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Christmas in Tennessee: Festive Towns & Holiday Activities

Planning to spend Christmas in Tennessee this year?

Are you a local looking for new traditions or simply looking for fun holiday events? Either way, we’ve got you covered!

When it comes to celebrating Christmas, the Volunteer State offers a huge, diverse range of events and activities.

Tennessee’s varied terrain and weather mean there’s something for everyone. From the snow-capped Smoky Mountains to the milder climates in cities like Nashville.

christmas trees in downtown johnson city tn at night
Christmas in Johnson City, TN

In this guide, we’ll dive deep into some of the top things to do for Christmas in Tennessee.

Additionally, we’ll highlight some of the most festive towns, the best places to stay, where to eat, and more. Because we’re Tennesseans ourselves, we’ll share not only well-known spots but some hidden gems, too.

Specifically interested in what to do for Christmas in the Smoky Mountains or Nashville? Be sure to check out our other guides.

This article focuses on all the other wonderful places to celebrate the season across the state.

The Complete Guide to Spending Christmas in Tennessee

Tennessee’s Christmas celebrations are as diverse as its landscapes. In addition to the diverse geography and weather, every region has its own distinct culture and traditions.

Whether you prefer the charm and slow pace of small towns or the hustle and bustle of a big city, you’ll find the perfect Christmas in Tennessee.

Festive Hotels to Stay in Tennessee for Christmas

Several Tennessee hotels go all out for the holiday season. No matter what city you spend Christmas in Tennessee in, these hotels will make you feel like you’re visiting The North Pole!

1. Gaylord Opryland Resort (Nashville)

inside of the gaylord opryland resort in nashville tn with christmas decorations
Image: Gaylord Opryland Resort via Booking

2. The Inn at Christmas Place (Pigeon Forge)

king sized bed with red sheets and christmas decor as well as christmas tree  at the inn at the christmas place in pigeon forge tn
Image: The Inn at Christmas Place via Booking

3. The Tennessean (Knoxville)

the Tennesseean luxury hotel entrance with white marble siding and the tennesseean sign
Image: The Tennessean Hotel via Booking

4. The Peabody Hotel (Memphis)

the peabody memphis hotel in downtown memphis at night with cars driving by the hotel
Image: The Peabody Hotel via Booking

5. The Hermitage Hotel (Nashville)

exterior of the hermitage hotel in nashville tn
Image: Hermitage Hotel via Booking

Top 10 Christmas Activities & Events Across Tennessee

1. Pinnacle Speedway in Lights (Bristol)

bristol motor speedway decorated with christmas lights for the speedway in lights even each christmas in Tennessee
Image: Speedway in Lights / Bristol Motor Speedway

Kick off Christmas in Tennessee with one of the state’s most thrilling (and most popular) holiday events in Bristol, TN!

At the Bristol Motor Speedway, Pinnacle Speedway in Lights is a dazzling drive-through light display spanning four miles — transforming the entire speedway into a winter wonderland!

With millions of lights and themed displays, this event is a sensory feast. Theme zones include Victorian Village, Snowman Maker, Ripley’s Sea of Illumination, and more. It’s a perfect family outing, too.

While you’re at the speedway, don’t miss Christmas Village in the infield or the ice rink near the north entrance. This event really is wildly popular, so be sure to book tickets in advance.

2. Christmas at Graceland (Memphis)

Elvis Presley reportedly LOVED the holidays. So, it should come as no surprise that his beloved Graceland mansion undergoes a magical transformation during Christmas time.

Christmas at Graceland is a one-of-a-kind experience where you can tour the Graceland Mansion, all decked out for the holidays.

The beautiful, traditional Christmas decor you see is exactly how Elvis and his family decorated! Of course, plenty of blue lights illuminate the driveway and other areas!

In addition to the tours, you can book a special overnight package that includes accommodations. There are also some special events you may want to attend.

More things to do in Memphis in Winter

3. Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree

christmas tree farm with sun in the background great for picking and cutting your own christmas tree
Pick your Own Tree

Dreaming of a traditional Christmas experience? Consider visiting one of the many Christmas tree farms across Tennessee, where you can pick and cut down your own tree.

This hands-on activity is perfect for couples and families, and creates lasting memories. Who knows, you may even start a new tradition!

There are probably dozens of places we don’t even know about. But, to get you started, here are a handful of ideas for where you can cut down your own Christmas trees.

