It’s easy to be thankful for being an Atlanta parent when weekends arrive all wrapped up like a shiny present beneath the tree, just waiting for your family to tear into it. From waking up Santa at the Aquarium to a tree lighting at Atlantic Station, a ride-on train at the Botanical Garden and Santa’s reindeer at Kazoo Toys, you’ll be busy as elves in this last weekend before the official start of the holiday season. And if you’re looking to give back before saying thanks on Thursday, be sure to check out the details for Hands on Atlanta’s Family Volunteer Day below.

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Photo: Terren in Virginia via flickr 

Downtown

Wake Up Santa at the Aquarium
Santa got to Atlanta early and headed straight to the aquarium where he wore himself out! Now he’s overslept and Atlanta families are invited to help wake him up. Join Georgia Aquarium as they try everything they can think of to Wake Up Santa, including serving milk & cookies with Santa, and take home a souvenir cup and a professional photograph. Held at Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker Street NW. $8/ person plus admission. All ages. Event details.

Festival of the SEAson at Georgia Aquarium
As if the Georgia Aquarium weren’t exciting enough, they jazz things up even more during the holidays with their annual Festival of the SEAson events, including a light show every hour, appearances by Santa and SCUBA Claus, mermaids, a giant underwater Menorah, and live music. Held at Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker Street NW. Free with admission ($26/ child, $32/ adult). All ages. Event details.

Hands on Atlanta Family Volunteer Day: SWEEAC Food Bank
Join other families as you sort, bag, and distribute food items for The Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center. Volunteers will also assist families to their vehicle or help them carry food. Address and directions will be sent to you by e-mail after you sign up. Free. Ages 5 & up. Event details.

Atlantic Station

Tree Lighting at Atlantic Station
Atlantic Station turns their tree lighting into an all-day celebration with live music, arts, live reindeer, delicious winter treats, and fam-friendly activities. Children’s activities fill East and West District Streets starting at 1 p.m. Special holiday performances take place throughout the day in Central Park and the tree lighting takes place at 8:30 p.m. followed by fireworks. Held at Atlantic Station, 1380 Atlantic Dr NW. Free. Sat. from 1 to 9 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Midtown

Rudolph at Center for Puppetry Arts
This faithful adaptation of the 1964 stop-motion animated special, Rudolph and his friends (including Hermey the Elf, Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snow Monster) takes the stage in what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes as a “holly-jolly holiday adventure for theater-goers of all ages.” Held at Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring St. NW at 18th. $20.50 (includes create-a-puppet workshop), free under 2. Showtimes vary weekly; see website for schedule. All ages. Event details.

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Ride on Train at the Botanical Garden
Woot-woot! The annual ride-on train at the Garden is chugging full steam ahead during the holiday season on weekends and select weekdays, and don’t forget to stop at the Holiday Model Train Show to watch G-scale trains and a holiday trolley chug through an imaginary, beautifully planted landscape. Held at Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave. Weekends and select weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. $3 per passenger; Tickets sold in the Hardin Visitor Center, Price does not include admission. All ages. Event details.

Garden Lights, Holiday Nights at Atlanta Botanical Garden
Don’t miss the 5th annual dazzling display of twinkling lights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. In addition to the millions of lights, there will be s’mores, hot cocoa, and adult beverages for purchase. Held at Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave. Thurs. to Sun. $26/ adult, $20/ ages 3 – 12, Free under 3, Mon. to Wed. $23/ adult, $17/ ages 3 – 12, Free under 3. All ages. Event details.

Get Silly at The High
We all secretly want to give the pigeon a hot dog. Now’s your chance. The High Museum of Art presents Seriously Silly: A Decade of Art and Whimsy by Mo Willems, featuring over 100 works by the artist. Held at The High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree Street, N.E. Free with admission ($19.50/ adult, $12/ ages 6-17, Free under 5). Through Jan. 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tues., Wed. Thurs., & Sat., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fri., and 12 to 5 p.m. Sun. All ages. Event details.

A Christmas Carol at The Alliance Theatre
Celebrate Atlanta’s finest actors in this magnificent staging of Charles Dickens’s classic Christmas tale. Held at The Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree Street. Price varies from $21-65; see website for details. Through Dec. 27. Ages 5 & up. Event details.

Holiday Model Train Show
This one’s going to knock their socks off. Don’t miss the G-scale model train display that runs through incredibly decorated town and countryscapes at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Held at Atlanta Botanical Garden, 1345 Piedmont Ave. Free with admission ($18.95/ adults, $12.95/ ages 3-12, Free under 3). Through Jan. 9. All ages. Event details.

