‘Tis the season for holiday events galore! Whether you’re in search of the perfect gift, spectacular light displays, photos with Santa, or larger-than-life theatrical productions, the Scenic City is delivering this year. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of the can’t-miss events to add to your family’s calendar.
December 1 – January 2 (closed December 24)
With over a million sparkling lights, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights allows Chattanooga families and visitors to make holiday memories each year. A ticket includes gingerbread cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, live holiday music, and a visit to Santa’s workshop. Guests will delight in the icy lights of the Arctic Kingdom and the Magic Forest’s dancing trees. Holiday treats, including house-made hot cocoa and fudge, funnel cakes, and festive holiday drinks from Café 7, are also available. Admission begins at 5 p.m.
North Pole Limited at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum
All aboard! The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is transporting guests to the North Pole. A Chattanooga tradition since 1999, the magical train journey features lighted displays and a homemade chocolate chip cookie with hot chocolate. Children will also receive a keepsake boarding pass and bell. The family-friendly excursion is a little over an hour and departs from the Grand Junction Station.
Holidays Under the Peaks at the Tennessee Aquarium
December 1-31 (closed December 25)
The Tennessee Aquarium invites visitors to celebrate the holiday season under the peaks. The fun begins in the River Journey lobby with holiday music and décor and continues through the underwater wonderland with plenty of seasonal surprises – including a light-bedecked tree twinkling in sync with the jolly jolts of an electric eel! Another beloved holiday tradition – a showing of The Polar Express 3D – will return to the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater.
Ice on the Landing
December 1-19, January 5-25
Winter and ice skating go hand in hand – especially when it comes to outdoor rinks. Fortunately, the historic Glenn Miller Gardens at the Chattanooga Choo Choo brings the magic of outdoor skating to the Scenic City each holiday season. Admission ranges from $10-$12 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under. Check the website for details on skating, party reservations, and special promotions.
PJs with Santa at the Creative Discovery Museum
Santa Claus is coming to the Creative Discovery Museum on December 3! An exclusive event for Chattanooga families, PJs with Santa is a one-of-a-kind meet-and-greet for kids wanting to share their wish list with the jolly old man himself. Families can shop in the museum’s Holiday Shoppe – designed specifically for children – as well as decorate cookies, make holiday cards, and create snow globes. Space is limited, so reserve your spot today.
A 24-hour-long festival, Mainx24 is a Southside tradition that brings together residents, merchants, and friends for programming all day and night. Expect giveaways, open houses, live music, pop-ups, comedy shows, contests, the Mainx24 parade, and a sampling of some of the Southside’s best eats. A complete schedule of events can be found online.
December 4-5, 11-12, 18-19
Start crossing off your Christmas list at the annual Chattanooga Holiday Market, held over three weekends in the Chattanooga Convention Center. More than 200 local vendors will be selling unique gifts ranging from pottery and art to festive food, locally made apparel, wood furniture, and more. Guests can also enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and live performances. The market is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
Guests can participate in a traditional English tea at Chattanooga’s Houston Museum of Decorative Arts. With delicious treats including scones, finger sandwiches, and sweets in store, the tea is sure to be an experience to remember for the whole family. Seating times are 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., and registration is required. Admission also includes a guided tour of the museum.
Adapted from screen to stage, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer features favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius, and, of course, Rudolph himself. The touring musical will be in Chattanooga one night only at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. Ticket prices start at $24.
December 10-11, 17-18
The Chattanooga Zoo transforms into a sparkling winter wonderland for four nights this December. Holiday Lights offers guests the chance to view the zoo’s lights, participate in a scavenger hunt, take a photo with Santa, and take home a craft – plus, all animals will be on exhibit during the event. Event hours are 5 until 8 p.m. each night, and tickets must be purchased online in advance.
Chattanooga Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Presented by Southeastern Trust, this classic production comes to life on the Tivoli Theatre stage with the help of the Chattanooga Ballet’s professional company, guest artists, and students from Chattanooga Ballet School. Join Clara’s magical journey from her parents’ Christmas party to the battlefield of the Rat King to the Land of Snow and the Land of Sweets. Showtimes for The Nutcracker are Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.
A Charlie Brown Christmas: Stage Adaptation
December 10-12, 17-19
Based on the classic animated television special, first shown in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas: Stage Adaptation reunites Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they discover the true meaning of Christmas. This Chattanooga Theatre production – to be presented in the Mainstage Theatre – is perfect for the young and young at heart. Note that the evening performances on Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 are COVID Safety Nights.
Christmas Cookies & Fancy Treats at The Sweet & Savory Classroom
The Sweet & Savory Classroom invites you to learn, bake, and taste delicious treats in this hands-on class. Led by a pastry chef, the course is sure to spark baking creativity with a menu that includes spritz cookies, peppermint patties, creamy fudge, and gingerbread. Bonus: You can take all of these goodies home to share with family and friends! The four-hour class is for ages 12 and up and also includes a special madeleine demonstration.
The Chamber’s Outdoor Holiday Open House
Join the Chattanooga Chamber for this free open house – presented by EPB – to take place in West Village. From 3 until 7 p.m., guests can enjoy food and beverages from local vendors, as well as meet Chamber staff and volunteers in a fun and festive setting.
CSO First Horizon Foundation Pop Series: Home for the Holidays
One of the city’s most treasured holiday experiences, the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera’s Home for the Holidays returns in 2021 to Memorial Auditorium. There are two performances to choose from – Saturday, Dec. 18, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 19, at 3 p.m. Conductor Ismael Sandoval will be joined by the CSO Chorus and Metropolitan Bells for a selection of secular and sacred holiday tunes the whole family will enjoy.