East Tennessee Lights Up for the Holidays

The switch for five million holiday lights flips on Nov. 6 in Pigeon Forge signaling Winterfest has begun. Sparkling displays along the parkway and venues mark the beginning of a four-month entertainment festival. Guided trolley tours meander through the illuminations and soak in the magic of the season.

Dollywood joins the fun on Nov. 10 with its Smoky Mountain Christmas which lasts until the end of the year. Gospel music, ice skating shows, and light decorations on trees synchronized to popular carols mark the festivities. At the Titanic Museum, snow will fall from the bow of the ship Nov. 22-24 and Saturdays in December as part of the “Christmas in Winter Wonderland” celebration. The ship’s interiors will glow with lights and decorations.

On Nov. 7, Gatlinburg launches its Winter Magic celebration with guided trolley rides through the brilliantly lit streets. The Gatlinburg Festival of Trees is set for Nov. 20-24 at the W. L. Mills Conference Center. Decorated floats, marching bands, and oversized helium balloons command the Gatlinburg’s parkway for the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade on Dec. 7.

Knoxville’s premier holiday event, Fantasy of Trees, parties to a “12 Days of Christmas” theme on Nov. 21-25. Designer-decorated holiday trees will reign in splendor. Thousands of volunteers donate their time to stage musical programs, children’s activities, and gingerbread house competitions. Last year more than 55,000 people attended.

Two million lights will turn the Bristol Motor Speedway into a holiday extravaganza Nov. 16 – Jan.5. Hundreds of displays line the oval known as the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” Snowflakes dance to music and an animated snowman make this more than simply a panorama of lights. An ice rink, carnival rides and craft booths are part of the fun.

In Chattanooga, the Tennessee River will shimmer from the lights of the boat parade. The Grand Illumination on the River on Nov. 23 will set the city aglow with the illumination of 100 buildings downtown and a firework spectacle.

The steam engine of Chattanooga’s Tennessee Valley Railroad will power train rides to the North Pole beginning Nov. 17. Storytelling, hot chocolate and other refreshments and musical entertainment make passengers believe they are living the storybook tale “Polar Express.”

More than a million lights illuminate 30 holiday scenes in Rock City’s award-winning Enchanted Garden of Lights starting Nov. 16. Nightly entertainment and special events, such as gingerbread cookie decorating, are scheduled. Also on Lookout Mountain, the Ruby Falls attraction wraps musical entertainment and a light show into its holiday spectacle called “Deck the Falls,” Nov. 22 – Jan. 1.

People who yearn for old-fashioned traditions, such as rustic-trimmed cedar trees and pioneer-style decorations in cabins, will find plenty at Museum of Appalachia Dec. 1-24. Caroling tours in a horse-drawn wagon will weave through downtown Clinton, Dec. 17-22.

Downtown Kingsport will have the traditional lighting of the Yule log, a tree lighting ceremony, carriage rides and musical entertainment on Dec. 1. Johnson City turns back the clock on Dec. 8 with “Visions of Christmas, 1862” theme. And, in Sweetwater it’s a “Small Town Christmas” on Nov. 24 with hay rides through the historic district and musical entertainment.

“Carols in the City,” an event on Main Street in Cleveland, will include tours of historic churches. Christmas parades are schedule Dec. 1 in Cleveland and Rogersville. Events on Athens’ downtown square on Dec. 8 will be a step back into Victorian times. A Victorian celebration takes place Dec. 8 at Historic Rugby.

Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My story...Read on



    Jeannine Lynn

    It has been years since I have gotten to go see the lights because of health problems. I love Christmas lights and get as excited as a child to see them. I have fond memories of my parents taking me around town to see decorations. They are both seeing the greater lights of glory now, but they gave me many good memories to last this world’s lifetime.

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