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Five ways to celebrate the holidays in Atlanta
The holiday season is in full swing, and for most people, celebrating everything merry and bright is the best annual tradition. While many large-scale events are canceled because of the ongoing pandemic, that doesn’t mean you can’t experience Yuletide cheer. Ready to have a holly, jolly holiday? Keep reading below for five ways to safely celebrate the holiday season in Atlanta.
Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Kick off the most wonderful time of the year by visiting the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Garden Lights, Holiday Nights. Thousands of lights illuminate the gardens and sculptures from their new exhibition, Alice’s Wonderland Reimagined. While the characters twinkle throughout the night, you can bask in the holiday glow. Plus, enjoy Nature’s Wonders, the world’s largest curtain of choreographed lights and sound. Their prized Ice Goddess also returns with all-new colors. This dazzling exhibit is sure to wow everyone of all ages, and it’s the ultimate way to commemorate the holidays. Tickets are available online only and start at $21.95 for children ages 3-11 and $24.95 for adults.
Holidays on the Roof at Ponce City Market
What better way to celebrate the holidays than on a rooftop overlooking the city? Ponce City Market’s Holidays on the Roof is back and better than ever. Whether you’re with your significant other, your family, or friends, there’s something for everyone to love. Atlanta may not have the classic frozen pond to skate on, but a rooftop with bounding views is a close second—the Roof becomes a winter wonderland with a full ice rink so you can become the figure skater of your dreams. For only $30 per person, you’ll receive access to the Roof plus re-entry, skating for 50 minutes, skate rental, and unlimited gameplay at Skyline Park. There’s even a live DJ on the weekends so you can skate the night away. If ice skating isn’t your thing, reserve a private igloo and take in extraordinary views of the Atlanta skyline. There’s plenty of fun for the family, too. Family-friendly igloos are available on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, plus performances by the resident Ice Queen.
Stone Mountain Christmas
Stone Mountain is transformed into a Christmas village straight from a Hallmark® movie during the annual Stone Mountain Christmas. Lights and trees decorate the park while you partake in magical moments with your family—marvel at the Snow Angel as she floats through the park in their Christmas parade, or enjoy the new Christmas laser show. And, there’s one thing you don’t want to miss: Santa himself flying above in his sleigh during the nightly Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony. Plus, tune into the renowned Tinseltone Carolers as they sing classic holiday favorites—or, experience the wonder of The Polar Express in a thrilling, 4D film format. Tickets start at $29.95 for children ages 3-11 and $31.95 for adults.
Six Flags’ Holiday in the Park
Looking to bring out your adventurous side? Six Flags’ Holiday in the Park is the perfect way to commemorate the holidays, all while experiencing an adrenaline rush. Feel the joys of the holiday season with dozens of trees, millions of lights, and garland adorning the park. Experience the most popular, thrilling rides the park has to offer while simultaneously taking part in holiday festivities. If rides aren’t your thing, there are plenty of shows, tasty treats, and more. Tickets start at $34.99 per person.
License to Chill Snow Island at Lake Lanier
While a white Christmas isn’t always guaranteed here in Georgia, there’s no shortage of snow at License to Chill Snow Island at Margaritaville® Lanier Islands. There’s plenty of fun to be had with snow tubing, snowball fights, and more. Home to one of the longest snow rides in North America, Parrot Mountain is a 575-foot-long, eight-story snow slide that is perfect for snow tubing pros and beginners alike. Or, play in the snow, challenge your friends to a snowball fight, and make snow angels at Snowball Alley. And although Lake Lanier’s Magical Nights of Light is no more, you can enjoy the new Lakeside Lights, allowing you to walk through thousands of brilliant lights—with plenty of photo ops. Ticket prices vary.
Filming in Atlanta: lights, camera, action!
With Gov. Nathan Deal reporting that the film industry contributed to Georgia’s bottom line to the tune of a whopping $2.7 billion in direct spending in 2017, as well as being at the epicenter of filming in the state, is it any wonder Atlanta is being referred to as the “new Hollywood”? According to georgia.org, Georgia’s Entertainment Industry Investment Act provides a 30% tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in Georgia, either in a single production or on multiple productions. Of course, you cannot speak about filming in Atlanta, or the state of Georgia, without mentioning Tyler Perry!
