“A tender Tennessee Christmas is the only Christmas for me.”Amy Grant/Gary Chapman
Twinkling lights glistening in a thin blanket of snow, friends and family gathered around a tree singing Christmas carols and enjoying some holiday cheer. Horse-drawn carriage rides and streets decorated in garland and bows. It sounds like something out of a fairytale or a Hallmark Christmas movie, doesn’t it?
There are many towns in Tennessee with enough holiday spirit they could easily be the perfect setting for a Hallmark movie. In fact, Hallmark agrees; Memphis was the setting for Christmas in Graceland in 2018 and the sequel Wedding at Graceland. In 2019, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays was filmed there.
Let’s look at a few other towns in Tennessee where you can visit and enjoy their Southern hospitality and Hallmark movie atmosphere. You, too, can enjoy a tender Tennessee Christmas.
The towns are listed in no particular order.
Visit Franklin hosted a stay. All opinions are my own.
A quaint downtown, festive with garland, bows, lights, horse-drawn carriage rides, and Santa visits on the town square create a magical holiday feeling. The festivities begin on November 22, 2022, with the lighting of the 35-foot town Christmas tree. There will be live entertainment and free hot chocolate for everyone as the countdown to the tree lighting begins.
You will find 250,000 holiday lights twinkling in the historic district from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. You can enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides through town to enjoy the lights on select dates.
Speaking of lights, Collierville’s Holiday Light Tour will take place December 8 through 23. Last year’s tour featured 105 locations!
Christmas in Collierville is the highlight of the season, happening on Saturdays beginning November 26 through December 17. Santa will greet the children in the gazebo on the town square for those memory-making photos. Families can walk around town and capture memories along the Holiday Photo Stroll.
Thousands line the streets of Collierville for the Christmas Parade. This year’s parade will be held on December 2.
Dubbed the “Storytelling Capital of the World,” Jonesborough pulls out all the stops to celebrate Christmas. The lighting of the town Christmas tree on Main Street kicks off the season the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The event also includes a story told by a local storyteller and familiar Christmas carols echoing through the streets.
Throughout the season, Historic Jonesborough keeps the Christmas spirit alive with fun holiday happenings every Saturday during December.
Each Saturday has a different theme, and Santa is available for photos with the children as he listens to their Christmas wishes. Toys are collected for underprivileged children in the community, and complimentary gift wrapping of all downtown purchases is available.
The second Saturday in December is the annual Jonesborough Christmas Parade held in the evening with lighted floats. In addition to the floats, entries include church choirs, fire trucks decorated for Christmas, a live nativity scene, and more.
Other events include a Holiday Tour and Tea, a progressive dinner, and more.
Jonesborough is a place for making old-fashioned Christmas memories to last a lifetime.
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The quaint city of Franklin hosts an annual Christmas parade on the first Saturday in December. The parade features more than 100 entries, including bands, community groups, businesses, and floats ushering in the Christmas season. Crowds line the streets to wave at Jolly Ol’ St. Nick as he arrives in Franklin. Santa will be available to visit with the children, and other festivities will happen along the quintessential main street.
Remember yesteryear at the annual Dickens of a Christmas Festival held in historic downtown Franklin on the second weekend of December. The weekend-long event brings characters to life from Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol. During the event, you can wander through the Victorian Village and taste Victorian-era holiday treats. Have a chat with Ebenezer Scrooge, visit with Father Christmas, and enjoy carolers singing.
To make getting from place to place easier, new this year is The Franklin Hop, a hop-on/hop-off tour that makes five different stops around Franklin and puts you in close proximity to over 50 places of interest.
Homes and businesses shimmering with lights and decorated with wreaths and garland whisper “Happy Holidays” as you visit. Overflowing with holiday activities for kids of all ages, including adults, makes Knoxville an excellent holiday fun choice.
The illumination of the 42-foot Christmas tree at Krutch Park along with a forest of twinkling trees, a huge parade, the Peppermint Trail, and even an Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt add to the Christmas cheer.
Take a stroll through the downtown Winter Wonderland to enjoy over 100,000 lights with garlands decorating the doors, windows, patios, and trees. You can find peppermint specials in every boutique, bar, bakery, coffee shop, and restaurant as you follow the Peppermint Trail, and there are even peppermint-themed lighting displays.
Kids will be thrilled with the idea of participating in a scavenger hunt and finding which store or location Elf on the Shelf® lands each day. Santa has permitted the elves to visit Knoxville from Friday, November 25, 2022, to Sunday, January 8, 2023. If you find 20 elves, you can register for a prize. The businesses downtown select a theme each year and decorate the storefronts accordingly.
Knoxville neighborhoods battle to see who has the best decorations, and the entire community gets involved in the season’s activities.
5. Union City
Located in northwest Tennessee, Union City has a quaint downtown decorated with festive lights, and in town, it has Discovery Park America. It is an incredible museum by day, but when the sun goes down, the Let It Glow light show begins with over one million synchronized lights sparkling to Christmas songs. The entire 50 acres of the heritage park provide a drive-thru/walk-thru light show.
Hot chocolate and other refreshments are available for purchase, as well as local, handmade gifts.
