It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the entire city of Atlanta is buzzing with holiday spirit. As the month of December unfolds, every day provides another chance to take advantage of a fantastic Atlanta holiday event, guaranteed to put you in a festive mood. Whether you’re trying to plan ahead for when the kids are on school break, searching for things to do with visiting family, or just need an idea for a holiday date night, take a look at our suggestions for what to do around town this month, including five free events that won’t make a dent in your holiday budget
1. Ice Skate at Atlantic Station
Bundle up in your coziest sweater and head out for a day of skating at the largest outdoor ice rink in Atlanta. Atlantic Station is all decked out for the holidays, and the crisp winter air and sight of fellow skaters will make you feel as if you’ve just stumbled into a holiday postcard. For information on times and rates, visit the event’s website.
2. Ugly Sweater Run/Walk at Piedmont Park
For some festive holiday exercise, don your best ugly sweater and your running shoes and head to Piedmont Park. On December 19th, the park will be the scene of the merriest 5K you’ve ever imagined: a start line decked out with massive inflatables and pumping cheerful holiday music, themed stations at every mile of the course, hot chocolate at refreshment stations, and a Sam Adams beverage and other holiday goodies waiting for you at the finish line. Register at www.theuglysweaterrun.com
3. See Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Fox Theater
Each year, the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker reminds all who see it of the magic and wonder the holiday season brings. The familiar story somehow never fails to transform into something new and exciting through exquisite choreography and remarkable execution. Perfect for a romantic night out, Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker runs December 11-27, and tickets are available for purchase through the Atlanta Ballet’s website.
4. Get Into the Festivities at a Stone Mountain Christmas
At Stone Mountain Park, there is no excuse to not be in the holiday season. The glow of more than two million lights creates a festive fairytale setting, favorite holiday music can be heard in the air, and beloved holiday characters are making appearances all month. Kids—both those young in age and young at heart—will find something to delight in, be it a visit with Santa, an impromptu Christmas concert aboard the Singalong Train, a frolic in “Snow Mountain, or great holiday shopping that includes hand blown glass ornaments and homemade fudge.
5. Take a Ride on the Pink Pig
The Pink Pig train is an Atlanta holiday tradition that dates back to the 1950s, when it debuted as a holiday attraction at Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta. Rich’s is now shuttered, but the tradition lives on at Macy’s in Lenox Square. Priscilla the Pink Pig will be welcoming riders throughout the month of December, and taking them on a journey through a magical storybook land featuring her and all her friends. This is one Atlanta holiday tradition you don’t want to miss.
6. Be Transported By Fantasy in Lights
For more than 20 years, Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens has been dazzling visitors from all over the country with its spectacular light and sound show, and this year will be no exception. More than 8 million lights illuminate more than a dozen scenes, which also include music and often animation. Since ninety-nine percent of the frames used in Fantasy in Lights are custom designed for Callaway Gardens, it is truly a unique holiday event that’s hard to beat.
7. Hear the Music of the Season with the Atlanta Symphony
Throughout the month of December, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will be performing a variety of concerts and shows perfect for putting you in the holiday spirit. The festive schedule begins with Cirque de la Symphonie’s holiday special in which jugglers, clowns and acrobats fly high above the Orchestra, set to a score of classical hits. Later in the month, Christmas with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra captures the magic of this time of year as over 400 musicians bring to life the Greatest Story Ever Told. Other highlights include the Vienna Boys Choir: Christmas in Vienna and a Very Merry Holiday Pops. For the full list of performances and events, visit www.atlantasymphony.org
8. Be Dazzled by the Garden Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is always a magical place to spend an afternoon or evening, but during its annual Garden Lights celebration, the garden really shines. Light displays throughout the garden create a winter wonderland, and favorite features such as the Radiant Rainforest and Model Trains are back this year along with some new displays, such as the massive Tunnel of Light. Other festive events at ABG include a chance to meet Saint Nick, the annual Reindog Parade and the Holiday Model Train Show.
9. Indulge in a Classic with A Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater
A Christmas Carol is one of the most beloved holiday stories of all time, and this year marks Alliance Theater’s 25th staging of the classic tale. An all-Atlanta cast relays the story of Ebenezer Scrooge with a powerful performance that reminds us all what Christmas is truly meant to celebrate. Take the whole family and make it a holiday tradition, if it isn’t one already. More information and tickets are available on the Alliance Theater’s website.
10. See Rudolph Come to Life at The Center for Puppetry Arts
At the Center for Puppetry Arts, stories come to life, and this December, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™ will be one of those stories. Based on the classic television special, the Center for Puppetry Arts performs a faithful adaptation of the tale that honors the misfit in all of us, and celebrates those friendships that we cannot live without. It’s a perfect holiday outing that the whole family is sure to enjoy.
11. View Centennial Olympic Park in a New Way (FREE!)
Every year, Centennial Olympic Park gets a holiday makeover thanks to Holiday in Lights. Thousands of lights are illuminated throughout the park, creating a holiday fantasy that’s guaranteed to delight in-towners and holiday visitors alike. Holiday in Lights is completely FREE to view throughout Centennial Park, making it a perfect outing no matter how big of a group you have to share the season with.
12. A Light Display Worth Driving By at Christmas in the Grove (FREE!)
Metro Atlanta has no lack of holiday spirit, as evidenced by the holiday lights that make every neighborhood throughout the city glow. In Decatur, one family’s love of Christmas has reached a new level, resulting in the spectacular light show they create every year. Christmas in the Grove began as simple animation in 2010, but has evolved into a spectacular light show set to great Christmas hits. The show runs through January 1 from 6:30-10:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and from 6:30 to 11:00 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Viewing Christmas in the Grove is completely FREE, but visitors are encouraged to make a donation to the ALS Association via the Christmas in the Grove website.
13. Get Snowed on at Atlantic Station (FREE!)
The weather in Atlanta is far from predictable, especially during the winter months. Luckily, you don’t have to rely on Mother Nature to get your winter snow fix this year. Atlantic Station has you covered with its daily “Snow Show,” where you can take in the beautiful lights and spectacular Christmas Tree display, all while listening to holiday music and being dusted by a festive, realistic snowfall. The Snow Show is FREE to experience, and show times can be found on the event’s website.
14. Witness a Parade of Holiday Spirit with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (FREE!)
On December 5, the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade will once again roll through Midtown Atlanta, leaving a wave of holiday spirit in its wake. The largest holiday parade in the southeast, the Children’s Parade features floats, balloons, marching bands, and festive joy galore. Join fellow Atlantans on the streets of Midtown to watch the parade roll by for FREE, and consider making a donation to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. ‘Tis the season for giving after all.
15. Get Close Up With Santa Claus
No holiday season is complete without a trip with the kids to see Santa. It is what kicks off the Christmas season and gets everyone excited for the big day ahead. This year, Santa can be found in a number of places throughout the Atlanta area, including Lenox Mall and the Mall of Georgia. Through December 6, Lenox Mall will also feature a Caring Santa, so children with special needs can experience a magical visit. African American Santas can also be found around Atlanta at certain times at the South DeKalb Mall, the Greenbriar Mall, and the Mall West End.