Atlanta’s sparkling light displays bring creativity, wonder, and lots of emotions
“We have two million twinkle lights, a 32-foot twinkle Barbie doll, dinosaurs and a monster truck,” said Mia Green, owner of Dixie Highway in Woodstock. “We host one of the largest light shows in the country.”
Magic Lights at Dixie Speedway is “great for the community and North Georgia,” Green added. “You’re loading up the family in their pajamas — even the family dog — and you’re driving. It’s joyful. It’s Christmas and it’s a time when people come together and good intentions are demonstrated.”
The metro area has come a long way since the Christmas tree lightings at Rich’s, and later Macy’s, dominated the holiday scene. Now, many malls, city green spaces, parks and entertainment venues offer holiday experiences filled with lights, animated characters, music and wonder.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden’s lights open holiday nights with perennial favorites like the World’s Largest Curtain of Light and the Light-Covered White Rabbit, plus new features including a 144-foot-tall winter white sky net, illuminated metal sculptures of deer and birds, and 11-wide illuminated butterflies. ft. and hanging from the treetops and the new Kiss Me Arch, perfect for Instagram photos or maybe even a proposal.
Dunwoody is hosting its fourth annual Holiday Nights at Brook Run Park, with Après Ski Party being this year’s theme. The display features 85,000 lights plus a life-sized snow globe and a photo-friendly ski lift backdrop. The Mega Tree will have moving lights synchronized with holiday music.
“We’re going to create a snow mountain and the kids can climb it,” said Rachel Waldron, recreation director for Dunwoody Parks and Recreation. “Lights will stream from the trees. We’ll have a glow-in-the-dark swing. It’s a lot of fun. The kids can go play in the park and it’s a way for the parents to get the shakes out of them and tire them out a little and have a fun, free night.”
With more than a million colorful lights, more than 600 animated displays and six immersive tunnels, Enchanted Safari at Six Flags White Water in Marietta is being promoted as the world’s largest holiday light experience. Guests soar through the clouds, outrun a T-Rex, and arrive at Santa’s Bazaar, where exotic animals will greet visitors.
The show, produced by World of Illumination, “has you wandering over land, sea and air to listen to the jingle of the jungle,” said Shawn Kamioka, marketing director. “There are peacocks and piranhas, and everything is swinging to holiday music.
“It’s great family entertainment and a time for people to come together,” he continued. “Normally, people go in all directions, but (here), you’re in a car dancing and singing along to the music.”
Atlantic Station gets into the holiday spirit, too, with an outdoor skating rink with themed nights (Superhero Night, Ugly Sweater Night, First Responder Night), a Holiday Photos Dropbox, a 50-foot tree and a light show. The light show includes an eight-minute video of a baby mouse helping to decorate, followed by a nine-minute light show with synchronized music, and then concludes with a two-minute snow shower.
“It’s great,” said Starr Cumming, director of retail at Heinz Co., owner of the Midtown project. “The videos, the lights, the snow, the skating – everything comes alive. … We want to enhance all their senses.”
At least two metro Atlanta locations host Chinese lantern festivals: IllumiNights at Zoo Atlanta and the Winter Lantern Festival at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds.
IllumniNights explores the beauty of nature in lights, from ferocious luminous panthers to soaring pegasus. The mile-long zoo walk features more than 200 hand-crafted and hand-painted lanterns. Plus, there are warm drinks, marshmallow toast, and rides on the endangered species cart. The virtual reality experience allows guests to “fly” over snow-capped mountains.
The Gwinnett Festival features more than 1,000 handcrafted Chinese lanterns inspired by myths, legends and the Chinese zodiac. “It’s just all kinds of beautiful things, it’s really amazing,” said Todd Teasley, Winter Lantern Festival exhibit director. More than 10,000 tickets have already been sold during the demo event.
No matter where you go, it’s all about creating special moments with your loved ones in the glow of light.
“It’s simply a great way to make unforgettable memories,” Six Flags’ Kamioka said. “Parents love looking at their children’s faces, and grandparents have a connection with children. It brightens up the holiday season.”
Preview light shows
The magic of the lights on Dixie Highway. 6-9pm Mondays to Thursdays, 6-10pm Fridays to Sundays (6-10pm every night starting December 8th), until December 31st. Pre-purchase standard vehicles: $22 per vehicle through December 7; $27 from December 8-31. At the gate regular vehicles: $30-$35 through December 7; $35-$40 December 8-31. 150 Dixie Drive, Woodstock. 770-926-5315, dixiespeedway.com.
Lawn lights, holiday nights. 5-9:30pm until January 14th. $27.95-$62.95 for non-member adults; $24.95 – $59.95 for non-member children. Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Avenue. 404-876-5859, atlantabg.org.
Holiday lights. 4-8pm until December 1-31. free. Brook Run Park, 4770 N. Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. 678-382-6850, discoverdunwoody.com.
The world of illumination at Enchanted Safaris. From 6 to 10 pm Tuesday to Sunday, until December 31. $39.99 – $49.99. Six Flags Whitewater, 250 Cobb Parkway, Marietta. 770-590-4067, worldofilllumination.com.
Celebration at the station 5-9pm (at the top of the clock) until December 25th. Free. Atlantic Station, 1380 Atlantic Drive, 404-410-4010, atlanticstation.com.
IllumiNights at the Zoo. 5:30-9:30pm (last entry at 8pm) daily until January 14. $20.99-$24.99, adult general admission; $17.99-$19.99, general admission, children ages 3-11; $17.99-$21.99, general admission, seniors 65 and older. Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Street, 404-624-5600, Zooatlanta.org.
Winter Lantern Festival. 5-9pm daily until January 2. $17.99 for children; $21.99-$25.99 adults. Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, 2405 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. 770-963-6522, winterlanternfestival.com/atlanta/.