Growing up in North Georgia, you couldn’t drive very far into the Blue Ridge Mountains without seeing the famous “SEE ROCK CITY” signs painted on barns, birdhouses, and more.
And yet, for some odd reason, my family never visited Rock City Gardens, which has been a popular Chattanooga-area attraction for 90 years now.
Located atop Lookout Mountain (which straddles the border between Georgia and Tennessee), Rock City is home to one of the coolest Christmas lights events in GA, the Enchanted Garden of Lights.
We visited the Rock City Christmas lights for the first time in 2022. For our money, they rank alongside Stone Mountain Christmas and the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the best Christmas light displays in Georgia.
You can get Rock City tickets for the annual Christmas event for less than $30 per adult on off-peak nights (less than $20 for kids ages 12 and under).
But the Rock City Garden of Lights is truly spectacular, offering hours of festive holiday fun and activities that the whole family will enjoy.
Read on for our in-depth guide to the Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights, including info on Rock City prices, hours, Christmas light “realms,” restaurant options, and more.
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Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights Guide
- Arctic Kingdom
- Downtown Yule Town
- Fairyland Caverns
- Heart of the Mountain
- Magic Forest
- North Pole Highway
- North Pole Village
- Rock City Restaurants & Snacks
- Rock City Shopping
- Yule Town
READ MORE: The 20 Best North Georgia Christmas Events
Rock City Christmas Lights Info
ADDRESS: 1400 Patten Rd, Lookout Mountain GA 30750
ROCK CITY TICKETS: Note that tickets for the Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights are available for online purchase only. Unless you’re a season pass holder, you must reserve timed tickets in advance.
On off-peak nights, Rock City lights tickets cost $25.95 for adults over age 12, $15.95 for kids ages 3 to 12, and kids under age 3 get in free. On peak nights prices get as high as $21.95 for kids and $31.95 for adults.
REGULAR ROCK CITY GARDENS HOURS: During the Christmas season, Rock City Gardens is open to regular visitors from 8:30AM to 3:45PM daily.
ROCK CITY ENCHANTED GARDEN OF LIGHTS HOURS: The Enchanted Garden of Lights runs from Nov 18 to Jan 1 (closed Dec 24). It’s open from 4:30PM to 9PM Monday to Thursday, closing at 10PM on weekend nights.
ROCK CITY PARKING: Parking in the Rock City lot is free with your admission.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: From Atlanta, head north on I-75 towards Chattanooga. After you enter Tennessee, take exit 2 toward I-24 W. Go 5.8 miles on I-24, then take exit 178 for Market St toward Lookout Mtn.
Keep left, following signs for Market St, and merge onto Market St. In 0.8 miles, Market St turns into Alton Park Blvd. Follow that for 0.9 miles, then turn right onto TN-58 S/W 40th St.
In 0.6 miles, turn left onto St Elmo Ave, then a quick right on TN-58 S. You’ll re-enter Georgia as you go 2.2 miles, then continue onto GA-157 S/Red Riding Hood Trail. In 0.7 miles, turn left on Mockingbird Ln to see Rock City!
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1. Arctic Kingdom
Arctic Kingdom is one of 6 different “realms” of Rock City lights that visitors can explore, with the entrance located near the Garden’s Gateway Gift Shop.
As you can see in the photo above, the entrance itself is one of the most unique of Rock City’s enchanted lights, with 10-foot-tall crystals that glow in brilliant blues, teals, and purples.
After descending a short set of stairs, you’ll enter a forest filled with Christmas lights, which are wrapped around every tree and dangle in shimmering curtains of color.
Note that the narrow pathway can get a little crowded on busy nights.
But this is a great place to pause for selfies, surrounded by the gem-like colors, penguins, igloos, and other Arctic iconography.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Christmas Lights in Atlanta and North Georgia
2. Downtown Yule Town
Downtown Yule Town almost feels like a little Christmas town, with lights on every building and numerous shopping and dining options to choose from.
You can browse the Rock City souvenirs at the Garden’s Gateways Gift Shop, check out the unique gnome and garden gifts at Woodland Wonders, or sample homemade sweet treats at the Fudge Kitchen.
But the highlight of this section is Santa’s Workshop & Kitchen, where Santa Claus himself is available to meet and pose for photos with kids every night starting at 5PM!
The set-up is a little unusual, with jolly ol’ St. Nick seated behind a large desk, while kids sit on the opposite side. But the design of the room is gorgeous, and Santa gives each child time to tell him their Christmas wish.
While you’re there, you can also grab a sit-down meal at Santa’s Kitchen, one of several Rock City restaurants.
READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in North Carolina
3. Fairyland Caverns
Fairyland Caverns is one of the oldest tourist attractions in the state of Georgia. It was conceived by original Rock City owners Garnet and Frieda Carter, inspired by Frieda’s love of German fairytales and folklore.
Before Rock City opened in 1932, the Carters (who pioneered the development of Lookout Mountain) called their community “Fairyland.” Frieda filled it with imported German statues of her favorite storybook characters.
In the mid-1940s, when WWII led to a decline in North Georgia tourism, Frieda commissioned Atlanta-based artist Jessie Sanders to create fairytale scenarios throughout the Rock City caverns.
