Atlanta’s Cool Weather Events to Keep You Busy All Season
By Everett Catts
Winter doesn’t officially begin until Dec. 21, but at venues acrossmetro Atlanta, the year’s coldest season has already commenced with a plethora of events to choose from. And while the wintertime kicks off with a series of holiday events and activities, there are still plenty of other ways to celebrate the season in January and February, even after the holidays end.
There are countless ways to celebrate Christmas, from art to theatre to visits with Santa Claus. Looking for fun ways to revel in holiday cheer? Check out the Callanwolde Winter House (callanwolde.org/winterhouse2022), which will include art workshops, holiday décor, Santa Claus and more. At Holidays on the Roof at Ponce City Market (poncecityroof.com), you can rent an igloo for up to six people, visit with Santa and check out 9 Mile Station’s transformation into a woodland forest. Fernbank’s Winter Wonderland: Holidays and Traditions Around the World (fernbankmuseum.org) will feature trees and other displays decorated by local cultural partners that mark holiday traditions and practices from around the globe.
The World of Coke’s Holiday Celebration (worldofcoca-cola.com) will include holiday-related exhibits, seasonal/holiday beverages and more. The Atlanta Christkindl Market in the Buckhead Village District (christkindlmarket.org) is a traditional German market with authentic food and beverages, visits with Santa and a great place to find gifts for your loved ones. The Georgia Aquarium’s Winter Waterland (georgiaaquarium.org) will include holiday-themed dolphin presentations, photos with Santa, holiday movie showings in its 4D Theater and more.
And if you are musically or thespian inclined, there are a few holiday classics that should whet your whistle and put you in the spirit of giving. The Center for Puppetry Arts’ Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (puppet.org) is based on the 1964 television special. The Alliance Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (alliancetheatre.org) is based on Charles Dickens’ novella, and the Atlanta Ballet’s The Nutcracker (atlantaballet.com) is adapted from the original book by E.T.A. Hoffman and music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will host three Christmas with the ASO concerts (aso.org), featuring holiday carols, hymns and more.
Hannukah will take place Dec.18-26, and venues across the city will host menorahlighting ceremonies (atlantajewishconnector.com). Most, if not all of these events have free admission.
The holidays aren’t complete without checking out a light show, and there are plenty to choose from. While most of the light displays can only be accessed by foot, some are the drive-through kind, allowing families to stay warm in the comfort of their own vehicles. Though there are some smaller light shows in your area, these larger ones stand out:
Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Midtown (atlantabg.org) will feature more than a billion lights covering the grounds. Lights of Life at Life University in Marietta (life.edu/lights-of-life) is a drive-through display, but don’t forget to stop for the pony rides, train rides and petting zoo. Stone Mountain Christmas (stonemountainpark.com) boasts the World’s Largest Light Show and also includes a Christmas parade and carolers.
Holiday in the Park at Six Flags (sixflags.com) includes more than a million lights, classic shows and music, visits with Santa and holiday treats. Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens (callawaygardens.com), named one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Light Displays in the World, includes drive-through and walk-through experiences. The Lakeside Light Spectacular at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands (margaritavilleresorts.com) features holidayand Margaritaville-themed lights, and Celebrate the Station at Atlantic Station (atlanticstation.com) includes lights, snow shows and more.
While there are countless adults-only New Year’s Eve parties in metro Atlanta, several venues are offering ways for the whole family to toast the start of 2023. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta’s Bubble Bash (childrensmuseumatlanta.org) will include music, dancing, games and lots of bubbles. Stone Mountain Park’s Early New Year’s Eve Celebration (stonemountainpark.com) will include snow, fireworks and more. Noon Year’s Eve at Avalon (experienceavalon.com) will feature face painting, crafts and snacks and will benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Noon Year’s Eve on the Roof at Ponce City Market (poncecityroof.com) will include balloon artists, a magician and much more.
Though many venues are hosting ice skating rinks as part of their holiday festivities, the rinks will stay open for weeks into January and even February. Here’s where to find those rinks: The Ice Rink at Sugar Hill (haidrink.com) will host special events including a Valentine’s Day date night. Olde Town on Ice at Olde Town Conyers Pavilion (icedays.com/conyers) and Ice Days Ice Skating Rink in Covington (icedays.com/covington) each have a separate area for hosting private parties and events.
License to Chill Snow Island at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands (margaritavilleresorts.com) offers ice skating plus snow tubing, amusement rides and opportunities to play in the snow. Skate the Sky at Ponce City Market (poncecityroof.com) includes ice skating, unlimited gameplay and admission to The Roof. Skate the Station at Atlantic Station (atlanticstation.com/event/skate-the-station) boasts metro Atlanta’s largest ice rink at 10,000 square feet.
