Best Things to Do in December in Atlanta

Christmas shows and events around Atlanta to waken your holiday spirit

Enjoying a magical holiday season is as easy as pointing the car in the right direction–so long as you know where you're headed. Living in Atlanta, the options are wide-ranging at holiday time. If you have a young family and want to share the magic of the season with your wee-ones, a visit to the tree lightings at both Decatur Square and Lenox Square are worth the waiting in line. Watch their eyes sparkle with excitement at the site of Rudolph at Center for Puppetry Arts or ride the Singalong Train at Stone Mountain Christmas.

If you don't mind an hour-and-a-half drive, your entire family (or just you and a date) can bask in the mesmerizing light display at Callaway Gardens. More than 8 million lights are draped across the lawns of these majestic gardens. Besides taking in the scene, you can enjoy shopping in the destination's Christmas Village and getting photos with Santa, too.

Two of Atlanta's newest holiday attractions are Holiday in the Park at Six Flags Over Georgia and The Snow Queen at Serenbe Playhouse. While these both offer outdoor fun, indoor entertainment can be found throughout the city. It's tough to beat Alliance Theatre's A Christmas Carol and Atlanta Ballet's The Nutcracker for classic Christmas shows.


The lush acreage at Midtown's Atlanta Botanical Garden takes on a magical quality come winter time courtesy of the annual Garden Lights Holiday Nights. Pack up the kids or just bring your beloved, and explore the grounds draped millions lights. Featuring numerous light displays utilizing the various blooms among the garden's 30 acres, as well as the giant topiary from the Imaginary Worlds exhibit, take in the scene as carolers sing holiday tunes. While you're there, you can partake in additional holiday activities like roasting s'mores and sipping hot cider. New this year, be sure to stroll the massive Tunnel of Light.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This is a huge in-town spectacle at the Garden drawing people from all over Atlanta.

Lesli's expert tip: The event is outdoors, so dress warmly! Also note that everyone, including Garden members, require a ticket.

Read more about Garden Lights Holiday Nights at Atlanta Botanical Garden →

The Snow Queen at Serenbe Playhouse
Photo courtesy of BreeAnne Clowdus

The Snow Queen transforms the Hans Christian Anderson tale that inspired Disney's Frozen into a riveting performance of ethereal beauty. Returning for the second year, last year's extended performance debut sold out and is expected to sell out again this year. Like other Serenbe Playhouse performances, the show takes place in one of their three outdoor venues, The Natural Playground. Patrons can arrive early for a beer or mulled cider. As dark falls, the beloved story of love, cynicism and courage comes alive in the woods. The show is less than an hour without intermission, and you'll be expected to move about (just a tad) as the show progresses. The Snow Queen is suitable for all ages.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: An outdoor venue, a beloved story and an ever-evolving theatre group challenge the status quo and create a winter experience you won't forget.

Lesli's expert tip: Serenbe Playhouse is unique for a number of reasons, not the least of which are their outdoor venues. It makes the performance a magical experience, but be sure to dress warmly for this event.

Read more about The Snow Queen at Serenbe Playhouse →

Holiday in the Park at Six Flags
Photo courtesy of Six Flags Over Georgia

Holiday in the Park is celebrating its second year in Georgia with festive shows, a million lights and delicious food that will usher in the holiday spirit for the whole family. Select rides are open during the winter season including Batman: The Ride and Goliath. Stroll through Main Street with a canopy of lights, or visit Retro Christmas USA with a taste of the past including a 130-foot tall Christmas tree complete with red, white and blue lights. Look out for Santa flying overhead at the North Pole, as you are enveloped in a sea of white twinkling lights. There's Mistletoe Mansion, a stained glass nativity, s'mores village with four fire pits, the North Pole Express and much more to delight children and adults alike.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Festive shows, more than one million LED lights and the chance to meet Santa Claus make this new Georgia holiday treat a must.

Lesli's expert tip: Stop at the 15-foot snow globe to document your visit. You can step inside for a picture-perfect family memory.

Read more about Holiday in the Park at Six Flags →


Santa at Phipps has been an Atlanta celebration for over 25 years. Don't expect to jump in line on a regular visit to Phipps Plaza. Because if its high regard and generational appeal, you'll have to plan ahead. Sign up for an appointment token on their website, then you'll receive an email beginning in September that allows you to schedule an appointment with the Jolly Ol' Elf. Each appointment slot is for a family (not per child.) In addition to the gorgeous backdrop, realistic-looking Santa and traditional appeal, the quality of prints is unmatched. The colors are natural and the paper is heavy-weight and high-quality, unlike many other "mall Santas." Once you experience the Phipps Santa, any other Santa photo just will not do!

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Kids will love the life-like Santa that is an Atlanta tradition for generations of families.

Lesli's expert tip: Be sure to pre-register online for your appointment early in the year, as appointment tokens are sent beginning in September.

