10 Ways to Get in the Holiday Spirit in Tennessee
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Headed to Tennessee for the holidays? There are plenty of things to do in Tennessee in December – no matter what part of the state you’re visiting or live in. Between the beautiful, snow-capped mountains in the east to the country music capital in Nashville to a visit down to Graceland in the west, Tennessee offers plenty of beautiful views, activities, and, of course, holiday lights to dazzle and entertain.
Nashville in Winter
If you find yourself in Nashville in December, make sure to head to Opryland Hotel for the holiday spectacular. It is definitely a feast for the eyes and will turn any Scrooge or Grinch into a carol-singing believer. This isn’t just a light show, this is three million holiday lights and acres of holiday decorations. Additionally, there are on-going holiday activities and events for almost two full months out of the year.
While it does, obviously, cost to stay at the hotel and there are activities that are ticketed, it costs exactly zero dollars to go and stroll around the hotel and get into that festive spirit. Not only is this one of the best things to do in Tennessee in December but it’s free! Count me in!
Local tip: park in the Opry Mills parking lot and walk over to the hotel to avoid a $20+ parking fee.
Essential Information about Opryland Hotel
Address | 2800 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214
Dates | November 8-January 1
Website | gaylordhotelsnews.com
Cheekwood Gardens Holiday Lights
Cheekwood Gardens offers up one of the best holiday light experiences in Nashville. Every night, from 5pm-10pm, visitors can experience one mile of lights. In addition to taking in the dazzling lights, visitors can visit with Santa, decorate ceramic ornaments, sing holiday carols, take a gingerbread workshop and more!
Essential Information about Cheekwood Gardens Holiday Lights
Address | 1200 Forrest Park Dr, Nashville, TN 37205
Dates | November 23-January 5
Website | cheekwood.org
Dickens of a Christmas Festival
Chris and Heather of A Brit & A Southerner
There is something quite magical about being taken back in time to the Victorian ages and being inspired by all of the infamous characters that made Charles Dickens such a key figure in English literature. Every year, visitors to Franklin, Tennessee have the opportunity to admire locals in period costumes as they reenact the Dickens of a Christmas festival and for those of you looking to experience the very best of the Volunteer state during the Winter season, this is definitely one of the highlight attractions every December.
Take a stroll down the historic Main Street in Franklin as it is transformed into a scene from Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers or A Christmas Carol. You never quite know which character you will stumble across next, whether it be Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim or even Bob Cratchit. One thing you can be sure of is that you will be inspired to visit again in the future. Market stalls line the street, offering fresh, local produce, while local artwork and traditional, Christmas décor can be purchased at reasonable prices.
Franklin in the heart of winter may be a chilly experience, but with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine, it won’t take long for you to be well and truly part of the festive spirit in this idyllic Victorian setting.
Essential Information about Dickens of a Christmas
Address | 106 3rd Ave N, Franklin, TN, 37064,
Dates | December 14-15
Website | williamsonheritage.org
The smoky Mountains in Winter
Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood
I’m a bit of a theme park junkie and Dollywood is surprisingly one of the best theme parks I’ve been to. The rides are pretty great especially for being a smaller theme park, the shows and attractions are fun, and, of course, it is near the best national park!.
Christmas at Dollywood is a little extra special and that makes it one of the best things to do in Tennessee in December. Apparently, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas has received the Best Christmas Event at any theme park worldwide for the last ten years. With four million lights, special holiday performances, and a Christmas-y atmosphere, it makes perfect sense.
Essential Information about Smoky Mountain Christmas
Address | 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Dates | November 9th-January 4th
Website | dollywood.com
Pigeon Forge Winterfest
Pigeon Forge Winterfest truly is for the entire winter season – running from November to February. Pigeon Forge creates a winter wonderland that’ll practically force you to be full of holiday spirit.
One of the best ways to experience Winterfest is with this Winterfest Lights driving tour.
Essential Information about Pigeon Forge Winterfest
Dates | November-February
Website | mypigeonforge.com
Knoxville in Winter
Celebrate Christmas in a Cave
Always wanted to visit a cave full of holiday lights and music? Your dreams are now a reality! Visit Cherokee Caverns in Knoxville and celebrate Christmas in a cave!
