2021 Atlanta Christmas Events: 50 Things to Do in Georgia

Atlanta Botanical Gardens Christmas Orchestral Orbs Orange

[Updated November 12, 2021]

Everyone knows that we’re passionate about ecotourism and nature conservation. But unless you’re a long-time reader, you might not know that our family is equally wild about spending Christmas in Georgia.

From mid-November right up through Christmas Eve, we make a point of attending as many different Atlanta Christmas events as we possibly can. We won’t even travel in the weeks before the holidays, just to make sure we have ample quality time to celebrate the season!

These 2021 Christmas events will be especially special for us, as my daughter will be coming home for the holidays from college.

Fortunately, her budding independence seems to be making her nostalgic for her childhood, and reliving those holiday memories she holds most dear.

What follows is a list of our favorite Christmas things to do in Atlanta in December, from concerts and theatrical performances to Christmas light displays, fundraising parties, and parades.

READ MORE: 40 Fun Facts about Thanksgiving Around the World

Atlanta Christmas Events (by Activity)

  1. Christmas Lights in Atlanta
  2. Christmas Events for Kids in Atlanta
  3. Christmas Shows in Atlanta
  4. Atlanta Christmas Concerts
  5. Atlanta Charity Events for Christmas
  6. Unique Christmas Things to do in Atlanta
  7. Georgia Christmas Day Trips

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN ATLANTA

Atlanta Christmas Happenings -Callaway Gardens Fantasy In Lights
Callaway Gardens Fantasy In Lights

1. FANTASY IN LIGHTS

(Callaway Gardens, Nov 19-Jan 3)

Rated by National Geographic as one of the Top 10 Christmas Light Displays in the World, Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy In Lights is truly a wondrous sight to behold.

The centerpiece is a drive through 2,500 dazzling acres lined with 8 million holiday lights, divided thematically into 16 sections that include “Snowflake Valley” and “Magical Christmas Garden,” with festive Christmas music playing throughout. This year, you can look forward to driving through the all-new Tunnel of Lights which surrounds you with a colorful explosion of dancing lights.

Also new this year is the Callaway Christmas Village where you can explore a Winter Wonderland to see a forest full of twinkling lights, huge snowflakes, and massive nutcrackers! Then you can take a stroll down Christmas Tree Lane to see a forest filled with incredibly decorated Christmas Trees!

If you are wanting to spend the night, you can stay in a Cottage, Villa, or at The Lodge & Spa where you can get special packages starting with added benefits like a shuttle service to the Christmas Village and daily Gardens admission.

READ MORE: 20 Symbols of Christmas: History & Meaning of Christmas Decorations

Atlanta Christmas Lights - Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Atlanta Botanical Gardens – Lady at the Lake

2. GARDEN NIGHTS, HOLIDAY LIGHTS

(Atlanta Botanical Garden, Nov 13-Jan 15)

This annual celebration of the season brightens the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s 30 acres with millions of colorful low energy-consuming LED lights.

All of the garden’s pathways will be lit up, with stars shining down from the canopies of hardwood trees, teal and blue lights illuminating a stretch of crepe myrtles, and a 27-foot-tall tree next to a fountain that reflects the twinkling lights in enchanting patterns.

The Atlanta Botanical Garden has some of our favorite Atlanta Christmas Lights including the Ice Goddess; the Tunnel of Light; and the glowing Orchestral Orbs, which dance with color and light to the sounds of festive holiday tunes.

New music and motion will be featured in the Nature’s Wonders display, the largest curtain of synchronized lights, which showcases our planet’s natural phenomena through countless strands of dancing Christmas lights choreographed to music and sound effects strung high over Storza Woods.

READ MORE: 30 Recycled Christmas Decorations & Homemade Gifts Anyone Can Make

IllumiNights at Zoo Atlanta
Photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

3. ILLUMINIGHTS

(Zoo Atlanta Nov 16-Jan 16)

Celebrating the beauty of the natural world, IllumiNights at Zoo Atlanta is a Chinese Lantern Festival featuring over 80 lanterns that depict some of the world’s most spectacular creatures.

Each lantern (some of which reach up to 20 feet tall) are made and hand-painted by Chinese artisans and feature environmentally-friendly LED lights that bring the lanterns to life.

To experience the gorgeous display, there is a wheelchair-friendly route you can walk through that takes about an hour to complete. There will also be gift shops and food and beverage locations open as well as the Endangered Species Carousel. 

READ MORE: Countries that Do Not Celebrate Christmas

Macy's Tree Lighting Atlanta
Macy’s Tree Lighting, photo courtesy of Macy’s

4. LIGHTING OF MACY’S GREAT TREE

(Macy’s Lenox Square, TBD)

Though the name and location of the store have changed over the years, this annual celebration of the beginning of the Christmas season has otherwise been the same for over 70 years now.

It all began in 1948, when Rich’s department store put a large pine tree atop its flagship downtown Atlanta location, lighting it on Thanksgiving night. I have fond memories of performing there back in 1980, as a member of the Atlanta Boy Choir.

Though Rich’s and Macy’s merged in 2006, the annual Atlanta lighting of the Great Tree remains one of  the city’s most beloved and historic holiday traditions.

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate the New Year Around the World

Lakeside Lights Spectacular
Lakeside Lights Spectacular

5. LAKESIDE LIGHTS SPECTACULAR

(Lake Lanier Islands, Nov 12-Feb 27)

One of our favorite ways to celebrate Christmas in Georgia, this winter wonderland holds a special place in our hearts because it’s where Mary and I shared our first kiss on our second date!

Unfortunately, the original drive-through Christmas light display was retired after almost 30 years but thankfully was replaced with an extraordinary new display now called the Lakeside Lights Spectacular!

The Lakeside Lights Spectacular is a walk-through light show that features holiday music you can enjoy along with hot cocoa and cocktails which are available along the way.

Along with the sparkling lights, there will also be holiday games, carnival rides, and visits with Santa. 

