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Becky Hardy


Christmas Vacations


Bilt for the Holidays

A century of Christmas traditions are on display at the Biltmore

Thousands travel to the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, each December to take part in the historic estate’s grand holiday traditions. During Candlelight Christmas Evenings, tour the George Vanderbilt–planned home under the glow of flickering candlelight. You’ll be awed by the thirty-five-foot Fraser fir in the Banquet Hall and charmed by the carolers stationed throughout the house. With more than sixty decorated trees, thousands of poinsettias, and miles of garland, it’s the perfect place to catch the Christmas spirit. If the decor inspires you to deck your own halls, attend a gardening seminar on wreath making (held daily), where you’ll learn how to craft your own holiday wreath with pinecones, pine tree branches, and holly. After a day of exploring, make a short drive to Antler Hill Village to visit with Santa Claus himself. –B.H.

Oh, Christmas Tree

Chop, chop—it’s time to visit the South’s most fetching tree farms –E.F.

Boyd Mountains Christmas Tree Farm and Log Cabins
Boyd Mountains Christmas Tree Farm and Log Cabins

Dan Boyd

Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm and Log Cabins
Waynesville, North Carolina

Make a weekend out of finding the perfect Fraser fir, which grows only in the Southern Appalachians above 3,000 feet. Besides trees, this postcard-pretty operation (pictured) offers seven historical log cabins for rent, each relocated from the surrounding countryside and thoughtfully restored by proprietor Dan Boyd. boydmountainchristmastreefarm.com

Southern Tree Plantation
Blairsville, Georgia

North Georgia’s largest Christmas tree farm is home to sixty rolling acres of Fraser fir, balsam fir, Norway spruce, and Colorado blue spruce. Don’t fault the kids if they’re more interested in the hayrides, pony rides, and marshmallow roasting than in sawing down a coveted conifer. southerntreeplantation.net

Sycamore Springs Farm
Jamestown, Tennessee

In addition to Christmas cheer, this certified American Tree Farm spreads the gospel of conservation through guided wildlife walks and swag-making lessons using recycled tree trimmings. After cutting your Scotch or white pine, Norway spruce, or Leyland cypress, hike the Gingerbread Trail in search of giant gingerbread houses. (Pre-cut Fraser and Canaan firs are also available.) sycamorespringsfarmtn.com

Hollow Creek Tree Farm
Gilbert, South Carolina

“Real trees make scents” is the slogan of this congenial family operation outside Columbia (if you repeat it at the register, you’ll get $3 off). Customers choose from nine chop-ready varieties or buy pre-cut Fraser firs shipped in weekly from North Carolina. Weekend hayrides and free hot cocoa keep the atmosphere jolly. hollowcreektreefarm.com


Have Yourself a Maritime Christmas

From Chattanooga to Lake Charles, holiday boat parades abound in the South

Winterfest in Fort Lauderdale draws more than one million spectators to “The Greatest Show on H2O”

Judy Garland never sang about neon-lit yachts, but in waterside towns across the South, it’s not Christmas without a flotilla of twinkling boats. Chattanooga, Tennessee, marks the start of Christmas season with the Lighted Boat Parade (November 29), which culminates in the illumination of buildings and bridges across downtown. A few days later, the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana, sets its namesake aglow with a boat parade and fireworks show (December 2). Over in Florida—home to more than seventy holiday boat parades—Fort Lauderdale’s Winterfest (December 9) remains the granddaddy, with more than 200 boats lighting up the Intracoastal Waterway. Participants spend months decorating their boats, and the likes of Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke have presided as grand marshal. For a dash of history with your merriment, check out the Regatta of Lights (December 9) in St. Augustine, Florida, where vessels cruise the Matanzas Bay between the circa-1927 Bridge of Lions and the Castillo de San Marcos, built by Spain in the 1600s. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Lighted Boat Parade (December 9) along the Intracoastal Waterway in Gulf Shores, Alabama, where you can charter a boat and take part in the spectacle (how’s that for a holiday party?). –E.F.


This article was originally published in October 2015. Dates have been updated to reflect 2017 holiday events. 

Make Room for Seconds


Where to find the best…


Twenty minutes from Birmingham, the Bright Star in Bessemer is famous for its young tom turkey, roasted overnight and paired with dressing, giblet gravy, and cranberry sauce. The oldest family-owned restaurant in Alabama, the Bright Star serves close to 1,500 people each Thanksgiving. thebrightstar.com

Sweet potatoes

You won’t find turkey—or any other meats, for that matter—at Parizade in Durham, North Carolina, which web-CreamedCornNew3hosts the largest vegetarian holiday feast in the country. Instead, order the melt-in-your-mouth Moroccan sweet potatoes, made with leeks and vegan maple “butter” chutney. parizadedurham.com

Creamed corn

Each Thanksgiving, more than 1,500 people wait in line for dinner at the Loveless Cafe in Nashville, thanks to staples like sweet creamed corn casserole. Made with heavy cream, corn kernels, and a stick of butter, it eats like a dessert. lovelesscafe.com

Bowled Over


Get in on the action surrounding some of the South’s biggest bowl games.

