There’s nothing quite as beautiful as the south during the holiday season. Warm enough in some parts to enjoy the lingering fall foliage into early December, yet cold enough to give a seasonal chill that gets your spirit bright. And with the rich history and colonial architecture still permeating the landscape in this southeastern state, Georgia stands out as one of the best places to visit this holiday season. Check out the 18 best places in the Peach State that are guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit.
Self-proclaimed to be “the charm of Bavaria in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Helen’s alpine aesthetic is the perfect place to pass the holiday season. Christmas festivities kick off with The Lighting of the Village, inviting all to hear local musicians sing your favorite holiday classics while lighting up the town square with help from Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Continue the yuletide celebrations with a visit to Hardman Farm Historic State Site to experience a traditional Victorian Christmas. During the first two weekends in December, you won’t want to miss your chance to peruse the wares of local merchants at the Christkindlmarkt. It’s the closest to an authentic German market this side of the pond.
For an even more authentic Victorian Christmas, travel back in time to turn-of-the-century Downtown Thomasville. You’ll feel as though you stepped into Dickens’ beloved Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol, as you stroll down the brick roads or take a carriage ride through this quaint and cozy village.
The festivities are more lively here than any others you’ll experience this season, with a live nativity, visits from St. Nick, carolers dressed in traditional Victorian fashion and marshmallow toasting and chestnut roasting stations throughout town square. Live entertainment can be seen on the amphitheater stage while street performers keep the spirit alive throughout the town. You’ll even seen live freeze models and enjoy the local flavor of the village with plenty of food vendors available for your tasting pleasure. Don’t miss the Christmas of your dreams in Thomasville this year.
Little known fact: Santa Claus actually lives in Georgia and not the North Pole. That’s right, folks — Santa Claus, Georgia has been right under our noses all along. In this secret southern town, it’s Christmas all year long.
While there’s no much in the way of holiday festivities (the town’s population is only 165, after all), this little town comes alive during the Christmas season as tourists come to see the most spirited town in the south. See the big guy himself as his statue greets you at the town’s entrance and mail your holiday cards from Santa’s official mailbox. It’s a trip you’ll have to take at least once in your lifetime — take your trip this year.
The most holiday fun you’ll have awaits at Stone Mountain Park. A litany of fun festivities work together to create a Christmassy countdown you won’t want to miss. See the Holiday Cabaret and laugh and sing the night away as local storytellers paint pictures of Christmas past and sing all your favorite classics. Behold the Snow Angel Snowfall Celebration as an actual snow angel comes down from the sky to grant all our white Christmas wishes.
This year the park is hosting its first Enchanted Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, where visitors will watch in amazement as Santa makes his big entrance and helps light up the town. The yuletide fun is great for all ages and will create long-lasting holiday memories you and your family will cherish for years to come.
Holidays in Macon leave nothing to be desired, with weekly events taking place all through December to make the season merry and bright. Kickstart the celebration the last week of November with the Main Street Christmas Light Show Extravaganza where 250,000 lights move to the beat of your favorite holiday tunes.
Plenty of seasonal festivities make spirits bright throughout the month with such entertaining events as The Nutcracker of Middle Georgia at the Grand Opera House; Christmas After Midnight: Fantasia featuring Grammy-Award winning and platinum-selling artist Fantasia; and Christmas in Downtown Macon with Macon Makers Market on First St. Experience all that the season has to offer in one fabulously festive southern town this year.
You can see one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Light Displays right in beautiful Pine Mountain. The Christmas lights at Callaway Gardens & Resort are some of the most spectacular in the nation. Walk through the festive Christmas Village, get up-close and personal with your favorite holiday characters and drive through the breathtaking illuminated forest.
Take your holiday celebration up a notch by staying at the beautifully renovated Lodge & Spa at Callaway Gardens. A vast selection of mouthwatering meals, decadent cocoa and 2,500 acres of gorgeous gardens will make your spirit bright. With holiday festivities taking place from November 10th– January 5th, there’s still plenty of time to make your reservation for a dream Christmas vacation.
