Merry and bright: 6 festive holiday light exhibits in metro Atlanta

Merry and bright: 6 festive holiday light exhibits in metro Atlanta

Fewer things evoke holiday cheer like a good light display. Even recent research suggests these festive decorations can be mood-enhancing—so lighten up. Enjoying holiday light displays doesn’t have to break the budget. There are inexpensive, less exhaustive options to partake in the fun. Atlantans can find numerous light displays around the metro (accumulating well beyond 10 million lights), and these six festive displays are shining examples of the joy the season brings.

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Botanical Garden transforms into a winter wonderland again for their Garden Lights, Holiday Nights seasonal program. Touted as the world’s largest curtain of lights, the Nature’s Wonders display is comprised of more than 70,000 color-changing LED bulbs, which hang from the treetops of the garden’s famed Storza Woods. The dazzling light display is synced to music for a multisensory experience. Guests are invited to delight more senses; grab a hot cocoa or warm cider and stroll through the twinkling forest via their 40-foot high canopy bridge. More thrills continue in the gardens with illuminated Alice in Wonderland sculptures and a white light tunnel, which leads to the fireside Skylights Lounge.

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Here, guests can enjoy a cash bar and deejay. But among the millions of lights displayed throughout the grounds, don’t leave without heading to the garden’s great lawn for another popular Instagram-worthy moment. At the Orchestral Orbs exhibit, giant ornaments flash to a whimsical musical sequence—all while the city lights of Atlanta’s skyline glimmer in the background.

Nightly from 5-11 p.m. Through Jan. 11. Prices starting at $16.95. 1345 Piedmont Ave. 404-876-5859, atlantabg.org.

Stone Mountain Christmas

With more than 2 million LED lights on display throughout the Stone Mountain Park, you can definitely expect to be dazzled. The park’s town center seemingly exudes merriment as colorful lights adorn buildings and trees, and the smell of hot chocolate, cinnamon bread and cookies waft into the air. In addition to the nightly fireworks and tree lighting ceremony of the park’s 275-foot tree, Stone Mountain Christmas guests can also watch the evening’s Snow Angel parade, which includes new parade floats this year. Also, don’t miss the Sing-A-Long Christmas Train—a Stone Mountain favorite that takes guests on a short roundtrip journey through the park woods to see more light displays and even a short theatrical production all while blasting classic Christmas tunes. But don’t just get caught up in the light displays because they’re not the only thing that shines in the park. For its 12th season, Snow Mountain makes its triumphant snow-filled return with a new attraction on the snow tubing course. With a separate ticket or combo pass, guests can play in this snowy playground and tube down 400-foot hills, including the new Dare Devil Plunge track, where true thrill chasers can reach top speeds through a 150-foot tunnel of lights.

Select dates through Jan. 5. Prices starting at $29.95 for children and $31.95 for adults. 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd. Stone Mountain. 770-498-5690, stonemountainpark.com. (Hours vary, so check its website for program hours.)

Magical Nights of Lights at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

For nearly three decades, Lake Lanier’s drive-through light show has been a time-honored Georgia tradition. This year’s seven-mile Magical Nights of Lights drive will include long-time favorites, such as The Twelve Days of Christmas and Tunnel of Light displays, in addition to newer light displays. But the merry vibes don’t stop there; guests are welcomed to explore Margaritaville’s License to Chill Snow Island. Decked with more holiday lighting, this winter carnival experience features family-friendly rides, an ice skating rink, inflatables, photo opportunities with Santa, holiday-themed concessions and snow tubing (additional costs apply). And for another flash of excitement, the property proudly boasts that their Parrot Mountain snow tubing slide (which, at 575 feet, nearly spans the length of two football fields) is one of the fastest snow rides in North America.

Nightly from 5-10 p.m. Through Jan. 5. Prices starting at $42 per vehicle. Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, 7650 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford. 678-304-3120, lanierislands.com/margaritaville (License to Chill Snow Island is free to visit before the opening of Magical Nights of Lights at 5 p.m.; Magical Nights admission is required for access to Snow Island after 5 p.m.).

Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s International Winter Wonderland

For a unique light display a world away from the traditional American holiday scene, check out the Chinese Lantern Festival, which returns to Centennial Olympic Park for its second year (it’s first since 2016). Find more than 25 artisan-crafted lanterns, which depict this year’s “Into the Wild” theme—a symbolic tribute to the importance of animal protection. As a new feature in the 2019 festival, guests can also interact with touch-responsive lanterns. Also, find vendors displaying authentic handcrafted Chinese wares, arts and concessions, including edible sugar dragons. Plus, the festival features nightly entertainment in the form of Chinese acrobats, dancers and other performances. And while you’re in Centennial park, don’t miss the free-admission Atlanta Christkindl Market. With all its Bavarian charm and brightly-lit splendor, this German-inspired holiday market will showcase a multitude of vendors, authentic holiday foods and beverages and cultural crafts and activities for kids.

For Chinese Lantern Festival: 6-10 p.m. (open until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays). Through Jan. 5. Prices starting at $14 for children and $18 for adults. Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta. 404-223-4000, gwcca.org/copholiday. (Hours and dates vary for Christkindl Market, so check its website for market hours.)

Holiday at the Park at Six Flags Over Georgia

While the epic coasters can be quite literally breathtaking, Six Flags will showcase some breathtakingly beautiful light displays, too, for their sixth annual Holiday at the Park program. Starting at the entrance, park goers will immediately experience the heavily adorned Main Street, where an overhead canopy of lights, 25-foot Christmas tree and decorated storefronts are swathed in more than 165,000 lights. Other stunning light collections await deeper into the park, such as the park’s first-ever steampunk Christmas display near the new Pandemonium ride. Here, find a forest of metal trees and a wintery mist. Other popular light displays include Peppermint Plaza (where thousands of white and red lights mingle with fragrant minty air); the Riverview Carousel (which is decked out with more than 90,000 lights and 1,000 feet of garland); and the light tunnel (a sound-synced light show that plays every 15 minutes). And, of course, in true theme-park fashion, you’ll have the opportunity to complement the experience with treats like holiday-inspired funnel cakes, s’mores stations, sugar-spiced nuts, chocolate-peppermint pretzels and more.

Select dates through Jan. 5. Prices starting at $43.19. Six Flags Over Georgia, 275 Riverside Parkway SW, Austell. 770-739-3400, sixflags.com/overgeorgia. (Hours vary, so check its website for park hours.)

Callaway Resort & Gardens Fantasy in Lights

Head south to Pine Mountain—just a little bit over an hour’s drive from the metro—for an experience named one of National Geographic’s top 10 light displays in the world. Visitors will find more than 8 million lights on display; that’s roughly 725 miles worth of string lights. Callaway guests are given the option to drive their own vehicles through the light show exhibit or peruse aboard the Jolly Trolley. In its 28th season, fans who grew up with Callaway’s Fantasy in Lights will find plenty of nostalgic moments along the drive, including their colorful Christmas Tree lane and the FIL the Frog display. As a new addition for 2019, Callaway guests are also invited to frolic in Santa’s North Pole Children’s Play Village, where there will be inflatables, crafts and s’mores stations. With ticketed entry to the Lights, guests are also given day admission to Callaway Gardens. To make it a complete family outing and make the most out of the journey, arrive early to watch their “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dinner show.

Starting nightly at 6 p.m. (Closing hours flex daily.) Through Jan. 4. Prices starting at $10.50 for children and $21 for adults. 17800 U.S. 27, Pine Mountain. 844-512-3826, callawaygardens.com.