Druid Hills

Winter Wonderland Day at Fernbank
Enjoy holiday crafts, performances, and special activities in honor of the Winter Wonderland exhibit, featuring celebrations from around the world. Held at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Rd. Free with admission. Sat. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Buckhead

The Pink Pig at Macy’s Lenox Square
It wouldn’t be the holidays in Atlanta if there wasn’t a giant, pink, 1950’s-themed pig ride in the parking lot of Macy’s at Lenox Square. Housed in a tent on the upper deck of the Macy’s lot, this iconic Atlanta ride is guaranteed to delight the kiddos and leave out-of-towners scratching their heads. Held at Macy’s at Lenox Square, 3393 Peachtree Street. $3/ person. Through Jan. 3, times vary by month. All ages. Event details.

Kazoo Toys Holiday Kickoff with Santa’s Reindeer
Come see Santa’s reindeer at Kazoo Toys and stay for a special guest after the reindeer depart. Plus fun dreidel games all day long on Saturday and Sunday. Held at Kazoo Toys, 3718 Roswell Road. Free. Sat. from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Ice Skate at The St. Regis Atlanta
If your brood is in the mood for some ice skating, and you’re in the mood for some fashionable rink-side cocktails and gourmet hot chocolate, skip the crowds and head to the rooftop rink at St. Regis Atlanta. Held at Astor Holiday Rink at St. Regis Atlanta, 88 West Paces Ferry Rd. $30/ hour, adults and $18/ hour, ages 15 and under. Call The St. Regis Atlanta Holiday Desk at 404.563.7797 for reservations. Weekends from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market
This Saturday, check out Georgia’s largest producer-only farmers market in the state (Producer-only means that everything at the Market has been grown, raised, or made by the seller, ensuring fair prices for both the vendors and the consumers). With chef demos, samples, live music, you and the kids will certainly want to make it a weekend tradition. Held at The Cathedral of St. Philip, 2744 Peachtree Road NW. Free. Sat. from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Barnes & Noble Story Time
With cool weather blowing in, nothing beats a cozy story time and craft to cure cabin fever. Head to Atlanta area Barnes & Noble stores to get your fix of fun. The Buckhead Barnes & Noble offers story times on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11. Held at Buckhead Barnes & Noble, 2900 Peachtree Road NE Suite 310. Free. Sat. at 11 a.m. All ages. Event details.

Roswell

Backyard Campout at Chattahoochee Nature Center
Don’t miss this chance to check “family camping” off your bucket list for 2015 before it gets too cold. The Chattahoochee Nature Center takes the complicated out of camping by providing a campground (you bring the gear), a campfire with marshmallows (you bring a picnic dinner), and 127 acres of wildlife in the middle of the metro area. Registration is required. Held at Chattahoochee Nature Center, 9135 Willeo Rd. $50/ tent. Sun. at 5 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Worth the Drive: Canton

Harvestfest at Tanglewood Farm
Celebrate autumn and National American Indian Heritage Month with loads of outdoor fun in the spirit of the Cherokee Indians who once walked this land. Hunt for arrowheads, play in a real teepee, gobble with real Thanksgiving turkeys (heritage breed Narragansetts), and meet Native American interpreter and storyteller Irving Standing Chief. Held at Tanglewood Farm, 171 Tanglewood Dr. $15/ person, Infants under 1 are free. Family tours are held Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. No reservations are required for individuals or families to visit. All ages. Event details.

Worth the Drive: Gainesville

Nature Connects: LEGO® in the Garden
Worth the drive to Gainesville, the newly-opened Gainesville extension of the Atlanta Botanical Garden features 14 larger-than-life installations built from nearly 400,000 LEGO bricks including a giant praying mantis, butterfly, hummingbird, flowers and more. Don’t miss the grand opening this weekend with LEGO activities and games. Held in Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville, 1911 Sweetbay Dr. Free with admission (Adult $18.95, Child $12.95, Under 3 free). Sep 19 – Jan 3. All ages. Event details.

Worth the Drive: Pine Mountain

Fantasy in Lights at Callaway Gardens
8 million lights. 15 dazzling scenes. 1 magical night. Fantasy In Lights is not only the South’s most spectacular holiday light and sound show, it is one of the world’s “Top 10 Places to See Holiday Lights,” as named by National Geographic Traveler. Ride the “Jolly Trolley” or keep cozy in the warm comfort of your own car as you and the fam cruise through this seasonal spectacular. Held at Callaway Gardens, 17800 US Hwy 27. $19-28 for adults, $9.50-14 for children (ages 6-12), children 5 and under are free. Through Jan. 2 from 6-9 p.m. All ages. Event details.

Tell us what you’re going to be doing this weekend in the comments section below!

—Shelley Massey