[Updated October 19, 2023]
In my 25+ years as a professional travel writer, I’ve been extremely fortunate to travel to some amazing destinations all around the world.
But, as a lifelong resident of the state, I always come back home in time to spend Christmas in Georgia.
I grew up in the city and spent most of my childhood celebrating Christmas in Atlanta.
From riding the Pink Pig and the Georgia Festival of Trees to Stone Mountain Christmas, these are some of my favorite boyhood memories.
Once I started exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains as an adult, I fell in love with North Georgia Christmas events such as Light Up Blue Ridge, Old Fashioned Christmas in Dahlonega, and the Bavarian-style Christmas in Helen.
One of the things I love most about Christmas in GA is the sheer diversity of options to choose from.
From incredible Christmas lights displays at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Callaway Gardens to Holly Jolly Jekyll on Jekyll Island and Victorian Christmas in Thomasville, every corner of the state has holiday spirit to spare.
Read on for our guide to 20 of the most fun and festive places to celebrate Christmas in Georgia, including info on the 2023 dates, ticket prices, and things to do at these beloved holiday attractions.
Christmas in Georgia Guide
- Atlanta Christkindl Market
- Callanwolde Fine Arts Center’s Winter House
- Celebration of Lights in Albany GA
- Christmas at The Battery Atlanta
- Christmas in Helen GA
- A Country Christmas at Pettit Creek Farms in Cartersville GA
- December Nights & Holiday Lights in Savannah GA
- Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City in Lookout Mountain GA
- Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens
- Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at Atlanta Botanical Gardens
- Georgia Festival of Trees at the Georgia World Congress Center
- Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Over Georgia
- Holly Jolly Jekyll on Jekyll Island
- Illuminights at the Atlanta Zoo
- Lakeside Lights Spectacular at Lake Lanier Islands
- Lights of Life in Marietta GA
- Light Up Blue Ridge in Blue Ridge GA
- Macon Christmas Light Extravaganza in Macon GA
- Mountain Country Christmas in Lights in Hiawassee GA
- Old Fashioned Christmas in Dahlonega GA
- Santa Claus, Georgia
- Stone Mountain Christmas at Stone Mountain Park
- Victorian Christmas in Thomasville
- Winter Wonderland at Fernbank Museum of Natural History
- Winter Wonderlights at the State Botanical Garden in Athens GA
1. Atlanta Christkindl Market
290 East Paces Ferry Rd NE, Atlanta GA
Originally held at Atlantic Station, then Centennial Olympic Park, the Atlanta Christkindl Market relocated in 2o22 to the Buckhead Village District (East Paces Ferry Rd & Peachtree Rd).
Its festive atmosphere offers a wonderful taste of the outdoor markets common during Christmas in Europe, not to mention great Christmas shopping opportunities.
Visitors can browse the market for unique items to check off their holiday gift list, try traditional German food and beverages, or get photos taken with Santa.
Details about the 50+ vendors and other elements will be released soon, so check their website for more details.
The 2023 Buckhead Christmas event will run from Nov 17-19, and Nov 24 to Dec 24. Hours are from 3-8 PM Monday through Thursday, and from 11 AM to 9 PM Friday through Sunday. Admission is free.
READ MORE: The 30 Best Day Trips From Atlanta GA
2. Callanwolde Fine Arts Center’s Winter House
980 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta GA • (404) 872-5338
Celebrating Christmas at Callanwolde has been an annual Atlanta tradition since I was a boy. Now, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center’s Winter House offers visitors an upscale, arts-inspired holiday experience.
For 10 days between Nov 25 and Dec 10, 2023, the 27,000 square-foot Callanwolde mansion will be decked to the nines with thousands of twinkling Christmas lights and festive decor.
2023 Winter House activities include workshops on making gingerbread houses and decorating ceramic mugs, plus live musical performances.
Santa Claus will also be making weekend appearances at Callanwolde for family photos (including your furry friends). Pets are welcome!
