Merry and Bright: Discover Tennessee’s Family-Friendly Winter Festivals & Attractions

Thursday, November 16, 2023 | 11:16am
Gaylord Opryland ICE! Polar Express Exhibit

Gaylord Opryland’s ICE! Polar Express exhibit. Photos for media use only here.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 16, 2023) – Tennessee sparkles this holiday season as it welcomes families to experience an enchanting blend of festivities and attractions. From dazzling light displays to winter family-friendly attractions, the state offers an unforgettable festive journey. Tennessee's vibrant communities and breathtaking landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for a joyous celebration of the holiday season.

  1. Drive through “Let it Glow” at Discovery Park in Union City: "Let it Glow" at Discovery Park of America is a seasonal exhibition that illuminates the park with a vibrant and enchanting display of lights and installations. The park transforms into a magical wonderland, where intricate light arrangements and dazzling spectacles captivate visitors. In this enchanting setting, guests can drive through a pathway adorned with shimmering arches, sparkling trees and intricate light sculptures that evoke a sense of wonder and awe. Families and friends can enjoy a range of seasonal activities, including interactive light shows, live entertainment and festive treats that add to the joyous atmosphere. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the “Let It Glow” Walk-thru and available for photos with guests on several select dates throughout the holiday season. At Mill Ridge, guests will once again find a shop with local handmade gifts for sale, Rudolph’s Barn, an area in the Smithy for children to write letters to Santa and more.
  2. Experience Christmas in Collierville: Enjoy the magic and beauty of Collierville Town Square during the holiday season with festive events and a quarter-million holiday lights in the historic district from Thanksgiving to the New Year. Each year the Town of Collierville goes all out to help create a magical Christmas season for Collierville’s families and guests. On Saturdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas families can visit Santa in the Gazebo (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) and enjoy special music performances designed to get you in the holiday spirit. Tuesday evenings in December feature live music in the Town Square Gazebo from the likes of McKenna Bray and Will Tucker and singer/songwriter Alexis Jade. While you’re enjoying the music, there’s no better way to take in 250,000 lights than on a horse drawn carriage ride from 5:00-8:00 p.m., Nov. 24-Dec. 30.
  3. Immerse yourself in the magic of Gaylord Opryland ICE! In Nashville: Gaylord Opryland hosts its signature holiday attraction ICE!, from Nov. 10 to Jan. 1. This year the attraction will feature favorite ice sculptures from scenes in the beloved movie “The Polar Express.” The movie comes to life with magnificent sculptures hand-carved by masterfully skilled artists from Harbin, China from more than two million pounds of ice. The carvers travel more than 6,402 miles from their home in China, known as "Ice City" for hosting the world's largest annual ice and snow sculpting festival in the world. Colored ice, clear ice and LED lights are all used to create the breathtaking display. The holiday celebration continues with a brand-new Christmas dinner show and a variety of festive activities including ice skating, ice tubing, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and so much more.
  4. Dive into history with Holidays at The Hermitage in Nashville: On Saturday Dec. 2, add some personalized decor to your holiday collection this season with The Hermitage’s two-day DIY Christmas wreath workshop. Participants will have the opportunity to craft a holiday-inspired wreath using a grapevine form with berries and foliage from the grounds at The Hermitage. Tickets include access to the Hermitage grounds, a 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark with wildlife, hiking trails, field quarters, historical markers and more. On Saturday, Jan. 6 The Hermitage hosts Winter Frolic, influenced by Andrew Jackson’s 1835 White House Christmas Frolic. This event welcomes guests to play the same games the family did - including an artificial snowball fight! The event will feature festive mocktails and cocktails, along with multiple food vendors and live music. It will conclude with a Yule Log Ceremony, symbolizing the closure of 2023 and the embrace of the exciting things to come in 2024.
  5. Enjoy the holidays in Clarksville with Christmas on the Cumberland: Experience the enchantment of over one million lights illuminating McGregor Park and the Cumberland Riverwalk, creating a captivating display from Nov. 18 to Jan. 2, with free admission for all. The city will also introduce its new, German-inspired Christkindl Market, an open-air craft market offering delectable food, beverages, Santa meet-and-greets and a variety of artisan vendors selling delightful handmade holiday items. Following the County's annual Christmas Tree Lighting event at the Downtown Commons, the Lighted Christmas Parade will take place, with this year's theme being Classic Holiday Tunes. Expect to see local businesses and organizations adorning floats, vehicles, horses, and more with festive lights and themed decorations, parading through the downtown area in a jubilant celebration of the season. At the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, visitors can revel in the Holiday Train Exhibit, one of the most extensive model train displays in the region, decked out in festive decorations and featuring interactive buttons for both children and adults to enjoy.
