BY OLYA FESSARD DEC 2017
THESE GEORGIA HOLIDAY-THEMED DAY TRIPS ARE SURE TO CREATE SPECIAL FAMILY MEMORIES
If you’re looking for something a little more than one of the many holiday parades and events nearby but you’re not quite up for the five hour drive to the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, then consider checking out one of these great day trip ideas for families.
Go full steam ahead into the holiday season at Chehaw Park’s Festival of Lights. Climb aboard the nighttime train, or blast some Christmas tunes in the car and drive through the thousands of light displays during the month of December. This holiday adventure is truly one-of-a-kind because the park’s master welder and his team handcraft each sparkling fixture. Roll into holiday fun at the Celebration of Lights Christmas Parade. This nighttime spectacle is the region’s largest Christmas Parade, drawing tens of thousands of each year. Watch the dozens of illuminated floats as live musicians play holiday favorites, ushering in the spirit of the season (visitalbanyga.com).
Take your holiday to new heights with magical events in Alpine Helen, a Bavarian beauty set in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. Head to Babyland General Hospital to see the birthplace of the Cabbage Patch Kids, voted one of the Travel Channel’s Top Ten Toylands. Admission is FREE. It’s also the only place in the world where you can witness the birth of a hand-sculpted Cabbage Patch Kid. Mother Cabbage is always on display beneath the branches of the Magic Crystal Tree (cabbagepatchkids.com).
Take in the Annual Helen Christmas Parade. It will roll through downtown on December 9. The costumed characters and floats are sure to delight the young and old. Mr. and Mrs. Claus will be available after the parade to take special orders. Fill up your shopping bags at Helen’s 10th annual Christkindlmarkt, a German tradition where the center of town is filled with booths offering specialty gift items, decorations, assorted savory food, drinks, and candied treats, December 9 and 10 (helenga.com).
All aboard for holiday fun! On Saturday, December 2, climb in and take a seat on the SAM Shortline in Americus. COST: Since SAM leaves from Cordele with ticket cost from $26–$60, you can only get on in Americus if seats are available. It’s good to know that Americus to Plains and return is less expensive at $20.50 for coach and $15.50 for children. Chug along in 1949 Vintage cars to the historic and quaint town of Plains―home of President Jimmy Carter. The President and former First Lady will flip the switch to brighten the town for the annual Christmas Lighting. In the warm glow of the lights, enjoy Christmas music and activities in this charming slice of the South. While riding back to Americus, make sure you have your Christmas wish list ready, as Santa Claus will visit the old-fashioned railroad car. On December 7, the Americus Christmas Parade rolls out all the stops. Watch in wonderment as 75 floats, live music, and special guests go through town spreading good cheer (visitamericusga.com).
The holidays march off to a spirited start in Blue Ridge. Santa and Mrs. Claus parade through town November 25 for Light Up Blue Ridge. Enjoy live band performances, caroling, refreshments, and the lighting of the great Christmas tree downtown. While there, fill your sleigh by shopping the Holiday Art Show and Sale. Pick out regional art and handmade crafts for those on your list. The Sale runs from November 18–January 6. For more information, call 706.632.2144. You’re sure to be “laughing all the way” aboard the Santa Express Train offered through the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. While on board, hear “Twas The Night Before Christmas,” sing Christmas carols, and, enjoy a meet and greet with Jolly Ol’ St. Nick! The train takes off November 24 and rides throughout December (blueridgemountains.com).
Beat the winter blues in Cartersville, where the holidays reign supreme. Make memories at the Christmas Lights Display, featuring live reindeer―Comet and Cupid, at Pettit Creek Farms throughout December. Santa Claus visits with children Thursday–Sunday. A live Nativity can also be seen on weekends. Warm up with coco, cider, and s’mores. All December, The 1902 Stock Exchange, and Public Square Opera House will present Every Christmas Story Ever Told, a dinner theatre featuring a trio of rambunctious performers trying to cover all the Christmas bases. It will be a madcap romp through the holiday season and an evening full of memories and laughter. Or, catch a performance of The Nutcracker, presented by the Cartersville School of Ballet the first weekend of December. The Grand Theatre, established in 1910, as a cultural center for Cartersville and Bartow County, offers a series of events featuring holiday, comedy, and bluegrass performances―all certain to make the season shine. The Atlanta Pops Orchestra Holiday Classics will perform at The Grand Theater, December 9 (visitcartersvillega.com).