While celebrating the holiday season, visitors can enjoy a glass of wine or mulled cider as well as individual charcuterie boards. Food trucks, s’more kits, and coffee will also be available for an additional charge.
3. Celebration of Lights
Pine Avenue, Albany GA • (229) 483-7665
If you’re familiar with Albany GA at all, it’s likely due to the fact that it gave birth to Ray Charles, one of the most influential music icons of the 20th century.
Located 105 miles southwest of Macon, the small town of around 70,000 residents really turns up at Christmastime with its annual Celebration of Lights in Downtown Albany.
Now in its 33rd year, the theme for this year’s Albany GA Christmas event will be “A Gingerbread Christmas”.
This year’s celebration will be held on December 2, the fun festival will feature colorful Christmas lights, vendors selling Christmas arts and crafts, food trucks, and a DJ to keep the holiday spirits bumping.
The live entertainment begins at 4 PM, and the 6 PM Albany Christmas Parade will feature an appearance by Jolly Ol’ St. Nick in the flesh!
READ MORE: The Best North Georgia Christmas Events
4. Christmas at The Battery Atlanta
800 Battery Ave SE, Atlanta, GA • (404) 494-1150
Best-known for Truist Park (home to perennial NL East leaders the Atlanta Braves), The Battery Atlanta is a 2.25 million square foot mixed-use development in the city’s northwestern suburbs.
It’s also one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Atlanta, especially during their 7th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Saturday, November 25.
The ever-popular Georgia Christmas event typically starts at 5:30 PM with live musical performances on the Georgia Power Pavilion Stage. Expect special appearances by Braves players and mascot Blooper.
Santa will drop in to light The Battery Christmas tree at around 8 PM, followed by a screening of a family-friendly holiday film (Abominable) on the massive screen.
St. Nick will also be greeting kids and posing for photos at the Community Corner every Friday-Sunday through Christmas Eve. And don’t forget to drop off the kids’ letters at Santa’s Post Office!
5. Christmas in Helen GA
Main Street, Helen GA • (800) 858-8027
But Christmas in Helen, Georgia is especially whimsical, with the town’s alpine architecture draped in colorful lights and its streets filled with the joyous holiday spirit.
The 2023 festivities kick off with the annual Lighting of the Village on Friday, November 24.
The Christmas lights in downtown Helen are unveiled after sunset, and Santa and Mrs. Claus pose for pics in Riverside Park.
The Helen Christmas Market also opens Thanksgiving weekend, while the Downtown Helen Christmas Parade in early December features floats and costumed characters, with Santa Claus closing out the show.
6. A Country Christmas at Pettit Creek Farms
337 Cassville Rd, Cartersville GA • (770) 386-8688
The Georgia farm is now run by the original owners’ grandchildren, and their annual Country Christmas celebration (held Nov 23-Dec 30, 2023) features over a mile of drive-thru Christmas lights.
Admission costs $30 per car on Tuesday through Thursday and $35 per car on Friday through Sunday (they have separate rates for vans and buses).
Another amazing ride-through option is the old-fashioned hayride which is a perfect holiday experience for only $10 per person. The admission price also includes a visit to their petting zoo, where you can see live Reindeer.
With the exception of December 9, be sure to get a photo with Santa, he will be making appearances Thursday through Sunday of every week!
7. December Nights & Holiday Lights at Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens
2 Canebrake Rd., Savannah GA • (912) 921-5460
There are all sorts of great Christmas light displays in North Georgia, but December Nights & Holiday Lights is a rare gem for those who want to spend Christmas in Savannah GA.
The Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens is artfully decorated with over a million dazzling lights. Their drive-thru Christmas Lights tour allows you to visit the illuminated garden areas without needing to walk the whole way.
But the lights aren’t the only noteworthy feature of this Savannah Christmas attraction.
Kids can get photos taken with Santa, visit the Coastal Rail Buff’s miniature train display, or stop in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen for baked Christmas goodies. Every purchase supports local non-profit organizations!
