Alyssa has been writing about exciting travel topics for Trips to Discover since 2013. After living the big city life in Chicago, Washington, DC, and Atlanta, Alyssa sold the bulk of her possessions and became a digital nomad, living full-time in her camper and working from wherever she could find an outlet and an internet connection for her laptop.
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The state of Georgia may not see as much snow as other places in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it’s not a festive place to be during the holiday season. In fact, there are quite a few towns here that really embrace the season and get into the Christmas spirit with holiday events, including parades, decorations and visits with Santa. So, to experience a true Southern-style Christmas this year, take a trip to one of these fun and festive Christmas towns in Georgia.
Helen is a Bavarian-themed town that doesn’t stop creating memories and fun once Oktoberfest is over. Christmastime is a wonderful time to visit Helen to see the town’s elaborate ornaments, lights, and other decorations and stay in one of the area’s cozy cabins. The annual Christkindlmarkt is a must-see, celebrating the German traditions of food, shopping, entertainment, and music. This is the perfect place to find unique Christmas gifts for your loved ones. The Annual Lighting of the Village allows you to visit Santa in Helen on various days before Christmas.
A charming national historic register town, Dahlonega is so charming at Christmas that it’s been the setting of both Hallmark and Lifetime holiday-themed movies. The shops in downtown Dahlonega are known to go all out for Christmas, with lots of festive decorations to make your holiday shopping a fun experience. This town also hosts its annual monthlong Old Fashioned Christmas celebration each year that will appeal to all ages. Adorned with thousands of twinkling lights, the city’s two-story Christmas tree is the perfect photo backdrop on the square, while the annual Festival of Trees features 1-12 brightly decorated Christmas trees on display outside in Hancock Park. Other family-friendly holiday activities include a parade, carriage rides, visits with Santa, carolers, a live nativity, and a Christmas production at the Holly Theatre.
The most festive thing to do in Thomasville around the holidays is to attend the Victorian Christmas Festival. This is a quaint “Main Street City” that really knows how to bring small-town charm to the season. Take a step back in time to experience how Christmas was celebrated several generations ago. Here you’ll find carolers, a Magic Lantern show, magicians, pantomimes, and carriage rides. There’s a live nativity presented by First Baptist Church, visits with Santa, marshmallow toasting, live entertainment, and delicious food provided by a variety of vendors. You don’t want to miss it!
As far as holiday light shows go, the one at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountains is definitely one of the best. National Geographic Traveler has named this as one of the top places to holiday lights, and the spectacle is worth making a trip out for this year. The Callaway Gardens event is called Fantasy in Lights, which features eight million lights and 15 scenes. There are special event nights, such as the March of Dimes NightWalk and Bicycle Night, and also lots of delicious food options to grab dinner while you’re at the gardens. You can shop at the gardens’ Christmas Village, get photos with Santa, listen to a holiday chapel organ concert, and stop by on Christmas Day for a festive buffet. There’s also an annual Christmas parade in downtown Pine Mountain.
Savannah has a magical charm that extends through all seasons, but the city takes on a truly unique character during the holidays. The city is decorated in wreaths, garlands, and bows around Christmas to get visitors and locals in the mood to celebrate. It’s fun to take a ride on the Holly Jolly Trolley Tour and also view the festive decorations at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and at the Owens-Thomas House. The Savannah Theatre puts on a family-friendly show each year called “A Christmas Tradition,” and the Boat Parade of Lights features dozens of sailboats and yachts that are decorated and on display before the fireworks show by the river. The Annual Tour of Homes and the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens are also fun to visit around Christmastime.
The town of Albany also really lights up at Christmas with its Christmas parade and Christmas ornament unveiling. Tens of thousands of people typically attend Albany’s Christmas parade in the downtown area, which features bands, floats, vendors, and lots of Christmas lights. Each year has its own theme, and annual Christmas ornaments usually honor the town’s history and its residents.
With a town name like Santa Claus, how could this not be a festive place for Christmas? The town’s population is only about 266, but there are some great photo ops by the entrance sign when you get here. Streets are also appropriately named after holiday themes, such as Rudolph Way, Dancer Street, Prancer Street, and Candy Cane Road.
Gainesville is a small town in Georgia that is also fun to visit during the Christmas season. Christmas on Green Street is the big local event here. This is a Victorian festival held on the first Sunday in December each year. When you stop into town for it, you can check out the antique car procession, Christmas floats, and live camel and Wise Men. You’ll typically see people in Victorian costumes, enjoy refreshments from open houses, and see luminaries lining the street. The Gainesville Rotary also hosts an annual tree lighting ceremony, and hot chocolate and cider are hosted around a warm fire pit.
Stone Mountain is a fun place to visit for the whole family at any time of the year, and Christmas is no exception. This Georgia destination is known for its Christmas shows with lots of lights. The festivities are family friendly and include a Summit Skyride, Scenic Railroad, character meet and greets, and lots of live performances. There’s a great home light display at 1833 Smokerise in Stone Mountain, in which the family collects donations for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Columbus, Georgia hosts the Christmas Made in the South show at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. Get ready for the season by shopping here in November, enjoying delicious food, and seeing live entertainment like the Queen’s Carolers. Then make sure to check out the town’s Christmas parade. Ludy’s Christmas Light Spectacular is a festive light show that you can see between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.