Christmas in Chattanooga TN: 10 Festive Events Worth Attending

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This year was not the first time we’ve celebrated Christmas in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

But aside from day trips to see the Rock City Christmas lights, this was the first time we’ve ever devoted multiple days to attending all the biggest Christmas events in Chattanooga.

With a population of around 185,000 people, Chattanooga is the fastest-growing city in the State of Tennessee.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that we found the Chattanooga Christmas attractions to be every bit as impressive as those you’ll find in large mountain towns like Asheville, or even bigger cities like my native Atlanta.

From the Walnut Street Bridge and the Chattanooga Zoo to NoogaLights and Rock City, there are many magical places to see Christmas lights in Chattanooga. And some of our favorites were 100% free!

Read on for our in-depth guide to our favorite events for Christmas in Chattanooga TN, including the Asian Lantern Festival, North Pole Limited Christmas Train, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, and more!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in Tennessee


Christmas in Chattanooga Events Guide

  1. Asian Lantern Festival at the Chattanooga Zoo
  2. Chattanooga Holiday Market
  3. Christmas Plays at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre
  4. EPB’s Holiday Windows
  5. Festive Forest at Miller Park
  6. Holidays at the Chattanooga Choo Choo
  7. Ice On The Landing at First Horizon Pavilion
  8. NoogaLights
  9. North Pole Limited Train Ride at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
  10. Rock City Gardens Enchanted Garden of Lights

READ MORE: The 10 Best Christmas Tree Farms in Tennessee

1) Asian Lantern Festival at the Chattanooga Zoo

Mary and I met at her early December Christmas party in 2008. So it somehow seemed appropriate to visit the best Chattanooga Christmas attractions as we celebrated our 15th anniversary.
On our first night in town, we attended the Asian Lantern Festival at the Chattanooga Zoo. It’s an incredible celebration of art, culture, and traditional lantern festivals, but it incorporated lots of Christmas and nature/wildlife elements.
We absolutely adored their colorful collection of 30+ larger-than-life lanterns and 9 interactive displays. Especially the magical tree where playing rhythms on a Japanese drum changes the color and movement of the Christmas lights!

It was a fantastic way to celebrate the magic of Christmas in Chattanooga, and our personal special occasion.

READ MORE: The 5 Best Christmas Towns in Tennessee to Visit

2) Chattanooga Holiday Market

Held every Sunday from April to December at the First Horizon Pavilion, the Chattanooga Market is the region’s largest producers-only market for arts & crafts and artisan foods fresh from the farm

Named by Frommer’s as one of the Top 10 Best Public Markets in America, it’s one of the most popular Chattanooga TN events. 

For the first 3 weekends in December, the open-air market moves indoors at the Chattanooga Convention Center, where the Chattanooga Holiday Market adopts a more festive Christmas theme. 

There’s live music, Christmas caroling, special events (including The Lodge Cast Iron Cook-Off), and 200+ vendors offering unique handmade items, Christmas decorations, and thousands of cool Christmas gift ideas

In our experience, this massive Christmas market in Chattanooga is a great place to shop for everyone who made your “Nice” list this year!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Tennessee Mountain Towns to Visit

Scrooge! at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre in Chattanooga TN
Photo courtesy Chattanooga Theatre Centre

3) Christmas Plays at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre

One of the oldest and largest community theatres in the USA, the Chattanooga Theatre Centre was created in 1923 as “the Little Theatre of Chattanooga.”

Now celebrating their 100th anniversary, the theatre has grown to become one of the most popular cultural activities in Chattanooga TN, with an 11-show season that draws more than 30,000 visitors each year. 

Their holiday shows are among the most beloved Christmas events in Chattanooga, ranging from classics like A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life to modern hits like Santaland Diaries.

We saw their 2023 Christmas production, Scrooge!, a 1970s musical adapted from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that ran for a season at London’s Dominion Theatre (starring the late Anthony Newley). 

As a longtime theatre critic, I was very impressed by the quality of the acting, costumes, and stage design, which were highly professional compared to most community theatre productions.

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains (NC & TN)

Children at the EBL Christmas Windows in Chattanooga TN
Children at the EBL Christmas Windows

4) EPB’s Holiday Windows

Formerly known as the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, EPB is an electric power and telecommunications company owned by the city of Chattanooga. 

Their Downtown Chattanooga headquarters towers above Miller Park, with a high-rise building that stands out among the mountain town’s skyline.

One of the best free things to do in Chattanooga at Christmas, EPB’s Holiday Windows is a beloved local holiday tradition that dates back to the World War II era.

Workers begin constructing the elaborate holiday displays in September, filling many of the windows on the Broad and Market Street sides of EPB’s building at 10 W. M.L. King Blvd.

They reminded us of the Christmas windows in NYC, with an array of colorful displays that dazzle the eyes. There’s also a cool digital display, which showed Scuba Santa at the Chattanooga Aquarium and other local holiday scenes. 

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

Chattanooga Christmas Lights at Festive Forest at Miller Park
Festive Forest at Miller Park

5) Festive Forest at Miller Park

Located right across the street from EPB’s headquarters, Miller Park is a lovely 2-acre green space in the center of Chattanooga‘s bustling Innovation District.

The park underwent a massive redesign in 2018, which included elevating the once-sunken plaza to street level and constructing a state-of-the-art pavilion to host immersive, hi-tech productions. 

Every December Miller Park plays host to the Festive Forest, one of our favorite free Christmas events in Chattanooga.

There are Christmas lights, sweet selfie spots, and 50+ live Christmas trees that are sponsored and creatively decorated by local businesses and organizations. 

When combined with EPB’s Holiday Windows, it’s a fun, free way to celebrate the holidays with kids, seeing colorful Chattanooga Christmas Lights!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Christmas at the Chattanooga Choo Choo
Christmas at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal

6) Holidays at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal

If you love trains (and Christmas) like we do, a stop at the historic Terminal Station in Downtown Chattanooga is a must!
Tennessee railroads played a major role in the Civil War, and Glenn Miller’s hit song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” (the world’s first gold record) helped to put the city on the map in the 1940s.
By the 1970s, the Terminal Station seemed likely to be demolished until a group of local businessmen invested $4 million to renovate and refurbish the former Southern Railway hub to its former grandeur.

Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s a multi-use complex with a new hotel, several great restaurants (we loved STIR), a distillery, the Songbirds Guitar & Pop Culture Museum, Glenn Miller Gardens, and much more.

We loved seeing the railway station all decked out for Christmas, with Santa making appearances on weekends and special events offered throughout the holiday season.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Scenic Train Rides in Tennessee

Ice On The Landing during Christmas in Chattanooga TN
Ice On The Landing Skating Rink

7) Ice On The Landing at First Horizon Pavilion

If you’re looking for fun things to do during Winter in Chattanooga, check out Ice On The Landing at the First Horizon Pavilion. 

Located right next to Finley Stadium, the 50,000 square foot covered pavilion is home to the Chattanooga Market every Sunday from May to November. 

But from November 24, 2023 to January 28. 2024, the open-air facility is the best place for ice skating in Chattanooga TN. 

Open 6 days a week (closed on Mondays), the temporary outdoor ice rink offers 60-minute ice skating sessions, with $12 tickets for adults and $10 tickets for kids ages 10 and under. Skate rentals are included in the price of admission. 

Check our their website for a detailed schedule of hours, as well as details on special themes, appearances by Santa, and more Christmas fun!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Romantic Getaways in Tennessee

8) NoogaLights

Though it’s a bit of a drive from the heart of the city (around 20 miles north), NoogaLights is the ONLY place you’ll find drive-thru Christmas lights in Chattanooga TN. 

Held in the Soddy Daisy Park Bird Sanctuary, this popular Chattanooga Christmas light display takes visitors on a 1.5-mile drive lined with hi-tech animated lights, many of which are synced to festive holiday music. 

When we visited on a Friday night in early December, the line to get in stretched for nearly a mile. But weeknights tend to be slower, and the quality of the lights and affordability ($15 per vehicle advance, $20 at theatre) made it worth the wait. 

Our favorite elements included the forest of hanging lights at the very beginning and the tunnel of rainbow-colored lights at the very end. But there are some other cool surprises along the way you’ll just have to see for yourself!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Tennessee

Mary & Bret with Santa on North Pole Limited Christmas Train in Chattanooga TN
Mary & Bret with Santa on North Pole Limited Christmas Train

9) North Pole Limited Train Ride at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

The city of Chattanooga has been in the railway game since before the Civil War, and the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum continues that tradition with an array of different Christmas train rides.
If you’re looking for Chattanooga Polar Express-like experience, try their family-friendly North Pole Limited, which follows the relatively short (around 65 minutes round-trip) Missionary Ridge Local route.
Our trip included hot cocoa, cookies, storytelling (by elves Holly and Peppermint), Christmas lights, passing through a historic train tunnel, and Christmas caroling, plus a visit with jolly ol’ St Nick himself!
It’s less flashy than the Bryson City Polar Express train ride, but also much less expensive. We had lots of fun thanks to the TVRM’s personable cast of characters. 

Adults seeking a more grownup Christmas train in Chattanooga may enjoy their Christmas Dinner Train, which offers a 4-course fine dining experience. There’s also a special Nightcap With Santa train ride for passengers ages 21 and up.

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

Christmas Star at Rock City Enchanted Garden of Lights in Lookout Mountain GA
Christmas Star at Rock City

10) Rock City Gardens’ Enchanted Garden of Lights

If you’re looking for the best Christmas lights in Chattanooga, Tennessee, look no further than the annual Rock City Christmas event, the Enchanted Garden of Lights

Located atop Lookout Mountain on the Georgia/Tennessee border, Rock City is a 90-year old Chattanooga attraction whose annual Christmas celebration was named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society. 

Held until January 6, 2024, this year’s Enchanted Garden of Lights features a million LED lights that transform the botanical garden into a magical Winter wonderland.

Children will love meeting Santa in his workshop, decorating gingerbread cookies with Mrs. Claus, and wandering through their 7 enchanted realms of Christmas lights. 

You can also grab a bite to eat, get some hot cocoa, taste Christmas-themed fudge, and visiting gift shops to buy personalized ornaments and festive Christmas decorations.  –by Bret Love; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted; special thanks to Visit Chattanooga

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!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Born and raised in North Georgia, Editor-In-Chief Bret Love grew up hiking and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains with his family. A professional writer/editor since 1995, he's covered travel and culture for 100+ publications, including American Way, Destination Marriott, Georgia Travel Guide, National Geographic, and Southbound. In 2010 he co-founded the award-winning website, Green Global Travel, which is ranked among the world's top travel blogs. Since launching BRMTG in 2020, he and Mary Gabbett have visited 50+ Blue Ridge Mountain towns together. Though she lived in NYC for 14 years, photographer/Business Manager Mary Gabbett's family has Georgia roots dating back 200+ years. Her great-grandfather was President of the Western Railroad of Alabama. Before moving to Atlanta in 1989, she fell in love with the North GA mountains, where her aunt owned a cabin. In 2010 she co-founded Green Global Travel, and has since traveled to more than 40 countries on six continents. Her photos have appeared in numerous travel publications (including National Geographic and Southbound) and various textbooks.