A Holiday Trio

Three Sure Bets for Families this Season

Now that the turkey and all those leftovers have been polished off . . . here come the holidays knocking at our doors. Atlanta Parent has already enjoyed three holiday experiences to recommend to families: “A Stone Mountain Christmas,” the latest edition of “The Christmas Carol” at the Alliance Theatre, and the twinkling splendor – complete with carriage rides – in Piedmont Park. Go forth and be merry!

‘A Stone Mountain Christmas’

By day, it looked much like the Stone Mountain Park we visited this past summer.  We meandered through the year-round attractions such as the Summit Skyride and Great Locomotive Chase Miniature Golf. We saw the lights and garland in the daylight, but it’s really at night when such holiday delight springs to life. When we emerged from The Polar Express 4-D Experience (complete with snow!), the scene was nothing short of magical.
   It seemed that almost every building or attraction glowed with thousands of lights. With plenty of spirited live shows (such as “Toyrific!”) for audiences of all ages, the “just sit back and relax” feeling mingled with the scent of hot cocoa to create a holiday haven. My two young boys and their friends groused at having to get bundled up for the open-air Sing-Along Christmas train, but they were soon singing with the rest of the crowd. The Crossroads Christmas Parade was definitely the highlight of our evening – with dancers, floats, the Snow Angel and Mr. and Mrs. Claus.  The Snow Angel Snowfall and Fireworks Finale was a fitting end to a fun and festive day.
If You Go: “A Stone Mountain Christmas.” Through Jan. 1. 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. Christmas Adventure Pass: Adults, $28; ages 3-11, $22. 770-498-5690; www.stonemountainpark.com now through January 1, 2013. Parking, $10. (A “Snow Mountain” pass for snowy activities in the park is sold separately: $27 per person.)  
– Dana diLorenzo

‘A Christmas Carol’

The Alliance Theatre brings Charles Dickens’ classic tale to life for a 23rd season. Under the direction of Rosemary Newcott, this year’s production is polished and as lovely as a richly textured tapestry. Wonderfully detailed scenic design, along with costumes in an array of jewel tones,  bring a beautiful storybook to life.
   Once again, cranky old Ebeneezer Scrooge goes to bed on Christmas Eve and is visited by three ghosts who enlighten him about his stingy ways and the joy of being a  generous and compassionate person. Chris Kayser, one of Atlanta’s busiest actors, fills the Scrooge shoes at the Alliance for the 16th time. While Kayser is a sure-footed pro, his opening-night performance lacked wide range and that wicked sparkle that is essential. A great and energetic performance is turned in by Neal A. Ghant as Bob Cratchit.  Tiny Tim is played by the very fetching Morgan Gao, a second-grader at The Lovett School. We all wished this script had given Tiny Tim just a little more to do.
  As the second act begins, the audience gets to sing along with the cast to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” If that’s not your favorite holiday tune, worry not, because this show is filled with a cluster of carolers who sashay about in the background, singing many favorites. The Alliance’s “Carol” will surely help your brood get that holiday bounce in its step. Bonus: the big white Christmas tree centrally located in the Woodruff Arts Center lobby offers a splendid backdrop for a family photo.
If You Go: “A Christmas Carol,” Alliance Theatre. 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. Through Dec. 23. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.; for weekday showtimes and more information visit www.alliancetheatre.org/carol 404-733-5000. $17.50-$50. Special note: Family packages on specific dates include parking, family photos, pre-show choir performances and four tickets for $125. Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas to the show and to bring a new pair of pajamas to donate to the Carter’s-sponsored Pajama Program. To get the deal, use the promo code FAMILY*  
– Julie Bookman


Holiday Time in Piedmont Park

   An adventure in a horse-drawn carriage may remind you of all that Atlanta’s most famous park has to offer. The “Season of Magic” in Piedmont Park includes ice skating, carousel rides and carriage rides through the park, which twinkles with thousands of lights. On a recent Saturday afternoon, Atlanta Parent climbed aboard the classic carriage. Publisher Liz White and her 20-month-old grandson Elliot rode in the open-air carriage  to take in views of the city skyline and seasonal light display. Lap blankets are provided.
  “If you haven’t been to Piedmont Park in a long time, a carriage ride is a great way to experience it from a different perspective,” says White. While Elliot wasn’t sure what to think of the friendly four-legged animal pulling them along, slightly older kids are sure to appreciate the experience. The decorated carriages carry up to six people; rides last 20 minutes.
If You Go: “Season of Magic” in Piedmont Park. Through Jan. 6. Carriage rides are offered nightly from 4-10:30 p.m; start location is outside Park Tavern at 500 10th St. NE, Atlanta. Cost: $25 per person ages 12 and older; $20 per person ages 2-11; 24 mos. and younger, free. The carousel operates noon-9 p.m. and costs $3 per ride. Check website for further details.
– Kate Wallace