Holly Jolly Jekyll tram tour holiday lights

Take a guided tram tour of the holiday lights on Jekyll Island during Holly Jolly Jekyll.

The Best Ways to Celebrate Holiday Traditions in Georgia

From cutting your own tree to driving through light displays and watching classics like "The Nutcracker" live on stage, certain rituals make the holidays feel extra special. Celebrate the season with these eight essential holiday traditions in Georgia.

Mother and son at Sleepy Hollow Farm in Powder Springs, Georgia. Photo by @justthekings

Sleepy Hollow Farm in Powder Springs, Georgia. Photo by @justthekings

Cut your own Christmas tree

If trimming a tree is one of your family’s traditions, why not cut down your own? Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm, set on 50 acres in Cumming, offers a selection of more than 5,000 Fraser firs, plus hayrides, hot chocolate by a roaring bonfire, and lawn games.

The tree purveyor for major feature films and even Georgia’s State Capitol, Berry’s Tree Farm & Nursery in Covington has a selection of cut-your-own trees as well as seasonal activities like a petting zoo, train rides and Santa visits.

About one hour east of Atlanta, you can choose and cut your own Christmas tree at Jack's Creek Christmas Tree Farm in Bishop, which has been growing award-winning Christmas trees on 50 acres of historic farmland in Northern Georgia for more than 34 years.

Christmas tree lane at Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Resort & Gardens

Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Resort & Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia

See holiday light displays

Nothing will get you in the holiday spirit faster than piling in the car, cranking up seasonal music, and driving through dazzling light displays. Ride a trolley or drive your own car through the Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Resort & Gardens, named one of the "Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights" by National Geographic Traveler.

On the coast, Holly Jolly Jekyll features more than 1 million seasonal lights via car, guided tram tour or trolley. Other can’t-miss light displays include the Macon Christmas Light Extravaganza and Hiawassee’s Mountain Country Christmas in Lights.

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Ice skaters at the outdoor rink at Avalon on Ice in Alpharetta, Georgia

Avalon on Ice in Alpharetta, Georgia

Go ice skating

Just because Georgia doesn’t get much winter precipitation doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a beloved winter tradition: ice skating. Bundle up in your coat and mittens and head to Avalon on Ice, a Rockefeller Center-inspired ice skating rink in Alpharetta, or the state’s longest-running outdoor rink in Old Towne Conyers.

Or, glide across the ice framed by twinkling lights and holiday greenery at the outdoor Have an Ice Day Rink in Sugar Hill. Evans on Ice is an outdoor winter festival near Augusta with an outdoor ice skating rink, weekend train rides, live music, and seasonal movies in the park.

This year, Athens on Ice moves outdoors to the Foundry Pavilion Nov. 24, 2023 - Jan. 31, 2024.

Family gathered around dining table in Almost Christmas. Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

"Almost Christmas." Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

Watch holiday movies

Get into the holiday spirit by watching seasonal films made right here in Georgia. Our picks? Dolly Parton’s heartwarming “Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” (2016), the family-focused dramedy “Almost Christmas” (2016) starting Danny Glover and Gabrielle Union, and “Bad Mom's Christmas” (2017), featuring the franchise’s trio getting into holiday hijinks at Atlanta-area malls.

And what’s better than watching your favorite flick at home? Enjoying it on the big screen at the drive-in. Don’t miss "Mickey's Christmas Carol" on Jekyll Island and seasonal films at Georgia's drive-in movie theaters.

Santa and Mrs. Claus on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Visit Santa

Give Santa your wish list in person as he makes several appearances across the state. Ride with him on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway on an hour-long ride along the Toccoa River, or climb aboard the SAM Shortline Railroad's one-hour Cordele Holiday Train, where Santa will be the guest of honor, and riders receive cookies and hot chocolate while enjoying holiday music.

Santa also will make an appearance at Woodstock’s Christmas Jubilee Parade of Lights and Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas.

Find more Santa visits on the Explore Georgia Events Calendar.

The Nutcracker ballet. Photo by C. McCullers courtesy of Atlanta Ballet

"The Nutcracker." Photo by C. McCullers courtesy of Atlanta Ballet

Watch live performances

Georgia arts companies bring the magic of the season to the stage each year. In Atlanta, enjoy holiday classics like the Atlanta Ballet’s "The Nutcracker" at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, or "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Enjoy the family classic "A Christmas Carol, The Musical" in Woodstock, and in Johns Creek, cheer, laugh and rejoice with comedic songstress Nancy Gaddy, who will leave you laughing all the way at the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra Christmas Pops concert.

Check the Explore Georgia Events Calendar for more holiday performances.

Child holding a gingerbread house at Hills & Dales in LaGrange, Georgia.

Gingerbread house making at Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange, Georgia

Make holiday crafts

Try your hand at everything from making wreaths to glass blowing at craft-focused holiday workshops. Hills & Dales Estate in LaGrange hosts adult gingerbread and wreath-making classes as well as a children’s celebration where little ones can ice holiday cookies, craft ornaments, and spend time with Santa. Take a holiday tour of the home to enjoy all of the festive decorations inside and outside.

You can even make a custom glass ornament or dinner platter at Blown Studios in Savannah.

Woman holding coffee cup at Savannah's Christmas Market. Photo by @savgoldengals

Shopping at Savannah's Christmas Market. Photo by @savgoldengals

Shop for gifts

Shop for the perfect gift at holiday markets across the state, like Helen’s Christkindlmarkt, where local vendors sell everything from candles and ornaments to sweet treats and hot apple cider.

Savannah’s Christmas Market brings a traditional European market to life in the city’s Plant Riverside District, complete with a kid’s area for ornament decorating, wreath making, and other festive activities.

At the Georgia Festival of Trees in Atlanta, find amazing decorations for your home and lots of fun activities for the whole family.

Other can’t-miss markets include the Back to Nature Holiday Market in Roswell, featuring handmade and eco-friendly gifts like jewelry, candles, and bath products; and Madison’s Shop, Sip & Stroll that highlights the city’s independent businesses with retail promotions, refreshments and live music. The Holiday Open House in Thomasville is a must-shop for its festive atmosphere and chance to win gift certificates for even more shopping fun.

Find more in our Guide to Holiday Shopping Events in Georgia.

Woman and child in Helen, Georgia, during the holidays. Photo by @thatplaygroundlife

Helen, Georgia. Photo by @thatplaygroundlife

More to explore

There are so many more ways to celebrate the holidays in Georgia! From parades to home tours, tree lightings to festivals, browse the Explore Georgia Calendar of Events for more unforgettable experiences this holiday season.

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Published: September 2023
Written by: Laura Scholz
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