How to Celebrate the Holidays in Atlanta This Year

These are the best ways to spend the most wonderful time of the year.

Georgia Aquarium

Cities across the country are lit up to the nines for the holidays, snow can be seen left and right, and there are endless festivities to participate in. Atlanta however, is unique because of the different types of events that the city has to offer during the final weeks of December. Six Flags Over Georgia will again host their Holiday in the Park, where you can see Christmas concerts and holiday classics in 4-D, or you can go ice skating at state-of-the-art rinks at Ponce City Market or Atlantic Station. There are plenty of pop-up bars throughout the 404 as well, especially Tinsel Tavern at The Battery, and Virtue’s new Holiday Rooftop located atop Midtown’s 5Church. So, if you’re looking for some family fun, a memorable night with friends, or just something to get you in the Christmas spirit, please, look no further.

The magic of the holidays is here at Georgia Aquarium during Winter Waterland. Take in the sights and sounds of the holiday season in our atrium with holiday music, winter inspired projections, a water fountain display and its 40-foot live tree. In addition to this, there are plenty of daily activities available that will surely spread that holiday cheer. One hour after opening, attendees can see the aquarium’s daily tree lighting, the kiddies can take pictures with Santa Claus, and on certain days, Christmas carolers can be heard singing throughout the building. The aquarium also offers immersive 4-D events, namely The Polar Express, and the classic story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Cost: $39.99

The holidays are always a special time at Atlantic Station. Each night from 5 pm - 9 pm during the most wonderful season of the year, attendees can experience a light and snow show set to the backdrop of an amazing video montage. You and the family can get into the Christmas spirit by heading over to the largest ice-skating rink in Metro Atlanta and skate the night away. There’s also a beautiful, 50-foot tree on Atlantic Green that’s viewable on a daily basis. Also, until December 24, Cirque Du Soleil's Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities will have several shows under the big top for your enjoyment.
Cost: Prices vary.

Head over to Six Flags White Water for an unforgettable Christmas experience. This year, the World of Illumination will host Reindeer Road, an amazing show that’s the perfect fit for any age. Here, you will ride through mountainous terrain, traverse glacial peaks, explore the northern ice caves and make your way through the northern forests to the heart of it all—Santa’s Workshop—the world's largest animated toy establishment. Be dazzled by reindeer and other holiday inspired characters and themes as you witness the most spectacular drive-through light forest this side of the arctic. If you’re more of a “intimacy” type of person, WOI also offers private events for you and the guests of your choice.
Cost: $39.99

5Church in Midtown kicked off the Christmas season the day after Thanksgiving with the launch of its Holiday Bar at Virtue Rooftop. In addition to an amazing view of the surrounding neighborhood, guests will be able to jingle the night away with a selection of holiday-themed cocktails, a menu of light bites from culinary director Rodney Smith Jr., a playlist of holiday tunes and festive décor and a sparkling light display. You can also choose from a selection of holiday-inspired menu selections including the S’mores Board, Candy Cane Lane, and the Gingerbread Old Fashion. Drinks from Virtue Rooftop’s full cocktail menu also will be available. The Rooftop Holiday Bar will be open in the evenings from 5 pm - 11 pm on a first-come, first-served basis for those 21 and up.
Cost: Free

Six Flags Over Georgia & Hurricane Harbor

Six Flags Over Georgia has been known to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in a major way. Their annual Holiday in the Park is a hit with people from all walks of life, and includes many festivities for attendees to enjoy. For starters, there's the Feels Like Christmas event in Crystal Pistol Music Hall, where you can see spirited renditions of holiday classics for both young and old. Or you can check out Retro Christmas Live for a nostalgic look back at those holiday traditions that made being a kid so much fun. Stroll through a tunnel of dancing lights and sing along to your favorite songs on Merry Lane, or even come and celebrate the holiday season with a symphony of music and dancing lights. See the park’s Christmas Tree, The Grand Fir, come to life with a spectacular animated light show.
Cost: $39.99 and up.

For the perfect holiday experience that puts you face to face with some of the most beautiful plantlife in the city, head over to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The 12th annual Garden Lights, Holiday Nights, where you can walk through the place and view a beautiful display of lights and art; something that has become one of the 404’s most anticipated holiday traditions. While plenty of the show’s fan-favorite features return, guests can expect new twists, including an all-new exhibition in the Anne Cox Chambers Garden by French artist Cédric LeBorgne and three massive sculptures from the spring/summer exhibition, Origami in the Garden.
Cost: $27.95+

This Christmas, bring the whole family back to a simpler time with Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet. The acclaimed holiday tradition is live at the Fox Theatre on December 23 for its 30th Anniversary tour. Gather friends, family, and loved ones to relive your fondest childhood dreams, overflowing with larger-than-life puppets, breath-taking acrobatics, and dazzling costumes. Experience the exquisite artistry of the international cast, featuring stars of Ukraine ballet, performing at the highest level of classical technique.
Cost: $34+

Old Fourth Ward
The Roof at Ponce City Market invites you to skate the city’s skyline this holiday season. High above Ponce de Leon Avenue and overlooking the Atlanta Beltline and Old Fourth Ward, PCM’s popular Rooftop Terrace will transform into a beautiful winter wonderland. Guests will be able to enter the ice rink as a walk-in from Skyline Park or Nine Mile Station. But, if you and your group of friends are feeling particularly festive and wanting something more upscale? 12 Cocktail Bar, in the Ponce City Market tower, has something just for you. The special Mixmas Menu includes the Sleigh Fuel, with bourbon, cinnamon, eggnog, and coffee and the Jingle Juice made with Coco Cartel Rum, lime, pineapple, orange, and allspice.
Cost: $22 for kids, $30 for adults.

There’s always been something very unique about The Battery during the winter. Whether it's the well-lit atmosphere, the bevy of people sharing smiles and conversations of laughter, or the massive Christmas tree located at its center, Truist Park is the place to be for the perfect holiday vibe. Per usual, Santa will continue the time-honored tradition of greeting local children in the Community Corner presented by Truist, located at the corner of Power Alley and Battery Avenue. Here, families are able to bring their handwritten letters to Santa in hopes of making their Christmas wishes come true. For the adults, you can still have a great time at spots like Punch Bowl Social, PBR, and LIVE! At the Battery, as they offer weekly specials and the long list of games for the child in all of us.
Cost: Prices vary.

Travel the world and embrace rich holiday traditions during Fernbank’s annual holiday exhibit, Winter Wonderland: Celebrations & Traditions Around the World. This festive exhibit features beautiful trees and other displays decorated by local cultural partners that recognize celebrations, including Christmas and Hanukkah, as well as visual arts, cuisine and traditions. Immerse yourself in a worldly experience as you walk among decorated trees and art that highlight customs from different cultures. Bring the holiday cheer home with you by purchasing items from the Fernback gift shop featuring different festive gifts for you and the fam.
Cost: $24.95

On the night before Christmas (literally), go and experience Spaceman’s Christmas Eve Bourbon Tasting and discover the sometimes distinct, but often subtle differences between three of America's most popular Whiskeys. Each Bourbon is paired with a carefully curated sweet bite to highlight the character of each individual spirit. Tasting notes, recipes for the sweet pairings and information about the three highlighted distillers are collected for you in a booklet. As the night winds down the establishment is set to host an ugly sweater contest and will announce three winners: Best Sweater, Most Flair, and Most Sophisticated.
Cost: Prices vary

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Okla Jones is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes about food, fine arts, and entertainment. His work also appears in ESSENCE, Creative Loafing Atlanta, and Consequence of Sound. Follow him on Instagram at @coolhandoak.