You can enjoy Let It Glow in Union City from November 11 through December 30.
6. Pigeon Forge
A festive holiday destination, Pigeon Forge is magical with glittering lights and decorations. Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights shines throughout the holidays well into February. Over five million sparkling lights illuminate your drive. The Trolley Ride of Lights allows you to enjoy the seasonal display while gliding through the town. You can also enjoy them from a pink Jeep or a helicopter tour.
New this year is the addition of the Wonders of Light Walking Trail along the scenic Riverwalk nature trail. It features 20 new light displays some standing more than 25 feet tall. Tennessee’s top attraction, Dollywood, flips the switch for its 6-million sparkling light display in early November. Its celebration, Smoky Mountain Christmas, has been named the “Best Christmas Event” in the Smoky Mountains and runs till January 1.
A Christmas light show, stories told on stage, and the “Merry & Bright” fireworks display synchronized to Christmas tunes make this one of the merriest events in Tennessee.
Pigeon Forge also hosts a 2,000-square-foot complex known as The Incredible Christmas Place. Inside you will find more holiday cheer and decor than you can imagine. Santa’s Haus has photo-ops, ornament making, arts and crafts, cookie decorating, storytime with Santa, and more.
Be sure to visit the Old Mill historic district. It is visible for miles with illuminated scenes and colorful Christmas lights.
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland showcases lights dancing in rhythm to Christmas music played on your car radio as you drive through the custom-built, all-LED displays surrounding you with holiday magic. This year they added some extra oomph with a new 50-foot tree of light sitting in a gigantic field of dancing lights. The Great Smoky Mountains serve as a backdrop for the 15 million lights and displays that line the parkway for a festive experience.
Sevierville has a few new things this Winterfest. Shadrack’s Super-Sized Christmas Adventure will be an immersive experience that pulls guests into the story. Sevierville is the only location with both shows. It opens on November 25.
Sevierville’s newest outdoor attraction is SkyLand Ranch. You ride a scenic chairlift to the mountaintop ranch. There you will find rides and entertainment, and it also features SkyLand Santa Village.
Visitors can enjoy the town tree-lighting event, Christmas at the Courthouse on December 2, and the 60th Annual Sevierville Christmas Parade will wind through the historic downtown streets at 11 a.m. on December 3.
Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg has much to offer visitors when it comes to holiday cheer. America’s longest suspension bridge becomes “Lights Over Gatlinburg” from mid-November through late January. The park is covered with dazzling lights and seasonal decorations. Christmas music plays in the background, and the cafes serve hot chocolate.
This year they are bringing back the 300-foot tunnel of lights on the Gatlinburg SkyBridge!
An old-fashioned Christmas is celebrated in historic Rugby on the first two Saturdays of December. Christmas spirit is alive and well in the historic settlement as the holidays approach. The Victorian-era village is decked out like it is still 1880 with live garland and window candles.
Christmas in Historic Rugby includes a visit from Father Christmas, street carolers strolling in the village, hot drinks and cookies, holiday shopping, and more.
Known for its speedway, Bristol showcases the largest holiday light show in the region, beginning November 18 through January 7. Bristol Motor Speedway turns into the Speedway in Lights with over 2 million twinkling lights.
Other activities in Bristol include an ice rink and a Christmas Village.
The first weekend in December kicks off the merriment in charming Smithville. The parade through town is on Saturday followed by the heartwarming Christmas on the Square. The Festival of Trees begins on Monday with the trees staying on display until January.
The whole town gets involved with the festive Christmas on the Square event. Attendees can vote for the best ‘live” window scene, enjoy refreshments, smile in the free photo booth, shop in local stores, visit with Santa, and more.
Those walking through the Festival of Trees Christmas wonderland will enjoy approximately 50 trees adorning the hallways. It is a free event, but organizers request a new, unwrapped children’s gift to be placed under your favorite tree. Visitors can also vote on the trees.
Historic Granville sits on the banks of the Cumberland River one hour east of Nashville. This hidden gem provides a true Hallmark town experience with its “A Christmas Hallmark Movie Town” event that runs from November 11 through December 31. It includes the Festival of Trees, Antique Toy Show, Historic Victorian Home Tour, strolling Christmas characters, and storybook streets. Stroll through town and visit its 8 museums, shop, and eat great food.
Known as Tennessee’s quaint Mayberry Town, it is full of memorabilia from The Andy Griffith Show. For an extra special experience, plan to attend a Mayberry Christmas Dinner Theater presentation or one of the Christmas Bluegrass Dinner Shows.
On December 10, they turn the town into a Hallmark movie set with victorian flair. “A Victorian Christmas Comes to These Hills” includes a parade and activities for all ages.
Earlier this year, Granville was rated #1 of the “10 Small Towns in the U.S. That Feel Like Stepping Back in Time” by Bestlife.
No matter which Tennessee town you choose to visit over the holidays, you will be greeted with warm, genuine Southern hospitality, homespun Christmas charm, and the small-town friendly atmosphere showcased in Hallmark Christmas movies.
Who knows, after a visit, you might be saying, “A tender Tennessee Christmas is the only Christmas for me.”
If you decide to visit Tennessee, check out these other offerings: