Georgia makes Travel + Leisure’s global Top 50 list

ponce city market atlanta travel and leisure

TRAVEL + LEISURE MAGAZINE has named Georgia one of its “50 Best Places to Travel in 2019.” The far-ranging annual list includes cities, locations, states and nations from New York’s Adirondacks and Alsace, France, to Malaysia, Cambodia and the Florida Keys.

Of Georgia, Travel + Leisure specifically mentions Atlanta and Savannah, saying: “With so much happening in the Peach State, Georgia should be on the mind of any savvy traveler these days. Atlanta continues its rise as a culinary capital. Notable openings include the Local Pizzaiolo, a downtown pizza spot, and Masterpiece, helmed by James Beard-nominated Rui Liu, while food halls like Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market are constantly adding new vendors. Meanwhile, the remarkable transformation of Hotel Clermont from a seedy motel into a dapper boutique property — complete with a superb French-leaning bistro and rooftop bar — has both locals and visitors buzzing. And the city famous for its gridlock is increasingly bike-friendly, thanks to the ongoing growth of the Atlanta BeltLine, a mixed-used trail that will span 33 miles when it’s completed in 2030.

The picture gallery in the lobby of Savannah’s Perry Lane Hotel.

The picture gallery in the lobby of Savannah’s Perry Lane Hotel.

“On the coast, Savannah is hopping with a flurry of hotel openings, including newcomers The Alida, a luxe riverfront property, and the upscale Perry Lane Hotel in the Historic District. Openings in 2019 include the Liberty and the Lark. On the food front, the Grey Market, a hybrid of a New York-style bodega and a Southern lunch counter, opened in late 2018 under Johno Morisano and Mashama Bailey, Savannah’s most celebrated restaurant team. It was inspired by their beloved restaurant, the Grey, which does Southern-inspired cuisine in a refurbished Greyhound bus depot and has earned a slew of accolades since its 2014 opening.”

To read about all 50 destinations, go HERE.

Travel + Leisure editors sought recommendations from travel writers. The team then reviewed locations at the forefront of conversations worldwide and made its recommendations based on what destinations are of most interest to travelers. The magazine has a global audience of more than 16 million.

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT | January-February 2019

Avocado toast at the new Coalition Food and Beverage in downtown Alpharetta. Its focus is modernized 1950s diner food. (All food photos by David Danzig.)

Avocado toast at the new Coalition Food and Beverage in downtown Alpharetta. Its focus is modernized 1950s diner food. (All food photos by David Danzig.)

New year brings new eats, from a Japanese invasion

and OTP migration to a pancake proliferation,

falafel infiltration and seafood termination. Whew!

NEW TASTES are promised near and far, from downtown, Midtown and all along Ponce, to Alpharetta, Fayetteville and Winder. It’s all Food for Thought.

Shrimp sando and lotus chips from Monomoki, near Georgia Tech.

Shrimp sando and lotus chips from Monomoki, near Georgia Tech.

Well done

At the base of a new steel-and-glass tower overlooking the Downtown Connector near Georgia Tech comes MOMONOKI, a new concept from chef JASON LIANG, one of the creative forces behind Decatur’s popular Brush Sushi Izakaya.

Order at the counter and get some of the slurpiest ramen soups in town along with tsukemen (dipping ramen), Donburi(raw or cooked rice bowls), Katsu Sando(Japanese cutlet sandwiches served on perfect milk toast), salads and other small plates.

A full bar is stocked with cocktails, sake, wine, and local and Japanese beers but be sure to save room for desserts from pastry chef CHING YAO WANG, Liang’s wife. Many are made with matcha, a Japanese green tea that refreshes the palate in a soothing, semi-sweet way. …

::

The housemade pretzels at Alpharetta’s Coalition.

The housemade pretzels at Alpharetta’s Coalition.

Brothers DAN PERNICE and RYAN PERNICE turned heads a few years back when they opened both Table and Main and Osteria Mattone.

They’re back with a third effort, COALITION FOOD AND BEVERAGE, a handsome spot off the square in downtown Alpharetta.

Chef WOLLERY BACK (formerly of Craft, Restaurant Eugene, and Holeman and Finch) hand-cranks a food fire contraption and churns out modern versions of 1950s diner fare: house-made pretzels, St. Louis-style barbecue ribs, crispy crabcakes, classic club sandwiches and blackened tuna burgers on Alon’s Bakery bread. These are cheffed-up, approachable and skillfully prepared. …

::

Krog Street Market welcomes Watchman’s.

Krog Street Market welcomes Watchman’s.