Note that because rain can cause the lights to trip their circuit breakers, this Christmas light display is weather-dependent. Call before you go if you have concerns about incumbent weather.
8. Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights
Rock City Gardens in Lookout Mountain GA (Nov 17-Jan 6; Closed Dec 24)
Named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society, their Enchanted Garden of Lights celebration is widely regarded among the best Christmas lights in Georgia.
Held from November 17, 2023, to January 6, 2024, the event features a million LED lights that transform Rock City Garden into a winter wonderland.
There are lots of seasonal activities to enjoy, including meeting Santa in his workshop and visiting the shops to buy personalized ornaments and festive Christmas decorations.
Decorating gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, tasting the delicious Christmas-themed fudge, and wandering through the 7 enchanted realms while drinking hot cocoa, all make for a perfect holiday adventure. Check rates at the Chanticleer Inn Bed & Breakfast on Lookout Mountain via Booking.com.
9. Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens
17617 US-27 Pine Mountain GA • (855) 885-3841
The largest Christmas celebration in the state of Georgia, Callaway Gardens’ annual Fantasy in Lights has been recognized by National Geographic as one of the Top 10 Christmas Light Displays in the World!
Their high-tech Christmas light display includes more than 10 million lights and 17 classic themes (including “Snowflake Valley” and “Santa’s Workshop”) stretched across their 2,500-acre property.
Scenes for 2023 include a decorated tree over 10 stories high, making it the tallest Christmas tree in the South! Visitors can enjoy the drive-thru Christmas lights from their own vehicle or take the “Jolly Trolley.”
The new Callaway Christmas Village is also filled with dazzling lights, massive nutcrackers, and huge snowflakes. You can visit the Christmas Market for shopping and get the chance to meet Rudolph, Bumble, and Santa Claus.
If you want to spend the night, Callaway Gardens offers special packages, with benefits such as a shuttle service to Christmas Village and daily garden admission. Check Rates for Callaway Resort & Gardens via Booking.com.
10. Garden Nights, Holiday Lights at Atlanta Botanical Garden
1345 Piedmont Avenue, Atlanta GA • (404) 876-5859
Ranked among the best Christmas lights in Atlanta since its inception, the ever-popular Garden Lights, Holiday Lights is one of our favorite GA Christmas attractions.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden has been illuminating its 30-acre property with millions of LED lights for over a decade, with timed tickets to ensure an easy flow of visitors throughout the event.
Some of their best Atlanta Christmas Light displays include the Ice Goddess, the Tunnel of Light, and the glowing Orchestral Orbs, which dance along with light and color to festive holiday music.
The event runs from November 18, 2023, to January 14, 2024. Ticket prices range from $28 to $149, depending on the dates and ticket type you choose. Note that they often sell out in advance, especially on weekends!
11. Georgia Festival of Trees
Georgia World Congress Center, Building A, Exhibit Hall A3 • (678) 783-4455
One of our favorite Christmas festivals, the became an annual staple of Christmas in Georgia starting in 1976.
After a 30-year run at the Georgia World Congress Center in Downtown Atlanta (where proceeds benefitted Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta), the festival downsized in 2007, and then disappeared altogether.
As a lifelong Georgia resident, I’m delighted to see the Festival of Trees returning to its former glory at the GWCC with an 8-day celebration in 2023 (Nov 18-21, and Nov 24-26).
The festival will fill the GWCC with dazzling displays of Christmas trees and wreaths for auction, plus live entertainment, a gingerbread contest, kids’ activities, and much more. Proceeds will benefit local NGOs working to support survivors of human trafficking and ending human trafficking: Street Grace and Atlanta Redemption Ink.
Tickets to the 2023 Festival of Trees start at $13.95 for children ages 3-12 and seniors ages 62 and up, and $18.95 for adults. A wristband for the children’s activities can be purchased for $9.95.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Weekend Getaways in Georgia
12. Holiday In The Park at Six Flags Over Georgia
275 Riverside Parkway, Austell GA • (770) 739-3400
Another one of the most popular places to celebrate Christmas in GA is Six Flags Over Georgia which hosts the annual Holiday In The Park celebration from November 18, 2023, to January 3, 2024.