READ MORE: 75 Christmas Traditions Around the World (with Fun Facts)

Atlanta Christmas Things to See-Stone Mountain Christmas Parade Santa
Stone Mountain Christmas Parade photo via Stone Mountain

6. STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS 

(Stone Mountain Park, Nov 13-Jan 2)

This annual celebration at Stone Mountain Park is one of our family’s favorite holiday traditions.

The Crossroads village will be lit up by 2 million lights, and the mountain’s famous carving is illuminated by a Christmas-themed laser show (hot chocolate and roasted marshmallows optional).

There will be sing-a-long Christmas train rides, a comedic rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a live musical performance by the Tinseltown Carolers, and storytelling with Mrs. Claus.

There are also nightly Christmas parades featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus and photo ops with a beautiful Snow Angel, Rudolph, and the Abominable Snow Monster costumed characters.

READ MORE: The History & Names of Santa Claus Around the World

 

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7. THE BATTERY ATLANTA TREE LIGHTING

(Battery Atlanta, Nov 27)

One of the newer ways to celebrate Christmas in Georgia, this annual holiday event takes place at The Battery Atlanta, the 1.5 million square foot mixed-use development adjacent to SunTrust Park.

Back for its fifth year, the event takes place from 5:30 to 7PM and will kick off with a performance by The Block Party on the Georgia Power Pavilion Stage. Next, you can help track down Santa with Mark Ownes & Blooper as he gets closer to the lighting of the tree which occurs at 7PM.

After the lighting, visitors are invited to stay and enjoy an outdoor showing of “Abominable” on the Georgia Power Pavilion screen. 

READ MORE: Real Christmas Trees vs Fake Christmas Trees: Which is Better?

Atlantic Station Tree Lighting
Photo courtesy of Atlantic Station Holiday

8. LIGHT THE STATION

(Atlantic Station, Nov 20)

On November 20 Atlantic Station will be lighting their 50-foot tree on the Atlantic green for the first time of the season! Along with the lighting of the tree, the event will feature an incredible fireworks display and even Santa sightings.

If you can’t make it to the station or just want to enjoy the event from the comfort of your home, you can tune into 11Alive at 7PM where they will be telecasting the event!

READ MORE: 125+ Best Gifts for Travelers

Christmas Lights in Atlanta- Six Flags
Photo via Six Flags Over Georgia

9. HOLIDAY IN THE PARK

(Six Flags Over Georgia, Select Days: Nov 20-Jan 2)

Holiday in the Park at Six Flags is back for the 7th year in a row.

Santa will welcome guests coming to see all of the thrilling rides decked out in Christmas decor, tons of different holiday-themed sections, and more than one million twinkling LED lights.

There will also be photo opportunities with Santa and captivating live shows like Bad Bob Humbug, Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, Retro Christmas Live, and the Elf Sock Hop where you can dance around the Christmas tree with Santa’s Dancing Elves!

New for the 2021 season is the Holiday Light Spectacular where you can watch the Christmas tree come to life with an awesome animated light experience and Holiday Traditions Around The World where you can hop on the Holiday Express and learn how cultures around the world celebrate the season. 

READ MORE: The 25 Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

Christmas Lights in Atlanta -Lights of Life
Photo by Paul S.

10. LIGHTS OF LIFE

(Life University, Marietta Nov 25- Dec 31)

One of Atlanta’s oldest and most underrated Christmas light displays, Lights of Life nevertheless draws huge local crowds thanks largely to word-of-mouth.

At just $10 for cars/trucks, it is a bargain for an expansive display that includes over 100 pieces (including a 65-foot Santa/sleigh display, the tallest in the Southeast) on the 1.5 mile drive through the college’s campus.

There is also a petting zoo, pony rides, train rides. and opportunities to have your photo taken with Santa for additional fees.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Spend Christmas in the USA

Holiday Lights of Hope
Photo courtesy of Holiday Lights of Hope

11. HOLIDAY LIGHTS OF HOPE

(Hobgood Park, Woodstock Dec 2-23)

The Holiday Lights of Hope is HUGE, with more than two million twinkling lights, traditional and animated displays, and a mile-long Christmas maze!

Enjoy roasting S’mores over a roaring bonfire, and getting pictures taken with Santa. Grown-ups can enjoy shopping at the General Store, strolling down Main Street, and listening to Christmas carolers. Lights in Hobgood Park are walk-through, and the Veterans Park lights are drive-through.

Best of all, your $10 adult ticket (free for children 14 and under) for Hobgood Park benefits the Anna Crawford Children’s Center.

READ MORE: 15 Simple Recycled Christmas Cards Crafts for Kids

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Santa and Reindeer via VisitCartersvilleGA.org and Pettit Creek Farms

12. A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS

(Cartersville, Nov 25- Dec 30)

If you’re looking for some true Southern charm mixed in with your Christmas spirit, you’re not going to want to miss all the festivities at Pettit Creek Farms.

There is more than a mile of beautiful Christmas lights to experience either in a car for $30 or a hayride for $10 per person.

Both choices will include a visit to the petting zoo where you can meet two of the farm’s live reindeer, Comet and Cupid. Also, there will be a full live nativity on November 12.

Make sure to stop by the concession stands and treat yourself to s’mores, hot cocoa, warm cider, funnel cakes, and other delicious treats you can enjoy while warming up by the fire.

You can also take a piece of the fun back with you by picking out the perfect fresh-cut tree to fill your home with Christmas joy.

 

ATL Holiday Lights
ATL Holiday Lights courtesy of Atlantic Station Holiday

13. ATL HOLIDAY LIGHTS

(Atlantic Station, Nov 11-Jan 2)

ATL Holiday Lights returns and is bringing more lights and more fun than ever before!

There will be hand-crafted displays from some of your favorite holiday movies, a mini neighborhood showcasing local establishments, and plenty of opportunities to spread holiday cheer.