Of course, we can’t leave Atlanta off the list—this city has so much to offer in the way of yuletide celebrations. Head to Lenox Square to see Macy’s Great Tree lit up in all its glory. Treat yourself to a night of sophisticated seasonal festivity by going to see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s series of holiday concerts.
If it’s a holiday light show you seek, Atlanta has you more than covered. Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden boasts more than 1 million colorful lights on display for the season.
You’ll catch even more dazzling displays at the Lighting of Atlantic Station, Festival of the SEAson at Georgia Aquarium and Holiday in Lights at Centennial Olympic Park. The only thing you won’t be able to do is decide where you’ll go next!
This historic and beautiful southern town is truly a sight to behold during the holiday season. Stroll through town for the annual Holiday Tour of Homes, featuring eight private homes and two museum historical homes with ornate yuletide decor. Sail with Santa or enjoy the Holiday Gospel Dinner Cruise on the Savannah River. The holiday fun never stops in this town.
Check off everyone on your list this year with a trip to Savannah’s City Market. Four blocks of this gorgeous city are dedicated to all your holiday shopping and dining needs, featuring a special “Christmas for Kids” celebration that includes ornament-making classes, face painting, a petting zoo and photo ops with Santa. Head to Savannah this season for a holiday you’ll never forget.
Home to Chehaw Park’s Festival of Lights, the small town of Albany certainly does the season justice with its dazzling display seen from the seat of the Wiregrass Express train. You’ll feel like you’ve boarded the Polar Express as you take in the lights from the railroad.
You’ll want to make the trip out for the annual Christmas parade, this year featuring a Christmas Village for the first time. Stroll through the beautifully decorated village and enjoy shopping at specialty shops, listening to Christmas carolers on the street and perusing the wares of local vendors on the street. During the parade, watch Santa make his debut in town, wishing everyone a very merry Christmas.
Just a short while away from Pine Mountain sits the quaint and cozy town of LaGrange. Here you’ll take in the 1916 Hills & Dales estate, decorated to the nines in Christmas lights and ornaments. The annual Christmas parade is an event you won’t want to miss, with hundreds of local businesses, community groups, schools and churches creating floats for the parade that draws the whole town’s attention. Of course, Santa will be there riding atop a firetruck and wishing everyone a happy holiday.
If you want to get a better understanding of the first Christmas, head to the town’s Biblical History Center for the “Follow the Shepherd’s Walk” experience, where visitors will follow the shepherd star as they walk through a traditional Christmas setting in the center’s gardens. It’s a great way to reconnect with the true meaning of Christmas and enjoy a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Feast your eyes upon the alpine village of Dahlonega in all its Dickensian splendor. This enchanting little town will make you feel as though you’ve entered into a holiday movie. In fact, the popular Hallmark movie, Christmas In Homestead, was filmed here—and for good reason. The town is as picturesque as they come, featuring festively decorated streets and shops that would lift even Scrooge’s spirits.
You don’t want to miss Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas, a month-long celebration featuring dazzling light shows, festive events and frequent visits from Santa. The annual Christmas parade is a magical time for the town as St. Nick makes his way through town in his sleigh through a sea of festive floats. At the parade’s conclusion, gather in the center of the town for the tree lighting, Christmas carols, and piping hot cocoa.
All aboard the Blue Ridge Express! This Christmas tradition is one you have to add to your list. Listen to the lore of yuletide past, sing along to the classics and get your chance to tell Kris Kringle everything that’s on your wish list all while taking an enchanting ride on the old express train.
Aside from the festivities, the Blue Ridge Mountains provide a truly breathtaking backdrop for your holiday visit. The impressive mountain range is especially gorgeous in the winter as frosted trees paint the hillside with snow-capped beauty for a real-world winter wonderland you can’t find anywhere else. See it for yourself this year in this gorgeous Georgia town.
Enjoy a holiday in beautiful Gainesville, where the town’s Christmas parade will make your spirits merry and bright. This unique parade includes a line of antique cars as well as traditional holidays floats designed by the town’s local businesses and municipalities. The best part? Christmas on Green Street is completely free for everyone, so you won’t have to shell out all your holiday shopping money on events leading up to the big day.