The team behind Decatur’s James Beard-nominated KIMBALL HOUSE has christened WATCHMAN’S SEAFOOD AND SPIRITS in Krog Street Market, just off the Atlanta BeltLine in what was once The Luminary.

No fishing nets or stuffed marlins on the walls here, no Jimmy Buffet on the sound system. This is a hip spot in a hip neighborhood. Sustainably farmed oysters from Alabama to North Carolina go with dishes like a shrimp roll sandwich, steamed clams, ceviche verde and a fisherman’s stew made with grouper, shrimp, crabs and oysters.

The bar program comes from legendary mixologist MILES MACQUARRIE, a compact list of masterful ocean-inspired libations with roots that run from Havana to Key West and anywhere along the Southeast coast of the United States. …

::

Farm-fresh produce at Winder’s Bistro Off Broad.

Farm-fresh produce at Winder’s Bistro Off Broad.

In historic downtown Winder, chef ALEX FRIEDMAN (formerly of Inman Park’s Pcheen) has set up shop in a brick building that dates to the 1890s. BISTRO OFF BROAD brings a sophisticated approach to comfort food.

Everything that grows in soil or dwells on land comes from a nearby farm: baked brie with honeycomb and figs, Ossabaw Island barbecue (Friedman does all his own butchering), crispy duck with pumpkin and sage risotto, venison with roasted okra, and pork chops with sweet corn pudding.

If you need a nautical nosh, try the cold-water oysters, sea scallops, Carolina trout or a tempura-fried shrimp po’boy with tomato jam. It’s a gem that would be at home in the hippest intown neighborhood.


Simmering

Kevin Rathbun

Kevin Rathbun

In a matter of weeks, Super Bowl LIII (53 for non-Romans) will kick its way into Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Atlanta celebrity chef KEVIN RATHBUN will headline the TASTE OF THE NFL: PARTY WITH A PURPOSE at Cobb Galleria Centre.

The game is Feb. 3; Taste is Feb. 2. Each NFL team city will fly in its own celebrity chef to cook a signature dish at one of 35-plus food stations.

This is your chance to eat, drink and mingle with NFL greats and other celebrities. 

Tickets are $700 each, but that’s cheaper than a seat to the game. …

::

Anne Quatrano

Anne Quatrano

Big brunch news comes from James Beard Award-winning chef ANNE QUATRANO (Bacchanalia, Star Provisions, Floataway Café, W.H. Stiles Fish Camp) plans two locations of her latest concept, PANCAKE SOCIAL. Expect eight kinds of pancakes, from savory to sweet, along with other all-day breakfast noshes. A Ponce City Market location will open in the first part of the year. Look for the second late next fall in Fayetteville’s forthcoming Pinewood Forest development. …

::

Ponce de Leon Avenue continues its gentrification with two new offerings — SOUTHERN BELLE and GEORGIA BOY — from former Gunshow executive chef JOEY WARD. The two will co-exist at the same address. Belle will offer small plates; Boy will be a 16-seat communal counter with a multicourse tasting menu. Expect a spring bloom. …

::

MAMOUN’S FALAFEL dates to 1970s Greenwich Village and calls itself the “oldest falafel restaurant in New York City.” It plans six Atlanta locations, with the first opening in the West Midtown Center development on Northside Drive. Expect house-baked pitas, shawarma, hummus and, of course, falafel.

Toast

thumbs-up-diner-768x432.jpg

The restaurant graveyard has been busy the past few months. Virginia-Highland’s GOIN’ COASTAL closed after eight years, and downtown’s LEGAL SEAFOOD pulled up anchor after more than a decade, citing expiration of its Hilton Garden Inn lease. … THUMBS UP DINER, the breakfast-all-day icon, has closed its Decatur location, citing untenable rent increases. Thumbs Up’s popular “Skillet Heap” and multigrain biscuits are still available at locations in Douglasville, East Point, Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward, Marietta Street in West Midtown and Roswell. … After 30 years of meat-and-three, OUR WAY CAFÉ closed its Avondale Estates location. Owner EVA-MARIE ROSWALL decided to retire. …

 

The most notable closing is ACHIE’S, The Battery Atlanta spot from decorated chef HUGH ACHESON, which lasted less than 10 months. Acheson, who reached celebrity status on the TV reality show “Top Chef Masters,” still runs EMPIRE STATE SOUTH and two SPILLER PARK COFFEE locations, plus a pair of eateries in Athens.

::

Food for Thought, Encore Atlanta’s bimonthly dining column, keeps you up to date on openings, closings and what chefs are up to in one of three categories — well done (reasons for praise), simmering (what’s in the works) and toast (what’s closed, etc.). Suggestions: Email kathy@encoreatlanta.com.

