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Holiday light displays around Atlanta are brighter this year

With the holiday season upon us, the Atlanta area is glowing with spectacular light displays.

Millions of LED lights transform popular area destinations such as lush gardens and amusement parks into sparkling holiday wonderlands. And this year, new dazzling light displays are delivering bigger, better and brighter holiday lights to deliver plenty of holiday cheer. We take a look at six places with some of the best holiday lights close to home. Please note that hours and prices vary depending on the day. Check websites for specific hours and pricing.

Ralph Thomas and his 4-year-old grandson Logan Thomas make their way through a new tunnel of lights in Margaritaville at Lanier Islands in Buford. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Magical Nights of Lights at Lake Lanier

Magical Nights of Lights is back for its 26th year, now with a Margaritaville twist.

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Transport yourself into a laid-back, tropical state of mind as you wind your way through seven miles of traditional – yet unique – holiday lights. Classic favorites like the “12 Days of Christmas” display will make their return this year along with 19 new lights displays, including an “It’s 5 o’ Clock Somewhere” clock and a Christmas tree made entirely of surfboards.

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere is one of the new light displays in Margaritaville at Lanier Islands in Buford. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Also new this year — as this popular destination is under new ownership and now known as Margaritaville at Lanier Islands — is License to Chill Snow Island. This winter-time attraction features a new ice-skating rink, a massive new snow-tube hill with 10 lanes, carnival rides and snow play areas – complete with snowball throwing targets. Magical Nights of Lights is open every day from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. through Jan. 6. License to Chill Snow Island is open through Feb. 24.

A pair of visitors take in the festive light display in a tunnel at Margaritaville in Lanier Islands in Buford. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

$43 per vehicle (shuttle buses or other buses are more) for Magical Nights of Lights. $19.99-$34.99 (season passes available) for License to Chill Snow Island. Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, 7650 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford. 678-304-3120, lanierislands.com/margaritaville

Stone Mountain Christmas

The holidays come to life during Stone Mountain Christmas where more than 2 million LED lights adorn the park, including a 275-foot lit tree at the mountain’s summit.

Families can wander through more than 2 million dazzling lights and take photos with Santa, Rudolph and Clarice. A Polar Express 4-D movie experience is back by popular demand, too.

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Stone Mountain Christmas features light shows and activities throughout the park. (Stone Mountain Park)

New this year is a nightly Enchanted Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony which includes Santa’s high-flying entrance. Families can gather and help the Snow Angel make it snow in the park and view nightly fireworks. A high-energy parade comes complete with elves, the Abominable Snowman and other holiday favorites dancing their way along the route. Stone Mountain Christmas is open every weekend and every day during the winter school break through Jan. 6.

$20 for parking or $40 for an annual pass. Tickets to Stone Mountain Christmas start at $34.95. Note: For Snow Mountain (featuring 18 lanes of daytime tubing fun) a separate ticket is required for two-hour tubing sessions and all-day access to play area at Snow Mountain. Snow Mountain tickets also start at $34.95.) Combo packages start at $49.95. Discounts available online. Stone Mountain Park, 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. stonemountainpark.com.

A canopy of 165,000 red, green and white lights hang high above Main Street at Six Flags for Holiday in the Park. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Six Flag Over Georgia’s Holiday in the Park

A newer attraction only in its fifth year, this holiday wonderland is stepping it up with 30 holiday rides, including several roller coasters, and live performances. The Main Street Christmas park entrance features a twinkling light canopy and artificial snow.

New for this year is the Twisted Cyclone which sends riders head-over-heels at 50 miles per hour through the lights in S’mores Village. Also new is Bad Bob Humbug, a slapstick comedy show stuffed with holiday hijinks. Families can take the North Pole Express train to see Santa. There’s a choreographed light show and, of course, the historic 1908 Riverview Carousel will glow with more than 100,000 lights and 250 luminary candles. Open through Jan 6. $41.99-69.99. Discounts available online. 275 Riverside Parkway SW, Austell. 770-739-3400 sixflags.com/overgeorgia.

