The problem was not how to entertain out of town guests during the holidays; it was which one of the myriad choices would blow their Christmas socks off. For some reason, having family visit from California can be intimidating. After all, that state is home to the stars, some of whom they rub elbows with in the grocery store, so what can top that kind of cozy familiarity?
For one, Middle Georgia doesn’t have eight-lane freeways clogged most of the time with weary drivers. Georgia has scenic byways to little towns steeped in history and absolutely aglitter for the Christmas season. So, off we went to explore the most appealing for a family of all ages. First stop: The Rock Ranch.
Founded by the late S. Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A fame, the Christmas driving tour of the Rock Ranch began seven years ago to give families an inexpensive diversion for young children to see the Little Town dripping in miniature lights or trees around the lake lighted to guide Santa’s sleigh on a starlit night. The entire driving tour is about a mile through pastures on the ranch which, for daytime activities, includes a zip line and miniature train rides, plus exploring the town of pint sized houses built especially for children’s delight.
For Christmas jitters, the drive was the ideal sleep remedy for the under 12 set. To say it was a magical trip would be an understatement. It was dazzling and fun with the occasional cow (“Eat mor chikin”), complete with Santa hat, greeting car loads of children along the way. There is no admission charge for the driving tour, which opened Thanksgiving and closes Wednesday. The Rock Ranch is located just outside Barnesville.
A GREAT DEAL OF FUN
On Dec. 14, Katie Deal, the daughter of our governor, was the featured soloist with the Atlanta Pops at the Goldstein Center for the Performing Arts for “Christmas in the Air,” part of the Steinway Concert series, on the campus of Georgia Military College in Milledgeville. Deal has established herself as a tribute vocalist singing Patsy Cline on her Today, Tomorrow and Forever tour.
However, her Sunday appearance with the Atlanta Pops, with Maestro Tom Gibson as guest conductor, was dedicated to familiar holiday tunes, which elicited comments from fans that they would make this an annual event. Gibson and the orchestra were as entertaining with their props and sound effects as mischievous North Pole elves.
Our guests came away impressed with the Pops’ performance before a sold-out house and amazed at Deal’s versatility in delivering renditions of a winter wonderland of music. We were proud as peacocks that Milledgeville trumped San Diego in orchestral music this Christmas.
CHRISTMAS TREASURE HUNT
For water lovers and boaters, decorating their vessels for the holidays is no small feat, so it was no surprise that at 6 p.m. Dec. 20, there were only four boats leaving the docks at the Fish N’ Pig on Lake Tobesofkee for the water parade. The day had been rainy off and on and all the trouble may have been in vain. However, the rain left in the afternoon, the sun made a brief appearance, and we persevered in searching from the shores of Sandy Beach and Claystone parks for more water borne revelers.
An additional five boats of intrepid sailors joined the small flotilla as they wound their way from cove to cove festooned in their holiday finest. Santa was at the helm of one floating workshop; Christmas carols echoed over the waters. Our family boasts a few sailors who have participated in holiday water parades on the Florida coasts, and have watched from the docks of southern California the spectacular white lights defining the enormous carriers when the U.S. Navy fleet is in port.
But for our children, seeing the parade arrive at the docks at the Fish N’ Pig could not have been more wondrous. Our treasure hunt driving from one side of the lake to the other in search of the parade was an experience they will never forget.
TRIUMPH AND DISAPPOINTMENT
We had planned on meeting Santa Claus at the slide sponsored by Christmas in the Corridor. Delayed by December’s fickle weather, it was rescheduled from Dec. 20 to Dec. 21. However, with the threat of rain and possible exposure to an errant strain of flu, we did not want to incur the wrath of parents who would be up all night taking care of sick children, so we had to express mail the wish lists to the North Pole.
That was the only disappointment in an otherwise perfect Christmas. Now it is time to make that resolution list. Happy New Year!
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.