Spend your 12 days of Christmas (or longer) with these 13 ways to celebrate the season in Tennessee. From live reindeer to millions of lights, Tennessee is filled with holiday cheer.
*Dates reflect 2017 celebrations
Christmas at Elvis Presley's Graceland - Memphis
Christmas at Graceland shows how Elvis Presley decorated Graceland during the season. The mansion, decorated with red velvet drapes and Christmas decorations from the Presley family, has hundreds of blue lights, a life-size Nativity scene, Santa, and lights indoor and out. The lights are turned on Nov. 16, 2017. The house and grounds sparkle with cheer through Jan. 8, 2018. Graceland Mansion only tour tickets are $38.75 for adults, $34.90 for 62 years old and older and children 13-18 years old, and $17 for children 7-12 years old. Children 6 years old and under are free. Elvis' Airplanes can be added for $5 additional.
Deck the Hall is a month filled with music and cheer is part of the annual Deck the Hall Concert Series at Country Music Hall of Fame. Throughout Deck the Hall presented by Balsam Hill, the museum will be packed with seasonal activities that blend music, art, education and even Santa Claus, offering fun for the entire family. Throughout the holiday season, the museum will offer many free activities. Children of all ages can have a free photo taken with Santa Claus on both Saturdays and Sundays during Deck the Hall. Don’t miss Santa on Nov. 25–26, Dec. 2–3, Dec. 9–10 and Dec. 16–17.
“String City: Nashville’s Tradition of Music and Puppetry,” a puppet show created by a partnership of the Nashville Public Library’s Wishing Chair Productions and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, returns to the museum Nov. 24–25.
On Nov. 25 Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Daniels will sign copies of his new memoir, Never Look at the Empty Seats, purchased from the Museum Store.
On Dec. 3, all ages can pull a free Hatch Show Print poster for themselves. Participants will learn about letterpress printing from the staff of one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in the United States. Hatch staff will help participants create their very own letterpress art using carved wood, linoleum and metal block images from the Hatch collection.
Additional hands-on activities in the Taylor Swift Education Center will provide fun for the entire family throughout Deck the Hall, including cookie decorating on Sundays, Nov. 26, Dec. 3 and Dec. 10. Museum admission or membership is required for programs in the Taylor Swift Education Center. Cookies, icing and edible decorations will be provided.
Through Community Counts, youth (ages 18 and under) who live in Cheatham, Davidson, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson or Wilson county will receive free walk-up admission outside of school hours, and up to two accompanying adults will receive a 25 percent discount on admission.
Back by popular demand, the museum will present A Legendary Holiday at Historic RCA Studio B Dec. 16-17, which will include a tour of the studio and a holiday concert with guitarist Meagan Taylor, great-niece of Chet Atkins, and pianist Jason Coleman, grandson of Floyd Cramer. In the same studio where Country Music Hall of Fame members Atkins and Cramer popularized the Nashville Sound more than 50 years ago, Taylor and Coleman will perform Christmas classics and timeless songs originally recorded in the RCA studio. The performance will also include special guest appearances from Country Music Hall of Fame member and frequent Studio B session player Charlie McCoy and classic vocalist Mandy Barnett a modern torchbearer of the Nashville Sound. Seating is limited and tickets are $25. Tours depart from the museum at 3 p.m. and return at 5 p.m.
The museum’s retail shops have items for every shopper’s budget this season. Visit the Hatch Show Print Store for a large selection of handmade prints, cards and branded merchandise, or choose a framed monoprint from Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery. Offerings from Circa and the Museum Store include vinyl LPs and CDs, specialty books, Nashville-made gifts, food and home accessories, men’s and women’s apparel, jewelry and much more.
Enchanted Garden of Lights - Chattanooga
Holiday dreams come true with one million lights during the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City. Enchanted Garden of Lights opens Nov. 17, 2017 and runs through Jan. 6, 2018. Visitors can walk through 6-9 p.m. with the last ticket able to be sold at 9 p.m. The attraction is open Christmas Eve night. Tickets are $19.95 for adults and $11.95 for children 3-12 years old Mondays to Thursdays and $22.95 for adults and $12.95 for children 3-12 years old Fridays to Sundays. Add a daytime tour for an additional $10 for adults and $5 for children.
