The holidays sparkle around Lake Lanier and the mountain headwaters with everything from snow tubing and glittering tree trails to Victorian traditions and dulcimer tunes. When Christmas is over, get ready for New Year’s Eve countdowns and fireworks. Start the year with a 5K, Polar Bear plunge or First Day Hike. Here’s a look at holiday highlights:
o License to Chill Snow Island/Lakeside Lights Spectacular, Buford. Snow tubing, ice skating, carnival rides, s’more making, plus walk-through holiday light extravaganza with festive music; Snow Island 11 a.m.-10 p.m. through Feb. 26, Lights Spectacular 5-9 p.m. through Jan. 16, Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, 7650 Lanier Islands Pkwy. Various prices. MargaritavilleRresorts.com/margaritaville-at-lanier-islands
o Old Fashioned Christmas, Dahlonega. Annual holiday festival through Dec. 31 includes Festival of Trees beginning Dec. 3 at Hancock Park, Christmas Parade Dec. 10, carriage rides, Santa visits, live music and more, Downtown Dahlonega. DahlonegaChristmas.com.
o Wilshire Wonderland of Lights, Gainesville. Walk through beloved Wilshire Trails Park decorated with holiday lights through Dec. 31. Free. ExploreGainesville.org.
o Victorian Christmas at Hardman Farm, Sautee Nacoochee. See historic farm mansion decorated in 1877 holiday style, learn about Victorian holiday traditions from reenactors in traditional holiday attire, plus live music, cookies, s’mores around the campfire, 4-7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays Dec. 3-17, Hardman Farm Historic Site, 143 Hwy. 17. Registration required. $20 adults, $15 ages 6-17, free to children 5 and younger, $45 family rate 2 adults with children younger than 17. GAstateparks.org, 706-878-1077.
o Holiday Tree Trail, Gainesville. Local businesses, families and organizations decorate and display holiday trees with nature-based themes, through Jan. 1, Gainesville Garden of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1911 Sweet Bay Dr. Garden admission. www.atlantabg.org, 404-888-4760.
o Christmas at the Gorge, Tallulah Falls. See Santa, make crafts, enjoy holiday music, eat a snack, 1-3 p.m. Dec. 3, Tallulah Falls State Park, 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Dr. $5 parking. www.gastateparks.org, 706-754-7981.
o Christmas Parade & Festival, Cumming. Parade on Tribble Gap Rd. from Forsyth Central High School to Cumming Fairgrounds, followed by tree lighting, vendors, crafts, Santa visits and more, parade 5 p.m., festival 6-8 p.m. Dec. 3, Cumming Fairgrounds, 235 Castleberry Rd. CummingFair.squarespace.com/
o Christmas in the Mountains Festival & Lighted Parade, Cleveland. Parade, open houses, market on downtown square, Cleveland County Courthouse, 5 p.m. Dec. 3, intersection Ga. 129/115. WhiteCountyChamber.org.
o Christmas on Green Street, Gainesville. Annual Christmas parade, tours of historic homes, strolling magicians, Santa’s arrival, musical groups performing on front porches, food trucks, mini-train rides, and tree lighting; begins with Christmas at the Civic Center 2 p.m., 4 p.m. parade, tree lighting 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4. Parade on Green Street from Civic Center to West Academy St.; tree lighting at intersection of West Academy/Green St. Gainesville.org.
o Holiday Jamboree on the Mountain, Clarkesville. Live music, nature crafts, Santa visits, hayrides, Mellinger Center/campground, 3-5 p.m. Dec. 10, Black Rock Mountain State Park, 3805 Black Rock Mountain Pkwy. GAstateparks.org, 706-746-2141.
o Sunset Candy Cane Hunt, Tallulah Falls. Hunt candy canes, make s’mores, sip hot chocolate, 5-7:30 p.m. Dec. 10, Tallulah Gorge State Park, 338 Jane Hurt Yarn Pkwy. $5 parking. Call to register. GAstateparks.org, 706-754-7981.
o Christmas at the Inn, Toccoa. Festive dulcimer music, hot apple cider and teacakes, 19th century stagecoach inn decorated with greenery and handmade ornaments, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 10 & 11, Traveler’s Rest Historic Site, 4339 Riverdale Rd. GAstateparks.org, 706-886-2256.
New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day
o New Year’s Eve Fireworks, Buford. Dance under the stars, enjoy outdoor firepits, order from bar and grill, see fireworks at 10 p.m., Paradise Beach, Margaritaville at Lanier Islands, 7650 Lanier Islands Pkwy. $14.99 beach fee. MargaritavilleResorts.com/margaritaville-at-lanier-islands/
o Dahlonega First Night. Indoor and outdoor entertainment around the Historic District beginning at noon Dec. 31, Golden Nugget Drop at midnight (children’s Nugget Drop at 8:45 p.m.), Downtown Dahlonega. Check website for ticket information. DahlonegaChristmas.com.
o Dropping of the Edelweiss, Helen. Hors d’oeuvres, party favors, entertainment, dancing, midnight toast and edelweiss drop, 8 p.m. Dec. 31, Helen Festhalle, 1074 Edelweiss Strasse. $25 adults, $12 children ages 5-12. HelenChamber.com.
o New Year’s Day 5K, Cumming. 9 a.m. Jan. 1, North Forsyth High School, 3645 Coal Mountain Rd. $24-$25. FiveStarntp.com.
o Polar Bear Swim, Gainesville. Annual dip in Lake Lanier adds a new spin with an 11 a.m. guided 2-mile paddle trip and noon Polar Bear Plunge, Jan. 1, Lake Lanier Olympic Park beach, 3105 Clarks Bridge Rd. $20 plunge or paddle, $30 for both. ExploreGainesville.org.
o Falls to Farm First Day Hike, Sautee Nacoochee. 11-mile one-way hike from Anna Ruby Falls to Hardman Farm Historic Site to explore the vast estate of the farm’s historic Nichol’s family; supported hike include shuttle from farm to Anna Ruby Falls, 4 support stops, post hike meal, tour of Hardman Farm and commemorative t-shirt, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 1, Hardman Farm Historic Site, 143 Hwy. 17. $40. FallstoFarmFirstDayHike2023.eventbrite.com/.
o Mountain Laurel Loop First Day Hike, Dawsonville. Guided 1-mile hike on ridge above Amicalola Creek, 9-10 a.m. Jan. 1, temporary Visitors Center, Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge, 280 Amicalola Falls State Park Rd. $5 parking. 706-265-4706, Event on Facebook Page.
o First Day Hike: Duke’s Creek, Helen. 2.5 mile hike to Duke’s Creek waterfall with half-way stop at primitive cabin fire ring, 1-3 p.m. Jan. 1, Smithgall Woods State Park, 61 Tsalaki Trl. $5 parking. GAstateparks.org, 706-878-3087.
o First Day Hike: Tallulah Gorge, Tallulah Falls. 3-mile hike on Short Line Trail, meet at Old Jail, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Jane Hurt Yarn Pkwy. $5 parking. GAstateparks.org, 706-754-7981.
o Bear Hair Gap First Day Hike, Blairsville. 4.1 mile guided hike on Bear Hair Gap Trail on lower ridge of Blood Mountain, follows some steep slopes, 9 a.m.-noon Jan. 1, Vogel State Park, 405 Vogel State Park Rd. $5 parking. Register in advance. 706-745-2628, GAstateparks.org.