To see the lights, you can drive through on value nights (Sunday – Thursday) for $25 per car in advance or $30 at the gate. On peak nights (Friday – Saturday) the cost is $35 per car in advance or $40 at the gate.

If you visit on Thursday, you can walk through for just $15 per adult in advance or $20 at the gate, and kids 15 and under can enter for free!

As an added bonus, after driving or walking through the beautiful lights, you can stop across the street at the ice skating rink if you want some hot cocoa and snacks (available for purchase)!

Holiday Road
Photo courtesy of Holiday Road Atlanta

14. HOLIDAY ROAD

(The Horse Mansion @ Bouckaert Farm in Fairburn, GA, Nov 26 – Jan 2)

Celebrate the season at Holiday Road with an immersive walking trail filled with dazzling lights and delightful displays that are sure you put you in the holiday spirit.

Located at the Horse Mansion at Bouckaert Farm, the event opens at 5PM and closes at 11PM with designated time slots for the walkthrough starting at 6PM and ending at 9:30PM.

Before or after enjoying the trail, you can visit some of the best food trucks in the area to get a delicious meal or visit the Holiday Bar to pick up a savory cocktail, glass of wine, or beer.

Be sure to stop by Holiday Road’s souvenir shop before you leave to pick out a keepsake to bring home for the holidays!

CHRISTMAS EVENTS FOR KIDS IN ATLANTA

Atlanta Christmas Parade by Children's Healthcare
Children’s Atlanta Christmas Parade

15. THE LIGHTING AT COLONY SQUARE

(Colony Square, Dec 4)

While the annual Children’s Holiday Parade won’t be happening this year, in its place is a new Christmas tradition that’s a full day of fun for the entire family.

The Lighting at Colony Square is packed with activities all the way from 10AM to 6:30PM starting with highlights from the parade like bands and dance groups who will wow you with a 20-minute Street Extravaganza performance on Peachtree Street and the Main Stage at Colony Square. 

There will be Carolers from Alliance Theatre’s A Christmas Carol strolling throughout the event so you can listen to their tunes as you explore the Festivity Loop and enjoy activities like face painting, balloon artists, live reindeer, and more!

You can also hit the ice rink and enjoy a live DJ as they spin holiday beats and watch in awe as Jack Frost takes center stage to perform a professional ice skating performance at the top of every hour. 

Santa will be visiting for photo opportunities in his giant chair so be sure to double-check that you’ve made the nice list!

The final event of the night takes place from 5:30PM to 6:30PM with the tree lighting show. It will feature musical performances by the Atlanta Music Project Choice, featured soloist Angelica Hale from “America’s Got Talent,” a special appearance by Santa, and more before a special Honorary Tree Lighter from Children’s will light the magnificent Christmas tree. 

READ MORE: Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Photo Gallery)

Season of Celebration in Alpharetta, Georgia
Photo courtesy of the Alpharetta Convention & Visitors Bureau

16. HOLIDAY HAPPENINGS IN ALPHARETTA

(Alpharetta, GA, Nov 21-Dec 31)

When the holidays roll around the city of Alpharetta is packed with different events where you can gather with friends and family to enjoy the season.

The festivities kick off on November 21 with the Lighting of the Avalon which will feature holiday performances and entertainment, plenty of activities, the official opening of the ice skating rink, and even a magical visit by Santa. 

The first three Fridays in December, Alpharetta will also be hosting the Season of Celebration which starts with the annual tree lighting downtown on December 3. Each week the activities will vary from things like falling snow and photos with Santa to carolers and photo opportunities with life-sized Nutcrackers.

There will also be the Jolly Jingle Jam for parents and kids (December 10), the Arts Alpharetta Artists Holiday Market at the Alpharetta Arts Center (December 3-4), a Grinchmas Party at the Alpharetta Community Center (December 11), and showings of White Christmas: The Musical at the ACT1 Theatre (December 3-5, 10-12, & 17-19).

READ MORE: Top 5 Autumn Activities Around Atlanta

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Center for Puppetry Arts
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer photo courtesy of Center for Puppetry Arts

17. RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

(Center For Puppetry Arts, Nov 10-Jan 2: no shows 11/25 & 12/25)

Based on the beloved 1964 stop-motion animated special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer returns to the stage this year at the Center For Puppetry Arts.

The story follows Rudolph and his friends Hermey the Elf and Yukon Cornelius as they face the Abominable Snow Monster and the fear of not fitting in. 

Through their displays of bravery and discovery that it’s okay to be just the way you are (plus the added bonus of incredible holiday music) this puppet show is sure to warm everyone in the audience’s hearts. 

Winter Wonderland Fernbank Museum
Winter Wonderland, photo courtesy of Fernbank Museum

18. WINTER WONDERLAND: Celebrations & Traditions Around the World  

(Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Nov 20-Jan 9)

Fernbank’s Winter Wonderland is one of the best Atlanta Christmas events for families and is bringing even more excitement this year.

The exhibition features more than 30 festive displays and trees decorated by a diverse array of cultural partners to reflect holiday traditions from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North America and South America.

When you step outdoors, the fun continues as themed giant snow globes up to seven feet tall will be on display as well as a giant sock skating rink.

Check the website for special holiday-themed activities such as performances, storytelling, scavenger hunts, and more. Admission to Winter Wonderland is included with Museum admission.

Christmas Events For Kids -Atlanta's Largest Gingerbread House
Atlanta’s Largest Gingerbread House via St Regis Hotel

19. ATLANTA’S LARGEST GINGERBREAD HOUSE 

(The St. Regis Atlanta, Nov-Dec)

In collaboration with Lucy’s Market and designer Suzanne Kasler, the Buckhead hotel will be decked out with holiday decor including a massive 206-square-foot gingerbread house.

While the gingerbread house itself is enough of a spectacle, there will also be lifesize nutcrackers, holiday window displays, and silver holiday trees all of which can be purchased by visitors!

