There’s something magical about twinkling lights at Christmastime, and Lake Lanier Islands officials have been counting on that magic to draw visitors to their Magical Nights of Lights display for 15 years.
Each year they see about 200,000 visitors come through, and this year likely will be no different.
The classic displays that have drawn people for years will light up each night, and according to Media and Public Relations Manager Nikki Taylor, "there’s over 3 million lights that are actually used for the entire event."
Some of the highlights of the tour include the Candelabra, Winter Wonderland and the 12 Days of Christmas, with a light display for each line of the famous Christmas carol.
"Most people love the Candelabra because it’s one of the larger displays," Taylor said. "The Winter Wonderland is also a really big display. I believe it’s 48 feet tall and 48 feet wide."
There’s also a section of the tour called Animal Kingdom that includes polar bears, a bison and a lion.
But there are more than just animals made of lights.
The live nativity put on by Blackshear Place Baptist Church will continue this year with live stable animals including goats and sheep. Church members act out the biblical Christmas story with a narrator and music.
At the end of the light tour is Santa’s village with Christmas shopping, marshmallow roasting and, of course, Santa.
"They’ve really made it just absolutely beautiful, upscale — just really nice for the retail shopping," Taylor said.
And while Mom is shopping, the kids can entertain themselves on a variety of carnival rides, including a ferris wheel, merry-go-round and mini roller coaster.
One thing missing this year will be the ice skating rink that has appeared in recent years.
"We’re not doing our ice skating rink this year, obviously because of the water restrictions," Taylor said. "It requires about 12,000 gallons of water, and then ... a few thousand to maintain it daily."
There is one addition, however. New Bethany Baptist Church will be performing a "Christmas Tale."
The show is based on a medieval style of storytelling that involves a group of traveling performers going around telling tales. These performers will be telling the biblical Christmas story.
"(The music) runs from kind of a medieval-type feel to a modern day," said Dan Brothers, worship pastor at New Bethany Baptist. "Not only is it set in that style but it’s set across time."
The show includes a 15-member chorus, seven-piece band and 12-member cast, and performances will be during the second and third weekends in December.
So whether visitors are looking for Christmas music, nativities, twinkling lights or even carnival rides, the Magical Nights of Lights offers some holiday cheer for everyone.