We asked Keegan Szalay how she felt about the holidays, she excitedly said, “Well, my last name is pronounced ‘sleigh,’ Elf is one of my favorite movies, and I love hot chocolate!”
The Christmas season has always been one of Keegan’s favorite times of the year. “I have been the bar manager at Community Pie for two and a half years. During the holidays, lots of people come in here all dressed up ready to go to shows at the Tivoli or Memorial, skate at Ice on the Landing, or check out the EPB windows and lights on the Walnut Street Bridge. I love seeing them all dressed up and creating great memories like I get to do with my family and friends. It truly is magical.”
Traditions are an important part of our lives. They bring family and friends together and help us celebrate what is truly important – each other. This year, get your loved ones together to create a new tradition, or continue a favorite one, by experiencing Chattanooga’s top holiday experiences.
* Holiday events sell out quickly. Most attractions require purchasing tickets online in advance so you can secure your spot.
Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights*
Rock City’s award-winning Enchanted Garden of Lights is a holiday tradition for all. Delight in over a million sparkling lights as you venture through the realms of wonder! Decorate a gingerbread cookie, taste some sweet treats and shop for holiday gifts!
Journey through the Arctic Kingdom with lights reminiscent of the aurora borealis. The Magic Forest takes you through the center of a 43-foot tree and into a 40-foot-long archway tunnel past enchanting holiday light displays. Visit Santa in his workshop where he’s creating the Naughty and Nice list! Tickets sold online only. www.seerockcity.com/lights. (Nov. 18-Jan. 1; Closed Christmas Eve, Dec. 24)
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum's North Pole, Christmas & Holiday Lights Train Trips*
Hop on board the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s North Pole Limited Christmas Train for a special two-hour journey to the imaginary North Pole. Along the way, snack on refreshments, see lighted holiday displays outside, and hear heartwarming stories while you write your own letter to Santa. When you arrive at the North Pole, Santa jumps on board for a special visit with all passengers. (Nov. 18 - Dec. 23) The Holiday Christmas Lights Train ride is a festive way to continue enjoying the holidays after Christmas Day. This 65-minute ride takes you along light displays of twinkling snowflakes and towering Christmas trees while listening to holiday music and sipping on hot cocoa. (Dec. 26-Jan. 8) During Santa’s Hiwassee Holiday Train, a 75-minute ride, you will travel along the beautiful Hiwassee River Gorge while writing a letter to Santa, enjoying gingerbread cookie and chocolate milk, visiting with Santa! (Weekends, Dec. 3-18)
View the thousands of twinkling lights in snowflake form along the Walnut Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian-only bridges in the world at 2,370 feet. The bridge connects downtown Chattanooga with the historic North Shore District and offers incredible views of the Tennessee River. Both ends of the bridge offer a variety of shopping, green spaces, dining, attractions, galleries, and more. (Nov.- Feb.; Free)
Tennessee Aquarium's Holidays Under the Peaks and Polar Express 3D at the IMAX
Head inside under the Tennessee Aquarium’s lighted candy cane peaks for some holiday fun. Your adventure through a fun-filled underwater wonderland begins with holiday music and decor in the River Journey lobby. Look for seasonal surprises throughout your tour including a light-bedecked tree twinkling in sync with the jolly jolts of an Electric Eel! In keeping with beloved holiday tradition, The Polar Express 3D returns to the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater. The film takes you on an extraordinary journey of self-discovery where you learn that the wonder of life never fades. (Nov. 26-Dec. 24, Dec. 26-31; Closed Dec. 25, Christmas Day)
Holidays at Ruby Falls and the Forest of Wishes
Classic holiday decorations and activities make Ruby Falls especially festive this time of year. Pick your cave adventure and take the entire family on a guided walk through Ruby Falls Cave to the gorgeous underground waterfall and swoon at sweeping views of the Cumberland Plateau from scenic overlooks perfect for family photos. On your way to the glass-front elevator that descends 260- feet into the limestone mountain, make a stop at the Forest of Wishes in historic Ruby Falls Castle where you can join the tradition of writing your holiday wish on an ornament to hang in the Forest.
