There are few things as magical as a Tennessee Christmas. Visitors and residents alike embrace the holidays with hospitality, music and a childlike wonder. Sure, there are places with more snow or more glamour, but there’s something special about spending the holidays in this amazing southern state.
The great thing about Tennessee is that they have plenty of special events and activities to keep you and your crew entertained! You’ll never run out of things to do to celebrate the season here.
Ready to experience Christmas in Tennessee? Read on for the best events happening across the state!
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The capital of Tennessee is home to country music and the world-famous Grand Ole Opry. Nashville beckons visitors from all over to slow down and embrace the heart of Christmas.
Whether you want to see spectacular Christmas light shows, a classic ballet or an icy wonderland, Nashville is the place to do it.
The Nashville Ballet puts on a premiere performance of The Nutcracker. The annual production is sure to become a tradition for your family, as it’s a surefire way to get into the Christmas spirit.
Complete with elaborate costumes, symphony music, and original choreography, the Nashville Nutcracker earns a spot on any Christmastime bucket list.
A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS AT GAYLORD OPRYLAND RESORT & CONVENTION CENTER
When I tell you that the Gaylord Opryland Hotel goes all out for Christmas, I mean it. The sprawling resort has always been a go-to destination for holiday light viewing, but they get more and more extra about it every year.
This means there is something new to do every Christmas, whether you’re looking for romance or family fun.
The top attraction is ICE!, an over-the-top ice sculpture experience featuring famous Christmastime characters. There’s also a Christmas-themed dinner show, breakfast with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides and ice skating.
Consider booking a stay at the Opryland Resort for a truly immersive Christmas experience.
HOLIDAY LIGHTS AT CHEEKWOOD ESTATE
Cheekwood Estate & Gardens is a magical place to explore any time of year. You can wander along a winding pathway through a botanical garden and explore world-class art galleries. But Christmastime is when Cheekwood really glows.
The mile-long path in the property is set aglow with festive lights, and they complete the experience by offering smores, cocktails, and interactive features.
You can purchase a ticket just for the outdoor light show, or choose to enter both the gardens and the mansion, which is also decorated for the Christmas season.
The Victorian-style street festival is one of the state’s best holiday traditions. It includes carolers, food vendors, light displays, a whiskey lounge and a kids’ zone. And, of course you’ll see some of Charles Dickens’ most famous characters as they walk through the historic town. Fagin from Oliver Twist will attend, along with Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim.
Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin, Tennessee is free to attend, so be sure to support the town by shopping at its many stores and craft vendors. Franklin is about a half hour away from Nashville.
Stay here: Hyatt Place Nashville Franklin
Between Nashville and Franklin, you’ll find the town of Brentwood, an affluent suburb with a lot of Christmas spirit.
Ready to experience Christmas to the fullest? Check out the Morning with Santa at the John P. Holt Brentwood Library. There is a photo booth, a craft station to make or take a Christmas gift, refreshments, a magic show, and the jolliest Santa you’ll see outside the North Pole.
Brentwood Academy also hosts an annual event called “Christmas in Brentwood.” The festival features a Christian music performance, a nativity scene with live animals, a craft fair, and food trucks.
Stay Here: Four Points Nashville Brentwood
If you live in or visit West Tennessee, you’re in luck. There’s a festive mix of holiday activities available in Memphis, which will help you have a rockin’ and rollin’ holiday season.
From Graceland to Shelby Farms, you’ll find endless lights, music and fun across the city.
STARRY NIGHTS AT SHELBY FARMS PARK
Featuring over 3 million lights, the Starry Nights event is a dazzling display of Christmas Cheer. This is Shelby Farms Park’s biggest fundraiser each year, and visitors of all ages love it.
Starry Nights is typically a drive-thru event, with ticket rates charged per car. But there are also a select number of walk or bike nights, in which families can get active under the impressive light displays.
Want to really run with the Christmas Spirit? There’s also a glow run toward the end of the month. And those looking for something slower-paced can take a dreamy horse-drawn carriage ride through the lights.
CHRISTMAS IN COLLIERVILLE
The Memphis suburb of Collierville really gets in the Christmas Spirit, so be sure to add their festive events to your Holiday itinerary.
Come to the town square for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting or Christmas Parade, or take a self-guided Christmas Lights tour. The annual Collierville Holiday Light Tour features dozens of homes that have registered with Town Officials, and they’re all on a map for the public to enjoy.
Other Collierville events include carriage rides through the historic district and pictures with Santa in the town gazebo.
HOLIDAY WONDERS AT THE GARDEN
Ready to see even more Christmas Lights? Head over to the Memphis Botanic Garden, where you’ll find displays, activities, and outdoor fun spanning over eight acres.
There are also themed nights, ranging from Sundays with Santa to adults-only evenings. We’re all about the pet-friendly “Paw-liday Wonders” night, though we might be tempted to go on Ugly Sweater or Pajama day.
