It’s Christmastime in Nashville, and we’re feeling festive. With our move from California, there is a whole new set of the best Tennessee Christmas attractions for our family to explore for the holidays. We won’t be able to hit them all but look forward to “making our list and checking it twice” each year as we get into the holiday spirit.
Please share your favorite Tennessee Christmas attractions in the comments section below so I can add them to this list for the other readers. And your input will add more fun holiday activities for our family for next year.
In This Post
Best Tennessee Christmas Attractions
I’m still learning all about my new home state, but these are the best Tennessee Christmas attractions I’ve learned about while driving around, talking with friends, and reading the paper. (Yes, I still read the newspaper.)
Many of these attractions are in the Nashville area, while others are a few hours away in Chattanooga and Pigeon Forge. I’ve even added a few others in Bowling Green (Kentucky), Asheville (North Carolina), and Huntsville (Alabama) that hold a special place in my heart that are a short drive away.
Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville
The Gaylord Opryland is more than just a hotel. Every year, it hosts several holiday traditions that bring people from miles away. In total, there are more than 17 hours of exciting activities, shows, and events to enjoy. Because of that, we recommend booking a room at the hotel so you can enjoy the full experience and not be rushed for time.
Before heading off to the attractions, wander around the hotel’s public areas to see the lights, grab some food, and take a boat ride. Yes, the hotel is so big that there’s literally a river inside it. Oh yeah, you can also spend the day at SoundWaves, the indoor water park.
The Gaylord Opryland is located at 2800 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214.
ICE! Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Each year there is a new theme for Gaylord’s ICE! attraction. This year, the theme is based on the beloved television classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” (Amazon affiliate link) Each Gaylord location has a different ICE! theme, so inspired travelers may decide to visit all five locations to enjoy them all.
When you visit ICE!, you can zoom down epic slides, marvel at larger-than-life displays, and come face-to-face with incredible hand-carved ice sculptures from more than 2 million pounds of brightly colored ice. While there’s no time limit inside, it typically takes 20 to 40 minutes to walk through.
Tickets are available online or with a hotel package, so you must purchase ahead. Prices vary daily, but adult tickets range from $30 to $36, while children ages 4 to 11 are $23 to $26 each. Kids 3 and under are free.
Get your tickets from Groupon to save over 30% using our affiliate link. You can also save up to 30% by bundling ICE! with other attractions or your hotel stay. Also, look for coupons in local mailers (ex: Clipper Magazine, ValPak) or on local radio station websites to save on tickets.
Additional Attractions at Gaylord Opryland
The attraction opens in early November and runs through January 1st. Other Christmas attractions at Gaylord Opryland include:
- The Oak Ridge Boys Dinner Show
- Ice Tubing
- Gingerbread Decorating Corner
- SoundWaves Water Experience
- Ice Skating
- Build-A-Bear Workshop
- Carriage Rides
- Ice Bumper Cars
- Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Breakfast
- And more…
Dancing Lights of Christmas in Lebanon
This is one of the best Tennessee Christmas attractions because there are over 2 million Christmas lights synchronized to music along the 2.5-mile driving path. Just tune your radio dial to the local station to hear the songs as the lights dance.
The Dancing Lights of Christmas starts at 5 pm every night and is open whether it rains or shines. It closes at 10 pm every night through Sunday, January 1st. My recommendation is to go on a Sunday night or during the week to avoid the big weekend crowds.
Instead of paying per person, you pay by carload. When you arrive, you can pay by cash or credit. Also, look out for coupons in local mailers or Groupon to save money. I found coupons that saved $5 off through Local Flavor and Costco.
Prices vary based on the type of vehicle you arrive in. You can buy your tickets online or pay when you arrive:
- $30 for a family vehicle
- $30 for a non-profit van or bus
- $50-$75 for limousines
- $150 for large commercial vehicles, motor homes, buses
Visit the Dancing Lights of Christmas at the James E Ward Agricultural Center. It is located at 945 E Baddour Pkwy, Lebanon, TN 37087. The Dancing Lights of Christmas are open from mid-November through January 1st.
Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS
The Cheekwood Estate holds many seasonal events throughout the year. Two of my favorites are the Cheekwood Harvest and the Cheekwood Holiday LIGHTS. During the Holiday LIGHTS event, you’ll find over one mile of Christmas lights glowing throughout the 55-acre estate.
