2023 Guide to Holiday Family Getaways

One-Tank Trips

Top Image: Holiday LIGHTS; Photo by Nathan Zucker, Courtesy of Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

‘Tis the season to be jolly, so grab your loved ones and spread some holiday cheer at festive events throughout the Southeast! These majestic winter wonderlands offer enchanting activities and celebrations for all. The best part? They’re only a short drive away.

a country christmas at gaylord opryland resort

“A Country Christmas” at Gaylord Opryland Resort, Photo Courtesy of Gaylord Opryland

Less than 100 miles from home:

Blue Ridge, GA

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway “Holiday Express” Train

WHEN: Nov. 24 – Dec. 24

WHERE: 241 Depot Street

CONTACT: brscenic.com/holiday-special-rides/ or 877.413.8724

COST: $52/adults; $35/children 2-12; FREE/children under 2

Hop on board the Holiday Express for a festive one-hour train ride. Passengers will enjoy holiday music, a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” and hot chocolate and snacks available for sale. Children will receive a Blue Ridge Scenic Railway jingle bell, a candy cane, an activity packet, and a chance to see Santa Claus.


Blue Friday and Light Up Blue Ridge

WHEN: Nov. 24-Nov. 25

WHERE: Downtown Blue Ridge

CONTACT: lightupblueridge.info or 706.258.8289


Welcome in the Christmas season with Christmas tree lights and family fun in Downtown Blue Ridge. On Nov. 24, Blue Friday will include store discounts at downtown stores, food vendors, and live entertainment from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Light Up Blue Ridge will take place on Nov. 25, offering a variety of live entertainment, pictures with Santa, a parade through downtown, and the Lighting of the Great Tree.


Adairsville, GA

Light up the Holidays at Barnsley Resort

WHEN: Nov. 25 – Jan. 1

WHERE: Barnsley Resort

CONTACT: barnsleyresort.com or 770.773.7480

COST: $25/adults; $10/children 6-12

Over 1 million lights will illuminate the historic manor house ruins, gardens, and the entire Barnsley Resort Village for the holiday season. In addition, the resort offers several holiday-themed events, from gingerbread house and wreath crafting workshops to visits with Santa. A special “Light Up the Holidays” offer is also available for those wishing to stay overnight.


Less than 150 miles from home:

Dahlonega, GA

Dahlonega’s Old Fashioned Christmas

WHEN: Nov. 24 – Jan. 7

WHERE: Downtown Dahlonega

CONTACT: dahlonegachristmas.com or info@dahlonegachristmas.com


Enjoy a full month of classic Christmas festivities in historic Dahlonega. The celebration begins on Nov. 24 with live music and the Lighting of the Square and Christmas tree. Visitors will also enjoy visiting Santa, food trucks, seasonal performances at the historic Holly Theater, as well as the Christmas Market on Dec. 1, 2, 8, and 9 and the Dahlonega Christmas Parade on Dec. 9.


Helen, GA


WHEN: Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 2-3

WHERE: Downtown Marktplatz

CONTACT: helenchamber.com or 706.878.1619


The Helen Chamber of Commerce will host its 16th Annual Christkindlmarkt, a traditional German event, over two weekends in 2023. Offering everything from unique gifts and decorations to an assortment of savory and sweet foods, drinks, and candied treats, this event promises plenty of festive Alpine cheer in the center of Helen, Georgia.


Stone Mountain, GA

Stone Mountain Christmas

WHEN: Nov. 11 – Jan. 2, select dates

WHERE: Stone Mountain Park

CONTACT: stonemountainpark.com or 800.401.2407

COST: $39.99/adults; $34.99 children 3-11

Experience the wonder of the holiday season during Stone Mountain Christmas. Daytime attractions include the Summit Skyride and Scenic Railroad, and each evening, the park will dazzle with millions of lights. In addition, evening visitors will enjoy festive music, live performances, visits from some classic holiday characters, and a Christmas drone and light show.


Nashville, TN

“A Country Christmas” at Gaylord Opryland Resort

WHEN: Nov. 10 – Jan. 1

WHERE: Gaylord Opryland Resort

CONTACT: christmasatgaylordopryland.com or 615.889.1000

COST: Prices vary by event.

