stone mtn lights 2

Stone Mountain Park’s Christmas celebration brightens the sky with more than 2 million
lights and a variety of new displays. PHOTO COURTESY STONE MOUNTAIN PARK

Holiday lights illuminate magic of the season

By Christopher Barker

Children and adults with childlike wonder about the Christmas season can find inspiration at the many holiday light displays open to the public this season.

The display at Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park is free, while others offer a variety of holiday activities with admission. Holiday activities at these venues range from speed slides to carnival rides, snow play zones, ice skating, train rides, Christmas crafts, live entertainment, seasonal foods, shopping, a Chinese lantern festival, live nativity scenes and more.

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Atlanta Botanical Gardens has added Walk of Flames and expanded its Tunnel of Light in the sixth year of Garden Lights Holiday Nights, which again features the annual Orchestral Orbs, Glittering Galaxy, Radiant Rainforest and model train exhibitions.

Admission is $23 for adults and $17 for children age 3-17 Mondays through Wednesdays through Dec. 14 and $26 and $20 for “peak night” tickets Thursdays through Sundays and nightly Dec. 15 to Jan. 7. New premium tickets that include 3-D glasses and a drink ticket are $10 more, and an additional $5 buys a ticket for date flexibility. Discounted tickets for peak nights are available online before 4 p.m., and walk-up tickets on peak nights are an additional $5. Peak night admission after 9 p.m. is $20. Tickets are at or 404-888-4771.

Parking is $5 Mondays through Thursdays and $10 (or $5 for cars with four or more people) Fridays through Sundays.

The Reindog Parade is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 3, and Botanical Saint Nick will visit with children from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 and 17. The Holiday Model Train Show is from 5-10 p.m. daily, and train rides are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and some weekdays.

stone mtn lights 1

A parade concludes each evening’s holiday festivities at Stone Mountain Park.

Stone Mountain Christmas

Stone Mountain Park will be illuminated by more than 2 million lights during its annual Christmas celebration that offers new features this year: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 4-D movie, the Skylights Spectacular with music, lights, projections and special effects and the addition of Clarice the Reindeer and the Abominable Snow Monster at Rudolph’s Merry Little Meet and the nightly Christmas parade.

Regular holiday attractions through Jan. 4 include the Singalong Train; the Wonderland Walkway with a tunnel of lights leading to the Snow Angel Palace; live performances; holiday shopping for items including hand-blown glass ornaments, homemade fudge, seasonal apparel and unique toys; and the Christmas Parade culminating with the arrival of Santa Claus, the Snow Angel Snowfall and fireworks finale.

Tickets are at or 800-401-2407.

Rock City

Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights has been getting guests into the Christmas spirit for more than 20 years, featuring more than 30 holiday scenes and hundreds of thousands of LED lights.

Visitors to the Lookout Mountain attractions enter through the historic gates onto North Pole Highway, where they can choose which of four themed paths to explore first: Arctic Kingdom, Magic Forest, Yule Town and North Pole Village.

Arctic Kingdom’s Blizzard Pass takes guests to icy gardens with lighted penguins fishing and animatronic polar bears. In the Magic Forest are dancing trees and the Fairyland Caverns. The traditional route through the Enchanted Trail is Yule Town, where the classic, vintage-themed legends of Christmas showcase symbolic meanings behind classic seasonal icons. Santa and Mrs. Claus are the featured stars of North Pole Village, where children can decorate Christmas stockings while enjoying hot cocoa and gingerbread cookies.

Other characters along the trails include Christmas elves, Frosty the Snowman, Jack Frost and Inara the Ice Queen.

Other Enchanted Garden of Lights highlights are stamps offering activities and coupons for children’s adventure passports, Sugar Plum Fairy makeovers, ornament decoration and reindeer corn.

Entertainers perform nightly at the North Pole Lodge and on select nights at Starbucks.

Admission is $19.95 for adults and $11.95 for ages 3-12 Mondays through Thursdays and $22.95 and $12.95 Fridays through Sundays. Part of ticket sales is donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Enchanted Garden hours are 6-9 p.m.

centennial butterfly

Centennial Olympic Park’s Holiday in Lights is free, as is its new Chinese Lantern Festival.

Centennial Park

Visitors to downtown Atlanta can explore for free the Holiday in Lights display at Centennial Olympic Park.

More than 40 volunteers began stringing 10,000 feet of lights in early October, and cosponsor Universal Concepts is erecting a 40-foot Christmas tree and more lighted displays to bring the total of lights in the park to more than 150,000.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority is adding a new winter event this year in conjunction with Holiday in Lights, the Southeast’s first Chinese Lantern Festival Dec. 9 through Jan. 15 from 6-11 p.m. nightly.

Chinese artisans created the festival elements that include 25 decorative

lanterns, handcrafted giant flowers, a three-story pagoda and a 200-foot Chinese dragon. Craftspeople at booths around the park will create items such as Chinese paintings and edible sugar dragons, and nightly entertainment will include acrobatics, dancers, theater, etc. Tickets are at

Visitors at the festival in South Park, which includes Southern Company Amphitheater, can also enjoy nearby attractions such as the Centennial Olympic Park Ice Rink during the cold months of the year.

Callaway Gardens

Named one of the top 10 places worldwide to see holiday lights by National Geographic, the Fantasy of Lights at Callaway Gardens is back for the 25th year with a new winter scene called Snow Day.

The garden that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Access Atlanta called the “best place to see holiday lights” and the American Bus Association listed among the top 100 events in North America again includes such classics as Snowflake Valley and Magical Christmas Garden. Visitors can listen to holiday music as they explore the garden on the Jolly Trolley or in personal vehicles.

The heated indoor Christmas Village open at 6 p.m. nightly offers a visit with Santa and unique gifts that include butterflies, birds, vintage toys, snowmen, stained glass, angels, nutcrackers, Nativity scenes, specialty foods and items appealing to college fans.

Value date tickets are $21 for adults and $10.50 for children 6 and older, and prime date tickets are $28 and $14. Ordering tickets in advance at 800-463-6990 or ensures admission and preferred time slots.

Callaway Gardens is in Pine Mountain about an hour southwest of Atlanta.

 lanier lights 2

Lake Lanier reflects the colors of the season on its 7-mile Magical Lights Tour.

Lake Lanier

LanierWorld’s Winter Adventure this year is larger and costs less for visitors wanting to see millions of twinkling light displays in its seven-mile Magical Lights Tour.

Admission is $45 per car (or $36 for advance purchases on the LanierWorld website) that includes stopping at the Holiday Village for shopping, Christmas classics on a 5-story flat screen, holiday foods, visits with Santa and a live nativity. More of the adventure part of the experience available for an extra charge of $29.99 for adults and children at least 3 feet tall includes snow play zones, speed slides, bubble skating, unlimited carnival rides, pony rides, ice skating and more.

Visitors also can roast marshmallow and make s’mores at any of the fire pits around LanierWorld, which is open through Jan. 8.

Details and tickets are at 770-945-8787 or

rock RANCH lights

Rock Ranch in Upson County is installing more than a mile of Christmas lights at the
1,500-acre ranch.

Rock Ranch

More than a mile of Christmas lights anchor the Country Christmas at The Rock Ranch, a 1,500-acre cattle ranch owned by Chick-fil-A about an hour south of Atlanta in Upson County.

The agritourism destination’s Country Christmas features Polar Express-inspired train rides, trolley rides, photo opportunities with Santa and crafts and activities in Santa’s Workshop.

Tickets and details are at








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