Jekyll Island, Georgia. Photo by @jekyll_island
Make a Date with Georgia this Winter
The state's temperate weather and exciting attractions make it an ideal destination to explore during the year’s coldest months.
You don’t have to feel truly frosty to find the charm of the winter season across Georgia, from lights and ice skating to holiday markets and more.
What is more wonder-inducing than millions of sparkling holiday lights? Get your fill of dazzling, immersive displays at Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Resort and Gardens in Pine Mountain. At Hiawassee’s Mountain Country Christmas in Lights, arts and crafts and hot chocolate accompany the glittering spectacle, and revelers pause their tunnels-of-lights tour at Winter WonderLights at the State Botanical Garden in Athens for a s’mores break. The Garden Lights, Holiday Nights event sets the Atlanta Botanical Gardens aglow with magic; Enchanted Garden of Lights in Rock City illuminates an Arctic kingdom and magic forest; and the Boat Parade of Lights in Savannah (and accompanying fireworks) reflects the season’s joy against the wintry water of the Savannah River.
Snow & Ice Activities
Georgia might not have frequent snow, but that won’t stop you from enjoying winter’s outdoor delights. Head to Snow Island at Lanier Islands in Buford, where you’ll find an eight-story snow slide, carnival rides and fresh powder for snow angels. Lace up your skates for pristine rinks at Atlanta’s Skate the Station at Atlantic Station and the annual Evans on Ice, where you can also roast marshmallows for a warm up. Or, hop aboard the historic SAM Shortline Excursion Train in Cordele for the Candy Cane Express holiday ride.
Whether those on your list have been naughty or nice, find their perfect gifts at the holiday markets spread across the state. At Thomasville’s annual Victorian Christmas, strolling carolers, carriage rides and visits with Santa accompany the one-of-a-kind, boutique-shopping experience downtown. Search for artisanal treasures at Savannah’s Christmas Market at Plant Riverside District, Helen’s Christkindlmarkt or Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas.
Christmas Tree Farms
No holiday season is complete without the perfect Christmas tree, and there are plenty of family-run farms ready to help you find the right evergreen. Cut your own — and score a fresh wreath — at Berry’s Tree Farm & Nursery in Covington, Webster’s Tree Farm in Darien or Sleepy Hollow Farm in Powder Springs. Whether you’re looking for a fragrant Leyland cypress or a festive blue ice, you’ll make family memories while you explore the farms (and may even spot Santa Claus himself!).
Ideal Winter Destination: Jekyll Island
There’s more to love on Jekyll Island than balmy weather and having beaches to yourself. A winter visit to the southern end of Georgia’s Golden Isles means you may spot migrating wildlife, like bald eagles and endangered North Atlantic right whales. Experience the island’s nature with a park-ranger-led walk to explore the maritime forest and pristine shoreline. Explore Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum for its captivating local history and eye-popping fashion exhibit. Depart from the museum for a guided trolley tour to glimpse centuries-old Gilded Age homes.
Strike out on your own for a self-guided walk along the educational Wanderer Memory Trail, where you’ll follow the true story of Umwalla, an African boy on America’s last known slave ship, as he journeys from capture to freedom. Search the island for hand-blown glass globes during the Island Treasures festival (held throughout January and February), then take home what you find from the artistic scavenger hunt.
Try your hand at fishing and crabbing along miles of shore, with stops at panoramic Jekyll Island Fishing Pier and meandering Clam Creek. Finally, wander the hauntingly beautiful Driftwood Beach, an ideal place for a keepsake photo where sun-bleached wood spreads like fingers across the sand.
Don’t-Miss Winter Events
Holly Jolly Jekyll turns the island into a winter wonderland, with trolley and carriage rides beneath light-covered trees, drive-in holiday movies, a market and much more.
NYE Live! at The Battery Atlanta celebrates with a bubbly toast and midnight balloon drop, plus all sorts of New Year’s revelry like a live DJ, mechanical-bull riding and the Bowl Game Watch Party.
Let Atlanta Ballet transport you with a magical performance of “The Nutcracker,” with updated choreography by Yuri Possokhov, fanciful costumes and high-tech sets.
Did you enjoy this feature from the 2023 Official State Travel Guide? Order your copy for more Georgia travel inspiration!