Christmas at Gaylord Opryland is a Nashville holiday tradition. Guests can explore acres of indoor and outdoor twinkling lights and enjoy holiday activities including ice tubing, gingerbread decorating, and visits with Santa. ICE!, the resort’s signature holiday attraction, will return this year for more winter magic featuring The Polar Express™ in over 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures.


Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood

WHEN: Nov. 18 – Jan. 7 

WHERE: Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

CONTACT: cheekwood.org or 615.356.8000

COST: $26-$31/adults; $20-$25/youth; $16-$21/member adult; $12-17 member youth; FREE/children 2 and under

As one of Nashville’s classic holiday traditions, Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood features elegant, creative light displays along a one-mile walking path that sets the gardens aglow. With sparkling interactive features, s’mores and bar stations, and a 20-foot-tall poinsettia tree in the historic mansion, it’ll be a memory-making experience for visitors of all ages.

dollywood's smoky mountain christmas

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, Photos Courtesy of Dollywood

Less than 200 miles from home:

Gatlinburg, TN

Snow Tubing at Ober Mountain

WHEN: Nov. 18 – Mar., select dates

WHERE: Ober Mountain

CONTACT: obergatlinburg.com/snow-tubing/ or 865.436.5423

COST: $35/non-holidays; $45/Fridays, Saturdays, and Holiday periods

Get ready for snow tubing at Ober Mountain! Visitors will enjoy racing down a 350-foot long snowy hill with a 50-foot drop. Offering 90-minute sessions with a “Magic Carpet” to take you back up the hill over and over again, this popular winter activity is perfect for the whole family.


Great Smoky Thanksgiving and Christmas Arts & Crafts Shows

WHEN: Nov. 21 – Dec. 3

WHERE: Gatlinburg Convention Center

CONTACT: greatsmokyartsandcrafts.com or 865.412.1012


Find unique handcrafted gifts made by members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community at this annual show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. Handmade jewelry, pottery, woodcarvings, scented candles, bath and body products, photography, and hand-woven baskets are just a few of the offerings that await!


Gatlinburg’s Festival of Trees

WHEN: Nov. 22 – 26

WHERE: W. L. Mills Conference Center

CONTACT: gatlinburgfestivaloftrees.com


Celebrating 50 years, Gatlinburg’s Festival of Trees will ring in the holiday season with beautiful Christmas trees and family fun. The event will kick off with a Candy Canes and Cocktails Reception on the evening of Nov. 21. Presented by Hospitality Solutions, Inc., the festival begins daily at 10 a.m. and benefits the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains.


Gatlinburg’s Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

WHEN: Dec. 1 

WHERE: Downtown Gatlinburg

CONTACT: gatlinburg.com or 865.436.4178 


This award-winning Christmas parade thrills spectators each year with lighted floats, marching bands, live music, balloons, Santa Claus, and more. The parade begins at 7:30 p.m. and goes through downtown Gatlinburg. Spectators are encouraged to wear Santa hats to spread the festive cheer.


New Year’s Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks Show

WHEN: Dec. 31

WHERE: Airport Road

CONTACT: gatlinburg.com or 865.436.4178 


Ring in the New Year in downtown Gatlinburg at the 36th Annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and fireworks show. Festivities and live music will begin at 10 p.m. at the base of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and visitors are encouraged to come early to take advantage of celebration offers with many local restaurants and businesses.


Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

WHEN: Nov. 4 – Jan. 6

WHERE: Dollywood

CONTACT: dollywood.com or 800.365.5996

COST: Prices vary by event.

Dollywood’s award-winning Christmas festival is set to dazzle visitors with over 6 million lights, heartwarming holiday shows, and a chance to see Santa at work! While strolling through the park, visitors will enjoy classic holiday music and decorated trees in Santa’s Village, Glacier Ridge, and Craftsman’s Valley.

You Also Might Like

[related_post post_id=""]
CityScope Celebrating 30 Years Logo

Get access to the next issue before it hits the stands!