The 5 Best Christmas Towns in Tennessee to Visit

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. All hosted affiliate links follow our editorial & privacy policies.

Visit the Tennessee mountains around the holidays and you might feel like you’re in one of those Christmas towns from a Hallmark movie. 
In our experience, Tennessee mountain towns tend to feel cozy and quaint all year-round.
But when Christmas time comes, the festive decor and old-fashioned charm are really ramped up a notch!
From Chattanooga and Gatlinburg to Knoxville and Nashville (and lots of small towns in between), many Tennessee towns transform themselves into wintery scenes reminiscent of a Normal Rockwell Christmas card. 
If you’re looking for a taste of Southern Appalachian culture during the holidays, read on for our in-depth guide to the 5 best Christmas towns in Tennessee to visit, including an overview of their must-see Christmas events
Christmas at Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights in Lookout Mountain GA
Christmas at Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Christmas Towns in Tennessee Guide

  1. Christmas in Chattanooga TN
  2. Christmas in Gatlingburg TN & Pigeon Forge TN
  3. Christmas in Knoxville TN
  4. Christmas in Memphis TN
  5. Christmas in Nashville TN

READ MORE: The 7 Best Train Rides for Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains


1. Christmas in Chattanooga TN

Photo courtesy EPB

EPB’s Holiday Windows

One of our favorite Tennessee Christmas vacations is a trip to the Appalachian Mountain town of Chattanooga.

The city offers visitors lots of caves and caverns, stunning mountain views, and Civil War history throughout the year. But the Christmas lights and holiday decor make these adventures feel even more festive.

EPB’s Holiday Windows is a beloved Chattanooga Christmas tradition dating back to the World War II era.

On display from November 23, 2023 to January 1, 2024, this free Christmas event offers locals and visitors alike a welcome dose of holiday cheer. 

Employees start decorating the building’s windows in the Summer so they’ll have time to finish the elaborate seasonal scenes. They can be viewed on the Broad Street and Market Street side of the EPB building. 

READ MORE: 10 Best Caverns and Underground Caves in Tennessee

Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights Entrance in Lookout Mountain GA
Enchanted Garden of Lights Entrance, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights

Running from November 17, 2023 through January 6, 2024, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights is arguably Chattanooga’s most memorable Winter event.

Located atop Lookout Mountain on the GA/TN border, Rock City’s Gardens are transformed every year into a Winter Wonderland that ranks among the best Christmas light displays in the state. 

In addition to viewing 7 different states from one exceptionally scenic overlook, visitors can also wander down the Grand Corridor in Yule Town, explore the glittering ice in Arctic Kingdom, and marvel at the Magic Forest. 

There’s also a 180-foot-long suspension bridge that makes for fabulous photo ops, the creepily cool Fairyland Caverns, and myriad gardens full of Christmas lights and art. 

Tickets for the holiday event run from $17 to $32 (depending on age and peak or off-peak times). Note that you must book a specific entry time online, and tickets can be purchased in advance. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Lookout Mountain GA/TN


2. Christmas in Gatlinburg TN & Pigeon Forge TN

Float at Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade in Gatlinburg TN
Photo courtesy Visit Gatlinburg TN

Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

A visit to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge TN puts you in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, next to one of our nation’s most impressive National Parks.

These ever-popular Tennessee mountain towns are even more magical during the holidays, when the Christmas lights combine with the neon to create a fantastically festive glow.

Held on December 2, 2023, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade finds Gatlinburg turned into one of the most colorful Christmas towns we’ve visited.

This event draws around 80,000 people annually, so get there early if you want to get a good spot!

We recommend bringing hot cocoa and a blanket for warmth, then settling in to watch the festive floats, marching bands, giant balloons, and costumed Christmas characters parading down Gatlinburg’s Main Street.

READ MORE: 20 Festive Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains

Christmas in the Smokies - Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Show\
Photo courtesy Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

Great Smoky Mountains Christmas Arts & Craft Show

For more fun during Christmas in Tennessee, visit the annual Great Smoky Mountains Christmas Arts & Craft Show.

Running from November 27 to December 3, 2023, the event is hosted by the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, the largest organization of independent artisans in the USA.

For 7 days the Gatlinburg Convention Center will be stuffed with traditional Appalachian crafts such as gorgeous quilts, woven baskets, musical instruments, toys, pottery, jewelry, and more. 

Purchasing these handcrafted gifts is not only a great way to support the artists and crafters of the Smoky Mountains, but also offers unique gifts for everyone on your Christmas shopping list. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN


3. Christmas in Knoxville TN

Christmas in Knoxville, one of the best Tennessee Christmas Towns
Photo courtesy Visit Knoxville TN

Downtown Knoxville

If you fancy spending the holidays in East Tennessee this year, add the city of Knoxville to your itinerary for a memorable Christmas vacation in Tennessee. 

Every year Downtown Knoxville transforms into one of the best Christmas towns in TN, offering everything from ice skating and holiday markets to scavenger hunts, eating/drinking along the Peppermint Trail, and more.

Children will love wandering around downtown Knoxville looking at the beautifully decorated storefront windows and sipping on hot cocoa, while adults can enjoy shopping and sipping craft cocktails by candlelight. 

Kids can also keep a lookout for Santa’s scouts in 25+ businesses on the “Elf on the Shelf Adventure,” or try ice skating in the open rink under the stars while surrounded by glittering Christmas lights

Whatever you do, don’t miss the Peppermint Grove in Market Square, which features a 42-foot-tall Christmas tree and lots of fun, festive photo opps!

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

East Tennessee Children's Hospital Fantasy of Trees in Knoxville TN
Photo courtesy East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

Fantasy of Trees

For more than 3 decades now, the annual Fantasy of Trees has been raising proceeds for the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville TN.

After raising more than $1.3 million in 2022, the beloved Christmas festival is returning to the Knoxville Convention Center from November 22 to 26, 2023. 

Attracting nearly 60,000 visitors each year, the holiday event allows attendees to explore a “forest” of 350 beautifully designed Christmas trees trees, all of which are available for purchase.

Guests can also peruse Christmas decorations, storefront windows, door designs, and an Adopt-a-Tree forest that was decorated by local school children. In short, it’s a great place to buy gifts that give back! 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Bristol TN/VA


4. Christmas in Memphis TN

Starry Nights at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis TN
Photo courtesy Shelby Farms Park

Starry Nights at Shelby Farms

As much as we love the Blue Ridge Mountains, there’s no denying that Memphis– while best known for its music and BBQ– is also a fantastic Tennessee Christmas town.

For a festive Christmas experience, check out Starry Nights at Shelby Farms Park, a non-profit dedicated to preserving green spaces. This Memphis park offers 40+ miles of hiking trails, which can also be used for cycling. 

The Starry Nights event is their biggest annual fundraiser, allowing guests to drive through the park to view millions of LED Christmas lights grouped into dazzling holiday displays.

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, they’re open on select nights from 6-10 PM (including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve).

Visit their website for dates and ticket prices, which range from $15.95 to $30 per vehicle.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Hiking Trails to Waterfalls in Tennessee

Beale Street Holiday Parade in Memphis TN
Photo courtesy

Beale Street Holiday Parade

If you want to be part of one of the biggest Christmas parades in Tennessee, make plans to visit Memphis TN for the annual Beale Street Holiday Parade.

Starting at 2PM on December 9, 2023, this staple event of Christmas in Memphis makes its way through the Beale Street Entertainment District (best known for its hip music scene). 

Locals and out-of-towners alike will line the sidewalks of Beale Street to immerse themselves in the magical Christmas town vibe, with festively decorated floats, marching bands, and Santa himself making an appearance. 

There are also other Christmas parades in Memphis this year, including the Whitehaven Christmas Parade on November 18, Germantown Holiday Parade on December 9, and the Arlington Christmas Parade on December 16. 

READ MORE: 25 Fun Facts About Tennessee History and Culture



5. Christmas in Nashville TN

Christmas at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville TN
Photo courtesy Gaylord Opryland

Gaylord Opryland

The city of Nashville is known for its sparkle. Come Winter, the twinkling lights and holiday cheer make this is a can’t- miss Christmas town in Tennessee!

Christmas at Gaylord Opryland ranks among the most fun things to do in Nashville TN around the holidays. From November 10, 2023 to January 1, 2024, the luxury hotel will be decked out as a magical Winter Wonderland. 

Just remember to wrap up warm (they have cozy parkas for guests to borrow), as they’ll massive ice sculptures, frozen slides to whizz down, and ice tunnels to wind your way through.

Fans of the classic Polar Express film can climb aboard a replica train and travel to the North Pole to visit Santa’s Christmas Village, where you’ll see jolly ol’ St. Nick and his elves. 

READ MORE: 10 Reasons to Ride the Bryson City Polar Express Train for Christmas

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens Holiday Lights in Nashville TN
Photo courtesy Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens Holiday Lights

For an equally lovely way to celebrate Christmas in TN, make your way to Cheekwood Estate’s Holiday Lights, which runs from November 18, 2023 to January 7, 2024.

Open from 5-10 PM, this annual Tennessee Christmas event features more than a million colorful lights along a one-mile trail through the garden

There will be extravagant holiday decor in the Cheekwood Mansion, as well as Christmas trees, a Poinsettia tree, and gingerbread houses. You can also enjoy S’mores, cocktails, and shopping at the Holiday Market Place.

Tickets for Holiday Lights at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens range from $12- $31, depending on what package you want, your age, and membership status.  –by Emma Gallagher; lead image courtesy Visit Gatlinburg







Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Born in Britain, writer/photographer Emma Gallagher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC on a permaculture homestead with her husband, Jonathon. While traveling the world for 13 years, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region when she lived at an artist retreat in Burnsville NC before moving to Brevard. Today Emma lives near Stone Mountain State Park and Doughton Park volunteers at the Surry County Fiddlers Convention, and cares for the gardens at the Reeves Downtown School of Music in Elkin. She's also a volunteer for the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which maintains segment 6 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.