The parade also boasts over 20 different music groups performing on front porches, mobile magicians, face painters, balloon artists, storytellers, jugglers, Santa Claus visits, miniature train rides, and carriage rides. There’s nothing left to be desired at Gainesville’s Christmas on Green Street.
Georgia’s island vacation destination becomes a frozen paradise during the winter, with stunning displays of holiday cheer throughout December. Head out to the Village Green at Beach Village for a special Christmas edition of Jekyll Island’s Movie on the Green series. Or, create a hand-crafted holiday treasure among the gorgeous winter cottages that once were inhabited by Gilded Age millionaires at the Victorian Christmas Craft.
Here, you’ll also have the chance to go “ice” skating on a synthetic rink. The synthetic ice takes all the pain and cold out of traditional ice skating, and it’s easier for clumsier folks to get the hang of. This season, the rink is back with a breathtaking surprise: Visitors will get to skate beside the Jekyll River on the first-ever riverfront site of Jekyll Island Skating Village.
For wintry fun for the whole family, “Awesome” Alpharetta has everything you need to lift your spirits. Join the town’s annual tree-lighting ceremony in the Downtown Historic District, where musical performances, synthetic snow machines and appearances by Santa Claus create a perfect Christmassy setting.
Visitors will enjoy walking through the historic streets, stopping along the way to roast marshmallows at the outdoor fire pits or grab a bite to eat from one Alpharetta’s delicious dine-ins. The holiday market will make sure everyone on your list gets something extra special this year. At the end of the night, join the crowd for a live viewing of the SEC Championship Football Game on the big screen. Go, team!
One of Georgia’s most unexpected spots to ring in the yuletide season is Kennesaw. This little town leaves a big impression with one resident boasting a Christmas light display that rivals those of Atlanta residents’ homes. With over 275,000 lights set to holiday music, Richard B. Taylor has been creating the display for over 20 years.
When you’re finished checking out the dazzling Christmas lights, be sure to head over for the Santa Parade and Day with Santa downtown on Main St. You’ll have plenty of fun watching the marching bands, vintage cars, and colorful floats go by. Your favorite seasonal characters will all be there as well to welcome Santa to town. The Day with Santa continues after the parade at Depot Park, where you’ll enjoy a holiday market, food vendors and even a snow playground—for the kids at heart.
Reconnect with the true meaning of Christmas this year by paying a visit to the Duluth Christmas House. Owned by Tammie Hernandez, the elaborate display started in 2016 as a way of coping with the loss of her grandmother. After receiving such a positive response from her dazzling decor, she decided the next year she’d go even bigger.
Since its humble beginnings, the house has become a hometown tradition for many, with the proceeds collected from 2017 visitors all going to help a local child’s battle with cancer. Jada Chavez, 12, was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma in her mouth in 2015. After scheduling reconstructive surgery on her chin, it was discovered that she also had Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Hernandez raised over $2,000 for the Chavez family in 2017, and this year will be collecting books and non-perishable food items to donate locally. Come see this amazing and awe-inspiring hometown tradition.
We saved the best for last in this list of Peach State Christmas spirit. Rock City Gardens at Lookout Mountain has an award-winning light show that’s sure to amaze. More than 30 holiday scenes transform the garden’s natural, daylight beauty into a winter wonderland come nightfall. See the magic right before your eyes as you walk through the elaborate displays and take in the beauty.
You’ll, of course, get your chance to see Kris Kringle, and will also get to decorate your own gingerbread cookie, drink hot cocoa and even get a Sugar Plum Fairy makeover (oh la la). Take in all the season’s splendor right from beautiful Lookout Mountain.
Have yourself a peachy little Christmas by visiting one of Georgia’s most spirited destinations this year. You’ll create memories to last a lifetime with plenty of singing, shopping, and sightseeing for everyone to enjoy. Have a favorite Peach State tradition that wasn’t on this list? Share it with us in the comments below. Happy holidays!