The theme park is arranged into 10 different “Holiday Neighborhoods,” which collectively boast millions of LED Christmas lights, themed Christmas decorations, and festive Christmas trees that are sure to impress.
The park will also feature a dancing light show, and the Riverview Carousel and Six Flags Railroad (one of several cool Christmas train rides in Georgia) will be fully decorated.
In addition to some of the most beautiful Christmas lights in Atlanta, Six Flags will put on a Christmas show with live music and dancing.
Visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus are also included, and delicious holiday treats are available for purchase.
13. Holly Jolly Jekyll
901 Downing Musgrove Causeway, Jekyll Island GA • (912) 635-3636
When you think of the best Christmas towns in Georgia, the barrier islands known as the Golden Isles are probably not the first thing that comes to mind.
But Jekyll Island’s Holly Jolly Jekyll celebration is one of the coolest Christmas events in Georgia, lighting up the beach destination with over 1 million lights that can be viewed on foot or on Holly Jolly Light Tour trolleys for an extra fee.
The island is home to other festive events, including the Holly Jolly Jekyll Light Parade on Dec 9, Holiday Fireworks on Dec 21 and 28, and drive-in movie screenings of Mickey’s Christmas Carol on Dec 20 and 27.
Kids will also enjoy sending a letter to Santa via the North Pole Express mailbox at Mailbox On Main, the Winter Carnival & Big Truck Roundup on Dec 2, or playing holiday-themed mini-golf at Peppermint Land.
14. Illuminights At The Zoo: Chinese Lantern Festival
800 Cherokee Avenue SE, Atlanta GA • (404) 624-9453
This Chinese Lantern Festival at Zoo Atlanta features over 80 lanterns depicting some of the world’s coolest animals, and it has become one of the most unique Holiday celebrations in Atlanta GA.
Each lantern featured at IllumiNights At The Zoo is made and hand-painted by Chinese artists, who put in thousands of hours of work. Some of these massive lanterns reach up to 20 feet tall!
There will be warm beverages and food available for purchase, and you can also do some fun Holiday shopping in the Zoo’s gift shop.
IllumiNights at the Zoo will be open to the public from November 16 to January 14, from 5:30 to 9:30 PM.
Non-member ticket prices are $17.99-$19.99 for children ages 3 to 11, $17.99 –$21.99 for Seniors (65+), and $20.99 – $24.99 for adults ages 12 and up. Children ages 2 & under get in free, and group rates are also available.
15. Margaritaville’s Lakeside Lights Spectacular at Lake Lanier Islands
7650 Lanier Islands Pkwy, Buford GA • (470) 323-3440
Surrounding one of the biggest lakes in Georgia, Lake Lanier Islands was formerly home to “Magical Nights of Lights,” which was widely considered to be among the best drive-thru Christmas light shows in Georgia.
Since being purchased by Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts, the name of this Georgia Christmas event has changed.
Lakeside Lights Spectacular is now a walk-through display, and they’ve added a 575-foot-long snow tubing slide as part of “License to Chill Snow Island.”
Open from November 22, 2023, to January 15, 2023, the Lakeside Lights Spectacular will include an assortment of mixed drinks, sweet treats, hot chocolate, and s’mores for roasting on the bonfire (for an additional charge).
As always, there will be lots of different carnival rides and holiday games to keep families entertained.
16. Lights of Life at Life University
1269 Barclay Circle, Marietta GA • (800) 543-3202
One of our favorite places to see Christmas lights in Georgia, Lights of Life is hosted at an unusual location– Life University, a private chiropractic college in Marietta.
But the event is hugely popular in the northern suburbs of Atlanta and, at just $10 per car (or $20 for a bus), it’s also one of the most affordable drive-through Christmas lights in Georgia!