The inside of the gingerbread house will also be filled with a variety of holiday goodies for sale like premium candies and chocolates, candles, barware, snow and music boxes, holiday linens, lacquer wreaths, and more.

The Gingerbread House pop-up will be open Sunday through Thursday from 11AM to 6PM and Friday’s and Saturday’s from 11AM to 8PM.

Other Christmas events at the St. Regis Atlanta include tea with Santa and a special Christmas Brunch with Santa on December 25.

READ MORE: Lebkuchen Recipe (German Christmas Cookies aka German Gingerbread)

Christmas Events for Children in Atlanta - Childrens Museum Atlanta

20. CELEBRATIONS IN LIGHTS

(Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Dec 1-Dec 31)

Celebrated in more than 160 countries around the world, Christmas ranks high among the planet’s most popular holidays. But it’s not the only major holiday observed in December. Kudos to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta for reminding kids of that fact.

All through the merriest month of the year, families will have a chance to experience Celebrations in Lights. The event explores numerous cultural holidays from around the world, with music, dancing, and crafts projects honoring Las Posadas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas.

The museum offers “Sockefeller Plaza”, a sock-skating rink built especially for little ones… meaning no skates required! There will also be a range of winter-themed science activities for kids to experience hands-on.

On December 31 the museum will close out the year with their New Year’s Bubble Bash, featuring a family-friendly DJ, dancing, party favors, and, of course, bubbles!

Georgia Aquarium Festival of the Season

21. FESTIVAL OF THE SEASON

(Georgia Aquarium, TBD)

The Georgia Aquarium’s annual Christmas event returns, transforming Atlanta’s favorite aquatic attraction into a winter wonderland designed to delight attendees of all ages.

Kicking off with the annual Wake Up Santa event, your help is needed to wake up Santa after his journey from the North Pole to Atlanta so the Festival of the SEAson can begin! 

Once Santa is awake, there will be plenty of interactive activities and events throughout the festival including Holidazzle (a dazzling light and music show), appearances by Santa and SCUBA Claus, a holiday edition of the aquarium live entertainment experience, and more! 

Christmas Events for Youth in Atlanta -Holiday Bricktacular

22. HOLIDAY BRICKTACULAR

(LEGOLAND Discovery Center, Dec 1-24)

Growing up in the 1970s-1980s, Christmas and LEGOs went together hand-in-hand. My 8-year-old inner child is jealous that today’s kids can celebrate the season at LEGOLAND Discovery Center, whose Holiday Bricktacular is a winter wonderland of creative construction possibilities.

The event kicks off Dec 1-2 with the annual Big Tree Build, led by the center’s Creative Crew. Guests can learn how to create LEGO holiday trees of their own, participate in Holiday Build Challenges, and snap selfies with Rudolph (his nose even glows).

The winter takeover of MINILAND happens every weekend in December. There’s also a scavenger hunt game, so keep your eyes peeled for mischievous elves, Santa’s workshop, wreaths, and more!

Kids Christmas Party in Atlanta -Children's Holiday Party
Children’s Holiday Party

23. CHILDREN’S HOLIDAY BRUNCH

(Southern Art @ InterContinental Buckhead Hotel, TBD)

Helmed by world-renowned chef Art Smith (a.k.a. Oprah’s personal chef until 2007), Southern Art ranks among our favorite restaurants in Atlanta.

But on December 6 it will be completely transformed with wintry decor (snow included!) in order to welcome Santa Claus and his reindeer for their annual Children’s Holiday Brunch.

Of course, you don’t have to be a child in order to attend. Kids and grown-ups alike are invited to decorate Christmas cookies, drink at the hot chocolate bar, get their face painted, and take fab photos with St. Nick and his hoofed friends.

Fantastical Forest
Fantastical Forest photo credit Emily Butler Photography

24. Santa’s Fantastical

(Temporarily Closed for 2021)

While Santa’s Fantastical’s Indoor Experience is closed for 2021, there will be a virtual experience through their website where you can join Santa and his friends for some virtual holiday fun!

Check out the website for more information to come!

 

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Lifestyle Photography, LLC

25. Santa Express

(Blue Ridge, Nov 26-Dec 23)

Hop on the Santa Express and take a train ride with the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway while getting the chance to hear “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” sing along to Christmas songs, and visit with Santa and Mrs. Clause.

The Santa Express departs at 10 AM, 12 PM, 2 PM, or 4 PM dependent on the date and lasts for 1-hour.

While onboard, children will get a Blue Ridge Scenic Railway jingle bell, candy cane, and activity packet. Guests can also visit the concession car to purchase delicious hot chocolate or choose from an assortment of other snacks.

This fun holiday ride is not something you are going to want to miss and is sure to bring out holiday cheer in all those aboard!

CHRISTMAS SHOWS IN ATLANTA

Christmas Black Nativity Play
Black Nativity Atlanta

26. BLACK NATIVITY

(Georgia Tech, Dec 2-5, 9-12, & 16-19)

Written by the legendary poet Langston Hughes, Black Nativity is a potent retelling of the most famous Bible story from an African-American perspective.

The play was originally performed Off-Broadway in 1961, and was one of the first productions written by a black playwright ever to be staged there.

The Christmas Play in Atlanta features an African-American cast, gospel-style music (the opening number is the classic spiritual “Go Tell It On The Mountain”), and a Mary and Joseph who never actually speak.

This one-act version takes the audience on a journey from a traditional black church to an Africanized Jerusalem, with African-influenced drums and dancing sprinkled throughout.  It’s a soulful, stirring take on the oldest of all Christmas stories.

Christmas Comedy Show in Atlanta - Dad Garage Christmas Invasion

27. INVASION: CHRISTMAS CAROL

(Dad’s Garage Theatre, Select Dates Dec 3-Dec 29)

Charles Dickens’ timeless Christmas classic gets a major makeover in this irreverent production from the comedy masterminds of Dad’s Garage, which was recently voted Best Play in Creative Loafing’s annual readers poll.