Plus, there are dazzling interactive displays, Dancing Lights of TRAINS!, S’mores and seasonal libations, a holiday marketplace, and more.
Holiday LIGHTS is one of Nashville’s favorite Christmas traditions because it combines holiday festivities with incredible gardens for a stunning experience. The Holiday LIGHTS trail (click for map) features over 1 million lights that flow through several of the estate’s gardens. Even the TRAINS! Exhibit is lit up for the holidays.
The estate is open for traditional visitors during the day, but it closes at 4:30 pm so the Holiday LIGHTS visitors can enter from 5 pm to 10 pm to enjoy the lights. Entry times are spaced out every 30 minutes to give guests enough time to enjoy without being rushed or stuck in a crowd. Holiday LIGHTS is open seven days a week until January 8th.
Garden tickets are $26 for adults and seniors, $20 for children ages 3 to 17, and kids ages two and under are free. If you’d like to go inside the mansion, your ticket is an extra $2. There is a service fee of $2 for all tickets, and members receive a discount based on their membership level.
Chad’s Winter Wonderland in Lebanon
This attraction has been run by a local man since 1982. Chad Barnard started turning his love of Christmas lights into special displays when he was 12 years old on the advice of his aunt. He estimates that 8,000 to 10,000 cars drive through his seasonal display annually.
Visitors will see over 3 million Christmas lights and more than 350 decorations as you drive through Chad’s Winter Wonderland. Plus, there are live animals, a drive-thru nativity scene, and more. You can even deliver your letter to Santa through a special mailbox.
Chad’s Winter Wonderland is open every night until 10 pm from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve. Although they’re open rain or shine, please note that they may close if the weather gets too bad.
It costs $20 per car and $30 for limos & commercial vans. Stop by the ATM on the way because Chad it is cash only (aka no credit cards). You must stay in your vehicle throughout your visit. Chad’s Winter Wonderland is located at 791 E. Old Laguardo Raod, Lebanon, TN 37087.
Enchant at First Horizon Park in Nashville
Enchant Nashville is located at First Horizon Park, the home of the Nashville Sounds. It runs from late November through December 30th and features many interactive exhibits throughout the park. There’s a Christmas Light Maze with lighted tunnels, a 100-foot Christmas tree, and special surprises along the way. The Village offers numerous artisan vendors, specialty crafts, and boutiques selling holiday treats, beverages, and other items.
Ticket prices vary based on date selection, but they start at $32 per adult and $20 per child. Night Owl tickets are only $25 if you want to save some money. Guests can also ice skate on the baseball field for an additional charge of $18 for adults and $15 for children (including ice skates). VIP Passes are available for $25 ($15 for children) and include a special line for the maze, Santa, and ice skating.
Enchant Nashville opens at 5:30 pm during the week and 4:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. It closes at 10:30 pm most nights but stays open until 11:30 pm on select dates.
Zoolumination: Chinese Lantern Festival of Lights at Nashville Zoo
In 2019, the Nashville Zoo hosted Zoolumination, the largest lantern show in the country which spans more than 60 acres and features more than 1,000 custom-made lanterns. Visitors can enjoy a life-size holiday village, nightly performances by Chinese acrobats, and specialty food options.
Stop by and say hi to St. Nick and the elves at the North Pole Village starting at 5:30 pm each night through December 24th. And, of course, you can see how the zoo’s wide variety of live animals behave at night during your visit.
Zoolumination is open from mid-November through February 4th. It is open from 5 pm to 9 pm each night. Tickets are available every night through January 8th. After that, it is open from Thursday through Sunday from January 12th through February 4th.
Food and drinks are available nightly until 8 pm.
Single-night admission is $19 for adults & teens and $15 for youth (ages 2 to 12 years). Platinum Pass tickets provide unlimited visits throughout the event without requiring reservations. Platinum Pass tickets are $29 for adults & teens and $21 for kids ages 2 to 12. For the small extra cost, I think it’s worth it to buy the Platinum Pass to support the zoo and be able to come back to enjoy the lights multiple times.
Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City in Chattanooga
I learned about Rock City while interviewing my buddy Nick True for my podcast episode about the best things to do in Chattanooga. Rock City is a magical place normally, but during the holidays, it transforms into something out of your dreams. It’s no wonder that Chattanooga locals consider this annual experience to be one of the best Tennessee Christmas attractions around.
The Enchanted Garden is open every night through January 1st from 4:30 pm to 9 pm during the weekdays and 10 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are ONLY AVAILABLE ONLINE, so you cannot buy tickets when you arrive.
Prices range from $20 on value nights, $26 on special weeknights, and $28 on regular nights. Peak nights are $32 for adults. Children ages 3 to 12 range from $10 to $22. Kids under three are free. Admission is timed, so you cannot enter before your scheduled entry time.
Annual pass holders to Rock City can attend any night they’d like. Simply show up and show their pass to the greeter… even on SOLD OUT nights! VIP Passholders receive free admission every night of the week. Regular pass holders get free admission from Monday through Thursday and 50% off on Friday and Saturday nights.
Pigeon Forge Winterfest
From mid-November 2020 to February 19, 2023, experience a true winter wonderland in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville. Among these three cities in Eastern Tennessee, you’ll find Winterfest Parades, winter lights, and trolley tours on top of all of the regular fun-filled attractions.
During Winterfest, many of the normal shows are transformed into holiday-themed performances to get you in the holiday spirit. The Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas has been voted America’s Best Christmas Event for over a decade and is open through January 1st. It features more than six million lights, a firework show, and a massive 50-foot video-motion Christmas tree.
For fun inside your car, check out the Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights. It features more than 5 million lights and runs through February 19, 2023.
Experience the 75-minute round-trip Polar Express Train Ride through December 31st. Santa even boards the train to greet each child and presents them with a special gift, just like in the story. Christmas carols are also sung on the way back to the Bryson City Depot.
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland
We stumbled across Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland on the way to the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City last year. The kids had to use the restroom at McD’s, and this bonanza of lights was up on the hill above the fast-food restaurant. It is located in Sevierville, Tennessee, at Smokies Stadium, the home of the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League.
At Shadrack’s, you’ll find countless lights dancing to the orchestra of music. They use the most technologically advanced equipment in the industry to bring this holiday tradition to life. Your admission helps Shadrack support multiple non-profit charities to build up the local community. There are 7 Shadrack locations along the East Coast – Sevierville (TN), Jackson (TN), Johnson City (TN), Pittsburgh (PA), Madison (AL), Charlotte (NC), and Tryon (NC).
At Smokies Stadium, it is open from 6 pm to 10 pm every night through January 1st. However, Santa’s Village is only open through December 23rd. Admission for cars or vans with 8 passengers or less is $30 through December 15th and after Christmas. It’s $40 from December 16th through Christmas day. Bigger vans, limos, and mini-buses are $60. And tours and school buses are $150 each. You can buy tickets online or when you arrive. Cash and credit cards are accepted on-site.
After 13 years, this is the final year of Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at Smokies Stadium. Shutting down at Smokies Stadium allows them to focus on their new Super Sized Christmas Adventure at Soaky Mountain Waterpark.
Tickets for the new Super Sized Adventure are $39 on value days and $49 leading up to Christmas. Use promo code “JOY” to save $10 on value days.
Speedway in Lights at Bristol Motor Speedway
The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights is the region’s most dazzling holiday light show. Guests drive through a 4-mile path featuring over three million Christmas lights and scenes. Your path even takes you on a lap around “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” There’s also a Christmas Village located on the infield.
This is one of the best Tennessee Christmas attractions in the state. It is located in Bristol, which is in the northeastern corner of Tennessee. Speedway in Lights is open from mid-November through January 7th. It is open every night from 6 pm to 10 pm.
Tickets are available online and are priced based on the vehicle and days of the week. For a vehicle with eight people, Sunday through Thursday is $20, and it is $25 on Friday and Saturday nights. Vans of 9 to 23 people are $50, and buses of 24 or more are $125. If you want to skip the line, “fast lane” tickets are available on limited dates for $50 for a car (1-8 people) and $75 for a van (9-23 people).
Lights Over Gatlinburg
At the Gatlinburg Skylift Park, visitors can walk across America’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. During the holidays, the bridge gets festive with a 300-foot tunnel of Christmas lights that brighten the sky. Additionally, there are over 40,000 synchronized lights in the plaza and trees throughout the park.
Lights Over Gatlinburg is open daily from mid-November to January 31st. Admission is included with your ticket to the Gatlinburg Skylift Park. The park is open from 9 am to 9 pm every day. If you buy the “Unlimited Access Ticket” or online SkyPass, you can tour the park during the day, then return at night with your ticket to experience the Christmas lights.
Tickets are available online or in person. Adults (ages 12 to 64) start at $33, and juniors (ages 4 to 11) start at $19. Seniors 65+ start at $26 and kids three and under are free. Online SkyPass and Unlimited Visit tickets are $2 more, which is a great bargain! Military and local residents receive a discount on in-person tickets with proof of ID.
Christmas in the City – Knoxville
Knoxville is filled with holiday fun for the whole family through January 8th. See the twinkling lights in Market Square or walk the Peppermint Trail featuring peppermint-themed lighting displays at more than 90 local businesses. Or pick up a North Pole Pass from the Knoxville Visitors Center and go on a magical scavenger hunt for Santa’s Scout Elves. More than a dozen Knoxville neighborhoods are in a friendly competition to see who has the best holiday light displays.
Christmas in the Park – Cookeville
Starting with the Cookville Christmas tree lighting of the city’s 40-foot Christmas tree on December 4, 2022, the city is filled with holiday activities each week. Visitors will find downtown carriage rides, Santa Claus, concerts, and Christmas Movies in the Park. There’s even a Christmas Forest exhibit at the Cookeville History Museum.
Putnam County has several Christmas parades in Livingston, Crossville, Baxter, and Monterey the first two weekends of December. And there’s a Grinch Festival ($2 for adults and kids are free) in Cookeville on December 3rd and 4th with costume contests, local vendors, food trucks, a visit from Santa, and more. If you missed these events, you can still drive through the Hidden Hollow Lights from mid-November through New Year’s Day.
The Nutcracker Ballet in Nashville
The Nashville Ballet presents one of Nashville’s favorite holiday traditions – The Nutcracker Ballet. Performances are held at TPAC’s Jackson Hall from December 9th through 24th with live music from the Nashville Symphony. The ballet performs Friday and Saturday nights at 7 pm, Saturday afternoons at 2 pm, and Sundays at 1 pm. Additional times are available in the week before Christmas.
Download the 82-page Nutcracker Ballet 2022 program. Ticket prices vary by day and seat location, and prices start at $35 for afternoon performances. The most expensive ticket I found was just under $100.
Let It Glow Holiday Light Show – Union City
In Union City, you’ll find more than one million lights synchronized to Christmas songs for the family to enjoy. The Let It Glow Holiday Light Show is hosted at Discovery Park of America and is available from mid-November through December 30th. Hours are 5 pm to 9 pm every day, but it is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Additionally, they are closed on major holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
In addition to the drive-thru experience, guests can also tour the walk-thru “North Pole” on the north side of the park, which features the Japanese Garden, European Garden, and Mill Ridge. Mill Ridge includes items for sale from local vendors, Rudolph in his barn, and a large display of more than 150 nutcrackers from a local collector.
Tickets for Let It Glow are available online or at the gate upon arrival. Admission for the walk-thru is $5 per person, and members receive free admission. The drive-thru experience is $10 per vehicle. You can buy tickets online or at the gate.
Christmas at Graceland
Graceland is the #1 best historic holiday home tour for four years in a row. Christmas at Graceland honors Elvis Presley’s love of the holidays with fancy decorations and fun events at his Graceland Mansion.
Visitors will experience traditional lights decorating the home with hundreds of blue Christmas lights lining the driveway. There’s also a life-size nativity scene, Elvis’ Santa and sleigh decorations, and more. Step inside the Graceland Mansion to see the beautiful decorations, Christmas trees throughout, and Presley family Christmas artifacts on display.
Graceland will be decorated from mid-November through January 8th. Guests visiting from November 17th through December 23rd will enjoy limited-time holiday hours featuring live tour guides sharing holiday stories from the Presley family.
Afternoon tours are available from 2 pm to 4 pm daily. Prices are $93 for adults, $60 for youth (ages 5 to 10), and children four and under are free. VIP tours are available daily through December 23rd at 6 pm, 6:30 pm, and 7 pm for $259 per person.
Graceland Christmas hotel packages include a two-night stay, an afternoon tour for two adults, a Graceland Christmas ornament, and a 3-disc set of limited-edition collectible Graceland Christmas CDs.
Christmas in Collierville
Collierville embraces the holiday spirit as it decks out the town with bows, garland, and Christmas lights. During Christmas in Collierville, you’ll enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides around the Town Square and more than 250,000 holiday lights in the historic district. Plus, visitors can get festive and snap pictures along the Holiday Photo Stroll.
Christmas in Collierville takes place every Saturday from late November through December 30th. Carriage rides are $30 per trip and can hold up to six people. They’re offered from 5 pm to 8 pm on select nights.
The Collierville Holiday Light Tour runs from December 8 to 23, 2022, and features 60 locations throughout the city. Follow along on the self-guided tour to see festive lights and decorations by the locals. Click here to see a Google map of all the locations.
Franktown Festival of Lights
The Franktown Festival of Lights is the longest drive-through holiday lights spectacular in Williamson County. It features over 200 displays that are synchronized to Christmas classics that guests can enjoy while walking or driving the route.
This Christmas attraction runs from mid-November through December 31st from 5 pm to 9 pm each night. Tickets are $30 per vehicle, $50 for 8+ larger vehicles, and $100 for commercial vehicles. You can also buy a Jingle Bell Pass that’s good for four small passenger vehicles, which can be shared with friends and used on any night. All proceeds benefit FrankTown Open Hearts, a non-profit organization committed to Franklin’s inner-city youth.
Visit the Williamson County Agricultural Center at 4215 Long Ln, Franklin, TN 37064 to participate in the holiday fun.
Honorable Mention: The Biltmore Estate
The Biltmore Estate is impressive to visit any time of the year. Its manor house is impeccable, and the grounds are so vast that you literally have to drive from one building to the next. Heck, the driveway alone is three miles long.
When the holidays come around, many of the buildings on the 8,000-acre estate are adorned with lights, while Christmas trees & decorations pop up everywhere. I expected the main manor to be decorated more, but I figure that the building is so old and intricate that adding lights would be an almost impossible task.
During our visit in December 2019, we even saw Santa. Because it wasn’t crowded, the kids shared how good they were and talked to him for several minutes without being rushed.
Honorable Mention: The Reinder Farm
About an hour north of Nashville, just over the Kentucky border, you’ll find The Reindeer Farm at a farm in Bowling Green. At The Reinder Farm, you can visit the reindeer barn to see and learn about Santa’s magical reindeer. Play at the indoor playground, buy a souvenir at the gift shop, and visit the petting zoo. And meet Santa and Mrs. Clause on select Santa Days through the Christmas season.
There is a food truck on-site daily, plus free hot chocolate for all guests! On Fridays and Saturdays, adults can sample and purchase wines from Carriage House Vineyards, a local winery.
Admission is $15 per person, and kids ages two and under are free. From mid-November through December 18th, they’re open from 9 am to 5 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 am to 5 pm on Sundays. From December 19th through 23rd, they’re open 11 am to 5 pm daily.
While you’re in Bowling Green, there are many other Christmas attractions to explore, such as Santa’s Lookout holiday train ride. There are also some amazing restaurants for foodies and other year-round attractions that are fun for the whole family.
Honorable Mention: Galaxy of Lights at Huntsville Botanical Gardens
For over 25 years, the Galaxy of Lights at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens has been a local favorite. It is one of the largest holiday events in the South with over 2.5 miles of magnificent light displays highlighting holiday themes, classic characters, and gorgeous natural scenes.
The Galaxy of Lights is located in Huntsville, AL, which is about 2 hours south of Nashville, TN. It offers walking nights in mid-November and from December 17th through January 1st. There are even dog-walking nights if Fido wants to get in on the holiday fun. Walking night hours are from 5:15 pm to 8:30 pm.
Driving nights are from December 1st through 16th from 5:30 pm to 9 pm. Tickets are available online and are substantially cheaper than buying them at the gate. And members receive a discount as well. For example, peak driving dates are $35 at the gate vs. $25 online. Walking tickets range from $16 to $19 online vs. $25 at the gate.
The Bald Thoughts
Our family loves the holidays, and we have so much fun seeing all of the decorations as we celebrate Christmas. There are so many best Tennessee Christmas attractions on this list, it can be hard to see them all each year. After many of these attractions being closed or limited during the last two years, we are excited to see them running at full capacity this year.
What are your favorite Christmas attractions in Tennessee? Let me know in the comments below so I can add them to the list for next year.
Originally published on Bald Thoughts on December 15, 2020. Updated December 14, 2022.