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WHERE TO SPEND NEW YEAR’S EVE IN ATLANTA

NYE 2019

RING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH AN INDULGENT FOUR-COURSE DINNER AT ATLAS

Decked out in holiday décor, Atlas will offer three seatings this New Year’s Eve at 5 p.m., 7:30  p.m. and 9:30 p.m. for a special, four-course prix fixe dinner created by Executive Chef Chris Grossman for $150 per person.  Diners will be treated to an evening of live music by La Calle Ocho Funk Band and a celebratory midnight toast to ring in 2019.  The Tavern at Atlas will also be serving its acclaimed small plates menu. With a focus on curating fresh ingredients from local farms, Atlas is an award-winning restaurant located in The St. Regis Atlanta (88 West Paces Ferry Rd NW) and celebrates the very best in seasonal American cuisine combined with European influences. For more information or to make a reservation, visit atlasrestaurant.com or call 404.600.6471.

CELEBRATE 2019 OUTSIDE THE CITY AT BISTRO OFF BROAD

Want to avoid the hustle and bustle of Atlanta this New Year’s Eve? Bistro Off Broad, a chef-inspired bistro located in historic downtown Winder, GA, is hosting a special New Year’s Eve celebration on Monday, December 31st.  Known for its farm-to-table French and Contemporary American Cuisine, award-winning Executive Chef Alex Friedman has whipped up a Southern-style, four-course prix fixe dinner menu for $65 per person or $85 per person with wine pairings.  In addition to the regular menu, beginning at 6 p.m., Chef Alex will be serving:  Hoppin’ John — Black Eyed Peas, Grilled Baby Collards, Corn Pudding, Smoked Ham, Pot Likker Demi; Diver Scallop — Blue Crab Finger, Warm Blue Crab Salad, Charred Citrus Butter, Kaffir Lime; 72 Hour Short Rib — Goat Cheese Ravioli, Sweet Potato Puree, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Baby Boy Choy; and finally, Passionfruit Mouse — Vanilla Genoise, Blood Peach, and White Chocolate Truffles.  And, if that wasn’t enough, guests will be treated to live music from the Daniel Lee Band and a champagne toast at midnight.   For more information, visit www.bistrooffbroad.com or call 678.963.5517.

CELEBRATE THE NEW YEAR AT TWO URBAN LICKS 

Celebrating the New Year in style, hungry revelers are invited to visit TWO urban licks for New Year’s Eve dinner created by Executive Chef Michael Bertozzi on Monday, December 31st between 4:30 p.m. and 1 a.m.  Conveniently located on the Atlanta BeltLine, the evening will feature live music from Johnny Cash Now and a balloon drop at midnight.  TWO is also hosting a New Year’s Day dinner on Tuesday, January 1st from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Guests can take advantage of TWO’s acclaimed wine program, craft beers and specialty cocktails while enjoying an array of classics such as: TWO’s popular Salmon Chips — Smoked Salmon, Chipotle Cream Cheese, Capers, and Red Onion; Pork Belly — Shrimp Fried Rice, Farm Egg, House Kimchi, and Unagi; Lamb Porterhouse — Fottouch, Fregula, Hummus Cherry Bomb Hot Sauce.  To make a reservation, visit twourbanlicks.com or call 404.522.4622. TWO urban licks is located at 820 Ralph McGill Blvd. Atlanta, GA 30306. 

SAIL INTO THE NEW YEAR WITH YACHT ROCK REVUE AT PARK TAVERN IN PIEDMONT PARK

Let the countdown begin as Park Tavern gets ready to sail into the New Year on Monday, December 31st with an all-inclusive celebration featuring live music from Yacht Rock Revue in the Piedmont Room.  Beginning at 9 p.m., partygoers are invited to enjoy an open bar of premium liquor, beer, wine and champagne from Coors Light, Blue Moon, Miller Lite, Crispin Original, Finlandia, Sland Irish Whiskey, Jack Daniels, Jack Daniels Winter Jack and El Jimador tequila, along with a range of tasty offerings including hors d'oeuvres, tacos, sliders, fresh sushi flown in from Hawaii, and s’mores. At midnight, guests will be treated to a champagne toast and can dive into a breakfast buffet that includes Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, breakfast burritos, and much more. General Admission tickets are available for $125 for ages 21 and up and the Ultimate VIP Experience tickets are available for $200 and include champagne, oysters, sushi and wagyu beef from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the Yachty New Year’s Eve Party from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.parktavern.com or call 404.249.0001.