ENCHANTED FOREST FESTIVAL OF TREES
Each year, the Museum of Science & History’s Pink Palace becomes a wonderland of elaborately decorated trees. Everyone from professional designers to local businesses decorates trees for the competition, and admission tickets benefit Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
In addition to the many trees on display, you’ll also be able to meet Santa, check out an incredible toy train exhibit, and take in the sweet sights at the Gingerbread Village.
CHRISTMAS AT GRACELAND
If you’ve never visited Graceland before, Christmas is the time to make your first trip out to this historic house. Already walked through the home of Elvis Presley? It’s definitely worth returning to during the season.
You’ll begin by having a Blue Christmas as you enter through the blue-lit driveway, but things get merrier as you tour the home and grounds. There are multiple Christmas trees, a life-size nativity scene, and Presley Family Christmas artifacts on display.
Book a special Christmas tour ticket to get a personalized guided tour with unbelievable stories of Elvis’s Christmases at Graceland and beyond.
Stay Here: The Guest House at Graceland
Bristol, Tennessee, holds an annual nighttime Christmas parade that really captures the town’s holiday charm. But for a truly unique holiday experience, head over to the Bristol Motor Speedway, where Pinnacle Speedway In Lights sets the raceway aglow over a five-mile route.
There are more than 250 displays at the Pinnacle in Lights, including a symphony show set to music and a galactic-themed tunnel.
Want to stretch your legs? Check out the walk-through vendor village or skate at the Tri-Cities Airport Ice Rink at Bristol Motor Speedway. Tickets for the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights benefit Bristol Speedway Children’s Charities.
Stay Here: Hampton Inn Bristol
Vols Country, rejoice! The Christmas spirit is alive and strong in Knoxville, where endless holiday fun awaits all who venture here during the holiday season. Read on to discover some of the top Knoxville attractions during December.
Stay Here: Graduate Knoxville
CHRISTMAS IN DOWNTOWN KNOXVILLE
When the city of Knoxville illuminates its 40+ foot Christmas tree downtown, the city skyline also lights up with a special glow thanks to the many trees perched on rooftops. Head downtown to check out the cool sights.
Want to immerse yourself in Knoxville’s Christmastime magic? Embark on the Peppermint Trail, which will lead you through an assortment of stores, bars and coffeehouses offering peppermint-themed items.
There is also Ice Skating in Market Square, along with special holiday markets featuring local crafts and vendors.
KNOXVILLE NEIGHBORHOOD HOLIDAY TRAILS
During COVID, the city of Knoxville created a Christmas lights map that allowed merrymakers to view Christmas lights from their cars. Though the city hasn’t officially hosted a holiday lights map since 2020, the existing guide will still let light-seekers find the best-lit neighborhoods in Knoxville.
Have you been to Zoo Knoxville lately? I’m obsessed with their Zoo Lights event, an after-dark adventure that features a range of festive exhibits. There are colorful animal lanterns, displays of mythical creatures, decorated trees, and food & drink.
Families will love meeting Santa, while couples will enjoy taking a chilly nighttime stroll through the magical walkway.
While there is lots of Christmas magic to be found in and around Nashville, one of the state’s biggest attractions is in Lebanon. Just 30 minutes outside of Nashville, The Magical Dancing Lights of Christmas is a 2.5-mile journey through flashing, festive fun, all set to holiday music.
This is the state’s largest synchronized drive thru Christmas production. It includes a chance to get out of your car to visit Santa and live animals. Food, drinks, and inflatables are also available at an additional cost.
Admission is based per car. The Dancing Lights of Christmas is at the Wilson County Fairgrounds.
Stay Here: Comfort Suites Lebanon
It’s the home of locomotives and mountain views. Chattanooga is a cozy place to experience Christmas, whether you are young or young-at-heart. An assortment of activities await festive visitors, and it’s all set in one of Tennessee’s most outdoorsy towns.
Stay Here: Chattanooga Choo Choo
NORTH POLE LIMITED CHRISTMAS TRAIN
The Tennessee Valley Railroad hosts one of Chattanooga’s most magical and popular holiday events. The North Pole Limited Christmas Train is a magical experience for small kids who will love the onboard sing-alongs and storytelling.
The best part is when Santa boards the train – he visits and gets a photo with each child.
New in 2023: For those ages 21+, try out the Nightcap with St. Nick train ride! This 1-hour train ride includes two drinks, a delicious sweet and savory treat box, a souvenir bell, keepsake boarding pass, and a visit from Santa.
REINDEER ON THE RIVERFRONT & LIGHTED BOAT PARADE
Have a magical time on the Chattanooga Riverfront during the city’s annual Reindeer on the Riverfront & Lighted Boat Parade. This free event features live reindeer, visits with Santa, food and drink vendors and local artists.
Once it’s dark, more than 20 boats will cruise along the water in the Holiday Lighted Boat Parade. The grand finale of this unique event is a firework show over the river.
Reindeer on the Riverfront and Lighted Boat Parade is Downtown on the Chattanooga Green and Ross’s Landing.