The Christmas spirit takes hold of Columbus before the leaves even begin to fall. This inviting Southern town is the home of The Ludy Christmas Spectacular. The Ludy family starts decorating in August and mesmerizes guests from both near and far with their 155,000 lights. The show stopping home was featured on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight. On December 3, the Annual Bi-City Christmas Parade pulls out all of the stops as it marches through town. On the same day, Historic Columbus celebrates the holidays through music, history, and architecture with the 2017 Holiday Home Tour. While in town, glide your way into making more Christmas memories that last at the Columbus Georgia Ice Rink (visitcolumbusga.com).
The Christmas season turns Ellijay into one of Dr. Seuss’ most notable fictional cities–Whoville. Wave to the Grinch and Santa Claus as the Elli-Whoville Christmas Parade rolls through town during the Whobilation on November 24. All of Downtown Ellijay will be decorated in a Whotastic theme to celebrate the holidays. The Whobilation will begin at noon with vendors and shopping specials from local merchants and restaurants. The tree lighting will be at 5:30 p.m. and the parade at 6 p.m. After the parade, be sure to get your picture made with Santa. With a full day of fun with the family, you’ll be reminded of the Grinch’s discovery that, “Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more (GilmerChamber.com).
No need to travel to Bethlehem to peek into the very first Christmas. The Biblical History Center in LaGrange takes guests on the journey with their Follow The Shepherds Walks every Friday and Saturday night up to Christmas Eve. Retrace the steps of Joseph and Mary as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem and learn new insights into the Christmas story in one of the most authentic settings this side of Israel.
Throughout December, celebrate the Holidays at Hill & Dales Estate. This historic Southern mansion is adorned with the complements of the season. Gaze at the Christmas tree styled circa 1940, and feel old-fashioned merriment. On December 2, learn how to decorate for the holidays like a pro at the Mixed Green Christmas Wreath Workshop where the staff will help guide you in creating a wreath using a variety of elegant, fresh evergreens and berries. On December 16, it’s the Children’s Christmas Celebration, where kids can create their own gingerbread house, participate in a Christmas sing-a-long, story time, and enjoy visits with Santa (hillsanddales.org).
Treat your family to a fun, relaxing tradition that’s filled with holiday cheer! It’s Christmas at Callaway, featuring Fantasy In Lights, one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Light Displays. Come make merry in the Christmas Village, meet holiday characters up close, and drive through the dazzling illuminated forest. Extend the celebration with an overnight stay. Enjoy mouthwatering meals or cozy cups of cocoa in their beautifully renovated Lodge & Spa, and explore 2,500 acres of stunning natural landscape. Make this season magical with a getaway to remember―at Callaway Resort & Gardens. Prime Dates: November 18, 19, 22-26; December 1–3, 8–10, 15–25, 29–31: Tickets, adult $28; ages 6–12 $14. Value Dates: November 17, 20, 21, & 27–30; December 4–7, 11–14, & 26–28; and January 1–6: Cost: adult/ $21; children 6–12/$10.50. Children 5 and under/free (callawaygardens.com). #
Tell us what your favorite holiday day trip is at our Georgia Family Magazine facebook page.
The Alpine. Credit: Helen-White County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Santa Express Train. Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.
Follow the Shepherd’s Walks. Credit: Cathey Lee.
Fantasy of Lights. Credit: Callaway Gardens.
Snowy Blue Ridge Christmas Parade. Credit: Fannin County Chamber of Commerce.