Magical Christmas Light Display — close by!

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Five years ago, The Wife and I took a once in a lifetime trip to Europe for a Christmas experience. We visited Prague to watch the old town clock as the marvelous mechanical wonder put on a display every hour on the hour.

We warmed ourselves by a fire, nibbling on chimney funnel cakes while gazing at the giant tree located at the center of the cobblestone town square. The tree, illuminated just after sundown, was adorned with hand-blown decorations from all the glassblowers in town.

We experienced the wonders of Vienna’s Belvedere Palace reflecting in the lake just in front of it, saw a Christmas tree made entirely of sleighs, and walked under thousands of crystals made into giant chandeliers hanging high above the pedestrianized areas of the city center.

While in France, we dined 135 feet above the ground at Jules Verne, the restaurant on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. After dinner we were transfixed as 336 projectors wrapped the tower in golden light while the nightly illumination display danced around all on the tower and the ground below.

But there is a special place high up on a Georgia mountain top, with a much better light show and much closer — just ask our two granddaughters, Little One and Sweet Caroline. Welcome, Dear Holiday Reader, to the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City.

Only a short two-and-a-half-hour car drive away, Yule Town, the Arctic Kingdom, and Magic Forest awaited us the day after Thanksgiving.

Just after 6:30 p.m., we were all bundled up for a Prague-like winter walk down almost a mile of pathways weaving around, over and under giant boulders and cliffs of stone atop Lookout Mountain. It was 37 degrees when we started our two-hour trek through the light display, but we were well prepared with sock hats pulled down over “freezing” little ears, heavy coats donned, gloves on, and scarfs wrapped around necks.

First, we wandered slowly through the Magic Forest. The 43-foot-tall trees twinkled with what must have been a gazillion white and green lights. We walked slowly because of one old guy constantly stopping to take pictures and videos of the dazzling light display — and his equally dazzling granddaughters.

Next, the girls wove their way through a forest display of delectable candy canes larger than they were tall, then posed for a picture with each of the giant ten drummers drumming and stood proudly under twin American flags (made of red and white strings of lights) suspended high above the main walkway to Yule Town.

Finally, a 40-foot-long archway of green and white lights led the girls to the North Pole Village, elves, Mrs. Claus, and a sit-down conversation with Santa himself!

Finding they weren’t on his naughty list, the girls told him what they wished for Christmas and, after a quick picture, were led to a counter where we all enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa. No “extra” holiday spirits were in my cup. After all, didn’t want to go flying through the night sky as we descended Lookout Mountain!

The hot cocoa warmed all of us up for the next visitor along the enchanted trail of lights … Inara the Ice Queen. The Ice Queen sat by herself on a throne of white and blue lights. All dressed in silver and white, this Ice Queen was anything but cold. So friendly and warm to the girls, she even let them take a picture with her. Other than Santa, they enjoyed seeing her the most.

During that crisp and clear night, we saw over a million LED lights at Yule Town, Arctic Kingdom, Magic Forest, and the North Pole Village. We talked to Santa, saw his elves working making toys, got a hug from Mrs. Claus, visited the warm Ice Queen Inara, and got a chill from meeting Jack Frost.

This year, don’t go to Europe for Christmas; instead visit Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights. It was truly a magical night adventure that was only a short sleigh ride away.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]