Holiday home tours offer decoration inspiration

The 31s annual Marietta Pilgrimage tour of homes kicks off with a Friday night gala the Whitlock Inn. The tour happens Saturday and Sunday. Photo: Alexis Amaden

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for merrymakers eager to sneak a peek at some of metro Atlanta’s most festively decked halls.

“There’s a lot to please everybody,” said Johnny Sinclair, co-chair of the 31st annual Marietta Pilgrimage home tour, organized by the Marietta Visitors Bureau and Cobb Landmarks & Historical Society. It’s happening this Saturday and Sunday after an opening-night gala on Friday. “We’ve got lots of history and also lots of design.”

Sinclair has served as a co-chair of the event at least five times (he claims this year is his last) and has filled other roles through the years. As a Marietta native, former city councilman and a Realtor with Harry Norman, he happens to know lots of trivia about the town and the houses on tour.

Tour co-chairman Johnny Sinclair, right, and then-owner Mark Kirk discovered a Civil War-era canteen during a 2009 renovation. Current owners Eric and Denise McGhee purchased the property in 2012. Photo: Jennifer Brett

In 2009, for example, he was working with a client to list a home with intriguing history but in need of repair. With the floor in an upstairs bedroom sagging like a soup bowl, Sinclair suggested renovations. The nearly 150-year-old heart pine boards were wrenched up to reveal an object about the size and color of a wood turtle: a Civil War-era canteen, probably left behind by a soldier who fought at Kennesaw Mountain or Cheatham Hill.

That home, the Gothic Revival-style McDonald-Lawrence-McGhee House, dating to 1870, is among the homes on tour this year. The event also includes more modern homes, dating to the 1950s and ’60s, which feature unique decorative touches inside and innovative outdoor living areas.

“They’re really like works of art,” said Sinclair, who enjoys meeting the thousands of visitors who attend each year whether strolling the tour route or on the shuttle bus that ferries visitors along. “As we ride the bus around town, we’re able to share history with visitors. We talk about the Civil War. We talk about World War II and the arrival of Lockheed Martin. It has definitely evolved from a crowd that likes to see antiques to a crowd that loves architectural design and history.”

Here are details about that and other area home tours happening this holiday season.

Marietta Pilgrimage: A Christmas Home Tour. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 7-9:30 p.m. Saturday (candlelight tour); 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. The black-tie gala is from 7:30-11 p.m. Friday at the Whitlock Inn, 57 Whitlock Ave. SW. Tour tickets from $20 to $35. Gala tickets are $85. See

Historic Norcross Holiday Tour of Homes. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 6-9 p.m. Saturday (candlelight tour). Musicians will perform at each tour home, and an artisans gift market will be open from 10 a.m-9 p.m. Saturday at the historic Rectory, 17 College St. The tour starts at City Hall, 65 Lawrenceville St.. Tickets from $25. See

Homeowners Kim and Tom Doherty will welcome visitors to their adorable Norcross house. Take a look:

Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Food tastings from restaurant sponsors Apres Diem, Atkins Park, Highland Tap, Fontaine’s, Marlow’s Tavern, Press & Grind, San Francisco Coffee, Tapa Tapa, Cape Dutch, St. Germain Bakery, the Canteen and the General Muir are included with the tour and available from noon to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets from $25; children 10 and younger are free. Proceeds benefit the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. See

Grant Park Candlelight Tour of Homes. 6-10 p.m. Dec. 9-10. The artists market associated with the tour is open from 4-9 p.m. Dec. 9 and 6-8 p.m. Dec. 10. A family Winter Wonderland event with holiday crafts, entertainment and face painting is from 4-6 p.m. Dec. 9. A children’s Christmas Pageant dress rehearsal is at 5 p.m. Dec. 9, and a candlelight concert is at 5 p.m. Dec. 10. The tour begins at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 501 Grant St. SE, Atlanta, where the other events are held. Tour tickets start at $20; free for children 5 and younger. The other events are free to attend. Proceeds benefit the St. Paul United Methodist Church, the Grant Park Cooperative Preschool and the Grant Park Parents Network. See


The Grant Park Candlelight tours start at St. Paul United Methodist Church, where events such as a Christmas concert and Winter Wonderland family festival will be held. Photo: Jennifer Brett

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