Smoky Mountain Winterfest - Gatlinburg, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge
The Great Smoky Mountains are your background for the annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest that includes Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Millions of lights and displays line the roads for a magical experience made in Tennessee. In Sevierville, buy 3-D glasses and witness each light turn into a snowflake. In Pigeon Forge, all the attractions get festive, like The Old Mill with its two award-winning restaurants, shops filled with gifts, and tours of the 186-year-old working mill. In Gatlinburg, the Parkway is merry and bright with millions of lights and displays. Gatlinburg kicks off its leg of Smoky Mountain Winterfest with the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade Dec. 1, 2017. The award-winning parade has lighted floats, marching bands, giant balloons and Santa Claus for the more than 60,000 people who travel to see the parade each year. The parade route begins at traffic light 1A on Hwy 321 (East Parkway) and travels to Hwy 441 (Main Parkway), from light 3 to traffic light 10.
Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas - Pigeon Forge
Dollywood, Tennessee's No. 1 attraction, lights up like a Christmas tree with 4 million lights throughout the theme park in Pigeon Forge. A new addition that has brought even more holiday cheer is the Parade of Many Colors that makes its way down Showstreet. Charming floats, performers and quirky characters including happy peppermint sticks march their way into Christmas every night on operating days Nov. 4, 2017 through Jan. 1, 2018.
A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland & Resort - Nashville
This year's A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort will include three million lights and ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas Nov. 10, 2017-Jan. 1, 2018. A Charlie Brown Christmas tells the classic story of the true meaning of Christmas through two million pounds of ice sculptures and displays. New this year, Cirque Dreams Holidaze! The new show has 300 costumes, 20 acts and 30 performers showcasing their talents with beautiful Christmas scenes Nov. 18-Dec. 27, 2017 at the Grand Ole Opry House. Grammy Award-winning Diamond Rio presents their Holidays & Hits Dinner Show Nov. 17-Dec. 25, 2017 that's packed with Christmas cheer and a feast prepared by Gaylord's award-winning chefs. Experience snow tubing and ice skating, The Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt throughout the hotel, and the outdoor Nativity by horse carriage.
Speedway in Lights is the largest holiday light show in the region at Bristol Motor Speedway's Bristol Dragway Entrance on Highway 394 (not on Volunteer Parkway). Approximately four miles and two million lights captivate visitors 6-9 p.m. EST Nov. 17, 2017-Jan. 6, 2018. Other activities include a ride on the BMS Express, a version of the Polar Express complete with hot chocolate and cookies, Santa's Speedway Sleigh which is an open air tram ride with blankets for cozying up and marshmallows for roasting as it makes a 30-minute stop in Christmas Village. Take a spin on the Ice Rink that's the only ice skating rink with a 90-minute driving radius of Bristol Motor Speedway. The rink draws more than 25,000 skaters, both beginners and seasoned pros, a year. Admission is $15 for cars Sunday through Thursday and $20 Friday and Saturday.
Holiday in Lights at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens - Nashville
Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art is lit up with one million Christmas lights for Holiday Lights at Cheekwood. Tour the gardens, meet Santa's reindeer, visit the s'mores pits to create the favorite gooey snack, and enjoy music from carolers.
Dancing Lights of Christmas at Jellystone Park - Nashville
Hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights are set to music in the Dancing Lights of Christmas event, held this year at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon, Tennessee. It's Middle Tennessee's largest drive-thru holiday light and music shows. With the new location comes more than 1.5 million lights dancing to music, new displays, an extended route, an expanded Santa's village and new Christmas songs.
Dickens of a Christmas - Franklin
The Franklin tradition Dickens of a Christmas, the largest outdoor Christmas festival in Middle Tennessee, comes to the streets of the town located 30 minutes from Nashville Dec. 9-10, 2017. Main Street is the site for 200 characters, dancers and entertainers and several Charles Dickens characters from Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit. The smell of sugar plums, roasted chestnuts and English fare waft in the air as attendees join in a town sing and musical performances beckon passersby to stop for a while.
How was Christmas celebrated in Appalachia during the pioneer days? Find out at Museum of Appalachia in Clinton as Christmas is recreated with traditional trees, carols by the fire by some banjo, fiddle and guitar players, popcorn balls and paper chains.
"The Nutcracker" is performed around the world this time of year and Ballet Memphis brings together more than 100 professional dancers and children to help audience members travel to distant, magical lands with Clara and her Nutcracker Dec. 15-17, 2017 at The Orpheum Theatre.
The Nutcracker performed by Nashville Ballet - Nashville
The Nashville Ballet's rendition of "The Nutcracker," with Tennessee icons celebrates 10 years during its run Dec. 2-23, 2017 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall. Clara visits local spots like the Parthenon, Belle Meade Mansion and Shelby Bottoms and meets magical characters along the way. A youth cast of 191 dancers joins the 57-member professional dance company, making it the largest youth cast in Nashville Ballet's history. Because it's the 10th anniversary of the show, a few surprises have been added to the show, including snow falling on the orchestra level during the Snow Scene in Act 1. Purchase tickets (ranging from $35-97) so you can experience the magic of the season.