Give thanks for Gwinnett's array of holiday events

This weekend, put away the Thanksgiving leftovers, switch off the TV and kick the holiday season into high gear. From theater and Santa Claus to Christmas lights and ice skating, there's plenty to see and do to get you into the spirit of the season.

Today marks the start of two Gwinnett stage traditions. "The Nutcracker," presented by the Northeast Atlanta Ballet, will run today through Sunday at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth. Shows will be 2 p.m. today, Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. Saturday. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Call 770-921-7277 or visit www.northeastatlantaballet.org.

And the Aurora Theatre will celebrate its 10th "Hometown Holidays - Christmas Canteen," as well as its last one at the current Duluth venue before moving to Lawrenceville. Shows begin today and run through Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets range from $18 to $25. Call 770-476-7926 or visit www.auroratheatre.com.

Santa will be on hand in Gwinnett this weekend, too. The Southeastern Railway Museum, 3595 Peachtree Road in Duluth, will give kids the chance to have breakfast with Santa Claus at 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Admission is $3 per person in addition to museum admission. Breakfast attendees will have priority seating on the 10 and 11 a.m. train rides with Santa. Reservations are required. Call 770-476-2013 or visit www.srmduluth.org. The big man will also be on level one of the Mall of Georgia near Nordstrom for photos this weekend.

Winter wonderlands await you at the annual celebration at Stone Mountain Park, the dazzling light displays at Lake Lanier Islands and the ice skating rink in picturesque downtown Lawrenceville.

At "A Stone Mountain Christmas," enjoy the snow, lights, fireworks, a train show and live holiday shows. Festivities run from 4 to 10 p.m. today, 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday and 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $13 plus tax, $11 plus tax for children. An $8, one-day parking permit is required for entry into the park. Visit www.stonemountainpark.com.

Lake Lanier Islands' Magical Nights of Lights celebration runs from 5 to 10 p.m. nightly. This year's decorations include nine new light displays. Entry into the Magical Nights of Lights is $25 per car Monday through Thursday, $30 per car Friday through Sunday, $45 per passenger van and $125 per bus, plus tax. Visit www.lakelanierislands.com.

In Lawrenceville, $8 will get you a skate rental and entry into the ice skating rink in historic downtown Lawrenceville on Crogan Street. Hours vary; visit www.visitlawrenceville.com.

- From staff reports