Director Amber Nash portrays a darker version of the usually cheerful tale providing the audience with a more realistic take on what people living in London in the 1800s would really be like.

The show is performed with a unique mixture of scripted drama and hilarious improv. The main cast rehearses the traditional script and portrays classic characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim.

But each night they’ll be visited by different ghosts (which have, in the past, ranged from The Incredible Hulk and Ted Nugent to a T Rex), all of which are a complete surprise to the cast.

Regardless of who shows up, one thing’s for sure: You’ll never again view this hoary holiday chestnut in quite the same way!

Shakespeare Tavern Christmas Carol
Drew Reeves as Scrooge at the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse

28. CHARLES DICKENS’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL 

(The Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse, Dec 4-23)

Though it may not be the biggest production of the Charles Dickens classic in Atlanta this Christmas, for over 20-years the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s A Christmas Carol has been a tradition that deserves more attention.

For one, the Shakespeare Tavern is one of the few places in Atlanta where you can still enjoy “dinner and a show.” Seating begins at 6:15 PM most nights, and at 5:15 PM on Sundays, with food and drinks available for purchase until 10 minutes before the show starts and desserts and drinks available at intermission.

For matinee performances on Dec 11, 18, 21, and 23,  a lunch menu will be available starting at 12:45 PM.

They’re also offering a special sensory-friendly matinee for people with autism spectrum disorder on Dec 4, with lowered sound levels, no blackouts, room to move around the theatre, and a separate “quiet room” available for those who need it.

Madeline's Christmas
image via https://www.horizontheatre.com

29. MADELINE’S CHRISTMAS

(Closed 2021; will return Dec 2022)

“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” Thus begins the story of Madeline, a young girl at a Catholic boarding school.

Now in its 12th year, this musical adaption of Ludwig Bemelmans’ children’s book is a magical Christmas classic.

The story finds young Madeline and her friends taking a morning walk with their teacher, Miss Clavel. When the girls wind up confined to their beds after coming down with the flu, they worry whether or not they’ll be able to travel home in time for Christmas.

But thanks to a mysterious stranger, they wind up having a holiday adventure they’ll never forget.

Produced in collaboration with The Atlanta Children’s Theatre Company, the show features 24 local girls performing alongside professional actors. The result is a charming Christmas treat sure to be enjoyed by kids of all ages.

READ MORE: NYC Christmas Window Displays: A Free Walking Tour in New York

Christmas Events in Atlanta -Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker
Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker, photo courtesy of Atlanta Ballet

30. ATLANTA BALLET’S NUTCRACKER 

(Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, Select Dates Dec 4-29)

The Atlanta Ballet’s annual production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece played by a live orchestra has been an integral part of the city’s holiday season for over 40+ years now.

The show tells the timeless tale of young Clara Stahlbaum, who awakes at midnight on Christmas Eve to find her prized Nutcracker toy has come to life to do battle with the Mouse King’s army.

Along with the incredible dancers, throughout the production, you can enjoy dazzling sets, costumes, and innovative projections created by a creative team including Tony Award-winning and -nominated designers. 

From dancing snowflakes to lively Russian nesting dolls, the extravagant production is sure to prove a hit with youthful spirits ages 8 to 80.

A Christmas Carol - Alliance Theatre
Image via Alliance Theatre

31. A CHRISTMAS CAROL

(Alliance Theatre Coca-Cola Stage, Nov 12-Dec 24)

The Alliance’s production of Dickens’ timeless classic features Broadway-style stage design, beloved Christmas carols, and some of Atlanta’s finest thespians.

The beloved production will feature an exciting new adaption this year complete with spectacular new costumes, beautiful live music, and reimagined set designs while still offering the story we all know and love. 

With an all-Atlanta cast and beautiful live music, this Broadway-scale production remains an impressive rendering of this perennial holiday favorite.

Audience members ages 12 and older will be required to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test before entry.

Christmas Shows in Atlanta- Urban Nutcracker
via Ballethnic Dance Company

32. BALLETHNIC’S URBAN NUTCRACKER

(The Legacy Theatre, Dec 18)

Originally adapted in 1892, with music by classical music titan Pyotr Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker is arguably the most popular Christmas production this side of Charles Dickens. For most people, it’s probably the only ballet they’ve ever seen.

The Urban Nutcracker puts an African-American twist on the timeless tale. Rather than 19th century Russia, the story is set in the 1940s on Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Avenue.

There, the smooth Chocolatier sweeps a young lady off her feet and away to a wonderland filled with leaping Reggae Rag Dolls and a spinning Black Russian.

The Ballethnic production features a mixture of professional dancers and urban minority youth. With music adapted to modern-day sensibilities, it’s a hip, happening take on the familiar holiday chestnut.

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Musical

33. The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Musical

(Fox Theatre, Dec 5)

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Musical is an original story following the life of one Elf and his journey in helping his new human family overcome personal loss and regain their Christmas joy.

Inspired by the box set The Elf on the Shelf®: A Christmas Tradition, the tale showcases the true power of the Christmas spirit and is sure to tug at the heartstrings of all those who are watching.

With dazzling dance numbers, eye-catching sets, and a festive score sure to have you humming along, this live musical is not a show you want to miss!

Due to COVID-19 Mills Entertainment will require all guests over the age of two to wear a face covering regardless of vaccination status. Any guest who is experiencing a fever or is not feeling well is encouraged to stay home and will be offered a flexible refund policy.

Christmas Tradition Show -The Strand

34. A CHRISTMAS TRADITION

(The Strand, Dec 10-12, 17-19, 22-23)

The song-and-dance revue might seem a bit old fashioned to today’s tech-obsessed Millennials, but it’s a storied theatrical tradition that pre-dates Vaudeville. Fortunately, this annual holiday show at Marietta’s Earl Stand Theatre keeps that tradition alive.

The family-friendly production features a little something for everyone, from Christmas classics to funky new favorites.

There are dramatic divas singing their you-know-whats off, the sort of high-energy dance numbers Broadway buffs live for, and elaborate sets and effects to give it all a dash of flashy pizzazz.

Is it groundbreaking? Well, maybe not. But originality is not the point.

This is a rare Christmas production that family members of all ages can sing, clap, and dance to. And hopefully everyone leaves with just a little more holiday spirit in their hearts.

Cirque de la Symphonie
photo via https://www.atlantasymphony.org/

35. Cirque de la Symphonie

(Atlanta Symphony Hall, TBD)

The Cirque de la Symphonie is sure to take your breath away showcasing some of the most impressive artists from around the world including aerial flyers, contortionists, acrobats, jugglers, strongmen, dancers and more.

This star-studded cast contains Olympians, world record holders, and gold-medal winners who are sure to keep you on your toes and marveling at their almost unbelievable physical performances.

Aiming to bring the magic of cirque to the music hall, the exciting performances are meticulously choreographed to match the musical arrangement performed live by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Promising to be a wow worthy performance, this is definitely one of the Christmas Shows in Atlanta you will want to check off your holiday bucket list!

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Photo by Tim Norris via http://hiphopnutcracker.com/

36. The Hip Hop Nutcracker

(Fox Theatre, Dec 14)

Putting a unique twist on the classical ballet, The Hip Hop Nutcracker showcases a contemporary style of dance performed by a cast of all-star dancers as well as Kurtis Blow who will be opening the show with a short set.

Like the original, it will be performed to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music and follow the story of Clara, a young girl who awakes to find her beloved Nutcracker has come to life to guide her through battling an army of mice, visiting the land of sweets and other adventures.

Part of what makes this version unique from the original is instead of the traditional 19th Century Germany setting the story transforms into contemporary New York City through innovative digital graffiti and visual graphics.

This re-mixed version is packed full of Holiday magic and is sure to impress even the most die-hard fans of the original as well as bringing a whole new crowd of people to the theater.

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Cast of Christmas Canteen 2018 photo credit Chris Bartelski

37.Christmas Canteen

(Grand Stage Theatre, Nov 26-Dec 23)

The Christmas Canteen is the longest-running theatrical holiday tradition in Gwinnett and this year it is set on the new 500-seat Grand Stage Theatre of the Lawrenceville Arts Center!

The show is directed and choreographed by Broadway veteran David Rossetti and will feature an exciting mix of comedy, tradition, and holiday melodies sure to have you in the Christmas Spirit.

Due to COVID-19 all people inside the building will be required to wear a mask at all times unless eating or drinking and anyone exhibiting any COVID related symptoms are asked to stay home. 

READ MORE: The Colors of Autumn in North Georgia’s Mountains

ATLANTA CHRISTMAS CONCERTS

Atlanta Christmas Events -Christmas With the ASO
Christmas With the ASO

38. CHRISTMAS WITH THE ASO 

(Atlanta Symphony Hall, Dec 9-11)

Robert Shaw was a titan in the classical world, winning 14 Grammys, 1991 Kennedy Center Honors, and the first Guggenheim Fellowship ever awarded to a conductor. “Christmas With The ASO” was the holiday-loving legend’s gift to Atlanta.

Conductor Norman Mackenzie will lead the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus through Shaw’s 4-part musical take on the story of Christmas. (Additional ensembles and special guests are being announced in the coming weeks).

If the sound of 400+ singers and musicians working in tandem doesn’t invigorate your holiday spirit, you may want to check your pulse.

The Atlanta Symphony Hall will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to the performance as well as a matching photo ID. As of November 1, this guideline excludes guests under 12. 

Christmas Concert in Atlanta -Georgia Boy Choir

39. CHRISTMAS WITH THE GEORGIA BOY CHOIR

(Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Buckhead, Dec 17)

One of my favorite Atlanta Christmas memories was performing holiday concerts with the Atlanta Boy Choir in the early ‘80s, under the direction of maestro Fletcher Wolfe.

The Georgia Boy Choir was founded in 2009 by David White, who led the ABC for 8 years after Wolfe’s retirement (he returned after White’s departure).

Their annual Christmas concert in Atlanta features all five levels of the choir, accompanied by a full orchestra and the Peachtree Road UMC’s Mighty Mander Organ.

The performance will include a lively mixture of sacred classics, beloved Christmas carols, and modern holiday favorites. For me, it’s sure to bring back memories of my time in one of the world’s most respected choirs.

READ MORE: How I fell in Love with Travel (& Got Blessed by the Pope with the Atlanta Boy Choir)

 

Christmas Coral Concert in Atlanta -Coro Vocati

40. CORO VOCATI

(All Saints Episcopal Church, Dec 11; St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church, Dec 12)

Directed by John Dickson, the professor of Choral Music at the Louisiana State University School of Music, Coro Vocati is a group of professional singers based in Atlanta.

Many of their members work as music directors or conductors at local schools and churches, and several also sing with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus and Chamber Chorus. In short, these are some of the city’s most elite performers of classical choral music.

Their annual Atlanta Christmas concert titled “A Season of Carols” has become a perennial holiday favorite. You can expect a repertoire steeped in classical choral artistry, with beloved Christmas carols and perhaps even a popular favorite or two thrown in for festive fun.

 

Atlanta Events for Christmas - Handel's Messiah
Image by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto from Pixabay

41. HANDEL’S MESSIAH

(Atlanta Symphony Hall, Dec 17-18)

The musical masterpiece Handel’s Messiah is back to tell the classic Christmas story in its own unique and joyous way nearly 300 years after it was written.

Featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus performing pieces such as the iconic “Hallelujah Chorus” and works by Mozart and George Frideric Handel you’re sure to be mesmerized by the sheer musical talent of those performing.

There will only be two shows, one on Dec 17th and another on Dec 18th so be sure to get your tickets soon!