RING IN 2019 AT STK ATLANTA’S MOËT & CHANDON NEW YEAR’S CELEBRATION

NYE 2019

This New Year’s Eve, join Midtown’s sexiest steakhouse for an unforgettable New Year’s celebration on Monday, December 31st. Known for its high-energy atmosphere and exceptional, signature and seasonal offerings, STK will take luxe to the next level during its New Year’s Eve Moët & Chandon Celebration.  Not only are partygoers invited to enjoy a selection of seasonal specials created by Executive Chef Thomas Mikesell from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., but they can also take advantage of a three-hour premium open bar beginning at 9 p.m.  Revelers are invited to dance the night away to a live DJ performance and will be treated to complimentary New Year’s Eve party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, and much more.

General Admission tickets, including a 3-hour premium open bar experience, is available for $95 per person. For a more exclusive experience, partygoers can take advantage of the Moët & Chandon Champagne Ice Impérial option that includes a 750ML Bottle and a dinner reservation for two guests for $150 per person; the Moët & Chandon Champagne Magnum Bottle experience that includes a dinner reservation for four guests for $225 per person; or the Moët & Chandon Champagne Public School Limited Edition Bottle experience that includes a dinner reservation for four guests for $325 per person.  Tax and gratuity are not included in any package.  The event is for ages 21 and up and tickets are available by visiting https://www.bigtickets.com/events/stkatlanta/stk-atlanta-new-years-eve-ice-ball/?referral=bt-buy-tix

For more information, visit STK Atlanta online at www.stkhouse.com or call 404.793.0144. STK Atlanta is located at 1075 Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta on the corner of Peachtree and 12th Streets in the 12th & Midtown development. 

CHEERS TO THE NEW YEAR AT CITY WINERY

Atlanta Wine Festivals is returning for the second year in a row to the popular urban winery to host an unforgettable bash on Monday, December 31st from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The all-inclusive, high-energy party will feature a premium buffet, spirits, beer, and fantastic wine options for revelers.  Guests can also dance the night away as they prepare to ring in 2019 with live music from Coast Guard and a popular local DJ.  General Admission tickets are $99 advance and $109 after December 22nd and $119 the day of the event.  VIP tickets are also available and include an 8 p.m. entry and access to exclusive VIP bars for $139 advance and $149 after December 22nd. VIP tickets are not available the day of the event. To purchase tickets, visit https://www.bigtickets.com/events/atlantabeerfestivals/atlanta-wine-festivals-new-years-eve/?referral=cw.

For more information, visit  citywinery.com/atlanta or call 404.946.3791. City Winery is located at Ponce City Market, 650 North Ave NE, Suite #20,  Atlanta, GA 30308.

IT’S A NEW YEAR’S EVE ON MIRACLE ON HIGHLAND AT PARISH

It’s beginning to look a lot like cocktails! Conveniently located along the BeltLine in Inman Park, join PARISH for a New Year’s Eve Miracle on Highland.  Beginning at 9 p.m. on Monday, December 31st, partygoers can cozy up in the winter wonderland and take advantage of PARISH’s buffet, an open bar that includes Miracle’s cocktail line up, beer, wine and well spirits upstairs, while bourbon and bubbles will be flowing in the market downstairs.  The evening’s soundtrack is created by Rare Form Crew.  Tickets are available for $120 per person at MiraclebarAtlanta.com. Can’t make it for New Year’s Eve?  Miracle on Highland is open on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Miracle on Highland at PARISH: The Brasserie and Neighborhood Café is located at 240 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30307. For reservations and more information, visit parishatl.com or call 404.681.4434.

KEEP IT CASUAL AT DANTANNA’S THIS NEW YEAR’S EVE

With locations in Buckhead and Downtown in CNN Center, Dantanna’s invites revelers to keep it casual this New Year’s Eve.  Offering their full dinner menu featuring a diverse selection of fresh seafood, steak, burgers, salads, sandwiches and more, guests can sit back and relax while watching the ball drop on one of the many flat screen TVs located throughout the restaurant and bar.  An Atlanta institution for drinking and dining over the past 15 years, both locations will be open until midnight on New Year’s Eve, Monday, December 31, 2018. Dantanna’s Buckhead is located at the Shops Around Lenox, 3400 Around Lenox Rd NE #304, Atlanta, GA 30326. Dantanna’s Downtown is located at 1 CNN Center #269, Atlanta, GA 30303. For more information or to make a reservation visit www.dantannas.com or call 404.760.8873 for Dantanna’s Buckhead or 404.522.8873 for Dantanna’s Downtown.

