Wrapped in colorful lights, the palm trees on the edge of Lake Lanier glow bright, colorful balls that represented coconuts strung up to the treetops.
Further down the island, children and adults zoom down the 400-foot long snow tubing hill, which boasts 10 lanes and real snow — or as real as one can get in Georgia.
Though palm trees and snow are an unlikely combination, Margaritaville at Lanier Islands has them both, sparing no expense in its first-ever License to Chill Snow Island and the islands’ 26th annual Magical Nights of Lights.
Part of a more than $5.5 million investment into the north Georgia islands, the winter wonderland rivals Stone Mountain Christmas, its closest competitor, said John Lush, COO of Save Harbor Development, Margaritaville’s developer.
“We see this as a real opportunity,” Lush said. “Our biggest opportunity, we believe, is to create year-round themed (experience) for north Georgia. We’re 30 miles away from several million people, less than an hour away from six or seven million and day’s drive away from half the population of the United States, so we want to turn the entire resort into a year-round opportunity.”
That year-round opportunity began in late spring of this year with the opening of Margaritaville’s Landshark Landing, Paradise Beach, Port of Indecision Marina and camping — all of which are intended to transport guests into the world described in Jimmy Buffett’s iconic 1977 song.
“Margaritaville is free to be me, the ability to relax and enjoy yourself,” Lush said previously. “I mean Jimmy is 71. He’s a great icon to the brand and represents it at its very, very best.”
While the summer months offered locals and out-of-towners a glimpse into a tropical island, Snow Island, in addition to the snow tubing hill, offers those looking for a chillier experience an opportunity for snowball wars at LandShark Landing — which is complete with throwing targets along the lake — the chance to take a sleigh ride down Paradise Beach, roast marshmallows over fire pits, ice skate at the island’s rink and play on 13 winter-themed carnival rides such as bumper cars, a Ferris Wheel and more.
“(Margaritaville) becomes just one whole playground,” Lush said.
Though “one whole playground” might sound like a child’s paradise, Snow Island is just as entertaining for adults, Lush said.
While they warm up by the fire pits, adults can also grab drinks at the island’s snow-clad beach bar — aptly named License to Chill Bar — LandShark Bar and Grill and other “Chill Zone” restaurants.
A winter wonderland wouldn’t be complete without holiday lights, however, which is why, either before or after playing at Snow Island, attendees will want to drive through the islands’ Magical Nights of Lights, Lush said.
Having offered the light displays for more than 25 years, the event has “grown into a place where tradition and excitement merge with hundreds of impressive displays spread throughout a seven-mile meandering drive.”
Still, in keeping with the updates that have come to Lanier Islands over the last year, the seven-mile drive has 19 new displays.
“One of the things Safe Harbor has done a great job at with its other projects is adding something new every year,” Lush said. “We recognize that it’s important that you’re updating your park each year.”
For more information about Snow Island, Magical Lights and pricing and tickets, visit lanierislands.com/margaritaville.