After moving to Atlanta in the early ’90s, a young Tyler Perry worked jobs as a bill collector and used car salesman to aid in saving the $12,000 that he would use to put toward his first major performance, I Know I’ve Been Changed. Fast forward, Perry would go on to sign a 100-episode deal for his sitcom Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. He then went on to partner with Oprah Winfrey to bring scripted television to her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). Afterwards, he would strike a deal with ViacomCBS that included new, original content, featuring both sitcoms and dramatic series.
When asked during the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit what drove him to build his empire, Perry responded, “My father was a guy who was a carpenter—he would come home, make $800, and be really excited. But I would always see the guy who sold the house after he had built it right, and he would make $80,000. So, I was always more interested in being the guy who actually sold the house rather than the guy who was out building it…Also, I like the creative freedom…so I needed to be in a situation that fostered my ability to be able to do that.”
And what empire would be complete without a proper kingdom? In 2015, Perry acquired the 330-acre Fort McPherson and converted the former military base into Tyler Perry Studios. Located in the heart of Atlanta, this state-of-the-art studio, which happens to be the first studio to be owned outright by an African American, comes complete with 12 soundstages, each named after Black entertainment icons such as Harry Belafonte, Whoopi Goldberg, Denzel Washington, and Halle Berry. Since opening the gates, Tyler Perry Studios has been available for filming to blockbuster movies such as Black Panther, Bad Boys 4 Life, and the upcoming Coming to America 2, as well as being the home for AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead.
And there’s more to come—after Georgia passed the controversial “heartbeat bill,” Perry told the Associated Press that he can’t just “up and leave” filming in Georgia. With a host of new content being created such as The Oval and Sistas, both dramatic series respectively showing on BET, Perry stated, “Atlanta has been the dream. It has been the promised land. So, when I got here, this whole state and city has been amazing to me, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Also, I put $250 million in the ground here and in the studio. So, when you have a quarter of a billion dollars sat down in the ground, you can’t just up and leave.”
Five fun, fall-related activities to do in Atlanta
Summer has come and gone, and fall has finally arrived. We’re thrilled about everything that accompanies this season—from cooler weather and bonfires to Halloween and more. Even though this fall may look a little different, there is still plenty of fun, socially distanced activities for you to enjoy. Ready to celebrate spooky season? We’ve got you covered. Keep reading below for five ways you can commemorate fall in Atlanta.
Visit a pumpkin patch
What’s fall without a trip to the pumpkin patch? Grab your kids, partner, or your favorite friends and venture up to Dawsonville to visit Burt’s Farm. You’ll be greeted by a sea of hundreds of pumpkins, with some weighing as much as 150 pounds. You’re guaranteed to find the perfect pumpkin to bring home and carve. In addition to their pumpkin patch, Burt’s Farm also offers a hayride for the whole family to enjoy. Burt’s Farm is open daily from 9am-6pm, and their hayride is open from 9am-5pm. Admission and parking are free, and hayride tickets are $6.
Go apple picking
Apple picking is another quintessential fall activity, and B.J. Reece Orchards in Ellijay offers more than 100 acres of farmland, so you can partake in fall traditions while remaining socially distanced. So, grab a basket get picking! When you’re finished for the day, haul them home and bake some old-fashioned apple pie or even homemade apple cider! B.J. Reece Orchards’ apple picking season runs daily through October 31st, or until they’re picked out. The orchard is open daily from 9am-5pm.
Celebrate fall at Stone Mountain’s Pumpkin Festival
Soak in everything fall has to offer by attending Stone Mountain’s Pumpkin Festival. Enjoy a family-friendly day at the park with attractions ranging from an obstacle course, a 4D movie, plus a train ride around the park. The festival even features a pie-eating contest! And, after the sun sets, the park is transformed into its “Glow by Night” experience with flickering lights, massive jack-o-lanterns, rolling fog, a nighttime parade, and more. The Pumpkin Festival takes place every weekend through November 1st from 2pm-9pm.
Explore a corn maze
It’s not fall until you visit a corn maze, and Copper Creek Farm in Calhoun has just that, and so much more! The farm offers a massive corn maze for the whole family to enjoy, plus pig races, steer roping, a petting zoo, wagon hayrides, and dozens of other activities to commemorate the fall season. And, if you’re feeling brave enough, try your luck at the haunted corn maze—you’re sure to have a hauntingly good time. General admission is $16.83, and the haunted farm experience is an additional $5. Opening dates vary, so visit their website to view their calendar.