Essential Information about Cherokee Caverns
Address | 8524 Oak Ridge Hwy, Knoxville, TN 37931
Dates | weekends in December
Website | cherokeecaverns.com
Jordan of The Solo Life
If you are in the Knoxville area during winter and need a fun day trip destination, Market Square in downtown is a great option. The square is in the heart of the city and offers many events, restaurants, shops, and even some amazing murals and street art on Strong Alley/Graffiti Alley.
During the holidays, Market Square transforms into a winter wonderland, with massive Christmas trees, an outdoor ice-skating rink, and festive art installations. The open-air rink, complete with twinkling lights and a mascot, Peppermint Panda, is open almost every day from November 23 to January 6. There is usually a winter theme or event to go with each day of the week, like Christmas Sweater Night or Family Fun Day.
The square also hosts other winter events you don’t want to miss, including the Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt and the Peppermint Trail. Both events are fun and interactive ways to promote the local businesses in the square that participate while being crowd-pleasing activities for kids and families to get in the holiday spirit.
Market Square is a great place to visit any time of year, but it really shines during the winter, and not only because of all those twinkle lights.
Memphis in Winter
Sarah of Travels of Sarah Fay
Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee home to Elvis Presley is a winter wonderland when the holiday season rolls around. The King of Rock and Roll’s house is decorated as he would decorate it every year during the holiday season.
Seeing the holiday decorations all around the property made the visit very special. Although Graceland is special any time of the year, the holiday season brings life to Graceland once again. While I was there I also saw a few Elvis impersonators paying homage, which was quite a sight!
On November 21st you can go to the Graceland lighting ceremony, or come to see the lights all the way until Elvis’s Birthday on January 8th. From January 8th – 11th the property celebrates Elvis Presley with special events and artists.
Graceland is the 2nd most visited private residence in the USA. Even if you are not a fan of Elvis, this property shows you what life was like during this period of pop culture in the USA. Pro tip: Bring a sharpie! You can write your name on a National Monument and not get arrested here. Fans and people have always left well wishes and their names on this iconic wall surrounding the property since Elvis was alive. Today the tradition continues and while you may get a friendly honk you will have left your mark!
Essential Information about Graceland
Address | Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN 38116
Dates | November 21-January 8
Website | graceland.com
Chattanooga in Winter
Ruby Falls Cave
by Jenn and Ed of Coleman Concierge
Rain, shine, or snow, it’s always 60 degrees in Ruby Falls Cave. You might know this famous Chattanooga tourist attraction for the light show on the underground waterfall. (If not, you should check out the history of Ruby Falls, it’s fascinating). However, for Christmas, they roll out all the stops.
You’ll find the magical Ruby Fall Christmas Underground 1120′ inside Lookout Mountain. Kids of all ages will enjoy the glittering ice cave, traveling the secret passage to the North Pole, and exploring the Sugar Plum Fairy Village. The Southeast Tourism Society selected Christmas at Ruby Falls as a Top 20 Event in 2019.
Dates and hours for Ruby Falls Christmas Underground are Thursdays – Sundays December 1 – 8 and Daily December 12 – 23. Tickets cost $16.95/Person and do not include a tour of the main cave. Cave tours run 364 days a year (closed on Christmas) and last about an hour. Prices for the cave tour run $12.95 for children under 12 and $21.95 for adults. Spaces are limited, so you want to book your tours in advance, especially if you’re trying to line two up back to back.
Essential Information about Ruby Falls Cave
Address | 1720 Scenic Hwy, Chattanooga, TN 37409
Dates | Thursdays – Sundays December 1 – 8 and Daily December 12 – 23
Website | rubyfalls.com
North Pole Train Ride
The Tennessee Valley Rail Road puts on a special event during the holiday season and if The Polar Express if your favorite Christmas movie than this is one of the best things to do in Tennessee in December. The train takes guests on a journey to the North Pole. You’ll enjoy refreshments, storytelling, and carols along with lighted displays outside and a special guest visit.
Essential Information about the North Pole Train Ride
Address | 4119 Cromwell Rd, Chattanooga, TN 37421
Dates | November 16th-December 28th
Website | tvrail.com
Things to Do in Tennessee in December
Are these holiday festivities making you excited about all things to do in Tennessee in December? I hope so! Let me know in the comments of any other activities that you think I should add!
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