Garden Lights photo

‘Can’t Beat Home Sweet Home’

Botanical Gardens decorated as a winter wonderland for Garden Lights. Photo: Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Atlanta Botanical Garden transforms into a winter wonderland for Garden Lights. Photo: Atlanta Botanical Garden

While some complain about taking a staycation, Atlanta has so much entertainment to offer. Staying “home for the holidays” is really not that bad if you just look in the right places. Whether you want to cuddle with a cup of cocoa, see sparkling holiday decorations, eat Christmas cookies with Santa, watch the “Nutcracker” or go ice skating with friends, Atlanta is full of many opportunities for all ages.

For those winter snugglers who just want to bundle up indoors, word on the street is that Cacao Atlanta offers one of the best hot chocolates in the country, let alone in Atlanta. Rich, thick, European-style hot cocoa is available right under our noses with three locations: 3035 Peachtree Rd. in Buckhead, 1046 N. Highland Ave. in Virginia-Highland and 202 Permalume Place. Another location will be opening in Inman Park very soon. http://cacaoatlanta.com/pages/boutiques

Atlanta’s very own Botanical Garden hosts multiple events every holiday season. For the past five years, the gardens have been transformed into a magical winter wonderland for the popular Garden Lights, open this year from Nov. 14 through Jan. 9. During this time, the Holiday Model Train Show will be running on six scenic tracks through the Garden Lights during both daylight and nighttime hours. Nov. 28 through Dec. 19, St. Nick will be available Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is a wonderful outing especially, but not ONLY, for the kids, so bring your Christmas list and a camera. Tickets for Garden Lights are $23-$26 depending on the night, and are discounted for Atlanta Botanical Garden members. http://atlantabg.org/events-classes/events

A delightful but pricier outing in December is the Nutcracker Tea at the Four Seasons Hotel. Children ages 3-12 can bake cookies with Santa, and holiday favorites from the “Nutcracker” performed by the Atlanta Ballet are accompanied with loose-leaf tea and yummy finger food. Tickets sell between $45 and $50 for Dec. 15 and 22.

Less costly but just as jolly, Atlanta Ballet is celebrating their 20th anniversary of “Nutcracker” this year. Tickets start at only $25 to see this awe-inspiring magical performance at the Fox Theatre. “Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker” runs from today through Dec. 27. http://www.atlantaballet.com/tickets-performances/nutcracker

Ice skating is a fun option for social events and get-togethers at Park Tavern from Thanksgiving Day to Presidents’ Day in February. This venue serves amazing food, plays great music and has a great location, right in the middle of Piedmont Park. The rink offers ice skating for $15 to $20 until 8 p.m. After 8:00 it becomes 18+ until midnight. Minors need a parent or guardian signature to receive skates from the back. Parking is only $3 on weekdays and $5 on weekends, making the chilly walk from your car to the rink very accessible. http://www.parktavern.com/ice-rink

Whatever you choose do this holiday season, stay jolly and keep warm. “For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home!”