attention.
For one, the Shakespeare Tavern is one of the few places in Atlanta where you can still enjoy “dinner and a show.” Seating begins at 6:15 PM most nights, and at 5:15 PM on Sundays, with food and drinks available for purchase until 10 minutes before the show starts and desserts and drinks available at intermission.
For matinee performances on Dec 10, 17, 21, and 23, a lunch menu will be available starting at 1:15 PM.
They’re also offering a special sensory-friendly matinee for people with autism spectrum disorder on Dec 10, with lowered sound levels, no blackouts, room to move around the theatre, and a separate “quiet room” available for those who need it.
(Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, Select Dates Dec 9-26)
The Atlanta Ballet’s annual production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece played by a live orchestra has been an integral part of the city’s holiday season for over 40+ years now.
The show tells the timeless tale of young Clara Stahlbaum, who awakes at midnight on Christmas Eve to find her prized Nutcracker toy has come to life to do battle with the Mouse King’s army.
Along with the incredible dancers, throughout the production, you can enjoy dazzling sets, costumes, and innovative projections created by a creative team including Tony Award-winning and -nominated designers.
From dancing snowflakes to lively Russian nesting dolls, the extravagant production is sure to prove a hit with youthful spirits ages 8 to 80.
(Alliance Theatre Coca-Cola Stage, Nov 12-Dec 24)
Starting November 12th is a chance to see the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol in Atlanta with Broadway-scale production values.
This show will feature an all-Atlanta cast and some of the city’s best thespians to bring guests the beloved redemption story of Ebenezer Scrooge along with amazing live music and costumes.
Check their website for more information on show times and dates.
(Morehouse College, Dec 9-11)
Originally adapted in 1892, with music by classical music titan Pyotr Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is arguably the most popular Christmas production this side of Charles Dickens. For most people, it’s probably the only ballet they’ve ever seen.
The Urban Nutcracker puts an African-American twist on the timeless tale. Rather than 19th century Russia, the story is set in the 1940s on Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Avenue.
There, the smooth Chocolatier sweeps a young lady off her feet and away to a wonderland filled with leaping Reggae Rag Dolls and a spinning Black Russian.
The Ballethnic production features a mixture of professional dancers and urban minority youth. With music adapted to modern-day sensibilities, it’s a hip, happening take on the familiar holiday chestnut.
(The Strand, Dec 9-11, 16-18, 21-22)
The song-and-dance revue might seem a bit old fashioned to today’s tech-obsessed Millennials, but it’s a storied theatrical tradition that pre-dates Vaudeville.
Fortunately, this annual holiday show at Marietta’s Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre keeps that tradition alive.
The family-friendly production features a little something for everyone, from Christmas classics to funky new favorites.
There are dramatic divas singing their you-know-whats off, the sort of high-energy dance numbers Broadway buffs live for, and elaborate sets and effects to give it all a dash of flashy pizzazz.
Is it groundbreaking? Well, maybe not. But originality is not the point.
This is a rare Christmas production that family members of all ages can sing, clap, and dance to. And hopefully everyone leaves with just a little more holiday spirit in their hearts.
(Atlanta Symphony Hall, TBD)
The Cirque de la Symphonie is sure to take your breath away showcasing some of the most impressive artists from around the world including aerial flyers, contortionists, acrobats, jugglers, strongmen, dancers and more.
This star-studded cast contains Olympians, world record holders, and gold-medal winners who are sure to keep you on your toes and marveling at their almost unbelievable physical performances.
Aiming to bring the magic of cirque to the music hall, the exciting performances are meticulously choreographed to match the musical arrangement performed live by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Promising to be a wow worthy performance, this is definitely one of the Christmas Shows in Atlanta you will want to check off your holiday bucket list!
(Fox Theatre, Dec 13)
Putting a unique twist on the classical ballet, The Hip Hop Nutcracker showcases a contemporary style of dance performed by a cast of all-star dancers as well as Kurtis Blow who will be opening the show with a short set.
Like the original, it will be performed to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music and follow the story of Clara, a young girl who awakes to find her beloved Nutcracker has come to life to guide her through battling an army of mice, visiting the land of sweets and other adventures.
Part of what makes this version unique from the original is instead of the traditional 19th Century Germany setting the story transforms into contemporary New York City through innovative digital graffiti and visual graphics.
