One of the best things about the holiday season is the amazing light displays. With a short road trip to Callaway Gardens' Fantasy In Lights, which runs Nov. 13-Jan. 2, you can view 8 million twinkling lights in festive seasonal scenes and create holiday memories.
Since 1992, Fantasy In Lights has been one of the brightest and best holiday light and sound shows in the South. Each year, visitors journey through the 5-mile display at the public garden and resort in Pine Mountain, about 60 minutes southwest of Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
The dazzling scenes have grown from five to 15. The original scenes were designed with help from Walt Disney Imagineering, who also created the Main Street Electrical Parade at the Magic Kingdom. As the number of scenes and attractions has expanded, Fantasy In Lights continues to be a Southern holiday tradition.
A trip to Fantasy In Lights is a favorite Christmas memory for Autumn Foss, a University of Georgia student and Warner Robins native. "During the drive we [listened to] Christmas music, sipped on hot chocolate, and my grandmother occasionally told stories about her childhood around Christmas time," she said. "But they have such a wide variety of different scenes, I think even our dog was entertained by it."
Here are 7 things to know to make the most of your Fantasy In Lights experience:
1. It takes over six weeks to set up the 15 light scenes. But when you pass by many of them, you won't simply see lights depicting a classic Christmas scene. The scenes appear to be moving, thanks to the “controlled images.” “The Enchanted Rainbow Forest scene has over 410 controlled images, for example. “The scenes take you through a story. Every scene is coordinated with a different song, like the '12 Days of Christmas' or 'Here Comes Santa Claus,'" said Ashley McCloskey, a Columbus native and Fantasy In Lights regular. "It keeps you engaged the whole time and the lights 'move' as well, making it really interactive."
2. The lights aren't just red, blue, green and white — Fantasy In Lights incorporates a complete palette of shades representing many different colors, said Rachel Crumbley, director of marketing and public relations for Callaway Gardens.
3. You would think Snowflake Valley, the winter wonderland scene made up entirely of white lights would be set up the fastest. In fact, it takes longer than any other scene to construct: two weeks.
4. Love the classic tale “Twas the Night Before Christmas?” At Fantasy In Lights, you can hear it in two different ways: tickets can be purchased to a fantastic retelling at Story Time with Mrs. Claus in Christmas Village. Or, a 10-minute show on Robin Lake Beach with music and narration is included with Fantasy In Lights admission.
5. Don't want to be stuck inside your car? Ride Callaway Gardens' Jolly Trolley for a 360-degree view of the lights at no additional cost.
6. You can see more than lights in both Fantasy In Lights and Christmas Village. Georgia Bulldogs coaching legend Vince Dooley plans to sign his book, "Dooley's Playbook," on Dec. 19 and 20 from 3-6 p.m. You could also score a great last-minute gift or gifts for friends and family. Listen to live music during the Holiday Chapel Organ Concerts on Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 21 through Dec. 28, as well as on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
7. You can take a break from preparing an extravagant Christmas dinner and let Callaway Gardens do the work. It offers a Christmas Eve dinner and all-you-can-eat Christmas day buffet. Afterwards, top off your day by viewing the lights.
Fantasy In Lights is open from Nov. 13-Jan. 2. Christmas Village is open Nov. 20 to Jan. 2. To learn more, visit the Fantasy In Lights website or call 888-520-0929. Callaway Gardens in located at 17800 U.S. Hwy. 27, Pine Mountain, GA 31822.