Twinkling lights, festive music, and crisp, cool days are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to experiencing the magic of wintertime in Chattanooga. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a vacation for the whole family, the city is bursting with holiday cheer and unique activities. Read on to discover 12 of our favorite ways to enjoy winter in the Scenic City.

1. Virtual Holiday Shows

Chattanooga Symphony and Opera will be putting on a show titled "Holiday Brass" at the Collegedale Commons on Dec. 18 & 19. Create a Holiday memory with your family as CSO performs over a dozen of your favorite songs of the season. No printed tickets will be available, so click here to get yours ahead of time to ensure you get a spot. Is it really the Holiday season if you don't watch a performance of the Nutcracker performed by the Chattanooga Ballet? This year, the Nutcracker will be filmed at multiple locations across Chattanooga and broadcast on WTCI. Click here to get the dates and times. 

2. Chattanooga Riverboat Cruise 

Float down the Tennessee River aboard the Chattanooga Riverboat Company’s Southern Belle for a truly unique holiday experience! View the Chattanooga skyline from the water and revel in the winter wonderland of holiday lights. Board a lunch or dinner cruise and have fun listening to live music, dancing, learning more about river navigation on a Pilot House tour, and indulging in holiday meals. 

3. Downtown Carriage Rides

What could be more wonderfully wintry than a relaxing ride in a horse-drawn carriage? Departing from the Tennessee Aquarium, these 20-minute rides take you on a merry tour through the heart of the city. The drivers are always happy to offer pieces of history and informative tidbits about the surroundings, and each carriage offers warm blankets to make your trip cozy and comfortable.

4. Plenty of Festive Lights

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

It's opening day!! Let the 25th annual Enchanted Garden of Lights begin! #25yearsoflights

A post shared by Rock City Gardens (@seerockcity) on

Chattanooga’s Holiday Trail of Lights is a collection of 13 of the best places to find Christmas lights and holiday cheer around the city. Attractions on the Trail include Lights at the Chattanooga Zoo, twinkling Snowflakes on the Walnut Street Bridge, the Tennessee Aquarium’s Holiday Under the Peaks, and Ruby Falls Christmas Underground, where you’ll walk through a secret underground passage.

For one of Chattanooga’s most iconic winter events, bundle up and spend an evening wandering Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights on Lookout Mountain, which features four magical realms that will delight all ages. Another unique holiday experience is the Wonder Wall at High Point Climbing. The spectacular contemporary building has an elevated outdoor climbing wall overlooking downtown, which is illuminated in red and green throughout the holidays.

5. Ruby Falls   

Discover underground wonder and adventure at Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the United States. It’s a great date night or a fun evening for the whole family. It's also a great way to stay warm as you journey through historic caves! 

6. The Polar Express in 3D at the IMAX

Sure, The Polar Express might technically be a kids movie, but there’s no denying that it appeals to all ages. The film became an instant classic upon its release in 2004, and the years have only made its heartwarming story better. Gather up the whole family for a 3D viewing of The Polar Express and then warm up with hot chocolate just around the corner at downtown’s newest Starbucks on Broad Street.

7. Ice on the Landing at the Choo Choo

From November through January, experience the thrill of ice skating in the lovely landscaped gardens of the Chattanooga Choo Choo. No matter your age or skill level, a trip to the ice rink is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Skate rentals are included with tickets, and you can sign up for a lesson on Saturday mornings. Not your thing? Grab a warm drink from Frothy Monkey in the Choo Choo and enjoy watching the skaters.

8. Winter Hikes

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Reese Shipley (@reesethebeast92) on

The leafless trees of the colder months bring out some of Chattanooga’s most breathtaking views. The Bluff Trail on Lookout Mountain is scenic any time of year, but in the winter you can walk for miles with totally unobstructed views of Lookout Valley unfurling below.

Mullens Cove Overlook in Prentice Cooper State Forest is another vista that comes to life in winter. Unlike its popular counterpart, Snoopers Rock, the view from Mullens is interrupted by foliage for most of the year, so winter is the only time you’ll have a sweeping view of a remote section of the Cumberland Mountains.

Round out your mountain tour with a hike to Laurel Point on Raccoon Mountain. Explore the three-mile loop trail for expansive views of the surrounding bluffs and valleys, and then enjoy a picnic back at the tables near the parking area.

9. Tennessee Valley Railroad Christmas Events

Step into yesteryear on one of the handsome cars of the Tennessee Valley Railroad, a “moving museum” with a variety of tours year-round. There are two magical holiday-themed rides to choose from: North Pole Special and Hiwassee Holiday Adventure. The North Pole Special is their most popular event and offers refreshments, storytelling, and a number of lighted displays that be seen from the train car. Once the train pulls into the "North Pole," Santa will greet the train and the Elves will serve you their famous hot chocolate. Hiwassee Holiday Adventure offers different scenery than the North Pole Special, but is just as magical. You'll enjoy refreshments, storytelling, and carols as you venture to be greeted by Santa. 

*Note: Santa will not board the train due to COIVD-19. 

10. The Holiday Market

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Bonnie Scoggins (@thebonniepotter) on

Each weekend in December, local artisans set up shop at the Convention Center as a winter extension of the Chattanooga Market. With crafts, food, jewelry, and more, you’ll easily find the perfect handmade gift for every person on your list.

11. Gingerbread Workshop at the Creative Discovery Museum

Delight and inspire your kiddos with a fun-filled day at the Creative Discovery Museum. Create sweet memories at the Gingerbread Workshop and create treats out of gingerbread, icing, candy, and more! The Museum provides hot chocolate, cookies, pre-built houses, and festive music. Due to space limitations, there is a limit of three people to each house. Reservations are required in advance so make sure to get your spot now! 

12. Holiday Windows at EPB

We know what you’re thinking: Are we really suggesting that you spend an hour staring at the windows of Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board? Yes, we are! EPB is at the center of downtown and its holiday decorations are nearly unrivaled in the city. In December, EPB fills its street-level windows with whimsical scenes of holidays from around the world, from the North Pole to the Amazonian jungle. You don’t want to miss taking a stroll around this building on your winter trip to Chattanooga.