  6. Celebrate Candy Land Christmas in Johnson CityNamed Top Christmas Tree Display in America by Fox News, Candy Land Christmas returns to downtown Johnson City in Northeast Tennessee. This free, family-friendly event magically transforms the historic district into a winter wonderland with 160 brightly lit, 12-foot Christmas trees plus new displays throughout downtown. This year's event will run Nov. 25 through Jan. 7. Johnson City's Grand Christmas Tree Lighting will take place in downtown Johnson City at King Commons Park on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 6:30 pm. 
  7.  Venture through the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City in Chattanooga: Christmas spirit shines bright at Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights. From Nov. 17 to Jan. 6, journey through magical realms of winter wonder as over one million LED lights illuminate Lookout Mountain’s most iconic attraction. Grab a picture with Santa at the North Pole Village thru Dec. 23 and decorate Christmas cookies with Mrs. Claus. Hot chocolate and other delicious treats including fudge and fried cookie dough make the nights even sweeter. Pets are welcome. A portion of ticket proceeds benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga.
  8. Hunt for the Elf on the Shelf® in Knoxville: The Elf on the Shelf® is a cherished holiday tradition celebrated in households around the world. For a seventh straight year, Santa will send some of these magical Scout Elves from the North Pole to Knoxville to be adopted by over two dozen downtown businesses. Families are invited to explore downtown and find where these little Scout Elves have landed each night for a fun-filled holiday scavenger hunt. Scout Elves land in Knoxville to begin the scavenger hunt on Nov. 24. To help guide them through the adventure, children of all ages are invited to pick up a North Pole Pass at the Knoxville Visitors Center or Mast General Store.
  9. Unwrap the holidays at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas in Pigeon Forge: The spirit of Christmas shines merry and bright during at Dollywood from Nov. 5- Jan. 6, and the new Joyful drone show adds even more holiday fun for guests to enjoy. The 15-time winner for Best Theme Park Christmas Event boasts more than six million shining, shimmering lights throughout the park, but the newest ones will fly above the park each evening as part of a stunning holiday drone show. This larger-than-life display embraces the season with hundreds of drones soaring in the air and displaying festive reds, greens and whites in a captivating show sure to delight every guest. Smoky Mountain Christmas captivates visitors with the rich essence of the holiday season thanks to its gleaming holiday lights, award-winning stage productions, Christmas culinary masterpieces and warm family customs that have enriched the festival for more than three decades.
  10. Marvel at Bristol's Speedway in Lights: Bristol's Speedway in Lights is a breathtaking holiday spectacle that illuminates the Bristol Motor Speedway, transforming it into a mesmerizing winter wonderland. As visitors drive through the speedway's grounds, they are greeted by a dazzling array of more than two million twinkling lights, forming intricate displays and enchanting scenes that capture the spirit of the season. The meticulously crafted light displays range from vibrant holiday-themed exhibits to whimsical depictions of popular characters, creating a captivating journey that evokes wonder and joy. In addition to the enchanting light displays, Bristol's Speedway in Lights often features special themed nights, live entertainment and opportunities for visitors to engage in festive activities, making it a must-visit destination during the winter holiday season.


The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development (TDTD) is dedicated to driving economic growth and tourism in all 95 counties. TDTD’s global marketing efforts increase visitation to Tennessee, which boosts tax revenue, creates jobs and attracts new investment across the state. Tennessee is a global destination of choice offering visitors world-class music, live entertainment, family-friendly experiences, charming communities, innovative and classic culinary creations, renowned scenic beauty and outdoor adventure—all centered at the crossroads of rich history and unrivaled hospitality. Vacations “sound perfect” in Tennessee. Visit and follow @TNvacation on social media for travel inspiration. | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Press Website

Media Contact:
Alli Lapps