During the final month of the year, Chattanooga is overflowing with seasonal events and activities – from light displays and festive train rides to holiday markets and visits from Santa. Keep scrolling for a few ways you and your loved ones can make memories this December.
Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights
December 1- January 1 (closed December 24)
The award-winning Enchanted Garden of Lights has been a Chattanooga holiday tradition for 28 years, and it’s happening all month long at Rock City Gardens. Guests can experience the lighted Grand Corridor in Yule Town, the twinkle of icy lights in the Arctic Kingdom, and the exciting enchantments of the Magic Forest. Meet Santa Claus in his cozy workshop, decorate a gingerbread cookie with Mrs. Claus, and pick up a personalized ornament in North Pole Village. All guests must reserve an entry time in advance online.
Asian Lantern Festival at the Chattanooga Zoo
December 1- January 15 (nightly, Wednesdays through Sundays)
This brand-new event at the Chattanooga Zoo is a celebration of art, culture, and the beauty of traditional Asian lantern festivals. See more than 38 illuminated lantern displays featuring your favorite zoo animals, as well as interactive elements sure to captivate guests of all ages. Note that the festival requires a special ticket and will be held outside of the zoo’s normal hours of operation (6 until 10 p.m. nightly).
December 1-December 23
The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s most popular event, North Pole Limited is a magical train ride that transports guests to – you guessed it – the North Pole. The one-hour ride includes cookies, hot chocolate, storytelling, and a visit from Santa himself! Take in the beautiful lighted displays on your journey, and take home a keepsake boarding pass, ornament, and bell to commemorate the experience.
December 1- January 29
Is there a more quintessential winter activity than ice skating? Fortunately for Chattanoogans, the Choo Choo has Ice on the Landing every year, giving locals and visitors a chance to lace up their skates. The temporary, open-air rink is located in the historic Glenn Miller Gardens. Skates are available at the rink and included in the general admission fee; cost is $12 for adults and $10 for children.
December 2 & 3
PJs with Santa is a one-of-a-kind event perfect for families this holiday season. In addition to meeting Santa Claus, children will have the opportunity to participate in special activities throughout the Creative Discovery Museum, such as creating a reindeer hat and decorating a gingerbread cookie to take home. All children will also leave with a gift from Santa at the end of the night! This is a ticketed event, and space is limited.
A Southside neighborhood tradition, Mainx24 is a 24-hour-long festival that takes place on the first Saturday of December every year. The festival is organized by Southside residents, merchants, and friends and features programming all day and night – from parades and live music to cook-offs, tastings, open houses, store discounts, scavenger hunts, a Santa Speedo Run, and more. Check out the complete schedule of events online so you don’t miss a thing!
December 3-4, 10-11, 17-18
The Chattanooga Convention Center will once again host the Chattanooga Holiday Market, a local favorite for all of your holiday shopping needs. Find more than 200 local vendors selling pottery, art, festive foods, apparel, furniture, and many other unique gifts to help you complete your Christmas list. Hot cocoa and live performances are also a part of this shopping tradition. Market hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays
If you’ve ever wanted to participate in a traditional English tea, now is your chance! The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts will be hosting its annual tea with seating times at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on December 4. Guests can enjoy authentic treats such as scones, finger sandwiches, and sweets, as well as a special tea blend. Admission also includes a guided tour of the museum. Seating is limited, so reserve your spot soon.
The entire family will love this local performance of “The Nutcracker,” presented by Southeastern Trust and featuring the Chattanooga Ballet’s professional company, the CSO performing live, and students from Chattanooga Ballet’s School. Join Clara, the young heroine, as she embarks on an extraordinary adventure full of youth and bravery. There are four opportunities to see “The Nutcracker,” which takes place at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium.
PJs and Polar Express 3D
Dress your kids in their favorite pajamas for this special screening of “The Polar Express 3D”! Fun for the entire family and all who truly believe, this event – hosted by the Tennessee Aquarium – features hot cocoa and snacks, Polar Express-themed prizes, and a meet-and-greet with the conductor. And be sure not to miss all of the aquarium’s Holidays Under the Peaks programming, which runs all month long.
The much-anticipated Home for the Holidays, a seasonal celebration by the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, has two performances this year: December 17 at 7:30 p.m. and December 18 at 3 p.m. at the Memorial Auditorium. The CSO will be joined by the CSO Chorus and a variety of community groups to perform a beloved selection of secular and holiday tunes. Don’t forget to arrive early to get your picture taken with the big man himself – Santa Claus!