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Where to Imbibe & Dine on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

christmas dining

Known for exceptional service and offering a fresh, innovative approach to traditional dishes, holiday diners can head to Atlas this Christmas Eve for a special dinner created by Executive Chef Chris Grossman from 5 to 9 p.m.  With a daily-changing menu that is driven entirely by partnerships with a collection of more than a dozen local farms, Atlas is an award-winning restaurant located in The St. Regis Atlanta that celebrates the very best in seasonal American cuisine combined with European influences.  Atlas will be closed on Christmas Day.  For more information or to make a reservation, visit atlasrestaurant.com or call (404) 600-6471.  Atlas is located at 88 West Paces Ferry Road NW Atlanta, GA 30305. 

This Christmas Eve, TWO urban licks will be hosting a special a la carte dinner. From 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. patrons can enjoy fiery creations by acclaimed Executive Chef Michael Bertozzi, including his seasonal and classic favorites, such as Oysters Rockefeller, Smoked Tomahawk Prime Rib, Cajun Deep Fried Turkey and Trimmings, Warm Sugar Cookies and Eggnog Creme Brûlée, while taking in the smooth sounds of a live music performance from Kerry Hill band. TWO will be closed on Christmas Day. Located conveniently on the Atlanta BeltLine in the Old Fourth Ward, guests can also take advantage of the outdoor seating available on TWO’s expansive patio. To make a reservation, visit twourbanlicks.com or call 404.522.4622. TWO urban licks is located at 820 Ralph McGill Blvd. Atlanta, GA 30306. 

Guests can belly up to the bar or relax in the dining room at Dantanna’s Buckhead this Christmas Eve between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and take advantage of the expansive menu featuring aged steaks, daily fresh seafood, juicy burgers, signature favorites and much more.  Signature and classic cocktails, craft beers and wine will also be flowing.  Dantanna’s Buckhead will be closed Christmas Day and Dantanna’s Downtown will be closed on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  For more information, visit www.dantannas.com or call 404.760.8873 for Buckhead and 404.522.8873 for Downtown. Dantanna’s Buckhead is located at the Shops Around Lenox, 3400 Around Lenox Rd NE #304, Atlanta, GA 30326.

Diners looking for a chic Christmas Eve experience can head to STK Atlanta for an unforgettable dinner.  Along with the full dinner menu featuring reimagined classic American  cuisine with signature dishes and, of course, the highest quality  steak, Midtown’s sexiest steakhouse will be serving holiday specials created by Executive Chef Thomas Mikesell from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. such as: Roasted Chestnut Soup; Waygu Prime Rib; Surf & Turf - 8 ounce Bone in Filet, Main Lobster, Champagne Bearer Blanc; and a 4 ounce filet with mac and cheese and asparagus for the kids at the table. STK will be open on Christmas Day from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.  For more information about STK, visit www.stkhouse.com or call 404-793-0144.   STK Atlanta is located at 1075 Peachtree Street in Midtown Atlanta on the corner of Peachtree and 12th Streets in the 12th & Midtown development.

Bully Boy, the newest BeltLine restaurant from Concentrics Restaurants and acclaimed Executive Chef Michael Bertozzi, is offering its full dinner menu on Christmas Eve from 5 to 9 p.m.  Offering Eastern seaboard fare from its farms, rivers and coastal waters with an approach that has far reaching influences, guests can also enjoy a nostalgic cocktail list, local and coastal craft brews and curated wine list created by Advanced Sommelier Justin Amick of Painted Hospitality.  Bully Boy is closed on Christmas Day. 

Bully Boy is a destination restaurant located in the Old Fourth Ward next to TWO urban licks, in between The Telephone Factory and Common Grounds, right down the BeltLine from Ponce City Market at 828 W10 Ralph McGill Blvd, Atlanta, Georgia 30306.  For more information on Bully Boy and Concentrics Restaurants please visit www.bullyboyatl.com and www.concentricsrestaurants.com or call 678.904.5607.  

RESTAURANTS OPEN ON CHRISTMAS EVE — Atlas, Bully Boy, Dantanna’s Buckhead, STK Atlanta, TWO urban licks.

RESTAURANTS CLOSED ON CHRISTMAS EVE — Bistro Off Broad, City Winery, Dantanna's Downtown, PARISH, Park Tavern. 

RESTAURANTS OPEN ON CHRISTMAS DAY — STK Atlanta.

*RESTAURANTS CLOSED ON CHRISTMAS DAY — Atlas, Bully Boy, Bistro Off Broad, City Winery, Dantanna’s Buckhead, Dantanna’s Downtown, PARISH, Park Tavern, TWO urban licks. 

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Planning Your Christmas Shopping To Be Stress Free

Planning Your Christmas Shopping To Be Stress Free

At this time of year, Christmas shopping has gone from being a thought for the future to something that is very much in the here and now. Unfortunately, buying gifts for all of your loved ones, and even ones you don’t, can be a stressful experience. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways that you can save yourself some problems this festive season and get shopping with comfort.

Deals

Everybody loves a bargain and your Christmas shopping should be full of them. Just because you are buying someone a present doesn’t mean you have to pay top dollar. Shopping around online for a little while or even taking a leisurely stroll around the shops will quickly give you an idea of the average price of the products you’re looking to buy this year. Alternatively, if you already know what you want to buy some people then get looking on comparison websites. They’ve done all the research for you, so you can sit at home with your favorite drink in hand knowing full well you’ve saved some cash while putting smiles on the faces of your friends and family.

christmas tree

Difficult People

We all have them in our groups, every year we wonder what on Earth can we get them this year? They are the people who have everything they could possibly want already, or even worse the people who are impossible to read. Sometimes you wonder why you’re bothering, but you persevere regardless. After all, it’s Christmas and you’re in the spirit of giving and bringing cheer.

So some options for you; first of all consider the tried and tested voucher. You don’t know what to buy these people, but they know what they want so give them the tools necessary to go and get their ideal present. If you’re clever about it, you might just be able to earn free gift cards online thus saving yourself the need to pay out. Alternatively, you can try something a little bit more festive and traditional like a candle or a scarf. Both things that they’re likely to use, both say you’ve thought about them, but you’re not expecting much in return. Simple yet satisfying for everyone involved.

Enjoy Yourself

Christmas comes but once a year and everyone is going through the same shopping pains as you. However, you don’t have to. Shopping is just one aspect of the holiday season, and it is one that can be enjoyed by making the most of festive markets and the other experiences that this time of year can bring. Just make sure that you aren’t allowing your anxiety over presents for others build up too much, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve worked all year so you deserve to enjoy this wonderful period just as much as anyone else.

Even that person who keeps walking in front of you on the high street.

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5 VERY MERRY DESTINATIONS

Photo: Courtesy of Callaway Resort & Gardens

Photo: Courtesy of Callaway Resort & Gardens

 Over the rivers and throughout the Southeast,

to Christmastime delights we go.

FROM SIMPLE PLEASURES of the season to time-honored traditions and radiant elegance, we suggest five splendid road trips — in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee — that promise to warm your heart and put some bounce in your holiday step. We start with the spots closest to metro Atlanta and venture farther afoot from there.

***

1. Christmas at Callaway Gardens | 75 minutes south of Atlanta

At CALLAWAY RESORT & GARDENS in Pine Mountain, Ga., you’ll find 2,500 pristine acres that deliver a graceful, tranquil escape with natural beauty.

You needn’t go thirsty at Callaway. Photo: Callaway Resort & Gardens

You needn’t go thirsty at Callaway. Photo: Callaway Resort & Gardens

Callaway decorates with 8 million lights in scenes and color schemes that conjure a five-mile Christmas fairyland. Buzz down for the day or spend the night. Choose from a standard hotel room, a two-bedroom cottage or a villa (up to four bedrooms). If you do go day-tripping, let it spill into the night or you’ll miss the beauty of Fantasy in Lights, now in its 27th year. Enchantment is the aim of the game.

There are various holiday options and packages, but there’s no fee to enter Christmas Village, a heated 22,000-sq. ft. circus-like tent. Shop at dozens of booths (don’t miss Toy Land). Check out the entertainment and a life-size Nativity, try festival funnel cakes and fudge, or face-painting, ornament-making and Santa visits for the kids. The Village is open 4-9 p.m. (sometimes 10 p.m.) daily, including holidays from Nov. 16 through Jan. 5, 2019.

Just outside the tent, grown-ups can find Jacob Marley’s Christmas Spirits, which serves such alcoholic concoctions as Ebenezer’s Eggnog. No “bah, humbug” there.

To experience Fantasy in Lights directly from Christmas Village, you’ll need to pay for Callaway admission. Visitors are encouraged to bundle up and hop aboard the hour-long musical Jolly Trolley tour. You can drive your own car, but the cost per person is the same. Expect to spend $11-$35 each. Admission and Fantasy in Lights packages differ for overnight guests.

2. Christmas in Helen | 2 hours north of Atlanta

With the “lighting of the village,” the most wonderful time of the year begins Nov. 23 in Helen, Ga., on the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Live entertainment begins in the town center at 2 p.m. that day and the Bavarian-themed village lights up at 6 p.m.