Cozy up by the stone fireplace in the Castle Cafe with a local craft beer and holiday treats or a laid-back meal from the seasonal menu. Little ones can write a letter to Santa or on select days even tell him in person what’s on their list and have a professional photo taken with St. Nick. (Nov.-Dec.)
Reindeer on the Riverfront and Lighted Boat Parade
Come downtown and kick off the holidays with your friends and family! Holiday fun includes live reindeer, pictures with Santa, hot cocoa bar, fire pits to keep you warm, face painting, balloon animals, holiday tunes, and so much more. Once it gets dark, enjoy the annual Lighted Boat Parade and Fireworks presented by the Southern Belle Riverboat and Erwin Marine Sales. Be sure to check the Trail of Lights website for the schedule of events. (Nov 25; Free)
Southern Belle Riverboat Holiday Season of Cheer*
Float down the Tennessee River for a unique holiday experience. View the Chattanooga skyline from the water and revel in the winter wonderland of holiday lights. Board a breakfast, lunch, or charcuterie cruise with the Southern Belle and listen to live music, learning about river navigation, indulging in a holiday meal, and maybe even dance a little. (Nov.-Dec.)
Ice on the Landing at the Chattanooga Choo Choo
Make memories on skates under twinkling lights and a crisp winter sky at Ice on the Landing. The outdoor ice skating rink in the historic Chattanooga Choo Choo’s Glenn Miller Gardens is surrounded by lanterns, fountains, and the holiday grandeur of the Southside’s iconic landmark. The open-air, warm drinks, magical lights and laughs with friends and family will create a fun holiday evening. The Ice on the Landing experience includes general skating time, special themes, holiday music, a rotating schedule to benefit local not-for-profits, sweet and savory crepes from Adelle’s, hot chocolate, cider and other toasty drinks. Step Outside named Ice on the Landing a Best Outdoor Rink in Tennessee. (Nov. 18-Jan. 28)
Gingerbread Workshops and PJs with Santa at the Creative Discovery Museum*
Kick-off the holiday season at a Gingerbread Workshop (Nov. 25) and create treats out of gingerbread, icing, candy, and more! The Creative Discovery Museum provides hot chocolate, cookies, pre-built houses, icing, candy, and festive music. Children and their families get to decorate a gingerbread house and cookies with icing and add an assortment of candy. Come to the Museum in your PJ’s and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and enjoy a child-friendly light dinner. (Nov.-Dec.)
EPB's Holiday Windows
The beloved Chattanooga seasonal tradition of bringing the family to EPB’s Downtown building to see holiday-themed window displays dates back to the World War Two era. View the displays on the Broad and Market Street sides of EPB’s downtown headquarters building at 10 West MLK Blvd. Be sure to check out the holiday displays across Market Street in Miller Park by the EPB community stage. Public parking is available on the street and in the EPB garage which is accessible from 10th Street between Market and Broad Streets. (Nov. 2-Jan.2)
Winter Wonderland at the Chattanooga Choo Choo
As if the famous free-standing dome of the Chattanooga Choo Choo isn’t impressive enough, enter the festive lobby to see one of the city’s tallest Christmas trees. All the lights and cheer create a magical wonderland complete with ice skating at Ice on the Landing, holiday music, Station Street activities, shopping specials, and more. While on-site, take a photo with Santa, enjoy comedic fun at the Comedy Catch or a Runaway Train Escape Experience. The grounds of the Chattanooga Choo Choo provide opportunities for holiday photos including the soaring Christmas tree, the colorful caboose in Glen Miller Gardens and the popular Chattanooga marquee sign. (Nov.-Jan.; Free to explore the Choo Choo; events require a fee.)
Wonder Wall at Highpoint Climbing and Fitness Downtown
During the holidays, you typically view the beautiful lights while walking or driving. At High Point Climbing and Fitness downtown, experience the lights of Chattanooga in a whole new way by scaling an architectural wonder glowing with holiday colors – the transparent exterior climbing wall that hangs over Broad Street! Named “the country’s coolest gym” by Climbing Magazine, High Point is one of the nation’s most unique climbing facilities with 30,000 square feet of climbing inside and outside. BONUS: While you’re climbing the exterior wall, you can see the magical lights throughout the city! (Nov.-Jan.)
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