MORE: 10 ways to spot Santa Claus in metro Atlanta this holiday season

The Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City outside Chattanooga is one of the Tennessee city's favorite Christmastime destinations. Santa and Mrs. Claus, Inara -- The Ice Queen, Jack Frost, Frosty the Snowman and Rocky the Elf are some of the characters you'll find walking through the gardens this time of year. (Courtesy of Chattanooga Area CVB)

Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights

High atop Lookout Mountain, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights returns for its 24th season with more than 1 million LED lights and a new walk-through Christmas tree. The 43-foot walk-through Christmas Tree is being promoted as the first of its kind anywhere. The tree boasts thousands of programmable LEDs swirling and spinning to music, with a 40-foot archway tunnel of colored lights.

Other highlights at this destination about two hours from Atlanta include the Magic Forest, a wonderland of colorful dancing trees, orbs and arches twinkling and flashing to an original score of festive music. It all leads to the beloved Fairyland Caverns. The Arctic Kingdom features icy gardens with lighted penguins fishing alongside animatronic polar bears. Santa and Mrs. Claus preside at North Pole Village, where kids decorate cookies while warming up with a cup of hot cocoa and listening to live performances in the North Pole Lodge. 6-9 p.m. (many nights have holiday events starting at 4 p.m.) through Dec. 31 except Christmas Eve. (For lodging, go to www.chattanoogafun.com) $16.95-$28.95; $8.95-$14.95 for ages 3-12; 400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain. 706-820-2531. www.seerockcity.com.

The Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Garden Lights, Holiday Nights has a new twist on last year’s popular towering three-dimensional light curtain. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Garden Lights, Holiday Nights

Already stunningly beautiful, the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Garden Lights, Holiday Nights wows visitors even more during the holiday season with new displays and a twist on last year’s towering three-dimensional light curtain. There’s also a new lounge in the Skyline Garden. The holiday lights include several of the giant topiary-like sculptures from this summer’s popular mosaiculture exhibition, “Imaginary Worlds: Once Upon a Time” – all shown in a new dazzling light.

This year’s display includes new music, choreography and sound effects with more than 70,000 color-changing LED bulbs creating images of the Northern Lights, a storm at sea and a gentle snowfall. For the first time, the show will extend to the new Skyline Garden, where the Flower Walk will be immersed in an all-white light tunnel. Robinson Gazebo, with its views of the Midtown skyline, will be transformed into a mod Skylights Lounge offering comfy seating, cash bars and a DJ. 5-11 p.m. nightly through Jan. 6. $14.95-$39.95. 1345 Piedmont Ave. NE, Atlanta; 404-876-5859. atlantabg.org

Drive your vehicle or ride an open-air trolley through Callaway Gardens' Fantasy in Lights. (callawaygardens.com/For the AJC)

Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy in Lights

A perennial favorite, Callaway Gardens’ Fantasy In Lights offers a night to remember with holiday lights and treats. Families can meet holiday characters up close and ride through a dazzling illuminated forest. Consider extending the celebration with an overnight stay at Callaway Resort & Gardens.

Named one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Light Displays in the world, Fantasy In Lights opened in 1992 with five scenes. The attraction grew quickly, adding new scenes each year and expanding the Christmas Village, an indoor shopping and hospitality area. Fantasy In Lights today comprises 15 displays and 8 million lights – enough to illuminate more than 26,000 six-foot tall Christmas trees. In 2016, a new scene titled Snow Day was added to mark the occasion of the 25th showing of Fantasy In Lights. You can choose to see the lights in an open-air trolley, the most popular option, or drive in your own vehicle. Through Jan. 5. Opens at 6 p.m. and visitors select a time slot. $14-$35. 17800 US-27, Pine Mountain. 844-512-3826. callawaygardens.com/

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