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Yacht Rock Revue

42. YACHT ROCK REVUE HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR

(Coca-Cola Roxy, Dec 18)

Take a trip down memory lane in this holiday themed rock concert featuring iconic songs from the late 70’s and early ’80s along with a few Holiday classics.

The performers, Yacht Rock Revue, are a cover band that formed here in Atlanta, Georgia and have gone on to win accolades such as “Best Overall Music Act in Atlanta” and have been featured in the New York Times, MTV.com and the Wall Street Journal.

A concert for all ages, this holiday event is sure to have you on your feet!

ATLANTA CHARITY EVENTS FOR CHRISTMAS

Free Christmas Events in Atlanta -Festival of Trees

43. GEORGIA FESTIVAL OF TREES

(Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta GA, Nov 30-Dec 4)

This five-day volunteer-driven event features a spectacular forest of holiday trees, seasonal shopping, local treat vendors, and more. Best of all, it’s for a great cause. 

The Georgia Festival of Trees is working in partnership with Wellspring Living with all proceeds from the event going to the organization to support their mission of helping those who are at risk or victimized by sexual exploitation. 

Tickets for the opening night (November 30) will include admission to the venue, live entertainment, one free drink ticket, one ticket for the Raffle Christmas tree, and auction access where you can view over 300 trees, wreaths, centerpieces, and nativities being sold. 

General admission tickets (December 1-4) include access to the festival for one day where you can see the trees, enjoy live entertainment, local food, shopping, children’s games and crafts, and even visits with Santa himself.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Environmental Charities & Animal Charities for Holiday Donations

UNIQUE CHRISTMAS THINGS TO DO IN ATLANTA

Christkindl Market in Helen
Photo courtesy Alpine Helen/White County Convention & Visitors Bureau

44. CHRISTKINDLMARKT TRADITIONAL GERMAN MARKET

(Helen Marketplatz, Nov 27-28 & Dec 4-5)

Be sure to check out the 14th annual Christkindlmarkt Traditional German Market on the Helen Marketplatz. Open from 10AM to 6PM the festive Christmas market is a celebration of German culture and dates back to the late Middle Ages.

In an effort to rid Christmas of all Catholic Customs (including the German Santa Clause) during the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther introduced das Christkindl, an angelic child who gave gifts to good children. Eventually, that figure was replaced by Father Christmas and then evolved into Kris Kringle.

Keeping this history alive, at the Christmas market you’ll hear traditional singing and find dancing, food, drink, and seasonal items in open-air booths.

Santa & Mrs. Claus at the Governor's Mansion
Santa & Mrs. Claus at the Governor’s Mansion

45. GOVERNOR’S MANSION TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY & TOURS

(Georgia Governor’s Mansion, TBD)

One of my favorite memories of Atlanta at Christmas time is 1980, when I was a touring member of the Atlanta Boy Choir. We performed at the Great Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Governor’s Mansion Tree Lighting Ceremony (George Busbee was in office then), then had a sold-out run performing with the Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and ASO Chorus.

Less well-known and more intimate than most Christmas events in Atlanta, this annual tree lighting ceremony will find Governor Brian Kemp opening the doors of the Greek revival-style Bulkhead mansion to visitors.

The event will include festive music, tasty treats, and “The People’s House” all decked out for the Atlanta holidays.

The mansion also offers Christmas Tours, and all parking and admissions are free. But they do encourage visitors to bring new unwrapped Toys for Tots, and they have drop boxes located at the front entrance.

Christmas Home Tours -Marietta Pilgrimage Christmas Home Tour

46. MARIETTA PILGRIMAGE CHRISTMAS HOME TOUR

(Whitlock Avenue District, Dec 4-5)

For those seeking decidedly more sedate and refined holiday pleasures, there’s the 35th annual Marietta Pilgrimage Christmas Home Tour.

Featured in Southern Living and named a Top 100 Event in North America, this tour features historic homes located in the Kennesaw Avenue Local Historic District.

Organized by the Marietta Welcome Center and Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society, the tours are a great way to get a taste of the city’s famed historic district.

Naughty or Nice Holiday Tea at the Ritz Carlton

47. NAUGHTY OR NICE HOLIDAY TEA 

(Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, Nov 27 & Dec 3, 10 & 17)

Offering a more titillating twist on the holiday tea concept, the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta gives its guests a chance to choose which of Santa’s lists they prefer to be on.

For kids (and adults who want to keep it PG), the Nice Tea features seasonally appropriate teas and apple cider for sipping, served with traditional afternoon tea fare such as Egg Salad, tea cookies, and warm scones.

For adults who prefer a more indulgent menu, the Naughty Tea offers Perrier-Jouët, strawberries marinated in Grand Marnier and whipped cream. 

The hotel’s Lumen Lobby Bar offers a posh setting for the event. But the luxe experience doesn’t come cheap: Adults pay $50 for the Nice Tea, and $70 for the Naughty.

Christmas Events outside Atlanta -Marietta Square Winter Wonderland
Marietta Christmas Tree Lighting via Marietta Calendar

48. MARIETTA SQUARE WINTER WONDERLAND

(Dec 2-Dec 24)

This event puts a hip, modern suburban twist on traditional small-town holiday celebrations.

The Marietta Square is the center of the action, festive holiday music, thousands of twinkling lights, and visits with Santa at his workshop. The festivities kick off with the official lighting of the Christmas Tree Dec 2th in Glover Park.

There will be plenty for the little ones to do including exploring the magical forest of trees and visiting the writing stations to create a personalized letter to Santa.

But there is still plenty of holiday fun for adults such as stopping in shops such as Dakota Boutique and Marina Marina Antiques, getting sweet treats from Sugar Cakes Patisserie or Sarah Jean’s Ice Cream, and winding down with a delicious Italian dinner from Piastra Restaurant (try the Gamberi Picatini and Lasagna Quatro Formaggi).

