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Christmas in Nashville: Festive Things to Do for the Holidays

Are you dreaming of a country-style holiday, with plenty of Southern charm and excitement? Consider spending Christmas in Nashville!

Keeping up with its bold, larger-than-life reputation, the holiday spirit comes alive in a BIG way in Music City.

Millions of twinkling lights cover the streets, and cheerful carolers wander door to door. Plus, there’s the world-class music and delicious Southern cuisine, which both get festive makeovers.

large snowflake lights at the dancing lights of christmas in nashville tn
Photo: The Dancing Lights of Christmas

Needless to say, Christmas in Nashville offers a one-of-a-kind holiday experience.

In this guide, we’ll take you through all the top things to do. You’ll want to stick around, because we dive deep, covering places to go, where to eat, the most festive hotels, and more!

Quick note: While this guide is dedicated strictly to Christmas in Nashville, there are many other things to do in Nashville during those cold winter months — also read our Winter in Nashville guide!

The Complete Guide to Spending Christmas in Nashville

Before you finalize plans to spend the holidays in Nashville, there are some things you should know.

Embrace the Winter Weather

Nashville in December can be quite chilly, with average temperatures ranging from 30-50°F.

The good news, though, is that the city doesn’t typically get much, if any, snow. A few inches per year come through Nashville, but typically not until January or February.

With that being said, December is often pretty wet in the city. Pack warm layers, sturdy shoes that hold up in rain, and a rain jacket. And don’t forget gloves, a hat, and scarf, as the crisp air in the morning and at night is BRISK!

Navigating Crowds and Traffic

Christmas in Nashville brings a lot of people to the city, both tourists and locals alike. So, you can safely expect larger crowds and more traffic in popular areas like downtown and Opryland.

Plan your outings accordingly, and if possible, avoid peak traffic hours.

Keep in mind that some attractions will have long lines during the holidays, so pack plenty of patience.

The Gaylord Hotel in Nashville TN decorated for Christmas
Credit: The Gaylord Hotel

Where to Stay in Nashville for Christmas

Nashville has dozens of amazing hotels.

However, a handful stand out as excellent specifically for the holiday season. The hotels we recommend here are particularly festive, really going all out to make Christmas in Nashville special for guests.

  • Gaylord Opryland Resort – Arguably the best place to spend Christmas in Nashville (and one of the best Nashville resorts overall). The resort goes all out with decor and activities. In fact, if you wanted to, you wouldn’t even have to step foot off the property!
  • The Hermitage Hotel – This upscale historic hotel is a Nashville favorite to begin with, but the holidays elevate it even more. Celebrate with events like Santa brunch and a prix fixe Christmas Eve menu. Plus, enjoy Nutcracker Tea, a holiday twist on the hotel’s complimentary daily tea service.
  • The Bobby Hotel – The rooftop lounge at The Bobby is a year-round hot spot, but it’s even more impressive in the winter. Head to Camp Bobby for campfire-inspired cocktails and dining in igloos. Or, reserve the iconic 1956 Greyhound Scenicruiser, which transforms into a vintage holiday lounge.

More Hotels in Nashville

Top 10 Christmas Activities & Events in Nashville

Now, let’s dive into where you’ll actually want to spend your time in Nashville this holiday season!

1. Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort

Whether you have one evening in town or you live here, Gaylord Opryland is THE place to be for Christmas in Nashville. The resort has a reputation for going above and beyond for holidays, and “Country Christmas” is no exception.

Stroll through the winter wonderland’s dazzling light displays, including extremely popular ICE! featuring the Polar Express. The exhibit has elaborate ice-themed everything, such as sculptures and slides.

In addition, don’t miss the indoor snow tubing, bumper cars, live shows, and visits with Santa.

There are plenty of hands-on activities, also. These include gingerbread decorating, snowball making, a scavenger hunt, and more.

a row of trees lit up for christmas at cheekwood estate and gardens
Credit: Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

2. Holiday Lights at Cheekwood Botanical Garden

Holiday Lights at Cheekwood Botanical Garden brings over a million twinkling lights to Nashville every season. This is always one of the most popular events during Christmas in Nashville, where you’ll see families, friend groups, and couples on a date.