This re-mixed version is packed full of Holiday magic and is sure to impress even the most die-hard fans of the original as well as bringing a whole new crowd of people to the theater.
(Grand Stage Theatre, Nov 25-Dec 23)
The Christmas Canteen is the longest-running theatrical holiday tradition in Gwinnett and this year it is set on the 500-seat Grand Stage Theatre of the Lawrenceville Arts Center!
The show is directed and choreographed by Broadway veteran David Rossetti and will feature an exciting mix of comedy, tradition, and holiday melodies sure to have you in the Christmas Spirit.
ATLANTA CHRISTMAS CONCERTS
(Atlanta Symphony Hall, Dec 15-18)
Robert Shaw was a titan in the classical world, winning 14 Grammys, 1991 Kennedy Center Honors, and the first Guggenheim Fellowship ever awarded to a conductor. “Christmas With The ASO” was the holiday-loving legend’s gift to Atlanta.
Conductor Norman Mackenzie will lead the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus through Shaw’s 4-part musical take on the story of Christmas. (Additional ensembles and special guests are being announced in the coming weeks).
If the sound of 400+ singers and musicians working in tandem doesn’t invigorate your holiday spirit, you may want to check your pulse.
(Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead, Dec 16-17)
One of my favorite Atlanta Christmas memories was performing holiday concerts with the Atlanta Boy Choir in the early ‘80s, under the direction of maestro Fletcher Wolfe.
The Georgia Boy Choir was founded in 2009 by David White, who led the ABC for 8 years after Wolfe’s retirement (he returned after White’s departure).
Their annual Christmas concert in Atlanta features all five levels of the choir, accompanied by a full orchestra and the Peachtree Road UMC’s Mighty Mander Organ.
The performance will include a lively mixture of sacred classics, beloved Christmas carols, and modern holiday favorites. For me, it’s sure to bring back memories of my time in one of the world’s most respected choirs.
(Morningside Presbyterian Church, Dec 17; All Saints Episcopal Church, Dec 18)
Directed by John Dickson, the professor of Choral Music at the Louisiana State University School of Music, Coro Vocati is a group of professional singers based in Atlanta.
Many of their members work as music directors or conductors at local schools and churches, and several also sing with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Chamber Chorus. In short, these are some of the city’s most elite performers of classical choral music.
Their annual Atlanta Christmas concert titled “A Season of Carols” has become a perennial holiday favorite. You can expect a repertoire steeped in classical choral artistry, with beloved Christmas carols and perhaps even a popular favorite or two thrown in for festive fun.
(Atlanta Symphony Hall, Dec 22)
The musical masterpiece Handel’s Messiah is back to tell the classic Christmas story in its own unique and joyous way nearly 300 years after it was written.
Featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus performing pieces such as the iconic “Hallelujah Chorus” and works by Mozart and George Frideric Handel you’re sure to be mesmerized by the sheer musical talent of those performing.
There will only be one show, on Dec 22nd, so be sure to get your tickets soon!
(Coca-Cola Roxy, Dec 17)
Take a trip down memory lane in this holiday themed rock concert featuring iconic songs from the late 70’s and early ’80s along with a few Holiday classics.
The performers, Yacht Rock Revue, are a cover band that formed here in Atlanta, Georgia and have gone on to win accolades such as “Best Overall Music Act in Atlanta” and have been featured in the New York Times, MTV.com and the Wall Street Journal.
A concert for all ages, this holiday event is sure to have you on your feet!
ATLANTA CHARITY EVENTS FOR CHRISTMAS
(Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta GA, Nov 19-27)
This seven-day volunteer-driven event features a spectacular forest of holiday trees, seasonal shopping, local treat vendors, and more. Best of all, it’s for a great cause.
The Georgia Festival of Trees is working in partnership with Wellspring Living with all proceeds from the event going to the organization to support their mission of helping those who are at risk or victimized by sexual exploitation.
Tickets for the opening night (November 19) will include admission to the venue, live entertainment, one free drink ticket, one ticket for the Raffle Christmas tree, and auction access where you can view over 300 trees, wreaths, centerpieces, and nativities being sold.
General admission tickets (November 20-27) include access to the festival for one day where you can see the trees, enjoy live entertainment, local food, shopping, children’s games and crafts, and even visits with Santa himself.
The festival will be closed for Thanksgiving on November 23rd and 24th but the festivities will continue on the 25th.
UNIQUE CHRISTMAS THINGS TO DO IN ATLANTA
(Helen Marketplatz, Nov 26-27 & Dec 3-4)
Be sure to check out the 15th annual Christkindlmarkt Traditional German Market on the Helen Marketplatz. Open from 10AM to 6PM the festive Christmas market is a celebration of German culture and dates back to the late Middle Ages.
In an effort to rid Christmas of all Catholic Customs (including the German Santa Clause) during the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther introduced das Christkindl, an angelic child who gave gifts to good children. Eventually, that figure was replaced by Father Christmas and then evolved into Kris Kringle.
Keeping this history alive, at the Christmas market you’ll hear traditional singing and find dancing, food, drink, and seasonal items in open-air booths.
(Georgia Governor’s Mansion, TBD)
One of my favorite memories of Atlanta at Christmas time is 1980, when I was a touring member of the Atlanta Boy Choir. We performed at the Great Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Governor’s Mansion Tree Lighting Ceremony (George Busbee was in office then), then had a sold-out run performing with the Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and ASO Chorus.
Less well-known and more intimate than most Christmas events in Atlanta, this annual tree lighting ceremony will find Governor Brian Kemp opening the doors of the Greek revival-style Bulkhead mansion to visitors.
The event will include festive music, tasty treats, and “The People’s House” all decked out for the Atlanta holidays.
The mansion also offers Christmas Tours, and all parking and admissions are free. But they do encourage visitors to bring new unwrapped Toys for Tots, and they have drop boxes located at the front entrance.
(Whitlock Avenue District, Dec 3-4)
For those seeking decidedly more sedate and refined holiday pleasures, there’s the 36th annual Marietta Pilgrimage Christmas Home Tour.
Featured in Southern Living and named a Top 100 Event in North America, this tour features historic homes located in the Kennesaw Avenue Local Historic District.
Organized by the Marietta Welcome Center and Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, the tours are a great way to get a taste of the city’s famed historic district.
(Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, Dec 2, 9, & 16)
Offering a more titillating twist on the holiday tea concept, the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta gives its guests a chance to choose which of Santa’s lists they prefer to be on.
For kids (and adults who want to keep it PG), the Nice Tea features seasonally appropriate teas and apple cider for sipping, served with traditional afternoon tea fare such as Egg Salad, tea cookies, and warm scones.
For adults who prefer a more indulgent menu, the Naughty Tea offers Perrier-Jouët, strawberries marinated in Grand Marnier and whipped cream.
The hotel’s Lumen Lobby Bar offers a posh setting for the event. But the luxe experience doesn’t come cheap: Adults pay $75 for the Nice Tea, and $95 for the Naughty.
(Dec 1-Dec 24)
This event puts a hip, modern suburban twist on traditional small-town holiday celebrations.
The Marietta Square is the center of the action, festive holiday music, thousands of twinkling lights, and visits with Santa at his workshop. The festivities kick off with the official lighting of the Christmas Tree Dec 1st in Glover Park.
There will be plenty for the little ones to do including exploring the magical forest of trees and visiting the writing stations to create a personalized letter to Santa.
But there is still plenty of holiday fun for adults such as stopping in shops such as Dakota Boutique and Marina Marina Antiques, getting sweet treats from Sugar Cakes Patisserie or Sarah Jean’s Ice Cream, and winding down with a delicious Italian dinner from Piastra Restaurant (try the Gamberi Picatini and Lasagna Quatro Formaggi).
We enjoyed our first visit so much, we’re going back to celebrate New Year’s Eve!
This year they will also have Santa’s Magical Moments on select dates (December 7, 14, & 21) where you and your family can enjoy a 30-minute magical private experience to have storytime with Santa, make crafts, and enjoy some milk and cookies. You will also leave with a digital link to download full-res images from the experience and an ornament with your favorite image!
(Oakland Cemetery, Dec 3-4)
One of the more unique ways to celebrate Christmas in Atlanta, this event returns to the historic Oakland Cemetery for its seventh consecutive year.
A gorgeous example of the 19th century’s “rural garden” cemetery movement, Oakland is renowned for its eclectic mixture of art and architectural styles, including Egyptian, Exotic Revival, Gothic, Greek Revival, Neo-classical, and Victorian.