Read more about Santa at Phipps →

Witness storytelling come to life in a special adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens' play about Scrooge, the three ghosts he meets and a little boy named Tiny Tim. Shakespeare Tavern is a hidden gem in the sphere of Atlanta performing arts, and outshines itself each year at Christmas with this performance. Arrive early to grab a drink and/or dinner from the British-pub menu. Rather than typical theatre-seating, you'll sit comfortably at a table in the audience, making it easy to enjoy your food and libations. The actors are exceptional and regularly receive accolades from theatre-goers around the world. Expect little pomp and circumstance that traditional theatre draws, this is for genuine lovers of the arts.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The themed architecture, unprecedented Elizabethan affection, talented cast and intimate space add up to an enforgetable experience of A Christmas Carol.

Lesli's expert tip: Come early and with an empty stomach to enjoy the Elizabethan-style dining and drink options. The tomato soup with cheddar and Granny Smith apple sandwich are a must.

Read more about Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at The Shakespeare Tavern →

The renowned Southern destination at Callaway Gardens is a sight to behold all year long with its brilliant blooms and breathtaking property. But, come holiday time, the light display is beyond compare. An hour and a half south of Atlanta, the destination is well worth the drive, particularly this time of the year. Plan your visit on a weekend and experience Fantasy in Lights in its full glory with more than 8 million lights and 15 scenes draping the landscape. See the lights and shop at the Christmas Village, enjoy story time with Mrs. Claus, get a photo with Santa and more.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: With accolades galore, this treat of over 8 million lights is a Southern holiday tradition.

Lesli's expert tip: Bed and Breakfast packages are available through Callaway Gardens or The Lodge and Spa, which include admission to Fantasy in Lights as well as the Garden.

Read more about Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens →

Rudolph at the Center for Puppetry Arts is one of the most anticipated events of the Christmas season. Each of the puppets take over six months to make, and they look identical to the Jon Ludwig/Tim Sweeney characters from the beloved TV special. In addition to Rudolph, you see his friends Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster. The show is recommended for kids aged 5 years old and up, possibly because of the scary snow monster. But don't let this young age fool you; this is a show that adults will love, as well. If the classic TV show is holiday staple for your family, you will want to add this puppet show to your tradition.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: This professional puppet show is like walking onto the set of the original Christmas classic.

Lesli's expert tip: Don't forget to head upstairs after the show. Ticket holders can make a hand puppet to take home.

Read more about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at Center for Puppetry Arts →

There's an ageless appeal to The Nutcracker, and Atlanta Ballet's rendition of the winter classic does not disappoint. Set to Tchaikovsky's magical music, as performed live by the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra, the ballet centers around a little girl named Clara who is gifted a nutcracker at her family's Christmas party by her mysterious Godfather Drosselmeyer. Clara embarks on an enticing adventure featuring sword-fighting giant mice, dancing sugar plum fairies, a land filled with candies and a dashing nutcracker prince. Dazzling choreography and set design elevate this wintry classic, lending it a timeless appeal and making it a fitting choice for families and couples, alike.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: Theatre, ballet, classic music and breathtaking costumes combine in this holiday performance.

Lesli's expert tip: If you can afford to splurge, ask for tickets in the "snow row." The soft flakes falling within Fox Theatre add much excitement to the performance.

Read more about Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker

Every year, Atlanta's eastern landmark transforms into a snowy scene for Stone Mountain Christmas. Families come together for memory-making moments as the park is draped with two million lights and plays host to a range of holiday productions. Visit Santa and listen to stories from Mrs. Claus; shop for holiday gifts and accessories in the village, see Santa and favorite holiday characters (as well as holiday music) during the nightly holiday parade; catch a classic holiday film; and get in the spirit (and take in the views) when you sing carols aboard the Singalong Train. Looking to extend your celebration? Stay at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort within the park, which includes indoor and outdoor heated pools and views of the lake.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: With multiple hoiday shows, the Singalong Christmas Train, a visit with Santa and the Snow Angel fly-over with fireworks, it's magic for the entire family.

Lesli's expert tip: Don't miss this year's new play, 'The Littlest Christmas Tree,' perfect for kids and the whole family.

Read more about Stone Mountain Christmas →

Celebrate the beloved Dickens classic and the all-Atlanta cast you've come to treasure. On Christmas Eve, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts- the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, who help him see his life more clearly and teach him that it is never too late to change your heart. A Christmas Carol is a magical tradition for the whole family and a great way to celebrate the season. Returning to the cast in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is acclaimed Atlanta actor David de Vries (Beauty and the Beast, Wicked, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). De Vries first performed as Scrooge last year following the retirement of actor Chris Kayser, who retired from the role after playing Scrooge for 16 of the last 20 seasons. Kayser will return to the production this year in the role of Jacob Marley.

Recommended for Things to Do in December because: The most heartwarming story of the season comes to life with holiday carols, stunning stage magic and your favorite Atlanta actors.

Lesli's expert tip: Attending with the family? Try the Family Nights Package which includes four tickets to the show (additional tickets can be added for an additional cost,) pre-paid parking, a holiday keepsake family photo and a choir performance in the galleria prior to the performance.

Read more about Alliance Theatre's A Christmas Carol →


Meet Lesli Peterson

Lesli made her way to Atlanta over 20 years ago, after living in Germany, Japan and six U.S. states. She relishes the discovery of obscure, offbeat and unwonted places, and she will chat up any...  More About Lesli