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Travelogue: Buckhead, Georgia

We’ve been coming to Buckhead for six December’s in a row. Buckhead is an affluent area of Atlanta, which when the lights are on, is an easy direct flight from Bermuda. Probably not the first place that conjours Christmas frippery, but over the years we have found plenty of festive family fun stuff to keep us busy for a couple of days as well as providing an opportunity for some last minute shopping.

The other reason we choose here in December is that the weather is usually cold enough to be Christmasey but it’s not going to get dumped on by a tonne of snow and muck around with the flights. However last week it did snow, and believe me when it snows in Atlanta, the place falls apart, worse than London, which is saying something.

Nonetheless when we landed on Friday the dusting they got had long disappeared, although it has still been chilly with weekend overnight temperatures below freezing, and of course someone forget their coat!

We stay in the St Regis, which with it’s huge Christmas tree, the extravagantly decorated lobby complete with walk-in gingerbread house, ice rink and with Santa Claus and his wife regular visitors it is the perfect spot for keeping the Christmas dream alive for our daughter. Sadly this year the gingerbread house has gone a bit commercial and is now a Christmas candy store.

The whole area around this part of Buckhead is being developed with the Shops at Buckhead being at the axis of everything although many condo buildings still appear to be holes in the ground surrounded by ‘coming soon’ advertising hoardings. However many stores and restaurants are open awaiting it would seem an influx of moneyed urban dwellers.

Buckhead also has the rare advantage in this part of the world of being accessible by train. The Marta runs from the airport into town.

I liked the Shops at Buckhead, although your budget needs to extend beyond stocking stuffers, but they did their utmost to bring in families for the holiday season with free hot chocolate and entertainment. We had a couple of nice meals close by too at Dolce, Taverna and Doraku. Southern Gentlemen was a great bar as well.

Close too are the well renowned shopping malls Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, with pretty much everything you’d need to empty your wallet. The Macy’s at Lenox Mall is also home to the famed Pink Pink. Parents – beware long queues though and Phipps also has a massive cinema and the kids magnet of a Lego Discovery Centre.

It wasn’t just shopping thankfully and our daughter loved Madeline’s Christmas, a musical show based on the book starring 12 local Atlanta school kids. It was cute and funny and the independent Horizon Theatre in conjunction with the Atlanta Children’s Theatre Company have a reputation for putting on some great shows at their ageing but charming 172-seat theatre.

Another regenerated area a few miles from Buckhead is a previously vast former steel mill now redeveloped as Atlantic Station. There’s plenty to meander including an ice rink, although the Christkindl Market was disappointing. There are plenty of shops but do yourself a favour and don’t be drawn into the huge caverns of Target and IKEA.

Our last stop tonight was the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the 30-acre site is awash with beautiful twinkling lights and installations at this time of the year and every year it seems to get bigger and better. It is said there are two million light bulbs, including new this Christmas more than 1,000 strands of dancing lights called Nature’s Wonders, which as high as 64 feet illuminates the area of the garden called Storza Woods. It was pretty impressive, especially with 3D glasses on.

Garden Lights is open from 5 to 10pm every day and there’s plenty of food and drink options. I have to say there is something magical about being eneveloped in a mass of twinkly lights and it is beautifully done.

We are back on the rock tomorrow.

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