Posts Tagged ‘The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza


12.22.18 … The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza …

Christmas Tradition #15: Going to Ride (or a Walk) to See the Lights and Decorations:

My Atlanta family has always gone to ride. We went to ride in the country on Sunday afternoon when we visited my grandparents, we went to ride at the beach to see the sunset and find the deer, we went to ride in the fall to see the leaves in the north Georgia mountains, and I take mom to ride whenever I’m in Atlanta. But my favorite rides have been rides to see the lights and holiday decorations including and the department store windows

Growing up in Atlanta, most people did not put up outdoor lights. A wreath on the door and a tree in the window was about it. But in the 60s we always went to see the Governor’s Mansion in Ansley Park and later on West Paces Ferry. And we always drove downtown to see Rich’s Great Tree, see and hear the local chorales and choirs sing from the multistory overpass and drive by the windows at Rich’s and Davison’s. There was also one house near Chastain Park that was over the top.

As Atlanta got bigger and more folks from the north settled in Atlanta, the decorations and lights got grander. And today there is a Brookhaven house that has over a hundred blowups in their yard.

There are also the extravagant holiday light tours that you pay to drive through. I’ve been to see the lights at Callaway Gardens, Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agriculture Center in Perry GA, Lights Under Louisville in the Mega Cavern and McAdenville near Charlotte (actually McAdenville is free). The first time I went to McAdenville, an old mill town near Gastonia NC, I took John. It was the first year we were dating, 1979. It was a disaster because I missed the exit. I drove all the way to Gaffney SC, 40 miles farther … so we drove 80 extra miles on the interstate for a 20 minute driveby light extravaganza. And I have made day trips and overnights to see the decorations at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, both interior and exterior. Biltmore is beyond extravagant.

I also remember the first time I went to Louisville at Christmas. There were neighborhoods that were totally lit. I began to understand why people in Atlanta said it was a “northern thing.”

And then we moved to Wilmette near Chicago. It was magical at Christmas. Every neighborhood decorates. And the City decorates. And they still had stores that had decorated windows!! Marshall Fields had Harry Potter themed Christmas windows one year. The parks and museums were gorgeous. I still love the wreathed lions at The Art Institute. And on Christmas Eve , all the residents on Ashland Lane, our street in Wilmette, lined the street from our end to the Lake, almost a mile, with luminaries. And as soon as it was dark, we walked to the lake with our neighbors. One family that we knew well was so over the top that they were featured every year in the Pioneer Press, the local Wilmette paper. Molly was spending the night at their house and I still remember the joy when they took her on a holiday ride in a motorcycle sidecar to see the lights and experience the first snowfall. Did I mention it was magical?

Charlotte is getting into it more and more. There is one street, Hillside Drive in Myers Park, that hangs huge lighted balls. They ask for donations for a food bank. I usually drive down Hillside a few times.

And I still “Drive Mama Lindsey” to see the lights in Atlanta. I’m looking forward to the Brookhaven house with the 100+ blowups.

I must mention a holiday children’s book called “The Amazing Christmas Extravaganza” about a family that has out of control decorations. I wonder what it is like to live next to the Wilmette friends or Brookhaven family.

I do miss the department stores, but I am lucky to have visited both NYC and Chicago at Christmas in recent years.

I still love to drive the backroads and see the holiday decorations in small towns. They are often way out of proportion to the size of the town. Davidson NC is lovely.

And, of course, the best light show is a beautiful starry sky on a cold winter’s night in the country. I’ll never forget driving into Pineview GA on New Year’s Eve in the early 2000s.

I am enchanted by the lights.

Do you have a favorite adventure to see holiday lights and decorations?


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May 2020