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

The year-round population of this decidedly quirky community is about 550, but Helen is billed as the third-most visited place in Georgia, following only Atlanta and Savannah, and attracting 1.5 million travelers each year.

Many thousands venture to this “small town big on excitement” for its holiday ambience. They’re lured by the appeal of strolling on cobblestone alleys and poking into gingerbread-trimmed shops like HANSEL & GRETEL CANDY KITCHEN, prized for its gourmet confections like the top-selling chocolate-caramel-pecan turtles; TIM’S WOODEN TOYS; and ZUZU’S PETALS ROCK SHOP for gems, crystals and jewelry. WILDEWOOD and LAVENDER COTTAGE & GARDEN (in Sautee Nacoochee outside Helen) offer unexpected gift items. Plenty of places also sell pretty doodads and ornaments from around the world.

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

Photo: Alpine Helen/White County Georgia CVB

The annual Christmas parade (2 p.m. Dec. 8) includes live bands, Tennessee walking horses, Bernese mountain dogs and floats like a “sleigh” carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus. A children’s lantern parade steps off later that day. Kids can decorate paper lanterns starting at 4 p.m. and parade through Helen at 5 p.m. to the Festhalle for a bonfire and s’mores.

To see Helen’s lights, book a ride with Pegasus Horse-Drawn Carriages (arrange via text message at 706.499.1159).

Visit a traditional CHRISTKINDLMARKT the weekends of Dec. 1-2 and 8-9. Vendors try to give Southerners the sense of a European holiday market. You’ll find stalls offering handmade gifts, ornaments and edible treats from savory to sweet.

If you’re in the mood to eat, Wiener schnitzel, Bavarian apple strudel and such are plentiful here. Tried-and-true eateries include MULLER’S FAMOUS FRIED CHEESE CAFÉBODENSEE RESTAURANTHOFBRAUHAUS and HOFER’S OF HELEN (also a bakery). Details: 800.858.8027.

3. Christmas at the Biltmore | almost 4 hours north of Atlanta

For a splurge, we suggest the Biltmore in Asheville, N.C. The 250-room French Renaissance mansion was built as a country home for George Vanderbilt III (grandson of industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt) in the 1890s.

The 175-sq. ft. chateau has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and took 100 workers six years to complete, a feat accomplished just in time for Christmas 1895. The holiday hoopla here in the Blue Ridge Mountains has become so popular that CHRISTMAS AT BILTMORE begins in Nov. 3 and continues through Jan. 6.

Photo: The Biltmore Co.

Photo: The Biltmore Co.

This year’s theme is “The Art of Christmas,” so you can bet the estate’s design team has gone all out. At BILTMORE ESTATE WINERY, some 7,000 globe-shaped ornaments drip from the ceiling. The goal is to make visitors feel like they’re inside an enormous bottle of bubbly.

The gothic “house,” showcasing the Vanderbilt family’s original art and furnishings, features more than 100 Christmas trees, including a 35-foot-tall Fraser fir. The front lawn shimmers with a 55-foot Norway spruce and 35 glistening evergreens.

The estate, a National Historic Landmark, includes gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. The INN ON BILTMORE ESTATE offers four-star lodging. The more casual VILLAGE HOTEL in Antler Hill Village is steps from shops, restaurants, the winery (free tastings), a creamery and more. The village glows 5:30 p.m.-midnight daily.

Live entertainment (choral groups, instrumental duos, etc.), perform throughout the house during day and night tours. The biggest draw is the CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS EVENINGS ($85-$90; $42-$45 for kids; age 9 and younger free). Reservations for specific time slots are a must.

ANTLER HILL VILLAGE hosts more entertainment on weekends as well as occasional bonfires. Sleigh bells ring on horse-drawn carriage rides ($65 per person for an hour; group rates available). Call 800.225.6398. Tours of 30 minutes in an eight-passenger “wagonette” are $35 per person. Call 800.411.3812.

Weekday holiday rates at the Biltmore start at $299, weekend nights at $449. Village Hotel stays starting at $249 and $379. Get general Biltmore information at 800.411.3812.

 4. Victorian Christmas in Thomasville | 4 hours south of Atlanta

Again and again, Thomasville residents and shopkeepers hear visitors cry, “Why haven’t I known about this place?”

Thomasville, about 30 minutes north of Tallahassee, Fla., has embraced the yuletide season like no other town its size (population: 19,000) in the state. Southern Living magazine did a 12-page spread on all things holiday in Thomasville last year.