Especially when you consider the fact that their expansive assortment of over 1 million LED lights includes over 100 displays (including a 65-foot Santa/sleigh display, the tallest in the Southeast) on a 1.5-mile drive through the campus.
Lights of Life also has concession stands selling food and drinks, a petting zoo, and train rides. They also have photo ops with Santa available for an additional fee.
17. Light Up Blue Ridge
East Main St., Blue Ridge, GA • (706) 258-2432
Another of our favorite things to do for Christmas in Georgia, Light Up Blue Ridge is a great way to celebrate the holiday season in one of North Georgia’s most beloved mountain towns.
The 2023 action begins with Blue Friday (their small-town twist on Black Friday) on November 24, when you’ll find killer Downtown Blue Ridge shopping deals, live entertainment, and caroling in the streets.
But the main event begins on November 25, with live entertainment, food vendors, and a Blue Ridge Christmas Parade starting at 5:30 PM. The Lighting of the Great Tree will happen around 7 PM, right after the parade ends.
Other Blue Ridge Christmas attractions include taking pics with Santa in the gazebo, riding the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad’s Holiday Express train, and seeing the Gingerbread Village (including 90+ houses!) at the Arts Center.
If you want to make a whole weekend of it, check out our guide to the Best Blue Ridge GA Cabins to Rent.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Things to Do in Blue Ridge, GA
18. Macon Christmas Light Extravaganza
Poplar Street & Third Street, Macon GA
Located about 85 miles south of Atlanta, Macon GA is best known for musical icons such as Little Richard, Otis Redding, and the Allman Brothers (who moved there in 1969 to work with local label Capricorn Records).
The town is also known as “the Heart of Georgia” due to its location at the state’s geographic center. And this Christmas light display in Macon certainly shows plenty of heart and holiday spirit.
The Main Street Christmas Light Extravaganza finds downtown Macon drenched in 1,000,000+ Christmas lights, with festive decorations on practically every shop and shrub.
Running from November 24, 2023, to January 3, 2024, the hourly light shows (which go from 6 to 11 PM) move in time to original music composed by the Macon Pops, with various Macon artists providing the vocals.
In addition to the drive-through Christmas light displays, you can also stroll streets lined with candy canes and twinkling trees as you explore the 80+ shops and restaurants downtown Macon has to offer.
19. Mountain Country Christmas in Lights
1311 Music Hall Rd., Hiawassee GA • (706) 896-4191
Located in Hiawassee GA along the scenic shores of Lake Chatuge (one of the state’s most beautiful lakes), the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds is home to the Georgia Mountain Fair and concerts by big-name artists.
Their Mountain Country Christmas In Lights celebration is an Appalachian-influenced holiday affair that transforms the venue with a spectacular light show.
Attendees can also enjoy Christmas performances by local church groups, shopping for folksy arts and crafts, festive holiday food from local restaurants, and taking family photos with Santa Claus.
Also returning is “Cow Town,” which allows attendees a chance to milk a cow to make butter, ice cream, and soap the old-fashioned way.
Mountain Country Christmas in Lights runs from November 23 to December 23, 2023. Tickets are just $8 for ages 12 and up, while children under 12 get in free!
20. Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas
Downtown Dahlonega Square • (800) 231-5543
It was recently referred to by Southern Living as a “perfect Christmas Town,” because the charming 19th century buildings on the historic square dazzle with festive Christmas spirit during the holiday season.
Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas starts on Nov 24 with the Lighting of the Square.
Santa will be available for photos in front of the Christmas tree on Dahlonega Square from Nov 24 to Dec 17, and on Dec 9 he’ll be the star attraction of the Dahlonega Christmas Parade.
You can also visit the Christmas Market at the Community House to do some shopping, see the Festival of Trees at Hancock Park, see a Christmas show at the Holly Theater, or take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride.
21. Visit Santa Claus, Georgia
25 December Dr, Lyons, GA • (912) 526-6949
Why yes, Virginia, there is a city of Santa Claus, Georgia!
Known as “The City That Loves Children,” the tiny town of Santa Claus GA (population: 204) is located about 100 miles southeast of Macon. It was founded by a local pecan farmer in the 1930s in hopes of luring tourists.
Incorporated in 1941, the town has Christmas-themed streets such as Candy Cane Road, December Drive, Rudolph Way, Dancer Street, Prancer Street, and Sleigh Street.
Their small, but festive Christmas celebration includes the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at the City of Santa Claus Gift Shop and the Annual Front Door Decorating Contest.
All local residents are encouraged to decorate their homes and show their Christmas spirit. Prizes will be awarded to winners at their annual Christmas Dinner. For more info, contact City Hall at (912)526-6949.
22. Stone Mountain Christmas
1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain GA • (800) 401-2407
One of the most family-friendly Atlanta Christmas Events, Stone Mountain Christmas returns with some awesome new elements from November 11th, 2023 to January 2nd, 2024.
As always, millions of lights will decorate the park, including the Musical Frosted Forest.
There will be nightly Christmas parades (featuring the Snow Angel), visits with Santa, Christmas carolers, a Polar Express 4D film, and a clever comedic take on A Christmas Carol.
There will also be attractions like “Santa’s Big Flight” during The World’s Largest Christmas Show, a laser show with special effects, and a huge fireworks finale.
23. Victorian Christmas in Thomasville
Downtown Thomasville GA • (229) 228-7977
The second largest city in southwest Georgia (after Albany), with a population of over 18,000, Thomasville GA is known as the “City of Roses.”
The Thomasville Rose Show & Festival, which dates back 100 years, is the town’s most popular annual event. But the Victorian Christmas in Thomasville has also become a beloved South Georgia Christmas tradition.
Held in Downtown Thomasville on December 14-15 the celebration includes something for everyone. Kids will enjoy visits with Santa, roasting marshmallows, Christmas crafts, live reindeer, and performances by local school bands.
There will also be strolling carolers, street musicians, and holiday-themed selfie spots that include larger-than-life snowflakes, wreaths, and Santa’s sleigh.
24. Winter Wonderland at Fernbank Museum of Natural History
767 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA • (404) 929-6300
Widely regarded as one of the best family-friendly Atlanta Christmas events, “Winter Wonderland: Celebrations & Traditions Around the World” returns for its 14th year in 2023.
Taking up two floors of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, the dazzling Winter Wonderland exhibit offers visitors a great chance to learn more about Holiday traditions around the world.
Details for this year’s event are still TBD, but the 2022 event featured representation from more than 25 countries, including Guatemala, Germany, Denmark, Scotland, Israel, Kenya, Czech Republic, Japan, Ireland, and Ghana.
In addition to Christmas traditions, holidays such as Hanukkah and Dia de los Muertos (a.k.a. The Day of the Dead) will also be represented, as will myriad secular traditions and events.
25. Winter Wonder Lights at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia
2450 S. Milledge Ave, Athens GA • (706)542-1244
One of the newer North Georgia Christmas traditions, Winter Wonderlights is presented by the UGA Office of the President at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens.
Running on select nights from Nov 22 to Dec 30, the Christmas light show transforms the garden with more than a half-million twinkling lights along a 1/2-mile ADA-accessible trail (a.k.a. Candy Cane Lane).
These dazzling Athens GA Christmas lights include shimmering snowflakes, a pine tree forest, and a tunnel of multicolored lights, all leading visitors to a festive Christmas market.
You can roast marshmallows for s’mores, savor hot cocoa or cold drinks, and shop for Christmas gifts (such as the Condor Chocolates Winter WonderBar, with a portion of proceeds going toward education/conservation programs).
Winter Wonderlights tickets can be purchased at wonderlights.uga.edu, $15 for guests ages 4 and up. Children ages 3 and under get in free. –by Bret Love; lead image by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett