Would you believe that before last week I had never been to the amazing Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens? It’s something I’ve been dying to do ever since I was a kid, and getting to experience it myself with my kids as THEY experienced it for the first time was an incredible occasion… one that we will all be talking about for many years to come. If you’ve never heard of Fantasy in Lights let me tell you all about it!
Before we embarked on the actual journey of lights through the forest, I took my children to the “Christmas Village” that’s included in the Fantasy of Lights to see what all it had to offer. Immediately we were greeted by the delicious smells of “fair food” and the kids all began asking to try various things.
I reminded them that they had already eaten supper, but I after seeing the variety of foods for sale, I wish we had waited to eat at the Christmas Village! I promised them that we would get a treat before we left if they were well-behaved and ushered them towards the dome where people were congregating. Inside several craft stations for kids were set up (at additional cost), tons of souvenirs and displays of Christmas ornaments were available for purchase. A life-sized gingerbread house sat in the center of the room and my kids instantly fell in love with it. They asked to have their picture made with the house and the costumed gingerbread man that was making his way around the room.
We realized that there was a station set up for “Santa pictures”, and we seized the opportunity to visit Santa and let the kids tell him their Christmas wishes. Photos were available for purchase for $12, and I bought one of all of them together since taking my own pictures of them was prohibited. After visiting Santa, we went back outside and purchased two large bags of fresh kettle corn to eat during our ride through the light show, and then went to watch the Nativity light show that was taking place on the lawn.
The Christmas story was narrated over the speakers as the corresponding character structures lit up throughout the story. My boys climbed up on a huge Adirondack chair to watch, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the display. We discovered a booth selling the ingredients for smores and bought marshmallows to roast over the roaring fire pit just to the side of it. The sweet vendor put our marshmallows on the long roasting poles, and all of us had a blast roasting then eating the sugary deliciousness.
Soon thereafter my husband arrived and we decided to head out to view the main attraction…. the Fantasy in Lights!
Fantasy in Lights has been shown every winter at Callaway Gardens since 1992, and its reputation as a premier public display of holiday lights is known far and wide, especially in the Southeastern USA. The display is comprised of 8 million lights that, if laid end to end on their strands, would stretch 725 miles, which is enough to outline the entire state of South Carolina, or to reach from Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA all the way to Baltimore, MD. Being that we have been learning about the states in our homeschool geography lessons, my kids were fascinated with this fact… and frankly, so was I. That’s a LOT of lights. Visitors can either choose to drive through the display, which is FIVE MILES LONG through the amazing forests of Callaway Gardens, or to take an open-air holiday tram that’s driven by the Callaway Gardens staff. We opted to drive ourselves, because it was chilly outside and also with small kids it’s easier (in my opinion)… that way I didn’t have to worry about keeping LLL in her seat. Fantasy in Lights is divided into twelve separate “scenes” with enough distance between them to effectively distinguish the feeling of one from another. The first scene, which completely drew us into the world of holiday splendor, is Christmas Tree Lane and consists of multiple trees of lights in a radiant rainbow of colors.
My and my husband’s absolute favorite scene was Snowflake Valley, which featured copious amounts of twinkling white lights that surrounded the driving path from all sides, which truly gave the illusion of being surrounded by a beautiful winter storm. It was breathtaking, and the pictures don’t do it justice.
The Princess was gobsmacked (and I can’t blame her) by the butterflies of Firefly Cove :
One of my absolute favorite lights was this wreath in the Magical Christmas Garden section. It’s so intricate and vividly lit, yet traditional :
Other amazing scenes included the March of the Toy Soldiers (my youngest daughter, LLL, kept calling them the Nutcrackers), the Enchanted Rainbow Forest (which included flowers changing from season to season), Santa’s Workshop (illuminated elves are making toys in motion), and Nature’s Wonderland (tons of forest animals in illuminated motion which was super cool.
We took about an hour driving through the beautiful light display, with our windows rolled down to hear the scene-specific music and enjoy the cool air. The kettle corn that we had bought earlier was happily shared and enjoyed by everyone as we discussed the amazing lights we saw. Two of my children cried when the journey through the forest came to an end because they weren’t ready for the magic to end, and all of them started asking when we could come back to see it again. We turned this adventure into an overnight trip by staying in one of the cottages on the Callaway Gardens property which added immensely to the entire experience. I will be detailing that portion of our stay in another post that is forthcoming, so be sure to stay tuned! This was one of the most memorable family activities we’ve ever enjoyed, and I HIGHLY recommend you visit the show and make memories with your loved ones. I believe this will become a yearly tradition for us, and one that we will eagerly anticipate.
*In exchange for reviewing the Fantasy in Lights experience, Callaway Gardens provided us with free admission. All opinions are my own, and I wouldn’t steer you wrong!*