The Rink at Park Tavern in Midtown (parktavern.com/ice-rink) offers patrons a view of Piedmont Park and the Midtown skyline plus selfie stations, fire pits and fireplaces and more. Season on the Square at Colony Square in Midtown (colonysquare.com/events) includes days when 10% of admission benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Avalon on Ice in Alpharetta (experienceavalon.com) features a Rockefeller Center-inspired rink.
Though most of metro Atlanta’s festivals take place in the warmer months of the year, there are still some that happen in the winter, though mostly indoors. Are you a beer or wine lover? If so, check out the Winter Beer Fest in Atlantic Station (atlantawinterbeerfest.com) or the Atlanta Winter Wine Festival (atlantawinefestivals.com/winter).
Are you an art lover? Then go to the Callanwolde Artist Market (callanwolde.org). Do you enjoy Chinese food and culture? If so, try the Atlanta Chinese Lunar New Year Festival (atlanticstation.com/event/lunar-new-year-2). Love movies? Then check out the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (ajff.org). Looking for something out of the ordinary? Try the Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival (atlantajugglers.org/festivals), set for Feb. 3-5 at the Yaarab Shrine Center in Midtown. It includes juggling, unicycling, flow and play, hooping and comedy.
Love New Orleans-themed cocktails and food? Check out the Mardis Gras Streetcar Adventure (atlantabartours.com), in which participants can ride the Atlanta Streetcar to more than 40 participating bars and restaurants.
Speaking of food, there are not one but two February festivals dedicated to oyster eating while the bivalves are still in season. The Steamhouse Lounge in Midtown will host its annual Oysterfest (steamhouselounge.com), and Atlantic Station will hold the Atlanta Oyster Festival (atlanticstation.com).
Polar Bear Plunges
If you’re ready to start the new year with an exhilarating bang, take a dip in the Lake Lanier Polar Bear Plunge-N-Paddle on Jan. 1. Other Polar Bear Plunges take place in Acworth on Lake Allatoona (acworthtourism.org) and Alpharetta (facebook.com/AlphaPolar-BearPlunge) later in January or February. Most of the events double as charity fundraisers, with some benefitting Special Olympics Georgia.
Speaking of Special Olympics Georgia, the State Indoor Winter Games (specialolympicsga.org) will come to venues across Cobb County Jan. 27 and 28. The competition will include basketball, bowling, floor hockey, powerlifting and female gymnastics.
Take a Hike
If you’re the outdoorsy type, the Atlanta Trails website (atlantatrails.com) has a guide on the best hiking trails in metro Atlanta and beyond. It also offers a list of its Favorite Winter Hikes (atlantatrails.com/hiking-trails). The winter hike list includes frozen waterfalls, the Appalachian Trail and even Providence Canyon State Park, nicknamed Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon.”
Two longtime Atlanta traditions will return in late December and mid- January with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (chick-fil-apeachbowl.com) and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration (thekingcenter.org), respectively. The Peach Bowl, set for Dec. 31 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will host one of the two College Football Playoff semifinal games. The King Celebration, taking place Jan. 10-16 at the King Center, marks the civil rights leader’s birthday.
Throughout the winter, Zoo Atlanta (zooatlanta.org) offers discounted admission for guests. So bring your winter gear to check out the panda bears, elephants, giraffes and the rest of the zoo’s animals. While Stone Mountain, as the world’s largest piece of exposed granite, gets most of the attention, its smaller cousin, the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area (arabiaalliance.org), is also worth a visit. Located nearby in Lithonia, it has two granite outcroppings and offers views of the Atlanta skyline on clear days.
Midtown’s Piedmont Park (piedmontpark.org), which is on the BeltLine and considered Atlanta’s version of New York’s Central Park, also gives visitors a chance to unwind. So grab a blanket and some food and drinks, and head down for a fun-filled picnic. Oakland Cemetery (oaklandcemetery.com), a park-like setting just east of downtown Atlanta, dates back to 1850 and is the final resting place of several famous Georgians, including Bobby Jones, Margaret Mitchell and seven Atlanta mayors. The cemetery hosts events even in winter, including weekly holiday scavenger hunts in December.
Speaking of history, the Atlanta Preservation Center (atlantapreservationcenter.com), which is located nearby in Grant Park in one of the only two remaining antebellum homes in the city, is the place to go to learn more about Atlanta’s architecture and historic buildings, neighborhoods and landscapes.