We enjoyed our first visit so much, we’re going back to celebrate New Year’s Eve!

This year they will also have Santa’s Magical Moments on select dates (December 3, 9, 10, 16, 17) where you and your family can enjoy a 30-minute magical private experience to have storytime with Santa, make crafts, and enjoy some milk and cookies. You will also leave with a digital link to download full-res images from the experience and an ornament with your favorite image!

Oakland Cemetery, A Victorian Holiday courtesy of John Meeks
Oakland Cemetery, A Victorian Holiday courtesy of John Meeks

49. VICTORIAN HOLIDAY 

(Oakland Cemetery, Dec 5)

One of the more unique ways to celebrate Christmas in Atlanta, this event returns to the historic Oakland Cemetery for its seventh consecutive year.

A gorgeous example of the 19th century’s “rural garden” cemetery movement, Oakland is renowned for its eclectic mixture of art and architectural styles, including Egyptian, Exotic Revival, Gothic, Greek Revival, Neo-classical, and Victorian.

Its graves and elaborate mausoleums are filled with a who’s who in the city’s history, including 3,000 Confederate soldiers, author Margaret Mitchell, golf legend Bobby Jones, Morris Brown College founder Bishop Wesley John Gaines, and Mayors Ivan Allen Jr. and Maynard Jackson.

The seasonal open house is free (no tickets required) and features fun activities for the whole family including seasonal shopping for homemade holiday goods at the Victorian Holiday Artist Market, mini-tours of the cemetery, and plenty of time to explore the decorated mausoleums around Oakland’s Bell Tower. 

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Hardman Farm State Historic Site Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division

50. VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS

(Hardman Farm State Historical Site, Dec 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18)

Experience Victorian Christmas traditions and learn about Christmas’ past from knowledgeable speakers dressed in classic 1870’s attire at Hardman Farm State Historical Site.

The Mansion at West End will be decorated for the holidays featuring beautiful candle lights, Christmas music, hot apple cider, and hot chocolate as well as a gift shop.

There will be a horse-drawn wagon to take you on a historical ride down Unicoi Turnpike and Santa himself will be available for visits on the property.

While you’re there, you will also have the opportunity to support local charitable causes by voting for your favorite decorated Christmas tree in the Mansion. The community group who decorated the winning tree will receive a donation from the Friends of Hardman Farm.

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51. DAHLONEGA’S OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS

(Dahlonega, Nov 26 – Jan 9)

Experience the timeless magic of Christmas in a small town with Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas.

The celebration kickstarts with the lighting of the square on November 26 and continues on with a variety of festivities including horse-drawn carriage rides, tours of the decorated inns, street performers, and seasonal shopping.

Each day promises exciting holiday fun whether you are outside strolling through town on a carriage ride, enjoying a Christmas Wine Walk, or holiday shopping at the annual Christmas Market. 

Santa will even be making appearances on the square in front of the town Christmas tree from November 26 to December 19.

On December 11, you can also watch Santa and other guests jubilantly march through the streets of the Dahlonega Historic District during the annual Christmas parade. 

Atlanta Christmas Lights- Christmas at Callanwolde
Christmas at Callanwolde

52. WINTER HOUSE

(Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Nov 26-Dec 11)

One of the most upscale places to see Christmas lights in Atlanta, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center’s Winter House invites guests to get creative during this art-filled holiday experience. 

The 27,000 square foot mansion will be decorated with hundreds of twinkling lights and other holiday decorations you can enjoy while taking part in a number of different activities and workshops. 

You can learn how to make a gingerbread house, create your own watercolor ornament, decorate a ceramic mug, learn salsa dancing, and hear live performances by musical guests like Joe Alterman, Robin Latimore, Joe Gransden, and more.

Santa will also be at Callanwolde for photos with you and your family (including your furry little ones). Pets are welcome!

While taking part in all the fun, you can enjoy a glass of wine or mulled cider as well as individual charcuterie boards. Food trucks, s’more kits, cinnamon rolls, and coffee will also be offered.

GEORGIA CHRISTMAS DAY TRIPS

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Enchanted Garden of Lights via Rock City

53. ENCHANTED GARDEN OF LIGHTS

(Rock City Gardens in Lookout Mountain GA, Nov 19 – Jan 2; Closed Dec 24)

Just a quick drive from downtown Chattanooga or a 2 hr drive from Atlanta, this award-winning light show is celebrating its 27th anniversary and will feature more than a million LED lights across uniquely themed realms of wonder.

Whether you are watching the icy lights twinkle in the Arctic Kingdom, walking through the Grand Corridor in Yule Town, or exploring the exciting enchantments of the Magic Forest, there’s no shortage of dazzling scenery.

Don’t forget to visit Santa in his workshop where you can catch a glimpse of his toy shop and sleigh as he prepares to spread holiday magic all over the world on Christmas Eve!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Day Trips From Atlanta (For Nature Lovers)

Christmas in Georgia Day Trips from Atlanta, Barnsley Resort

54. LIGHT UP THE HOLIDAYS

(Barnsley Resort in Adairsville GA, Nov 28 – Jan 2)

Barnsley Resort (formerly known as Barnsley Gardens) holds a special place in our hearts, because it was the first place Mary and I traveled together.

That romantic getaway– Valentine’s Day weekend in 2009– was our first big indication that our relationship was something truly special.

Ten years later, the resort (which is located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains) has been upgraded considerably, but the traditional Southern charm remains much the same.

Their north Georgia Christmas celebration will feature the English-style garden and historic Manor House Ruins all lit up with colorful holiday lights.

There will be numerous holiday events held throughout the season, including campfire storytelling, cookie decorating, gingerbread house crafting, harvest hayrides, and wreath-making classes.

On Christmas Day, there will also be an extensive buffet from their restaurants’ Executive Chef in the Georgian Hall.–Bret Love

READ MORE: Barnsley Resort: A Southern Gothic Love Story



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