The elegant display creates a magical atmosphere, where visitors wander through a one-mile path.

Enjoy creative-themed displays, as well as drinks and concessions along the way. Treat yourself to a seasonal cocktail or warm up with cocoa, and snap a selfie at one of the many fun photo ops.

In past years, the gardens have also brought out live reindeer (caribou), live music, and s’mores pits.

The holiday marketplace is also popular, a perfect spot to grab a souvenir or check a few gifts off your list.

3. Music City Brew Hop Holiday Lights Trolley Night Tour

Why not combine everything the city is known for during Christmas in Nashville? Great nightlife, awesome breweries, and jaw-dropping homes…but with a holiday twist!

On this BYOB Holiday Lights Trolley Night Tour, you’ll tour the beautiful East Nashville area.

Find the most decked-out homes, then go snap some photos at the Tennessee State Capitol Christmas tree.

You’ll also get to enjoy a pint of local Nashville beer at a brewery, in addition to any drinks you bring on board.

Ugly sweaters and other Christmas attire are encouraged, to go along with the holiday playlist. Note that this tour is open only to ages 21 and older.

Credit: Music City Brew Hop via Viator

4. Opry Country Christmas

There’s nothing quite like watching those Christmas specials on TV around the holidays. But now, you can enjoy that same nostalgia in person!

Opry Country Christmas is a newer holiday tradition in Nashville, but quickly becoming a favorite. Celebrating its ninth year in 2023, the event continuously gets bigger and better.

This year, the Opry House hosts nine holiday shows between November 26 and December 18.

Expect A-list country music stars, including Lady A, Trace Adkins, Lady A, and Scotty McCreary, among others. Alongside them, enjoy performances by Opry members, spotlight artists, and special guests.

Tickets are expected to sell out for all shows, so book yours ASAP! Seeing a show at the Opry is a bucket list experience in and of itself. But during Christmas in Nashville?! That’s a whole new level!

5. Nashville’s Nutcracker by Nashville Ballet

Experience a “uniquely Nashville rendition” of the timeless holiday classic, The Nutcracker.

Performed at The Tennessee Performing Art Center‘s Andrew Jackson Hall, the renowned Nashville Ballet brings the story to life.

The elaborate costumes and set designs are so impressive, they’re worth seeing on their own! Plus, the Nashville Symphony provides live music for the show.

The show is a wonderful holiday tradition. Also, if you need a gift idea, this is a perfect one!

Shows run Friday through Sunday from December 8-24, and tickets are available now. There are additional shows during the week leading up to Christmas in Nashville.

6. The Dancing Lights of Christmas at Wilson County Fairgrounds (Lebanon)

Up for a mini road trip? Just a short, scenic drive from Nashville, the Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon hosts “Tennessee’s largest drive-thru light and music show.”

The spectacular light show, known as “The Dancing Lights of Christmas,” features over one million synchronized LED lights, all set to music. You can enjoy this fun experience from the comfort of your own vehicle, so it’s perfect for rainy or especially cold nights.

In addition to the drive-thru display, admission includes Santa’s Village. Visit with Santa, and pet some of his favorite reindeer in the petting zoo.

The Dancing Lights of Christmas is open November 10 through December 31, including on all holidays. That’s right, if you’re looking for something to do ON Christmas Day in Nashville, head out to Lebanon!

the polar express train in nashville tn with a wreath on the front of the train
Polar Express / Credit: Tennessee Central Railway Museum

7. Board the Polar Express Train

The Polar Express is a beloved holiday tradition. And luckily, Tennesseans are fortunate enough to have one right here at Christmas in Nashville.

On Saturdays from mid-November to mid-December, you can board the iconic Polar Express.

The Tennessee Central Railway Museum operates the trains, which go round-trip to Lebanon. In total, the trip is about two hours.

The trains are decked out for Christmas, and the ride is festive from start to finish. Join in with Victorian carolers, and visit with Santa and his elves. Classic holiday treats like cocoa and candy canes will be available for purchase on board.

