A Guide to Holiday Family Getaways
‘Tis the season to be jolly, so grab your loved ones and spread some holiday cheer at festive events throughout the Southeast! From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Music City, majestic winter wonderlands offer enchanting activities and celebrations for all. The best part? They’re only a short drive away.
(Above) “A Country Christmas” at Gaylord Opryland Resort // Photo Courtesy of Gaylord Opryland Resort
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway “Santa Express” Train // Photo Courtesy of Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
Less than 100 miles from home:
Blue Ridge, GA
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway “Santa Express” Train
WHEN: Nov. 27-29 and Dec. 5-6, 12-13, 19-23
WHERE: 241 Depot Street
CONTACT: brscenic.com or 877.413.8724
COST: $52/adults; $35/children 2-12; FREE/children under 2
Catch the Santa Express for an hour-long train ride filled with Christmas carols, storytelling, and tons of fun. Every child receives a Blue Ridge Scenic Railway sleigh bell and a candy cane! Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for visits and photos at the festively decorated caboose at the depot before and after the trip.
Light Up Blue Ridge
WHEN: Nov. 28
WHERE: Downtown Blue Ridge
CONTACT: lightupblueridge.info or 706.258.2432
A day full of Christmas cheer, Light Up Blue Ridge has something for the whole family – from strolling Christmas entertainment and food vendors to Santa in the park. Gingerbread Village will be open to the public Nov. 27 through Dec. 13, while Nov. 27, Blue Friday, will feature store discounts at many downtown merchants.
Holiday Lights at Barnsley Resort
WHEN: Nov. 29-Jan. 3
WHERE: Barnsley Resort
CONTACT: barnsleyresort.com or 770.773.7480
COST: $20/adults; $10/children 6-12; FREE/children under 5
Take a stroll through the historic Manor House Ruins, gardens, and entire Barnsley Resort village decorated with more than 1 million holiday lights. Garden hours will be extended until 8 p.m. to take advantage of the seasonal display. A special “Warm & Cozy” offer is also available for those wishing to stay overnight. For day visitors, it is recommended to call in advance to confirm availability.
Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood // Photo Courtesy of Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
Less than 150 miles from home:
Dahlonega’s 2020 Old-Fashioned Christmas
WHEN: Nov. 27-Jan. 10
WHERE: Downtown Dahlonega
CONTACT: dahlonegachristmas.com or 706.864.3711
Experience “the most wonderful time of the year” in historic Dahlonega, where an entire month of activities are prepared for visitors and residents alike. On Nov. 27, the magic begins at 6 p.m. with the Lighting of the Square and Tree. In addition to carriage rides and Santa visits, notable events include the Christmas Market on Dec. 4, 5, 11, and 12 and the Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade on Dec. 5.
WHEN: Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 5-6
WHERE: Downtown Marktplatz
CONTACT: helenchamber.com or 706.878.1908
The Helen Chamber of Commerce will host its 13th Annual Christkindlmarkt, a traditional German event, over two weekends in 2020. 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. 14-Jan. 3
WHERE: Stone Mountain Park
CONTACT: stonemountainpark.com or 800.401.2407
COST: $34.95/adults; $29.95/children
With old favorites and all-new experiences, Stone Mountain Christmas is fun for all. A delightful cast of characters makes up the Snow Angel’s Christmas Parade, while a Musical Frosted Forest mesmerizes with beautiful lights, sights, and sounds. Take part in a special visit with Santa, then check out one of several unique live shows to get you in the Christmas spirit.
“A Country Christmas” at Gaylord Opryland Resort
WHEN: Nov. 13-Jan. 3
WHERE: Gaylord Opryland Resort
CONTACT: christmasatgaylordopryland.marriott.com or 615.889.1000
COST: Prices vary by event.
A Country Christmas is a Nashville tradition boasting 3 million twinkling lights and activities galore! Guests can experience ice tubing, gingerbread decorating, ice skating, carriage rides, scavenger hunts, and so much more. I Love Christmas Movies™, an immersive pop-up experience, opens Nov. 13 and includes replicas from your favorite holiday films.
Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood
WHEN: Nov. 20-Jan. 10
WHERE: Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
CONTACT: cheekwood.org or 615.356.8000
COST: $16-18/adult members; $12-14/youth members; $26-28/adult non-members; $20-22/youth non-members (Advanced, timed-entry tickets are required for all guests.)
Savor the sights and sounds of the season at Cheekwood’s Holiday LIGHTS. With more than a million lights glowing throughout the 55 acres of botanical gardens, along with a Reindeer Village, Children’s Wonderland, Nutcrackers in the Mansion, and holiday workshops, your family is sure to make lasting holiday memories.
Gatlinburg’s Festival of Trees // Photo Courtesy of Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau
Less than 200 miles from home:
Back in Blue Rail Jam
WHEN: Nov. 20
WHERE: Ober Gatlinburg
CONTACT: obergatlinburg.com or 865.436.5423
COST: FREE for spectators
Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area previews the ski season with an Ober Gatlinburg Freestyle Terrain Park Rail Jam in the Snow Tubing Park. The annual event – taking place from 3 until 11 p.m. – is open to anyone who wants to get the season started early. Spectators can look forward to prizes, music, and local vendors.
Great Smoky Thanksgiving & Christmas Arts & Crafts Show
WHEN: Nov. 24-Dec. 6
WHERE: Gatlinburg Convention Center
CONTACT: gatlinburg.com or 865.430.4148
Find unique handcrafted gifts made by members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community at this annual show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. Gorgeous quilts, old-fashioned straw brooms, woven baskets, hand-dipped scented candles, stuffed bears, leather vests, and handmade jewelry are just a few of the offerings that await!
Gatlinburg’s Festival of Trees
WHEN: Nov. 25-29
WHERE: Gatlinburg Convention Center
CONTACT: gatlinburgfestivaloftrees.com or 865.430.4148
Dozens upon dozens of ornately decorated Christmas trees await visitors in this winter wonderland at Gatlinburg Convention Center’s W.L. Mills Conference Center. Presented by Gatlinburg Hilton Garden Inn, the Festival of Trees benefits Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains. The event begins daily at 10 a.m.
New Year’s Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks Show
WHEN: Dec. 31
WHERE: Historic Nature Trail
CONTACT: gatlinburg.com or 800.588.1817
Count down to 2021 in downtown Gatlinburg at the Annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. At the stroke of midnight, fireworks will blast off the rooftop of the 400-foot-tall Space Needle, accompanied by special music and a rhythmic LED light display. Many restaurants and businesses will be offering celebration specials in honor of the new year.
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas // Photo Courtesy of Dollywood
Pigeon Forge, TN
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
WHEN: Nov. 7-Jan. 3
CONTACT: dollywood.com or 1.800.365.5996
COST: Prices vary by event.
Dollywood’s award-winning festival is home to millions of lights, heartwarming shows, and a winter wonderland featuring a 50-foot Christmas tree. Explore Wildwood Grove and Glacier Ridge, see holiday stories unfold on stage, and sip a mug of hot chocolate as you take in all that Dollywood has to offer.