Experience 12 Days of a Tennessee Christmas
Photo Credit: Andrew Saucier

Experience 12 Days of a Tennessee Christmas

Millions of lights illuminate the way in how to spend your Tennessee holidays.

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Spend your 12 days of Christmas (or longer) with these special celebrations of the season in Tennessee. From live reindeer to millions of lights, the state is filled with holiday cheer.

*Dates reflect 2019 celebrations

EasT Tennessee

Speedway in Lights at Bristol Motor Speedway - Bristol 

Speedway in Lights is the largest holiday light show in the region Nov. 15, 2019-Jan. 4, 2020 at Bristol Motor Speedway's Bristol Dragway Entrance on Highway 394 (not on Volunteer Parkway). Approximately four miles and 2 million lights captivate visitors. 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 the Christmas Village; and an Ice Rink, 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. 

Smoky Mountain Winterfest - Gatlinburg, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge

The Great Smoky Mountains are your background for the 30th annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest Nov. 22, 2019-Feb. 17, 2020 that includes Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Millions of lights and displays line the roads for a magical experience. 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. 6, 2019. The award-winning parade has illuminated floats, marching bands, giant balloons and Santa Claus for the more than 60,000 people who attend the parade each year. 

Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas - Pigeon Forge 

Dollywood, Tennessee's No. 1 attraction, lights up like a Christmas tree with 4 million lights Nov. 9, 2019 through Jan. 4, 2020 throughout the theme park in Pigeon Forge. The Parade of Many Colors brings even more holiday cheer as it makes its way down Showstreet. Charming floats, performers and quirky characters including happy peppermint sticks march their way into Christmas every night. Meander to Glacier Ridge to see the Christmas Light Show set to symphonic music, a unique walk-through of the Aurora Borealis, and lots of illuminated displays and colorful lights.

Santa Haus at The Incredible christmas place - pigeon forge

The Incredible Christmas Place, a more than 2,000-square-foot complex filled with any and all holiday decor you could imagine, has opened Santa's Haus as a new family-friendly attraction this holiday season. Christmas-themed activities for children and children at heart include story time with Santa with milk and cookies, photo-ops, cookie decorating, letter writing (and kids will receive a reply letter from Santa!), ornament making and even Elf Academy where kids can learn how to be an elf and play reindeer games. An elf hat, graduation photo and certificate are given upon completion of the Academy. 

Christmas in the City - Knoxville

Knoxville is stuffed with holiday activities that'll delights kids and kids at heart from a sweet treat trail to ice skating, caroling, a Christmas parade, and a holiday-inspired scavenger hunt Nov. 29, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020. The Elf on the Shelf Adventure is back this season as the only community-wide The Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt in the U.S. Pick up your Elf on the Shelf North Pole Pass at any participating location to begin your journey filled with treats and prizes along the way. While scouting for The Elf on the Shelf, you may notice peppermints lining the sidewalks of downtown Knoxville. Spend a day (or three) following the Peppermint Trail to discover peppermint specials at downtown bakeries, coffee shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques Nov. 29, 2019-Jan. 5,2020. Share the peppermint surprises you find on social media with the hashtag #knoxpeppermint. Complete your downtown adventure by taking a twirl on the open-air ice rink as part of Holidays on Ice presented by Home Federal Bank in Market Square. Glide hand-in-hand with loved ones and friends under twinkle lights Nov. 23-Jan. 6 while also enjoying music, photo fun and the ice rink mascot, Peppermint Panda. 

Christmas in Old Appalachia at Museum of Appalachia - Clinton 

How was Christmas celebrated in Appalachia during the pioneer days? Find out at Museum of Appalachia in Clinton as Christmas is recreated during A Candlelight Christmas Dec. 7-8, 2019 with traditional trees, carols by the fire by some banjo, fiddle and guitar players, popcorn balls and paper chains, a live nativity scene, spinning and weaving demonstrations, Appalachian ornament making, sassafras tea-making, storytelling, candlelit cabin tours and more.  

Enchanted Garden of Lights - Chattanooga

Holiday dreams come true with one million lights during the Enchanted Garden of Lights 4-9 p.m. Nov. 22-Dec. 31, 2019 at Rock City. Explore the gardens by night as your pathway is illuminated with holiday light displays and ambient live music . See four realms of wonder including The Magic Forest, North Pole Village, Arctic Kingdom and Yule Town. Meet Santa, Mrs. Claus and Inara the Ice Queen. Hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies are a sweet end to your visit. The last ticket able to be sold is at 9 p.m. The attraction is closed Christmas Eve night. Tickets are $21.95 for adults and $11.95 for children 3-12 years old Mondays to Thursdays and $24.95 for adults and $12.95 for children 3-12 years old Fridays to Sundays. 

Middle Tennessee

Christmas in the Park - Cookeville

Christmas is heralded in with the lighting of a 40-foot tree in the center of Dogwood Park surrounded by thousands of spectators and streamed online to more than 1 million viewers from 26 states and 5 foreign countries. While the tree is lit, Christmas carols are sung and Cookeville's town square with a 16-foot tree and the nearly 80-foot tree atop the Cookeville Regional Medical Center are lit. New this year, Tennessee Tech University will host a Lighting of the Quad event. The following weeks are filled with holiday-inspired activities ranging from a temporary ice skating rink, meet and greet with Santa, concerts, a Christmas carousel with free rides, Christmas Movies in the Park and the Christmas Forest exhibit at the Cookeville History Museum. While in the area, check out Monterey, Tennessee's Christmas Home & Hearth Celebration; the more-than-50-year-old evening Christmas Parade through downtown Cookeville; and the drive-through light attraction Hidden Hollow Lights that is open Thanksgiving evening through New Year's Day. 

Dancing Lights of Christmas - Lebanon

The drive thru Dancing Lights of Christmas in Lebanon, Tennessee
This lengthy drive-thru will put you in the Christmas mood.
Photo Credit Wilson County CVB

Hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights are set to music in the Dancing Lights of Christmas event, held this year Nov. 16, 2019-Jan. 4, 2020 at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center in Lebanon, Tennessee. It's Middle Tennessee's largest drive-thru holiday light and music shows. More than 2 million lights along a 2.5-mile route are programmed to music and new, colorful displays. The attraction is open nightly at 5 p.m. rain or shine and on all holidays. an expanded Santa's village and new Christmas songs.  After you drive through the display, pop into Santa's Village for even more fun like pony rides, bungee trampoline, train rides, ice skating, mechanical reindeer ride, inflatables and more.

Deck the Hall - Nashville

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 and Museum. The museum will be packed with seasonal and free activities that blend music, art, education and even Santa Claus, offering fun for the entire family. Children of all ages can have a free photo taken with Santa Claus on both Saturdays and Sundays.

A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland - Nashville

A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center takes place Nov. 8, 2019-Jan. 1, 2020 and  includes 3 million lights strung throughout the property inside and out; ICE! featuring  A Christmas Story carved from 2 million pounds of ice sculptures and displays. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical soars onto the stage at the Grand Ole Opry House featuring Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and Rudolph ; performances by Trace Adkins as he performs Christmas classics, country hits and Celtic songs; tubing and ice skating; Rudolph's Holly Jolly Feast with games, a delicious meal and character meet and greets; kids train; and even the Reindeer Games Scavenger Hunt featuring Rudolph and The Misfit Toys taking place throughout the hotel.

Holiday in Lights at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens - Nashville

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens is lit up with 1 million Christmas lights for Holiday Lights at Cheekwood 5-10 p.m. Nov. 23, 2019-Jan. 5, 2020 open every day of the week except Christmas Day. Tour the gardens, meet Santa's reindeer, visit the s'mores pits to create gooey snacks, and enjoy music from carolers. Stay warm with seasonal food and drinks like hot chocolate and cider, hot toddies, beer, wine and liquor. Kids will love the new train depot, a larger-than-life display with a slide, climbing net and more lit up for Christmas. Throughout the week, holiday-inspired activities like ceramic ornament decorating, Late Night LIGHTS!, greenery workshops and more are hosted.

The Nutcracker - Nashville

The Nashville Ballet's rendition of "The Nutcracker," with Tennessee icons celebrates 11 years during its run Dec. 7-23, 2019 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall. Clara visits local spots like the Parthenon, Belle Meade Plantation and Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Natural Area 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. Experience the magic of the season with special guests and surprises at this beloved event. 

Dickens of a Christmas - Franklin

The annual tradition of Dickens of a Christmas, the largest outdoor Christmas festival in Middle Tennessee, comes to the streets of Franklin, located 30 minutes from Nashville, Dec. 8-9, 2018. 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.

West Tennessee

Graceland Lighting Ceremony and holiday concert weekend - Memphis 

The Graceland Lighting Ceremony turns on Graceland's Christmas lights and decorations Nov. 21, 2019. 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 house and grounds sparkle with cheer through Elvis' birthday on Jan. 8, 2020. Mansion-only tour tickets start at $41 for adults, $36.90 for 62 years old and older and children 13-18 years old, and $21 for children 7-12 years old. Children 6 years old and under are free. Elvis' Airplanes can be added for $5 additional. 

The Nutcracker - Memphis

A performance of The Nutcracker by Ballet Memphis
See the timeless classic.
Photo Credit Ballet Memphis

"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. 12-15, 2019 at The Orpheum Theatre. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra plays the score and a live choir all breathe new life into the classic holiday tale. Photo opportunities are available after the show with the characters.

Make this holiday season one to remember by filling your calendar with some or all of these celebrations that can only be "Made in Tennessee."

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