Holiday Fun Awaits at Tennessee Christmas Events

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Santa Claus welcomes visitors to the Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade, which is on pause for 2020 but will be back in 2021. Photo credit: Lavana Deal/LeipersForkCountry.com

There’s no place like Tennessee for the holidays. Across the state, rural communities and cities alike welcome the season with fun-filled celebrations. From small-town parades and Christmas villages to sparkling light displays and monthlong attractions, these events are sure to bring extra cheer to your holiday season. 

A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland

Now in its 37th year, A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Resort is a Nashville holiday tradition. Starting in mid-November, the resort transforms into a winter wonderland of seasonal activities, family-friendly attractions and spectacular decor – including more than 3 million holiday lights, 15,000 poinsettias and 15 miles of garland.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center; Tennessee Christmas events

Photo credit: Dan Ham/Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

From ice skating, extreme ice tubing and ice bumper cars to horse-drawn carriage rides, an outdoor Nativity scene and a dinner show starring the Oak Ridge Boys, the 2020 lineup offers exciting activities for guests of all ages. New this year is I Love Christmas Movies™, an immersive pop-up experience featuring Elf, The Polar Express and more.

The indoor portion of SoundWaves, Opryland’s upscale water park, is also open for guests to enjoy throughout the holiday season.

Although an overnight stay is the best way to get the full experience, the resort offers customizable activity bundles for the day, while admission to see the decorations and watch the nightly light shows in the atrium is always free.

Dates: Nov. 13, 2020-Jan. 3, 2021

Phone: (888) 677-9872

Website: christmasatgaylordopryland.com

Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland

Photo credit: Chad Branton/Sevierville Chamber of Commerce

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland

Most of the year, Bristol-based Shadrack Watersports is known for selling boats. But come the holiday season, the company brings its dazzling light show, Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland, to not one but three cities across the state.

The drive-thru event with locations in Jackson, Johnson City and Sevierville has been named among the top 10 holiday lights in the nation by MSN. Known for impressive choreography, the lights sync up with music played through the radio in your car, featuring covers of classic holiday songs, such as a rock ’n’ roll-infused “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” or a disco take on “Joy to the World.”

See more: Visit Casey Jones Village in Jackson for the Holidays

In West Tennessee, the lights display spans 1.5 miles and is held at The Ballpark at Jackson, home of the Jackson Generals minor league baseball team. In East Tennessee, the wonderland takes place at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray near Johnson City and Smokies Stadium in Kodak near Sevierville. Weekends are the most popular time to visit, so Monday through Thursday nights are recommended to avoid long lines and wait times. In all three locations, the lights run through Jan. 3.

Jackson dates: Nov. 13-Jan. 3

Phone: (731) 988-5299

Johnson City dates: Nov. 25-Jan. 3

Phone: (888) 321-7547

Sevierville dates: Nov. 13-Jan. 3

Phone: (423) 652-0120

Website: shadrackchristmas.com

Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt; Tennessee Christmas events

Photo credit: Visit Knoxville

The Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt

Downtown Knoxville hosts the country’s original community-wide The Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt. Based on The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, the bestselling children’s book by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, graduate Carol V. Aebersold and her daughter, Chanda A. Bell, the event is fun for the whole family.

The scavenger hunt begins when Santa’s magical “scout elves” arrive from the North Pole, landing at local businesses where they find hiding spots to spend the holidays. Families are invited to explore downtown as they search for Santa’s helpers from late November through early January – something Santa allows to happen in Knoxville. To start the adventure, children of all ages can pick up a North Pole Pass downtown at the Knoxville Visitors Center. The pass includes a list of the elves’ locations and details on the fun-filled holiday experience.

Dates: Nov. 27, 2020-Jan. 3, 2021

Phone: (865) 523-7263

Website: visitknoxville.com/holidays

Christmas in Olde Jonesborough

Photo credit: Christmas in Olde Jonesborough

Christmas in Olde Jonesborough

Tennessee’s oldest town gets visitors into the holiday spirit each year during Christmas in Olde Jonesborough, a month of events leading up to Christmas. While the celebration will look a bit different in 2020 with safe, socially distanced activities, Jonesborough’s historic district will continue the holiday tradition with festive decorations and a few new offerings.

Each Friday evening in November and December from 5 to 8 p.m., the city will host Downtown at Dusk, with local stores and eateries staying open late for holiday shopping and dining. Every Saturday from Nov. 28 through Dec. 19 from 12 to 3 p.m., Santa will drop by for a visit in his sleigh beside the downtown courthouse, and visitors are encouraged to come say hello and pose for pictures beside the sleigh. Beginning Dec. 5, visitors can stroll through Jonesborough’s Gingerbread Village, an array of gingerbread houses adorning the storefronts of downtown businesses. Children will especially enjoy searching for the hidden gingerbread man at different locations each day. (Check out Main Street Jonesborough’s social media pages for clues on where to find him.)

Christmas in Olde Jonesborough

Jonesborough, Tennessee; Photo credit: Whitney S. Williams

“Jonesborough is a special place all year long, but Christmas is truly magical here,” Jonesborough Events Coordinator Melinda Copp says. “From the beautiful churches and wreaths that line the streets to childhood memories made, Christmas in Olde Jonesborough offers something for everyone.”

Dates: Saturdays Nov. 28-Dec. 19, 2020, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Phone: (423) 753-1010

Website: jbochristmas.com

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Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) precautions and travel advisories, many upcoming events have been canceled or postponed. Please check with local tourism offices and event organizers for the most up-to-date information.
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