Get spooked at Six Flags Over Georgia’s HALLOWFEST
There’s no better way to celebrate Halloween than by going to Six Flags’ HALLOWFEST. Experience family-friendly activities by day, including magic shows, games, Halloween-themed games, and stories. But, by night, the park is transformed into a spooktacular nightmare that’s guaranteed to give you a fright. Hair-raising characters are unleashed and creep and crawl around the park, leaving you wondering what’s lurking in the shadows behind you. Reservations are required to visit the park. Ticket options vary, so visit their website to view availability and deals.
How to help small businesses during COVID-19
Many locally owned businesses are struggling because of COVID-19. With social distancing measures in place, small businesses are either drastically changing how they operate or shutting their doors altogether. However, there are various ways you can help local businesses stay afloat. Here are five things you can do to help small businesses in your community survive:
Purchase gift cards
Gift cards are a great way to support small businesses while maintaining social distancing. By purchasing a gift card, you’re still contributing to local businesses, and you can shop or go out to eat at a later date. This especially helps places that have had to completely shut their doors, like nail and hair salons or boutiques. Most places allow you to purchase gift cards on their website.
Continue to shop online
Shopping online is another fantastic way to practice social distancing and continue supporting local businesses. Despite closing their doors to foot traffic, many small businesses are still open and operating, offering curbside pick-up or delivery. Even if some businesses don’t have the option to purchase online, you can often shop by simply messaging them through social media sites like Instagram or calling the store and placing an order directly.
Many local restaurants offer takeout or curbside pick-up. Most restaurants are also waiving delivery fees or offering no-contact delivery—meaning the delivery driver leaves your order outside of your door. If you plan having your food delivered, try to order directly from the restaurant, so you know they’re receiving 100% of the profits. A majority of food delivery services take a portion of the profits for themselves or charge restaurants high fees.
Contribute to a fundraising campaign
If you don’t feel comfortable ordering from restaurants, you could contribute to a fundraising campaign. Many restaurants and other small businesses are starting fundraisers for their employees who aren’t working their full hours or aren’t working altogether. Most post the fundraisers on their social media pages—all you have to do is donate online. However, do your research to be sure that what you’re donating to is legitimate. And, if your favorite restaurant doesn’t have a fundraising campaign, you could even start one for them.
Share on social media
If you’re not in the place to contribute financially, that’s okay. You can still help small businesses by solely sharing their posts on social media. Share a local restaurant’s menu or a local boutique’s post about their virtual styling appointments—either way, a simple share goes a long way, and it’s greatly appreciated by many small businesses.
Georgia’s Own Credit Union recognized for community outreach
Our very own Adam Marlowe, Principal Market Development Officer, discussed our constant dedication to improving the community—an important philosophy of Georgia’s Own. From partnering with organizations, such as L.E.A.D and Action Ministries, to promoting financial wellness, Georgia’s Own consciously prioritizes giving back to our members and their communities.
Because of our efforts, we received the BadCredit.org Editor’s Choice Award for Community Commitment.
Click here to learn more about our endeavors during 85 Acts of Kindness.
Surprise your sweetheart: hot spots for Valentine’s Day in Georgia
We all know planning the perfect Valentine’s Day date night can be a struggle—it’s a never-ending cycle of pondering where to eat, what to do, or where to stay. Still deciding on if you want to enjoy a romantic night in the city or partake in a luxurious weekend getaway? We’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorite restaurants, activities, and destinations right here in Georgia that are terrific for Valentine’s Day.
Nestled along the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Canoe offers a rustic yet elegant atmosphere that is guaranteed to delight your senses. This fine-dining culinary gem offers award-winning cuisine from their Roasted Berkshire pork chop and Southern-style collards to their wood-grilled New York strip—all are sure to gratify your palate. Town & Country Magazine calls this unique setting the “most romantic restaurant in Atlanta.”
The Sun Dial
Situated at the top of the Westin in Downtown Atlanta, The Sun Dial, a rotating restaurant and Atlanta icon, offers sweeping views of the city lights below. Enjoy a prix-fixe, four-course dinner from their special Valentine’s Day menu created by award-winning chefs. Be sure to make reservations beforehand because this is a popular Valentine’s Day spot.
10 Degrees South
Located in Buckhead, 10 Degrees South is the country’s first South African restaurant. The eatery is deeply inspired by family tradition, and the cuisine is crafted by founder Justin Anthony’s parents, who coincidentally are the restaurant’s executive chefs. Their Valentine’s Day menu features dishes such as filet “Au Poivre,” a filet mignon topped with a Madagascan peppercorn sauce, and chicken curry made with traditional South African spices. The bungalow-inspired atmosphere and delectable fare make this culinary experience rated as one of the top 16 restaurants in Buckhead by Trip Savvy.