Christmas Tree Farms in West Tennessee
  • Wells Tree Farm (Newbern): Family-owned farm that provides hand saws or will cut your tree for you. Professional photography sessions also available, with prior arrangements.
  • Duncan Christmas Tree Farm (Selmer): 35 acres of trees, as well as handmade wreaths and garland available for pre-order. Complimentary hayrides, cocoa, and cider when you visit. Photography sessions available on weekends throughout the season.
Middle Tennessee Christmas Tree Farms
  • Wildwood Christmas Tree Farm (Woodbury): Open the Saturday before Thanksgiving through December 10, and by appointment on Christmas Eve. Cut your own or buy a pre-cut tree. The farm also offers hay rides, a tree house play area, and a craft room for painting ornaments.
  • Southern Grace Tree Farm (Culleoka): Offers a variety of cut-your-own pine and spruce trees from Thanksgiving weekend through December 10. You can also get pre-cut Fraser firs as early as November 18, and pre-order garlands and wreaths are available.
Christmas Tree Farms in East Tennessee
  • Roan Valley Tree Farm (Johnson City): Well-established farm with over 25,000 trees, including cut your own or pre-cut. It even provided the White House tree in 1993! There’s also a restaurant onsite, open on weekends in a 200-year-old barn.
  • Bluebird Christmas Tree Farm (Heiskell): Just 20 minutes from Knoxville, this farm offers both choose-and-cut and pre-cut trees. Check out the 1800s log home on the farm, too!

4. Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade

For a big dose of small-town charm, head to Leiper’s Fork, just outside of Franklin, TN.

The annual “almost world-famous” Christmas parade is something you won’t ever forget.

This normally sleepy village comes to life with what’s been called the “wackiest parade in Tennessee.”

Expect colorful floats, but not the usual ones. The floats here are tractors, vintage trucks, horse-drawn carriages and wagons, and farm animals. The crazier and more over the top, the better!

This parade is one of the most cherished traditions representing Christmas in Tennessee. Even celebrities (particularly country music singers) have been known to show up!

5. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (Sevierville)

christmas lights at dollywood for christmas
Image: Dollywood

Although we have a whole guide dedicated to Christmas in the Smokies, Dollywood does holidays so well that this deserves another mention.

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas is so magical as it features millions of twinkling lights, festive decorations, and tons of holiday shows and entertainment.

Even the park’s already amazing food and rides get a festive holiday upgrade!

New this year, there’s also a Christmas drone show each night.

Dollywood even has onsite accommodations, so consider turning your visit into the whole getaway. The park offers several different packages.

6. Candy Land Christmas (Johnson City)

large christmas tree at night lit up in front of the johnson city tn sign in downtown johnson city for Christmas in Tennessee
Beautiful Christmas Tree in Johnson City, TN

Our home of Johnson City transforms into a real-life Candy Land in December.

The “Candy Land Christmas” celebration gets the entire community involved, really embracing what the holiday season is all about.

From the Saturday after Thanksgiving until early January, 150 decorated Christmas trees take over the town. They’re on display in King Commons and Founders Park, AKA “Cupcake Commons” and “Gumdrop Forest.”

What makes this one of the best events for Christmas in Tennessee, though, is that these aren’t just any decorated trees. Local residents, businesses, organizations, and other community members sponsor and decorate each tree!

Everyone votes and then, at the end of Candy Land, a winner is crowned for bragging rights.

New for 2023, the city put together an interactive map of all the trees. Search for your neighbors’, company’s, etc., and vote!

7. Tennessee Valley Railroad Holiday Trains (Chattanooga)

Step back in time and channel your inner child to experience the enchantment of a magical holiday train ride. Chattanooga’s Tennessee Valley Railroad offers a range of holiday-themed train rides.

And what says ‘Christmas in Tennessee’ better than boarding an exciting, scenic train?

Options include the North Pole Limited, a Christmas Tea train, Santa’s Hiwassee Holiday Train, the Christmas Dinner Train, and a Holiday Lights train.

Note that these holiday trains are wildly popular, and they DO sell out year after year. We highly recommend booking as early as possible.

8. Christmas on the Cumberland (Clarksville)

Clarksville’s “Christmas on the Cumberland” takes place right along the popular riverwalk.

The glimmering holiday event features over a million lights illuminating several themed displays along a half-mile stretch of the Cumberland RiverWalk at McGregor Park.

Simply walk through the light displays, passing under archways and through tunnels of lights, and by areas like “Toy Land.” Best of all, Christmas on the Cumberland is free.

Also, don’t miss the grand opening ceremony on November 18th. Not only does it kick off Christmas on the Cumberland, but it’s also the annual Christkindl Market.

(Open nightly from November 18 through January 2).

This European-style market is truly unique among other Christmas in Tennessee events. Shop craft vendors in the open-air market, sample German goodies, and visit with Santa!

9. Lighting of the Barrel Tree (Lynchburg)

a christmas tree made out of jack daniel whiskey barrels in downtown lynchburg tn for Christmas in Tennessee
Credit: Jack Daniels

Few things are more synonymous with Tennessee than Jack Daniel’s.

The world-famous distillery in Lynchburg also just happens to host one of the most unique celebrations for Christmas in Tennessee — lighting the Jack Daniels Barrel Tree.

