Local ways to foster family fun and lasting memories this season
By Melanie Preis
Go beyond ordinary gifts this holiday season and opt for magical experiences. We’ve gathered our 10 favorite ways to really set this holiday season apart with awesome activities, from cooking and baking projects to share in the kitchen to outdoor day trips in Atlanta. ‘Tis the season to make new holiday traditions that put a smile on everyone’s face!
1. All Aboard for Holiday Fun
Whether you enjoy watching The Polar Express every holiday season or love trains in general, make your way to the Blue Ridge Mountains and board the Holiday Express. This festive one-hour train ride features holiday music and a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” as well as candy canes, jingle bells and a chance to see Santa! Riders can also purchase snacks and hot chocolate on board. Can’t wait until winter for a train ride? Take a Thanksgiving ride to witness the stunning fall foliage of Northern Georgia during a 2 or 4-hour rides.
2. Make the Holidays Da’ Bomb
Hot chocolate bombs are super delicious to drop in a mug of warm milk, but they are even more fun to make! Book a class at Atlanta chocolatiers like Chamberlain’s Chocolate Factory or watch a YouTube tutorial about creating custom bombs. Or just skip the mess and buy ready-made chocolate bombs from Ash Sweet Creations and A Cacao Affair. Extend the family time by creating a hot chocolate bar in your home with different types of milk, toppings, individualized mugs, sugar rock stirrers, candy canes and much more.
3. Ice, Ice, Baby
Atlantic Station is always buzzing with family-friendly events, so make sure to bring the kids during the holiday season. Bring your own skates or rent them at Skate the Station, the shopping district’s outdoor holiday ice skating rink. While spending the holidays at this beloved Midtown spot, enjoy the general splendor of the massive Christmas tree. Show up in mid-November for the annual tree lighting ceremony, which also includes a holiday parade and Santa sightings.
Skip the mess and stress of holiday cooking (seriously, making a juicy turkey is tough) and rely on tasty Atlanta restaurants to do the heavy lifting with holiday takeout. Go with kid-friendly fare from spots like Maggiano’s, Hobnob Neighborhood Tavern and South City Kitchen that offer special Thanksgiving menus for hungry families to take home or eat on-site during holiday hours.
5. The Nutcracker and Holiday Shows
Nothing says the holidays more than watching Atlanta Ballet’s The Nutcracker, performed at Cobb Energy Centre. This larger-than-life production combines traditional stage magic with innovative technology. If you prefer to see the Nutcracker performed in the famed Fox Theatre, visit in mid-December for The NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet tour.
6. Great Outdoors
Make great holiday memories by spending the day outdoors along the Atlanta Beltline. Because our fair city features wonderful fall and winter weather, take a walk or family bike ride through the best intown neighborhoods. While on the Beltline, stop by Ponce City Market and grab a juice or dessert. Score bonus points with kiddos and take them to Illuminarium, a fully immersive experience where visitors “journey” to other lands and worlds with the help of cinematic immersion that involves all the senses.
7. Get Crafty
Spend an afternoon together working on an art project that can be saved for subsequent holidays. Parents will love pulling out holiday keepsakes each season as children grow and keep the tradition going. Find holiday workshops and art classes throughout Atlanta and enroll as a group by making projects like ornaments, gingerbread houses, pumpkin carving, holiday cards, wreaths and more. Try artsy spots like Red Seal Craft Studio, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, Spruill Center for the Arts and other local studios to check out upcoming holiday projects.
8. Spread Kindness
Celebrate the season of giving by volunteering as a family during the holidays. Not only will you make lasting positive memories together, you will help create positive memories and experiences for those seeking assistance. Volunteer projects that allow kids to help include the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Furkids, Hands On Atlanta, Pebble Tossers and more.
9. Knock, Knock Elves
Kids love the Elf on the Shelf living in their home, but why not kick up the holiday magic? Let your little elves take a field trip through Atlanta by posing them at the various Tiny Doors ATL spaces. Take a photo of your tiny elf at these tiny doors while the kids are in school to show them what their elf was up to during the day – then make a scrapbook of the elf’s adventure. Or better yet, spend a weekend letting kids bring their own elf to these colorful, artistic entryways—they can introduce their elf to the neighborhoods and hold tight to the memories of a family odyssey through Atlanta.
10. Jingle Jogs
Register to run or walk as a family in a 1-mile or 5K race—there are many worthy causes seeking participants; the holiday season alone hosts tons of turkey trots, jingle jogs and reindeer races throughout metro Atlanta and beyond. Up your family’s bonding potential by having everyone wear ugly Christmas sweaters, silly socks or holiday headgear. After crossing the finish line, reward all that cardio with a holiday treat from a local bakery, like a Hannukah sufganiyah (jelly doughnut), from Revolution or Sublime Doughnuts.