ROCK CITY ENCHANTED GARDEN OF LIGHTS
You know you’re supposed to See Rock City, but you haven’t seen anything until you’ve visited during Christmastime. The Rock City Garden of Lights is one of Chattanooga’s must-do holiday attractions.
This walk-through event features multiple displays, each of which will take you into a new realm of magic.
There are several restaurant options onsite, including Santa’s Workshop & Kitchen. Enjoy short-order style offerings, and get a chance to decorate Gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus!
Celebrate Christmas on the mountain at Ruby Falls! Gather family and return to a simpler time with a classic Christmas on the mountain featuring magical views, beautiful holiday lights on the Village Plaza, and plenty of festive cheer in historic Ruby Falls Castle.
Stop by for a professional keepsake family photo with Santa on select dates. Enjoy time together during a cave adventure and linger longer by the café’s cozy fireplace with a casual meal, festive treat, hot cocoa, and local craft beer.
Few places feel as Christmassy as Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Maybe it’s the serene mountaintop setting or its strong German influence, but I’ve felt merry and bright even during my summertime visits.
Are you heading to the Great Smoky Mountains during Christmas? Be sure to check out some of the great events happening in Gatlinburg and beyond.
Stay Here: Greystone Lodge On The River
SMOKY MOUNTAIN WINTERFEST
It’s the winter wonderland getaway we all dream of – a cozy mountain setting with small-town charm and frosty air, but there’s also lots to do for the entire family. The highlight of your Gatlinburg Christmas? Smoky Mountain Winterfest.
This annual celebration extends throughout Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Sevier County. It brings together the communities and their visitors through light displays, shows, and memorable experiences at some of the area’s best attractions.
Ready to deep-dive into your Smoky Mountain Christmas Plans? Check out the Winterfest site here to learn all about the participating attractions. Don’t forget to download the free map of the Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights to see more than 5 million lights throughout the most festive areas of town.
25 DAYS OF OBER
Ober Gatlinburg always feels like a wintery wonderland, thanks to its year-round indoor ice skating and cozy village vibe. But during December, the mountainside amusement park is sure to get you in the Holiday Spirit.
In addition to its wintertime snow tubing and snow zone, Ober will also feature carolers, children’s crafts, smores by the fire, and a nightly reading of Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Ober Gatlinburg is accessible by car or via an aerial tram from downtown.
ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS AT ANAKEESTA
Gatlinburg visitors can ascend into a Christmas wonderland at Anakeesta. The 70-acre park lights up during December with magnificent light displays and special events. Santa makes an appearance on select days, or you can book a spot for one of their Breakfast with Santa events.
Access to Anakeesta is available on their 600-foot Chondola ride, or the Ridge Rambler passenger trucks.
FANTASY OF LIGHTS CHRISTMAS PARADE
The Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is one of the most festive holiday parades you’ll find. The event stretches across the city and is broadcasted on stations across the nation.
Find a spot along the Gatlinburg strip and watch as bright, festive floats pass by, delivering magic to each and every heart. In addition to floats, the parade features live music from accomplished country musicians and local high school marching bands.
The Gatlinburg Christmas Parade runs from Traffic light #3 to #10 and will also mark the lighting of the Gatlinburg Christmas Tree.
Of course, your Smoky Mountain adventure isn’t complete without a visit to Pigeon Forge, where there truly is something for everyone. And Christmas is when this touristy-yet-downhome town really shines.
Where will you find the most holiday cheer in Pigeon Forge? You might need to stay a while to discover all the magic in store for you here.
DOLLYWOOD’S SMOKY MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS
Whether you want to walk under 6 million lights or catch a live Christmas Show, Dollywood is the place to be during the holidays. The Pigeon Forge theme park outdoes itself with its Smoky Mountain Christmas, a month-long event that adds magic to every corner of the park.
You’ll of course want to take a train ride through the light displays, and relax during one of their renowned live shows. Little ones can see if their names land on the naughty or nice list while getting a unique photo in front of Santa’s workshop.
Dollywood also offers unique food and beverage offerings during its Christmas event. All of this takes place amidst the rides and attractions that make the park such a special place.
Stay Here: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa
THE ISLAND IN PIGEON FORGE
You’ve got to make your way to The Island in Pigeon Forge for their fantastic Winterfest event. The 23-acre property lights up with millions of lights, illuminating your time shopping and dining in this fun spot.
At night, the fountains are choreographed with lights, music, and 40-foot Christmas trees to create an immersive show that will make anyone jolly. Don’t forget to take in the sights from atop the 200-foot-tall Smoky Mountain Wheel.
The Island in Pigeon Forge is also the best place to complete all your holiday shopping.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO TENNESSEE
- YOUR TENNESSEE VACATION
- SEVIERVILLE: 13 Unique Experiences & Things To Do In Sevierville TN (video)
- JACKSON: 14 Things To Do In Jackson TN You’re Gonna Love
- TN WATER PARKS: 7+ Water Parks In Tennessee Your Family Needs To Visit Now
- TREEHOUSE RENTALS: 22 Sensational Treehouse Rentals Tennessee Offers Vacationers
WHERE TO STAY IN TENNESSEE
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