Chick-fil-A Bowl, Atlanta

On New Year’s Day, the free Chick-fil-A Fanfest kicks off with floats, vintage cars, and marching bands parading down Peachtree Street during the Peach Bowl Parade. Later, cheer for your favorite team members during the Pep Rally and Team Walks at the Georgia World Congress Center—no other bowl event in the country lets you interact with players so close to kickoff. chick-fil-apeachbowl.com

Sugar Bowl, New Orleans

Can’t score a ticket to the prestigious Sugar Bowl? Worry not. Plenty of Crescent City restaurants and bars will show the big game on New Year’s Day—but Cooter Brown’s Tavern stands out from the rest. Its prime downtown location, 400 varieties of beer (fifty of them on tap), and twenty-three flat-screen TVs situated throughout the restaurant will make you feel like you’re in the Superdome (well, almost). cooterbrowns.com

Outback Bowl, Tampa

Pre-game matchups, anyone? Before the teams face each other at Raymond James Stadium on New Year’s Day, they’ll play tug-of-war with fans and cheerleaders at the Hilton Clearwater Beach on December 30. The following day, the marching bands will battle it out for fans at Busch Gardens. Wear team colors and get ready to sing your favorite fight songs. outbackbowl.com


This article was originally published in November 2015. Dates have been updated to reflect 2017-18 holiday events.

11 Atlanta festivals to attend in July

Atlanta Street Food Festival
Atlanta Street Food Festival

Derek Wintermute Photography

Decadent Delights
Atlanta Back to School Food Festival
Join families and children at the Cobb County Fairgrounds. It’s never too early to start shopping, so parents can buy back-to-school clothes at the kids thrift corner while students are occupied with a rock climbing wall and water slide.

Atlanta Street Food Festival
Local food trucks will line Piedmont Park, offering everything from chicken and waffles to blue cheese fries to red velvet cupcakes.

Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival
More than a dozen chefs will experiment with the red fruit at JCT Kitchen & Bar’s annual fundraiser for Georgia Organics and the Giving Kitchen. Taste everything from tomato-themed sandwiches to tomato-based alcoholic beverages.

Atlanta Ice Cream Festival
Be prepared to get multiple brain freezes at this Piedmont Park event. Ice cream isn’t the only thing on the plate; fitness and wellness activities are set up throughout the space to teach festival-goers how to stay fit while still eating sweet treats.

Movies and Music
Thursdays and a Saturday throughout the month
2015 Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival
Watch movies you may have missed when they were in theaters on the big screen at the Fox Theatre. Films featured in July include “Jaws,” “The Breakfast Club,” and “Ghostbusters.”

Jazz on the Lawn
Picnic under the stars while listening to Emmy-winning jazz musician Richard Allen Smith at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. Bring a blanket and snacks, and purchase tickets in advance for a discounted rate.

Atlanta Health Care Music and Gospel Festival
The festival at the Atlanta Convention Center has not only gospel music, but also empowerment workshops, youth summits, and live entertainment by some of the top performers in the country.

Gwinnett Center International Film Festival
The diverse and international population of Gwinnett County is reflected in this festival, which in addition to screenings features panel discussions, interviews, and workshops. At the Gwinnett Center and Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

Commemorate Culture
The ‘Nezian Fest
Learn about the South Pacific Islander culture in Candler Park as performers dance in traditional islander attire, leaf and flower crowns included. Food and craft vendors offer handmade flower crafts and authentic islander food, with live music playing throughout the day.

African Dance and Drum Festival
Taking place at Tri-Cities High School, the annual festival brings natives of Africa and those who love the music from the country together for an educational experience for children and adults. Learn about different drums and get a chance to create a beat yourself.

Out of the Ordinary
Atlanta Zine Festival
Located at downtown Eyedrum, the Zine Festival celebrates independent creators’ communities and other art forms, such as writing or sculpture. “How To” workshops happen throughout the day, and visitors can purchase or sell their art.

9 things to do in Atlanta for Father’s Day

Zoo Atlanta
African lions at Zoo Atlanta

Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

Barbecue, ball games, and braving the rides at Six Flags Over Georgia—there’s an adventure both the thrill-seeking dad or the father who wants to enjoy a quiet afternoon with the kids.

Low-key Dad Time
BBQ & Blues Fest
Listen to smooth blues by Sir Charles Jones, Bobby Rush, Lenny Williams, Clarence Carter, and TK Soul at College Park’s Wolf Creek Amphitheater. When dad gets hungry, the barbecue will be ready and waiting.

Father’s Day Car Show at the Rock
Mustangs, Chevys, Camaros, and more. Explore the bells and whistles on all the modern and historic cars on display at Stone Mountain Park.

Meet the Holidays: Father’s Day
Listen to a reading of The Night Before Father’s Day by Natasha Wing at the Children’s Museum, and craft your father a signature bow tie that he can wear willingly or forcibly for years to come.

Adrenaline Adventures

Father’s Day Challenge
Compete in teams or just one-on-one with your father at this 1.5-mile obstacle course at Atlanta High School. There are a variety of 10 to 15 obstacles in the course, enough to keep dads and kids running all afternoon.

Father’s Day at Six Flags
Thrill-seeking fathers who have a season pass or membership to Six Flags Over Georgia can get into the park free on Father’s Day. Ride the coasters, or take it easy and chow down on some funnel cake.

Take Dad Out to the Ball Game

2015 Braves Country 5K
Race your dad or let him win at the finish line at Turner Field. Then watch the Braves take on the Mets with a pre-game parade and post-game Boys II Men concert.

Father’s Day Catch on the Field
Enjoy a game of catch with your dad at Turner Field after watching the Braves versus Mets game. The package includes two-covered seats to watch the baseball rivalry, a parking pass, and post-game access to the field.

Captivating Creatures

Father’s Day at Georgia Aquarium
With a purchase of one ticket, fathers get free admission to the Georgia Aquarium. Along with a free ticket to see underwater creatures, dads will also receive a Father’s Day card, other gifts, and special discounts.

Father’s Day at the Zoo
Enjoy animal families along with your own at Zoo Atlanta. Fathers get a free ticket with the purchase of one ticket. Animal dads will also receive a free treat.

19 Atlanta festivals to enjoy in June

Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival
Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival

Photograph by Sher Pruitt

Stock up on sunscreen, because no matter what you’re interested in, there’s a festival celebrating it this month.

Call a Babysitter

Southern Cigar Festival
Have a good time among 35 cigar manufacturers and cigar lovers at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, and enter to win prizes with raffles and giveaways throughout the day.

Atlanta Summer Beer Fest
Featuring more than 200 beers from local and national breweries, attendees can grab a cold one, listen to live music, and dance to DJs on various stages while soaking in the sun at the Masquerade.

Moving Music
Fox Theatre Block Party
Listen to music from DejaBlue Grass Band, Orquestra MaCuba, Francine Reed, and pay a tribute to the Allman Brothers, all in the heart of Atlanta.

6/12 and 6/26
Jazz On The Lawn 2015
Bring a blanket and some smooth refreshments and listen to classical jazz on the green space at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center.

Tune from the Tombs
Rocking out isn’t just for the living. Listen to local bands such as Michelle Malone Band, Little Tybee, Eliot Bronson, and Sweet Auburn String Band play music and raise money to preserve one of Atlanta’s oldest burial grounds at Oakland Cemetery.

Family Fun
Summer Craft Market
Looking for vintage crafts and have some time to stroll through vendors? Join more than 100 craft vendors for the event’s 10th birthday at the Indie Craft Experience at the Georgia Freight Depot.

Father’s Fun Festival
Appreciate dad and keep him occupied at Rosa L. Burney Park with farmers markets, street vendors, live music, and sporting-themed activities, so you don’t have to listen to one of his jokes for the hundredth time.

Westview Summer Solstice
Enjoy the longest day of the year with grilled food, live music, art vendors, and games for the kids at Westview Village.

Family Food Fest
Life is better under the sea at the Georgia Aquarium with more than 100 dishes to taste prepared by celebrity chefs, cooks, restaurants, even everyday dads.

Old Fourth Ward Arts Festival
Strolling through local artists booths with live acoustic music is what’s in store at the two-day festival at Historic Fourth Ward Park. A kids play area and arts and crafts are also available.

Active Activities
Summerfest 2015
Cool off after running a 5K race by leisurely walking through folk art displays, fueling up with food, and relaxing with live music at this year’s event on historic Virginia Avenue.

The Atlanta Cycling Festival
Offering more than 35 different cycling events—including a Dirty Mustache night ride, Bike & Hike Arabia Mountain, and a tour of the BeltLine —these activities attract beginner and skilled riders.

Eclectic Events
Atlanta Fringe Festival
Venture around the venues throughout Atlanta watching more than 20 comedy, theater, storytelling, and classical dance performances.

Festival of Chariots
Embrace the Indian culture with henna tattoos, live music, and a parade of elaborately decorated chariots around Centennial Olympic Park. Those who want to take an even slower pace can join in on yoga and mantra mediation.

Through The Veil festival
Wonder what’s after death? Paranormal investigators and psychics discuss what is beyond and how to deal with spirituality in a three-day event, including a masquerade ball at the Marriott Marquis.

Time Lord Party
Join fellow “Doctor Who” fanatics at the Masquerade as the best costumes are judged for prizes and many other events throughout the day.

Sci Fi Summer Con
Costume contests, supersoaker duels, and various discussions with guest speakers about science fiction novels highlight the schedule for this three-day event at the Holiday Inn North Perimeter.

Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo
Arcade-gaming lovers rejoice as 200 arcade and console machines come to the Atlanta Marriott Century Center.

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