There are two departures each Saturday, and all seats are reserved in advance. Note that the Polar Express sells out well in advance, but last minute tickets do sometimes become available.

8. General Jackson Showboat Christmas Cruises

The General Jackson Showboat is one of the best things to do in Nashville any time of year. However, come December, it takes on a festive seasonal theme.

Choose between the Tennessee Christmas Mid-day Cruise or the Music City Christmas Evening Cruise. Whichever option you choose, you’ll cruise the Cumberland River on an authentic paddle-wheel boat.

In true Music City fashion, both cruises offer live music and entertainment, plus excellent food (lunch or dinner).

9. Nashville Santa Rampage

Want to celebrate Christmas in Nashville in a truly unique way? Play Santa in the annual Santa Rampage!

Essentially, the Santa Rampage is a bar crawl…except everyone dresses in Santa suits! Imagine hundreds of Santas hopping in and out of downtown bars!

All the Santas meet at the Christmas tree in Public Square Park for a group photo. Then, the Santas take to the streets! A number of bars offer drink specials, and this event continues to get bigger and better every year.

10. Candlelight Concerts at The Parthenon

The world’s ONLY exact replica of the Parthenon resides in Nashville.

But even better, it hosts a series of “Candlelight Concerts” during the holidays.

These concerts promise a “multi-sensory musical experience.” Under a magical candlelit glow, enjoy holiday favorite songs and traditional performances. For example, this year’s feature is The Nutcracker.

Note that you can catch these performances year-round, not just at Christmas in Nashville. However, the location moves around town.

a light up dragon at the nashville zoo for zoolumination for christmas in nashville
Zoolumination / Credit: The Nashville Zoo

Parades, Tree Lightings, and Other Christmas in Nashville Events

  • Nashville Zoo ZOOlumination – Nov 17, 2023 to Feb 4, 2024
  • Shop Small Holiday Market at The Golden Slipper – Nov 25, 2023
  • State Capitol Christmas tree lighting – Monday after Thanksgiving
  • East Nash Holiday Bash – Dec 1-2, 2023
  • Franklin Christmas parade – Dec 2, 2023
  • City of Goodlettsville Christmas parade – Dec 2, 2023
  • “Deck the Hulls” Christmas Boat Parade (Hendersonville/Sumner County) – Dec 2, 2023
  • Murfreesboro Christmas parade – Dec 10, 2023

Restaurants in Nashville Open on Christmas Day

Many Nashville restaurants take a well-deserved break over Christmas.

However, several stay open for those who want someone else to cook their holiday feast. Here are five of our personal picks, but feel free to check out the full list on OpenTable.

  • Drusie & Darr (inside The Hermitage): Open 12/24 at 12:00 pm and 12/25 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, serving a 3-course prix fixe menu or family-style dinners.
  • Blue Aster (Midtown): Brunch and prix fixe dinner menu served 12/24 and 12/25 from 7:00 am to 2:30 pm, then 5-10:00 pm
  • The 404 Kitchen (The Gulch): Christmas Eve buffet, 12-8:00 pm
  • Trattoria Il Mulino (Downtown): Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinner
  • STK Steakhouse (The Gulch): Prix fixe holiday brunch and dinner offered both 12/24 and 12/25

Remember to make reservations in advance, as restaurants tend to book up quickly for the holidays.

Final Tips for the Perfect Christmas Vacation in Nashville

As you prepare to celebrate the holidays in Nashville, we want to remind you of a few things.

Pack plenty of layers and comfortable, water-resistant walking shoes (and an umbrella!).

Also, book travel logistics and accommodation as early as possible. The same goes for making reservations or booking tours, too.

Have a Plan B (and maybe even Plan C), to have back-ups in case something you plan to see is sold out or simply has too long of a wait.

Finally, shop small, local businesses while you’re in Music City.

Oh, and don’t leave without trying Southern foods like BBQ and Nashville hot chicken!

Featured Image & Pinterest Pin Credit: The Dancing Lights of Christmas & Music City Brew Hop