La Tavola, located at the heart of Virginia-Highland, offers genuine Italian cuisine from Executive Chef Jonathan Beatty. With the cozy, romantic ambiance and hearty dishes, you can’t go wrong with this trattoria for Valentine’s Day. Their menu offers a variety of traditional dishes, from tagliolini to zuppa di pesce, to desserts like chocolate pistachio torte—there’s something for everyone at this hot Italian spot.
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Get swept through 80 years of romance at the Atlanta Botanical Garden this Valentine’s Day for “Valentines in the Garden: Decades of Love.” Enjoy small bites from some of Atlanta’s most renowned chefs, live music, and more. From the 50s to the 80s, each decade is represented in different sections of the garden, with music and décor constituting accordingly. Dress for the decade of your choice and celebrate the night away!
For those seeking something unconventional, head over to Oakland Cemetery for “Love Stories of Oakland: Valentine’s Day.” Venture through more than 20 stops in this historic Victorian cemetery as your guide recalls the love stories of Atlantans in the years gone by, as well as hidden symbols of love throughout the hallowed grounds. If you’re looking to escape the traditional route this year, Oakland Cemetery is the way to go.
Towering over Centennial Park, the SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel offers boundless views of downtown while relaxing in climate-controlled gondolas. Take in the vast sights with your sweetheart at this Atlanta staple. If you want to upgrade your experience, try the VIP gondola—it boasts Ferrari-style seats, a glass floor, and a longer ride time.
Flower Arrangement Workshop
Enjoy a fun-filled afternoon of embracing your crafty side at Flower Bar’s Valentine’s Day arrangement workshop. Bring your honey, and learn the ins and outs of making your own flower arrangement in this 90-minute class. Once your masterpiece is finished, bring it home with you, and display it proudly for all to see! Even better—all materials are provided, so no scrambling around at the last minute to find what you need.
Chateau Elan Winery and Resort
Located in Braselton, the newly-renovated Chateau Elan is the ideal extravagant weekend getaway. Indulge in a four-course meal, enjoy a relaxing couple’s day at the spa, or partake in a round of golf—there’s something for everyone here. This picturesque resort offers sweeping views of the North Georgia foothills, and its romantic, Southern charm offers an intimate weekend for you to escape bustling city life.
Nestled on historic grounds in Adairsville, Barnsley Resort is essential for those wanting luxury while experiencing all that North Georgia has to offer. Enjoy a guided horseback ride through the grounds of the resort, ride a UTV in the Appalachian foothills, or learn the art of fly fishing at one of the several ponds on the resort grounds. Rejuvenate at the redesigned upscale spa and experience ultimate tranquility. Stay at the Inn or an Estate Cottage. Whatever you do, Barnsley Resort is sure to provide a weekend of relaxation and resurgence.
Callaway Resort & Gardens
Callaway Resort & Gardens, in Pine Mountain, is an oasis that is calling your name. Whether you stay in the Lodge and Spa with views of Robin Lake, The Cottages, or The Villas with a secluded setting, you’ll be enchanted by the beauty this resort has to offer. They’re all about nature and offer numerous immersion activities that put you right in the heart of it all, like BirdFest, which occurs Valentine’s Day weekend. It features bird walks, nature-based workshops, live bird shows, and more. Callaway is also home to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, one of North America’s largest butterfly conservatories. These beautiful, delicate creatures fly freely among the variety of tropical plants that are housed in the glass-closed environment. If you and your significant other are nature fanatics, this is a destination that is to die for.
Lake Rabun Hotel
The Historic Lake Rabun Hotel, a charming boutique hotel operating since 1922, is the quintessential getaway for those who want to experience the Blue Ridge Mountains and all it encapsulates. Each room exudes rustic charm and offers the perfect amount of privacy. The hotel also operates an award-winning farm to table restaurant surrounded by pines, oaks, and hemlocks. There are plenty of parks, rivers, and waterfalls located nearby, and if you’re tuckered out from outdoor activities, the Lake Rabun Hotel offers a luxurious spa. You can also shop at the various locally-owned stores in nearby Clayton, Dillard, and Lakemont Art Village. The Lake Rabun Hotel has everything you need.
Whether you’re looking for a thrilling date night in the city or an idyllic weekend escape, these will certainly make for a Valentine’s Day you’ll always remember in the years to come.