Every year shortly after Thanksgiving, the tiny town lights its community tree. Except, instead of a traditional Christmas tree like countless other towns have, Lynchburg’s is made of whiskey barrels.

About 200 barrels make up the tree, which towers over the distillery’s Whiskey Garden.

And the best part is you can purchase one of these barrels after December 1st, where 100% of proceeds go towards Jack Daniel’s Operation Ride Home program — helping bring military members home for the holidays.

Whiskey enthusiasts travel from all over the country for this beloved annual event. You can also enjoy cocoa, cookies, and other classic holiday treats, as well as live music.

10. Dickens of a Christmas (Franklin)

Charles Dickens’ famed classic, ‘A Christmas Story,’ comes alive on the streets of Franklin every December.

It’s such a special holiday event that over 100,000 people come to the small town for it annually!

Period actors recreate the story itself, so you may bump into Tiny Tim or Ebenezer Scrooge on the streets. The real-life characters (along with residents and visitors) fill the streets for the weekend festival.

Dance, sing, and carol, all with historic Franklin as the backdrop.

In addition to the main event, Dickens of a Christmas has craft and food vendors. You’ll also find live music, a kid zone, a special whiskey lounge, and more.

Festive Christmas Towns in Tennessee

Remember, this is just a highlight of all the amazing places to experience Christmas in Tennessee. But these towns are known for going all out for the holidays!

1. Knoxville

people ice skating in downtown knoxville Market Square for Christmas in Tennessee
Ice Skating downtown Knoxville / Credit: Downtown Knoxville

Knoxville is a bit of a “sweet spot” when it comes to Christmas in Tennessee. It’s a big city but has a true small-town feel and beautiful mountain scenery.

Downtown, Krutch Park, and Market Square all become winter wonderlands.

Visit holiday markets, stroll through light displays, and skate on the outdoor ice rink.

Two particular favorites are the annual city-sponsored scavenger hunts. Children (and kids at heart) will love looking for the Scout Elf during the Elf on the Shelf Adventure.

And everyone looks forward to finding peppermint-themed treats along the Peppermint Trail.

More Things to Do in Knoxville for Christmas

2. Jonesborough

2017 Doggone Christmas with two dogs taking a picture with Santa in downtown jonesborough tn for Christmas in Tennessee
Doggone Christmas Pet Portraits with Santa in Jonesborough – Photo by Whitney S Williams

Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, is a great place to experience a classic Southern Christmas.

The town is also the “Storytelling Capital of the World.” So as you can imagine, it goes all out for the holidays!

“Christmas in Ole Jonesborough” runs every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every Saturday features a different theme, such as “Doggone Christmas” and “Whoville Christmas”.

Santa is on hand each weekend, and kiddos can bring him their wishlists.

Storytelling, of course, is a major part of Jonesborough’s holiday celebrations. Look for special holiday-themed pop-up events all season long!

3. Granville

Christmas tree and sign saying
Credit: Historic Granville, TN

Looking for a classic, storybook-perfect place to celebrate Christmas in Tennessee?

Head to historic Granville, an hour east of Nashville on the Cumberland River.

Granville at Christmas truly feels like you’re stepping onto the scene of a Hallmark movie. In fact, the town’s 2023 theme is, “Christmas in Grand Hallmark Style.”

Celebrate for a whole month, with events ranging from parades to walking light tours. Plus, there are Christmas concerts, the Festival of Trees, antique home tours, and the annual town parade.

4. Franklin

Downtown Franklin TN road with lamp post and flowers with statue in background and historic cannons
Downtown Franklin, TN

Franklin is one of the most festive towns to enjoy Christmas in Tennessee, thanks to its charming blend of history, holiday traditions, and events.

Events like the annual Franklin Christmas Parade and Dickens of a Christmas festival (mentioned above) make the historic downtown district come alive.

Plus, Franklin itself is picture-perfect. It’s also that old-school type of town where every single storefront and street lamp gets decorated.

5. Bell Buckle

Historic Bell Buckle TN wall mural in downtown Bell Buckle
Credit: Official Bell Buckle Chamber

Teeny-tiny Bell Buckle offers a classic Christmas in Tennessee.

The “Old Fashioned Christmas” event features things like sleigh rides, cocoa, and caroling. Enjoy pet parades, community fire pits with s’mores, and gingerbread house decorating.

One of the most unique things about Bell Buckle’s holiday celebrations is that they even use old-school decorations. Think big outdoor bulbs before LEDs, sparkly tinsel, and glow molds.

Oh, and best of all? EVERYTHING is FREE during Old Fashioned Christmas!

What do you think about spending this Christmas in Tennessee? Let us know in the comments below!

🎄 SAVE FOR CHRISTMAS IN TENNESSEE 🎄

Christmas in Tennessee pinterest pin with a christmas tree made from jack daniels whiskey barrels
Pinterest Pin Image Credit: Jack Daniels