Sleepover at Tennessee Aquarium

Winter Break Family Fun in Tennessee

People who want to give the gift of experiences, rather than gadgets, have many opportunities to enjoy the season. The Christmas break offers family fun of all kinds.

Penguin at Tennessee Aquarium

In Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium’s penguin keepers are eager to share their experiences in raising five baby chicks. In interactive events throughout each day of “Holiday Under the Peaks,” visitors can ask penguin experts, divers and other keepers about the amazing collection of birds, fish, and reptiles living at the aquarium. (through Jan. 6). The New Year’s Eve “Sleep in the Deep” includes touring behind-the-scenes areas, sharing a midnight toast with water residents, and sleeping in the undersea cavern of Ocean Journey.

Children’s activities at the Creative Discovery Museum have a “Celebrate Winter” theme. Art projects and story time will embrace penguins, polar bears, snow, animals in winter and winter sports during the five days of cool-themed camp. This Chattanooga museum will host a child-friendly New Year’s Eve party with two special guests—Father Time and the New Year baby.

Santa Claus will be the guest of honor at the Knoxville Zoo. Crafts and special activities are set up at Santa’s Village through Dec. 21. Half-price admission during Penguin Discount Days (through Feb. 28) makes this time of year especially appealing.

A “Winter Wonderland” workshop at the Hands On! Regional Museum shows kids how to make their own snow globes. They will feel the Big Chill while learning about dry ice and making polymer snow. These special activities take place on Dec. 27 at the museum in Johnson City.


Millions of holiday lights inspire the spirit of the holidays in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville. The vacation destination is packed with family entertainment, ranging from old-time comedy theater to fast-action laser tag.

What could be funnier than “Yuletime Madness” or “Out on a Whim” at the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre. The vaudeville-style acting company has the motto “We don’t suffer from insanity. We enjoy every minute of it.” And you will too at this small venue in the heart of Gatlinburg. The cast is right in your face with their antics and nonsense. This pure family entertainment, now in its 36th year, makes you love live, slapstick comedy even more.

High drama at Cirque de Chine in Sevierville will keep you spellbound as Chinese acrobats perform much more than handstands, leaps and pyramids. They catapult, suspend, and balance with precision that seems impossible. Costumes, music and dance add excitement to performances at the Smoky Mountain Palace in Sevierville.

WonderWorks, Pigeon Forge

You can delve into the crazy world of Professor Wonder at WonderWorks, the upside-down mansion with science games, simulated earthquake, ropes course, climbing wall and laser tag. The challenge kids face is what adventure to do first because so many flashing lights and mechanical puzzles call out at the same time.

Titanic Museum

You may think you’re crazy, but on Saturday night in December, snow blows across the bow of the Titanic— no matter what the weather. The history museum in Pigeon Forge re-creates a chilly night, as the one when an iceberg caused the tragic sinking of the mighty luxury ship.

Hollywood Wax Museum

For more make-believe, strike a pose with celebrities at the Hollywood Wax Museum. This thrilling destination puts you on the movie set with Johnny Knoxville, on the Grand Ole Opry stage with Dolly Parton, and at the altar with George Clooney (wedding dress provided).

Stages West Pigeon Forge

You bump into real (not wax) stars while buying boots at Stages West. Country music performers from Nashville and across the state come here for western-style boots, hats and cowboy couture. The family-owned clothing store has a loyal following because it carries trendy and traditional styles. Shopping is often a family adventure at this destination, not only because of clothing shops, but also because of specialty treats. Taffy logs from Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen in Gatlinburg are a tasty souvenir. Munching on a MoonPie from the MoonPie General Store or slurping a chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick from the Blond Giraffe, both in Pigeon Forge, may be the sweetest part of any family break vacation.

Marilyn at Hollywood Wax Museum


How are you and your family going to spend the holidays?

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

TAGS: Music

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