7 Atlanta holiday traditions to help celebrate the season

Families can enjoy light displays, entertainment and more in the limited-admission Stone Mountain Christmas experience. 
Courtesy of Stone Mountain Park
Families can enjoy light displays, entertainment and more in the limited-admission Stone Mountain Christmas experience. Courtesy of Stone Mountain Park

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

In 2020, “Home for the holidays” has a new ring to it; here are a few fun seasonal traditions you can still enjoy.

A big dose of holiday cheer sounds like the perfect way to brighten up this hectic year. “Alexa play ‘We Need a Little Christmas.’” But of course, the pandemic is throwing a few wrenches (or Grinches) into your usual holiday traditions. Some major Atlanta favorites are canceled this year out of concern for virus spread (i.e. the Atlanta Ballet’s annual live production of “The Nutcracker”; Macy’s Pink Pig and Stone Mountain’s Snow Mountain). But no worries, the city is still decking the halls, and Santa’s still comin’ to town.

“Traditions and fun — shared experiences with the people we love — are what the holidays are all about,” says Susie Grant, the co-owner of the family-run Yule Forest Christmas tree farm in Stockbridge. Welcoming patrons since 1983, Yule Forest farm opens again to spread some much-needed holiday happiness during the 2020 season.

And they are not the only ones around the metro helping to get us into the yuletide spirit. From Christmas tree shopping to a singalong train ride, here are a few other holiday traditions to help celebrate the season.

O’ Christmas Tree

Picking out a Christmas tree is one of those nostalgic activities that families have enjoyed for generations. And this year is no different.

“There is nothing like coming out and experiencing the Christmas spirit at our farm,” says Grant of Yule Forest. “It’s impossible not to feel yule tidings as you walk through our large selection of trees. The excitement of a kid helping to cut down their family tree is unmatched, and after this crazy year, I’m excited to see joy come back to our community.”

Christmas tree farms like Yule Forest offer a festive family outing, in which guests can select their favorite tree directly from the tree field or from a wide selection of pre-cut trees. Visitors of the farm can also enjoy warm cider, hayrides and their country store. Also, check out local area farms like Coker Tree Farm, Southern Belle Farm and Sleepy Hollow Farm.

Find lots of festive fun at the Yule Forest farm.
Courtesy of Yule Forest
Find lots of festive fun at the Yule Forest farm. Courtesy of Yule Forest

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Let There Be Lights

Want another way to make the season bright? Holiday light displays are a magical, treasured tradition to look forward to. Expect those neighborhood light displays and yard decorations to grow this year, especially as families anticipate more time in their cozy abodes this winter.

Also, light displays at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Callaway Gardens resume this season — with added safety COVID-19 measures. As a new pivot for 2020, Lake Lanier’s popular annual drive-in light show has transitioned into a walk-through light display. Visitors to the new Lakeside Lights Spectacular are still invited to pair the experience with Margaritaville’s License to Chill Snow Island, which features carnival rides, an ice skating rink, concessions and snowtubing (additional costs apply).

Silver Screens

Who doesn’t love a good holiday movie? But after months in quarantine, the allure of watching another movie in your home may have lost its luster. And if you’re still hesitant to head into the cinema, you have options.

To help ease social distance concerns and lure back theatergoers, AMC theaters announced that guests could rent out an entire theater for $99. Also, check out Atlanta’s Starlight Drive-In, where families can continue their annual tradition of watching the latest new holiday blockbuster or their favorite holiday classic — albeit in the socially-distanced comfort of their cars.

Also, Nutcracker fans don’t have to completely break tradition. Devotees of the ballet classic can watch a previously-recorded performance of the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker production as a drive-in movie experience at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

Tidings and Cheers (for ages 21+)

Whether to your dismay (or more likely to your delight), the holiday office party is canceled. But if social drinking still feels like a missed holiday ritual, consider the fairly recent tradition of the Christmas-themed pop-up bars. This year, many of the Miracle Bar Atlanta locations require reservations to maintain safe social distancing. As a new venue in the Miracle Bar lineup, the Fox Theatre requires a $55 advanced ticket purchase, which includes live entertainment, complimentary snacks and a signature Miracle Santa cocktail mug.

Seasonal Sips

For long-time Atlanta residents, taking out-of-town guests to the World of Coca-Cola and other popular tourist attractions probably seems like a tradition in itself. Therefore, as an experience that the whole family can enjoy, head back to the World of Coca-Cola for their holiday celebration. Adults can take a walk down memory lane as they explore all the vintage holiday-themed ads and artifacts. And kids may enjoy the tasting room, which will offer new festive beverage flavors (and additional social distancing and FDA safety measures).

Polar Express

Although Snow Mountain, Stone Mountain’s winter tubing experience, was derailed by the pandemic, the Stone Mountain singalong train is a family classic that still chugs on. With admission to Stone Mountain Christmas, guests can ride the scenic Christmas train, which makes a short roundtrip journey through their forest of light displays. Patrons can also partake in live entertainment, holiday concessions and even a 4-D screening of the Polar Express.

Visitors walk down memory lane, exploring all the holiday-themed ads and artifacts of the World of Coca-Cola holiday celebration.
Courtesy of World of Coca-Cola
Visitors walk down memory lane, exploring all the holiday-themed ads and artifacts of the World of Coca-Cola holiday celebration. Courtesy of World of Coca-Cola

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Spirit of Giving

Even though Macy’s Pink Pig — a decades-long pop-up attraction and fundraiser for Children’s Health Care of Atlanta (CHOA) — was canceled for 2020, Macy’s is still pledging a $65,000 donation to CHOA. For those who patronize the Pink Pig annually, consider still making a small donation to CHOA.

Though nixed events and customs have certainly caused many of us displeasure, it’s nothing in comparison to those who have suffered true misfortune or loss. Charitable giving and philanthropy are still as much of a holiday tradition as any, so look into other ways to spread cheer and extend blessings to those who need it most this holiday season and beyond.

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