Its graves and elaborate mausoleums are filled with a who’s who in the city’s history, including 3,000 Confederate soldiers, author Margaret Mitchell, golf legend Bobby Jones, Morris Brown College founder Bishop Wesley John Gaines, and Mayors Ivan Allen Jr. and Maynard Jackson.
The seasonal open house is free (no tickets required) and features fun activities for the whole family including seasonal shopping for homemade holiday goods at the Victorian Holiday Artist Market, mini-tours of the cemetery, and plenty of time to explore the decorated mausoleums around Oakland’s Bell Tower.
(Hardman Farm State Historical Site, Dec 2-3, 9-10, & 16-17)
Experience Victorian Christmas traditions and learn about Christmas’ past from knowledgeable speakers dressed in classic 1870’s attire at Hardman Farm State Historical Site.
The Mansion at West End will be decorated for the holidays featuring beautiful candle lights, Christmas music, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate as well as a gift shop.
There will be a horse-drawn wagon to take you on a historical ride down Unicoi Turnpike and Santa himself will be available for visits on the property.
While you’re there, you will also have the opportunity to support local charitable causes by voting for your favorite decorated Christmas tree in the Mansion. The community group who decorated the winning tree will receive a donation from the Friends of Hardman Farm.
(Dahlonega, Nov 25 – Dec 31)
Experience the timeless magic of Christmas in a small town with Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas.
The celebration kickstarts with the lighting of the square on November 26 and continues on with a variety of festivities including horse-drawn carriage rides, tours of the decorated inns, street performers, and seasonal shopping.
Each day promises exciting holiday fun whether you are outside strolling through town on a carriage ride, enjoying a Christmas Wine Walk, or holiday shopping at the annual Christmas Market.
Santa will even be making appearances on the square in front of the town Christmas tree from November 25 to December 18.
On December 10, you can also watch Santa and other guests jubilantly march through the streets of the Dahlonega Historic District during the annual Christmas parade.
(Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Nov 25-Dec 10)
Thought of as one of the most upscale places to see Christmas lights in Atlanta GA, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center’s Winter House welcomes guests to see their holiday decorations and get creative during this artsy holiday experience.
The giant 27,000 square foot mansion will be decorated with hundreds of glittering Christmas lights starting November 25th until December 10th while guests take part in numerous activities.
Guests will learn how to make their own gingerbread houses, get to decorate a ceramic mug, and hear live performances from the Atlanta Youth Singers, Karla Harris, David Berkley, and more!
Santa will also be at Callanwolde for photos with you and your family (including your furry little ones). Pets are welcome!
While taking part in all the fun, you can enjoy a glass of wine or mulled cider as well as individual charcuterie boards. Food trucks, s’more kits, cinnamon rolls, and coffee will also be offered.
GEORGIA CHRISTMAS DAY TRIPS
(Rock City Gardens in Lookout Mountain GA, Nov 18 – Jan 1; Closed Dec 24)
Just a quick drive from downtown Chattanooga or a 2 hr drive from Atlanta, this award-winning light show is celebrating its 28th anniversary and will feature more than a million LED lights across uniquely themed realms of wonder.
Whether you are watching the icy lights twinkle in the Arctic Kingdom, walking through the Grand Corridor in Yule Town, or exploring the exciting enchantments of the Magic Forest, there’s no shortage of dazzling scenery.
Don’t forget to visit Santa in his workshop where you can catch a glimpse of his toy shop and sleigh as he prepares to spread holiday magic all over the world on Christmas Eve!
(Barnsley Resort in Adairsville GA, Nov 28 – Dec 28)
Barnsley Resort (formerly known as Barnsley Gardens) holds a special place in our hearts, because it was the first place Mary and I traveled together.
That romantic getaway– Valentine’s Day weekend in 2009– was our first big indication that our relationship was something truly special.
Ten years later, the resort (which is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains) has been upgraded considerably, but the traditional Southern charm remains much the same.
Their north Georgia Christmas celebration will feature the English-style garden and historic Manor House Ruins all lit up with colorful holiday lights.
There will be numerous holiday events held throughout the season, including campfire storytelling, cookie decorating, gingerbread house crafting, harvest hayrides, and wreath-making classes.
On Christmas Day, there will also be an extensive buffet from their restaurants’ Executive Chef in the Georgian Hall.–Bret Love