Each of the subterranean rooms pairs traditional Bavarian statues with vivid fluorescent colors that cast an eerie, otherworldly glow under the black light.
From Hansel & Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood to Rapunzel and Snow White, most of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales are represented. But the massive Mother Goose Village pictured above is easily the highlight.
READ MORE: The 12 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in North Carolina
4. Heart Of The Mountain
New for 2022, the Heart Of The Mountain was our favorite realm of Christmas lights at Rock City, because it was unlike any other display we’ve ever seen.
It starts with a set of stairs that descend down into the North Georgia Mountain, taking you through famous geological formations such as “Fat Man’s Squeeze.”
From there you cross over Rainbow Bridge, which is illuminated in every color of the spectrum, with a dazzling light show projected onto the adjacent rocks.
The highlight of this area (and, for us, of Rock City Christmas on the whole) is the spectacular close-up views of the iconic Christmas Star on the side of Lookout Mountain.
But the jaw-dropping scenery you get at the City Lights Overlook and the Heart of the Mountain waterfall (which changes color every few seconds) are nothing to sneeze at either!
READ MORE: The 15 Best Christmas Towns in Georgia to Visit
5. Magic Forest
The Magic Forest is one of the simplest sections of these Lookout Mountain Christmas lights, but it’s also among the most high-tech.
There are essentially just two elements– a long tunnel of colorful lights known as the Magic Forest Gateway, and a series of enormous Christmas tree-shaped light displays, known as the Dancing Trees.
The largest of these is about 40 feet tall, with a portal that allows you to walk through it.
All of the lighted Christmas trees are synchronized to lively holiday tunes, with the brilliantly colored LED lights forming mesmerizing patterns in time with the music.
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6. North Pole Highway
The North Pole Highway is home to several fun activities, as well as a small Christmas Market where you can buy souvenirs, snacks, and beverages (including hot apple cider and hot cocoa).
Kids will love Storytime With Mrs. Claus, where they can get cozy by the fireplace while listening as she tells traditional Christmas stories.
They can indulge their artistic side by decorating Gingerbread Cookies with Mrs. Claus, with lots of decorating stations scattered around the market.
Families can also visit the area’s Christmas Critter Creche to see a moving Nativity presentation, complete with festive lights and music.
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7. North Pole Village
North Pole Village ranks right alongside Heart Of The Mountain as the most expansive realms to explore in the Rock City Christmas celebration.
This is where you can cross over two bridges (the Sky Bridge over High Falls and Stone Bridge) to reach stunning scenic overlooks like Lover’s Leap and the Seven States Flag Court.
From there you can see jaw-dropping views of the Chattanooga area, as well as neighboring states like Alabama and North Carolina.
There’s also a commercial area featuring Café 7 (which sells comfort food, craft brews, and holiday cocktails), Cliff Terrace (hot drinks, snacks, and souvenirs), and The Christmas Shoppe (personalized Christmas gifts).
In terms of the Rock City Christmas lights, this area is home to their massive Gingerbread House display, which is a great place to take some adorable family photos.
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8. Rock City Restaurants & Snacks
Rock City Gardens has numerous different restaurants and snack bars scattered throughout the property:
The Big Rock Grill is transformed into “Santa’s Kitchen” during the Enchanted Garden of Lights event. They serve up a short order menu of burgers, soups, and sandwiches, with indoor and outdoor seating available.
Located at Lover’s Leap, Café 7 offers classic Appalachian fare (BBQ pork, Pimento cheese, etc) with a modern twist. They also have gourmet coffee, cocoa, egg nog, and adult beverages.
Right next to Café 7, Cliff Terrace has more casual food such as hot dogs, pizza, funnel cakes, and other tasty treats. Both restaurants offer limited indoor seating, and plenty of outdoor seating with breathtaking views.
For light bites and sweet treats, there’s the Fudge Kitchen in Downtown Yule Town, and a Starbucks Coffee located just across from the Rock City entrance.
READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains
9. Rock City Christmas Shopping
If you’re looking to do a little Christmas shopping during your visit to Lookout Mountain, Rock City Gardens has lots of different options.
Cornerstone Gifts, which is located next to Starbucks, is a cute little gift shop with the famous “See Rock City” bird houses and other classic souvenirs.
The Garden’s Gateway Gift Shop has all that and much more, including all sorts of Rock City t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other collectibles.
The Christmas Market is a great place to get toys and festive Christmas decorations, and we loved the Woodland Wonders shop for its gnomes, garden gifts, and Christmas ornaments.
There’s also an outdoor Holiday Marketplace next to Fairyland Caverns, with hours that vary nightly.
READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains
10. Yule Town
Departing from the Garden’s Gateway Gift Shop, Yule Town is one of the longer trails at the Enchanted Garden of Lights.
It leads you down the Grand Corridor, past the Nativity Scene, and into a cool geological formation known as the Needle’s Eye, which is illuminated with brilliant colors and glowing orbs of light.
From there you’ll see the Christmas light displays of Toy Land and the Snowman Frontier, which features Villa Aviana, artist Jack Denton’s take on the classic “See Rock City” barn-style bird house.
Then you’ll pass by Santa’s Soldiers and an American flag made out of Christmas lights before making your way back to the garden’s main walkway. –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett