15 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in Tennessee (2023)

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The Blue Ridge Mountains are generally a wonderful place to spend the holidays, and celebrating Christmas in Tennessee offers myriad ways to get into the spirit.

Of course, the stellar hikes and waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park get a lot of press in the summertime, as do the water recreation opportunities in Tennessee’s lakes.

Fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains is always a showstopper, while the wildflowers of Tennessee in Spring provide their own eye-popping colors.

But Tennessee in December has its own unique charms. In our experience, Christmas vacations in Tennessee are every bit as stupendous as the camping trips and leaf-peeping drives of other seasons.

From Nashville to Smoky Mountain towns like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, there’s a wide range of things to do in Tennessee at Christmas.

If you love Christmas as much as we do, read on for our guide to the 15 best places to celebrate Christmas in Tennessee, including Christmas light shows, holiday markets, Christmas train rides, and much more!

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

Christmas in Tennessee Guide

(Arranged geographically)

  1. Holiday Trail of Lights (Chattanooga TN)
  2. North Pole Limited Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (Chattanooga TN)
  3. Winter Wonderland/Chattanooga Choo-Choo (Chattanooga TN)
  4. Dickens of a Christmas (Franklin TN)
  5. FrankTown Festival of Lights (Franklin TN)
  6. Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas (Gatlinburg TN)
  7. Gatlinburg SkyPark (Gatlinburg TN)
  8. Ober Mountain (Gatlinburg TN)
  9. Christmas Lantern Express (Knoxville TN)
  10. Lights at The Cove at Concord Park (Knoxville TN)
  11. Cheekwood Botanical Gardens (Nashville TN)
  12. Gaylord Opryland Resort (Nashville TN)
  13. Christmas Village (Nashville TN)
  14. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (Pigeon Forge TN)
  15. Winterfest Wonders of Light (Pigeon Forge TN)

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


Christmas in Chattanooga TN

Arctic Kingdom Selfie at Rock City Christmas Enchanted Garden of Lights
Arctic Kingdom Lights at Rock City Christmas, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Holiday Trail of Lights

Chattanooga TN

Official Website

Chattanooga TN goes wild for the holidays, and all the big attractions of Christmas in Chattanooga are part of the Holiday Trail of Lights.

The Holiday Trail of Lights takes over Downtown Chattanooga, crosses the Tennessee River beyond Coolidge Park, and swings out further afield. You could spend several days seeing it all, or hit the highlights in a weekend getaway.

Must-see Chattanooga Christmas attractions include the EPB Holiday Window displays on Broad and Main Street, and twinkling snowflakes along the Scenic Walnut Street Bridge, a nearly 2,400-foot pedestrian bridge.

Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights on Lookout Mountain is less than 10 miles outside of town (on the GA/TN state border), but it’s included on the Holiday Trail of Lights for a very good reason.

This immensely popular attraction features awesome Christmas light displays, a magical forest, Santa’s workshop, and a lookout from which you can view 7 states!

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

Christmas in Chattanooga TN - North Pole Limited Train Ride
North Pole Limited Train, photo courtesy of tvrail.com

2. North Pole Limited at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga TN • (423) 894-8028

Official Website

Another stop on the Holiday Trail of Lights, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum warrants a separate listing simply because Christmas trains are that much fun.

The TVRM’s North Pole Limited sends passengers on a journey to Santa’s neck of the woods, with colorful Christmas light displays all along the way and a special visit from the jolly ol’ elf himself!

This railroad museum also offers other holiday excursions, including a Christmas Special Dinner aboard restored dining and pullman cars, and Santa’s Hiwassee Holiday Train (which is all about the kids).

There’s a New Year’s Eve Dinner Train the week after Christmas, and even more seasonal train rides to choose from.

The North Pole Limited takes an hour and runs several times on the weekends, from mid-November to Christmas. Traditional seats run from $29 to $39, while seats on Santa’s Private Car cost $55 to $65.

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

Christmas in Tennessee vacation - Ice Skating in Chattanooga
Photo courtesy of Ice on the Landing

3. Winter Wonderland at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo

1400 Market Street, Chattanooga TN

Official Website

Another must-do on the Holiday Trail of Lights is Winter Wonderland at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo.

It’s held in the old Chattanooga Terminal Station, with a massive Christmas tree in the lobby and the iconic free-standing dome transformed into a magical holiday experience.

There are Christmas lights throughout the property, restaurants serving up holiday treats, Christmas gifts to buy in the shops, and Santa posing for pictures with the kids.

The Chattanooga Choo-Choo also offers Ice On The Landing, where guests can go ice skating beneath the twinkling lights at an outdoor rink.

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


Christmas in Franklin TN

Christmas in Franklin Tennessee - Dickens of a Christmas
Dickens of a Christmas, photo courtesy of williamsonheritage.org

4. Dickens of a Christmas

112 Bridge Street, Franklin TN • (615) 591-8500

Official Website

Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin is widely considered one of the best Christmas traditions in Tennessee. All of Downtown Franklin is recreated to look like a scene from the Dickensian era.

The streets are filled with classic characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, as well as musicians, dancers, and Father and Mother Christmas.

Arts and crafts vendors will be set up to sell their Christmas wares, and carolers help to fill the town with cheer. The KidsZone has lots of fun activities and games for children.

The 2023 Dickens of a Christmas celebration is on December 9-10, with shuttles running regularly from parking lots at Harlinsdale Farm and Franklin High School.

READ MORE: 30 Fun Facts About Appalachian Scots-Irish History & Culture

Franklin Tennessee Christmas - Franktown Festival of Lights
Franktown Festival of Lights, photo courtesy of FrankTown Open Hearts

5. FrankTown Festival of Lights

4215 Long Ln, Franklin TN • (615) 595-1227

Official Website

Running from November 17 through December 31, 2023 at the Williamson County AG Expo Park, the FrankTown Festival of Lights is a walking and drive-through Christmas lights tour.

This annual holiday lights spectacular has more than 200 synchronized light displays timed to music, which can be tuned in on the car radio.

Typically, this is a drive-thru event. However, there are 6 “Walkin’ Wednesdays,” where guests are allowed to walk the route from 5-6:30 PM. After that, you can take photos by the big Christmas tree and make s’mores by the fire pit.

Christmas in Franklin, Tennessee simply isn’t complete without visiting the FrankTown Festival of Lights. Tickets are from $30 per vehicle for up to 8 passengers.

READ MORE: 30 Facts About Mennonite History, Culture & Amish Connections


Christmas in Gatlinburg TN

Christmas in Gatlinburg TN - Anakeesta Christmas
Firefly Village at Christmas, photo courtesy of anakeesta.com

6. Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas

576 Parkway, Gatlinburg TN • (865) 325-2400

Official Website

Billed as a mountaintop adventure park, Anakeesta is located right in the thick of the Smoky Mountains. So not only is it a showcase for Fall in Tennessee, but it’s also one of the best places to celebrate Christmas in Gatlinburg.

Their Enchanted Christmas celebration occurs nightly from November 10, 2023 through January 1, 2024, and it takes over the entire theme park.

Firefly Village is festooned with lights. Black Bear Village is humming with seasonal songs. Stone Village has glowing bells, garlands, and Christmas trees. Artic Alley has thousands of synchronized lights.

The scenic vistas from Anakeesta are also phenomenal, giving visitors a birds-eye view of Gatlinburg TN.

Like all things in Gatlinburg, “full-tilt” is possibly the best way to describe this Christmas experience.

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

Christmas in Gatlinburg Tennessee
Tunnel of Light on the SkyBridge, photo courtesy of gatlinburgskypark.com

7. Gatlinburg SkyPark

765 Parkway, Gatlinburg TN • (865) 436-4307

Official Website

Tens of thousands of visitors come to Gatlinburg SkyPark each year for Lights Over Gatlinburg, an annual Christmas event included in the price of park admission.

The SkyPark has several high-flying attractions to enjoy: The SkyLift, SkyBridge, SkyTrail, SkyDeck, and SkyCenter are all major draws year-round, and things only get better at Christmas.

SkyPark has a 32-foot-tall Christmas tree. SkyBridge has a tunnel of lights. The views of Gatlinburg are some of the best in town, and the entire park is practically oozing Christmas spirit.

Park admission (a.k.a. the SkyPass) costs between $35.95 and $45.95, depending on the week you visit.

Note that Gatlinburg SkyPark visitors with SkyPasses can come to the park during the day, then return at night to see the colorful lights in full glory.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Smoky Mountains Hotels to Visit in NC & TN

Christmas vacations in Tennessee - Snow Tubing Ober Mountain
Snow Tubing on Ober Mountain, photo courtesy of obergatlinburg.com

8. Ober Mountain

1001 Parkway Suite 2, Gatlinburg TN • (865) 436-5423

Official Website

Most people dream of a White Christmas, but that doesn’t mean we need to sit around and wait for it. As it turns out, Ober Mountain Gatlinburg has the snow ready and waiting!

Tennessee’s top snow skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing opportunities are all available right in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Ober Mountain ski slopes are typically ready in early December, but the snow tubing runs open the Saturday before Thanksgiving.They also have ice bumper cars, ice skating, and “The Snow Zone” for kids to enjoy.

For snow tubing, 90-minute sessions cost $35 from Sunday through Thursday, and $45 on Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays.

Rates for skiing and snowboarding vary widely. Full day and half (night) sessions are available Sunday through Thursday, with prices starting at $35. Friday and Saturday are full sessions only, which cost $84 for adults.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Waterfalls in Tennessee to Visit


Christmas in Knoxville TN

Christmas in Knoxville TN - Christmas Lantern Express Train Ride
Christmas Lantern Express, photo by Steph Johnson via Three Rivers Rambler

9. Christmas Lantern Express

2560 University Commons Way, Knoxville TN • (865) 524-9411

Official Website

Christmas in Knoxville TN just feels better aboard the Christmas Lantern Express, a holiday train ride offered by Three Rivers Rambler.

The Christmas Lantern Express starts running in late November and continues every Saturday and Sunday until the week before Christmas. From then on, it runs two to three times every day.

This lovely Christmas train ride runs roughly two hours along the Tennessee River, passing historic sites such as the Three Rivers Trestle.

It’s an old-fashioned steam train, and the Christmas ride includes decorations, treats, story time with celebrity readers, and a meet-and-greet with  Santa.

Trains depart at 9:15 AM, 12:30 PM, and 3:45 PM. Adult tickets are around $50, and children from ages 3 to 12 ride for about $25. Children under the age of 3 ride for free. 

READ MORE: 10 Best Caverns and Underground Caves in Tennessee

Lights at The Cove at Concord Park Knoxville TN Christmas
Lights at The Cove at Concord Park, photo by Ashley Ott Flemming

10. Lights at The Cove at Concord Park

11808 S. Northshore Drive, Knoxville TN

Unofficial Website

This Christmas light extravaganza at The Cove at Concord Park has been happening for 25 years now, and the annual holiday festival seems to improve every year.

The Cove’s 3/4-mile greenway is decorated with syncopated lights, and Santa Claus visits on Fridays and Saturdays.

Snack vendors serve up sweet treats and hot drinks to keep things cozy, and there are several fire pits available.

Starting in December, the lights for this welcoming community event come on from 6PM to 9PM, and Concord Park makes for a fantastic setting. 

READ MORE: Visiting Craighead Caverns & the Lost Sea Adventure (Sweetwater TN)

Christmas in Nashville TN

Christmas in Nashville TN Cheekwood Estate Gardens
Holiday Lights photo by Nathan Zucker courtesy of cheekwood.org

11. Cheekwood Botanical Gardens

1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville TN • (615) 356-8000

Official Website

Cheekwod Estate & Gardens in Nashville get joyful, jubilant, and jolly for the holidays.

From mid-November through the first week of January, the place is all decked out in decorations, lights, and creative displays. Their holiday hours are from 5-10 PM.

There are over a million Christmas lights in the gardens, plus a Holiday Marketplace for shopping and a fire pit for staying snuggly, sipping seasonal libations, and roasting s’mores.

Tickets are sold for either the gardens only or the gardens and mansion.

Adults tickets are around $30, while children ages 3-17 are $20-25, and kids ages 2 and under are free. Pro tip: Get your tickets online to avoid a $3 service fee for walk-ins!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Fairs in TN to Visit

Christmas at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville TN
Photo courtesy Gaylord Opryland

12. Gaylord Opryland Resort

2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville TN • (615) 889-1000

Official Website

Christmas in Nashville TN simply has to include the city’s famous music scene, and the festive Gaylord Opryland Resort is a great place to sample it.

One of our favorite Christmas hotels in Tennessee, this posh Marriott resort seemingly has it all.

You’ll find ice skating, snowball games, ice tubing, breakfast with Charlie Brown, a Gingerbread House decorating area, and Christmas lights galore. 

Open from early November through the end of December, ICE! is the resort’s premier Christmas event, with huge ice sculptures, frozen slides, and chilly tunnels. 

ICE! does require a ticket, which can be purchased online for $31.99 for adults and $22.99 for kids.

Note that for those without room reservations and event tickets, it’s best to arrive before noon during the week. 

READ MORE: The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol TN/VA

Christmas Village in Tennessee
Christmas Village in Tennessee, photo courtesy of ChristmasVillageTN

13. Christmas Village

500 Wedgewood Avenue, Nashville TN • (615) 256-2726

Official Website

This annual Nashville Christmas attraction isn’t the only “Christmas Village” in Tennessee. But it is easily the most well-known, having run annually for more than 60 years now.

Held every November at The Fairgrounds Nashville, this 3-day charitable event features over 250 vendors and attracts some 30,000 shoppers.

The 2023 Nashville Christmas Village opens on November 10 at 9AM. It opens again at 9AM on Saturday, November 11,  and then at noon on Sunday, November 12.

Tickets to the event are $15 online or $12 when purchased in advance at select TRUIST locales. Return tickets can be bought onsite for just $10.

READ MORE: 40 Facts About the History of the Banjo (From Africa to Appalachia)


Christmas in Pigeon Forge TN

Christmas in Pigeon Forge Tennessee - Dollywood
Smoky Mountain Christmas Sign photo by The Dollywood Company

14. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

2700 Dollywood Parks Boulevard, Pigeon Forge TN • (800) 365-5996

Official Website

Smoky Mountain Christmas in Pigeon Forge TN is the big holiday celebration at Dollywood. It’s considered one of the best in the state of Tennessee, and even the nation.

The park is all aglow with 6 million lights and dozens of Christmas trees. Live performances are filled with holiday cheer, and the flavors get festive.

Their holiday shows include “Christmas in the Smokies” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” as well as musicals such as “Appalachian Christmas,” “Holiday Wild Roots,” and “O Holy Night.”

There’s also a new Christmas Drone Show every night, with hundreds of colorful drones lighting up the chilly night sky.

One-day, two-day, and three-day Dollywood passes are available for $89, $119, and $129 respectively, but child and senior discounts are available.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Smoky Mountain Waterfalls to Visit

Tennessee Christmas vacation - Pigeon Forge - Winterfest Light Display
Winterfest Light Display photo courtesy of mypigeonforge.com

15. Winterfest Wonders of Light Driving Tour & Walking Trail

Downtown, Pigeon Forge TN • (865) 453-8574

Unofficial Website

The Winterfest lights in Pigeon Forge TN are perfect for the Christmas holidays, but the attraction runs from early November 2023 through mid-February 2024.

There are more than 5 million lights to see on the driving tour, including native “critters,” gigantic ornaments, towering trees, and a 200-foot-tall Great Smoky Mountain Wheel lit up in green, red, and white.

This tour is on the main public streets of Pigeon Forge (Parkway, Veteran’s Blvd, Teaster Ln, etc), and the lights will be twinkling from 5 PM to 1 AM daily.

There’s also a Wonders of Light Walking Trail along the Pigeon Forge Riverwalk Trail.

It has 20 syncopated light displays, walk-under arches, and a 52-foot-long caterpillar.  —by Jonathon Engels; featured photo of Showstreet Lights courtesy Dollywood 



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!

After visiting North Carolina for the first time, Senior Writer Jonathon Engels and wife Emma spent 2 years exploring Western NC in search of a homestead property. They first lived in Brevard, where Jonathon taught writing at Blue Ridge Community College and extensively explored the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest. For the last several years they have lived just off the BRP near Elkin, Southwest Virginia, and the NC High Country. The couple also volunteers with the Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention, the Elkin Valley Trail Association, and Reeves Downtown School of Music.