Photo: Thomasville Visitors Center

Photo: Thomasville Visitors Center

Know that you can bask in the holiday spirit here throughout December even though Thomasville’s 34th annual Victorian Christmas is just 6-9 p.m. Dec. 13-14.

Victorian Christmas is a throwback to Thomasville’s heyday, “when warm cheer was spread to all, and evening strolls to hear carols sung made the holiday complete,” says Bonnie Hays of the Thomasville Visitors Center. “I can’t tell you how many out-of-towners keep coming back because our Christmas town warms their hearts and souls.”

A living Nativity is staged by the First Baptist Church. Horse-drawn carriage rides pass by the town’s storied 337-year-old oak, which glows with luminaries. Musicians, storytellers, stilt walkers and Victorian fire performers travel brick-paved streets. Choral groups perform, chestnuts are roasted and marshmallows toasted. This year, festivalgoers can get a keepsake photo of themselves posing with a Victorian-era hot-air balloon.

Shopping and dining possibilities include the FUZZY GOAT, a yarn and knitting boutique; SOUTHLIFE SUPPLY CO., known nationally for its leather goods, including belts and purses; THE BOOKSHELF for books, toys and cool gifts; LIAM’S for upscale New American food; and the fun, laid-back SWEET GRASS DAIRY RESTAURANT & CHEESE SHOP for first-rate artisan cheeses, platters and craft beer. Details on all at 229.228.7977.

5. Dickens of a Christmas | 4 hours northwest of Atlanta

If you’d like to dust off great-grandpa’s top hat, you’ve got a dandy chance to show it off at the 34th annual Dickens of a Christmas in the postcard-pretty town of Franklin, Tenn., just this side of Nashville. This year’s event runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 8 and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 9).

Street performers in Franklin, Tenn. Photo: Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

Street performers in Franklin, Tenn. Photo: Heritage Foundation of Williamson County

The city’s Victorian architecture is an ideal backdrop for the days when local shops were where you found holiday gifts. Wander the Main Street area, and you might bump into Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and other costumed Dickensian players. They’ll interact with you, delight the kids with treats and won’t break character.

Dozens of specialty shops step up their game for what some call the largest outdoor Christmas festival in middle Tennessee. Enticements include live music and dance performances plus pockets of entertainment here and there, artisan demonstrations, 100 vendors selling their wares and plenty of food trucks. Kids can take pony and train rides and play Victorian-era games. At day’s end, everyone is invited to the town square to sing carols.

Festgoers are encouraged to wear Victorian clothes or just accessorize in some way. Along with that top hat, you may want to pull out your ugliest Christmas sweater. There’s a contest at the First Citizens National Bank’s booth.

The Dickens fest is free, but a few attractions ask a small fee. Details at 615.591.8500.

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THE WHISKEY GENTRY ANNOUNCES 10TH ANNUAL MERRY Y’ALLTIDE CELEBRATION

The Whiskey Gentry - Photo: Jon Whittaker

The Whiskey Gentry - Photo: Jon Whittaker

An Atlanta institution, The Whiskey Gentry has announced it will be returning to the Variety Playhouse on December 8, 2018 for the 10th Annual Merry Y’alltide Celebration.  The announcement comes with the news that this will officially be the final performance by The Whiskey Gentry. Recent months have seen the band take fewer engagements, as lead singer, Lauren Morrow has emerged with a new sound and self-titled solo EP.  Rolling Stone profiled Morrow in its latest issue as one of their “10 New Country Artists You Need To Know”  creating further buzz to already exciting news.

“When Jason and I started The Whiskey Gentry, I don't think we ever imagined how incredible this journey would be. We've toured the world, played music with some amazing people, and most importantly, created a family with a group of guys that we love like brothers,” says The Whiskey Gentry lead singer, Lauren Morrow.  “ Over the years, some of us have gotten married, had kids, moved to different cities, and it makes it harder to be a collective unit like it was.  Jason and I have chosen to keep moving with our careers under my name, but no matter what, we will always have these songs, this family of musicians, and all of the incredible memories we've created together over the last decade.”

The final performance of The Whiskey Gentry will be accompanied by several special guests who will help get the crowd warmed up for this spirited evening. Full details on the special guests along with comparative poster art will be reveled in the coming weeks. 

Advance tickets for the 10th Annual Merry Y’alltide Celebration are on sale now, starting at $20. Based on availability, tickets may be available at the Variety Playhouse box office the day of the show.  Tickets are available online at www.ticketfly.com.  This is an all ages show and doors open at 7:00 p.m.  The 10th Annual Merry Y’alltide Celebration is presented by Zero Mile.

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