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25 Things to Do During the Holidays in Knoxville and Surrounding Areas

Christmas tree lightings, music performances by outstanding choral groups, ice skating on Market Square, -- just the beginning of many things to do during the holidays in Knoxville and surrounding areas.

Click here for 2018 Holiday Event Guide

The events below were for 2011.

1. Regal Celebration of Lights
fall foliage
Downtown Knoxville becomes a Christmas village with caroling, marshmallow roasting & unique shopping at the Christmas Market. This annual event serves as the big kickoff for Knoxville's "Christmas in the City" It is set for 6 p.m., Friday, November 24, at Krutch Park Extension. It features the lighting of the 38-foot-high First Tennessee Foundation Christmas Tree which fronts on Gay Street amid the glow of more than 100,000 blue and white lights decorating downtown.

At the same time, the city is asking businesses that are part of the "Up on the Rooftops" program to flip the switches lighting up the trees on top of their buildings. "Up on the Rooftops," which began in 1995 with 11 light trees, now includes more than 400 light trees adorning the tops of buildings in downtown, on Volunteer Landing and across the city.
2. Train Rides
great smoky mountains railroad
The Polar Express is a 1 ¼ hour round-trip excursion that comes to life as the train departs the Bryson City depot for a journey through the quiet wilderness for a special visit at the North Pole. Set to the sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, guests on board will enjoy warm cocoa and a treat while listening and reading along with the magical story. November 9 - December 29, 2012.

The Scenic CityScenic Excursion Train rides in Oak Ridge TN are December 1, 2, 8, and 9.
The Christmas Express on Three Rivers Rambler Catch a ride this holiday season on the Three Rivers Rambler's "Christmas Express." Passengers will be served refreshments & Santa will board the train to pass out gifts on this 90 min. 11 mile round trip. Departs from Volunteer Landing & follows the Tennessee River to Marbledale Quarry.

One of the most popular train rides, North Pole Limited train ride has been a family tradition since 1999. During the magical holiday season, trains take riders on an imaginary journey to the North Pole. Along the way, you'll be treated to refreshments, storytelling, and sing-a-longs. As the train gently rolls down the rails, a number of lighted displays can be seen outside. Once the train pulls into the "North Pole," a special guest boards for a visit. During the return ride, Santa makes his way through the train cars to greet every child and presents a keepsake item to all the children.

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum operates special Holiday Dinner Trains for the Christmas season. The trips will include a four-course dining experience on board a restored 1924 dining car. The excursion trains will depart from Grand Junction Station at 6:00 pm in the evening, traveling at a leisurely pace through portions of urban East Chattanooga before reversing direction and returning to Grand Junction. The travel time is just right for the complete meal on a vintage dining car.

3. Cookie Bake for First Responders and Public Servants
cookie bake
Surprise your local first responders and public servants with a batch of homemade cookies. Firemen, policemen, first responders -- those who are there to help and protect us. Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.

Organize a group of adults or children and plan a day to bake cookies and deliver them to your local fire station, police station, or hospital. It is probably a good idea to contact them ahead of time to let them know you will be delivering the cookies.

4. Christmas Parades
christmas parade float
Knoxville and surrounding areas enjoy putting on some of the best Christmas parades in the South. Floats, high school marching bands, dancers, local celebrities and a special appearance by Santa Claus are highlights of the parades.

Knoxville's WIVK/Fowler Christmas Parade is on the first Friday in December on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville. The parade begins at 7:00 p.m.

Gatlinburg's annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade will showcase Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies and one of the City's largest and best known attractions families, Ripley's Entertainment.

Fountain City Christmas Parade is the first Saturday in December at 10:00 a.m. The Optimist Club of Knoxville's Annual Fountain City Christmas Parade will begin at the intersection of Broadway & Tazwell and end at Central Baptist Church. The parade will include marching bands, school groups, scouts and many floats. There will be a special appearance by Santa Claus.

The Lenoir City Christms Parade is the first Friday in December at 6:30 p.m. Parade starts at 100 Yale Ave., Lenoir City.

Sevierville's Annual Christmas Parade - A traditional hometown parade with baton twirlers, pageant winners, marching bands and floats leading up to the appearance of the Grand Marshal-Santa Claus! Parade begins at 11am on the first Saturday in December and can best be viewed on Forks of the River Parkway and Court Avenue in historic downtown Sevierville.

The city of Oliver Springs will have its annual Christmas Parade the first Friday in December. The parade will start at 5:30pm at Arrowhead Park and will follow the traditional parade route through town.

5. Movies
christmas movies
See Miracle on 34th Street at the Tennessee Theatre! After World War II, song and dance men Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) form a successful partnership eventually becoming top Broadway producers. Bob agrees to take in a nightclub act by the Haynes Sisters, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera Ellen), as a "favor" for their brother who served with Bob and Phil in the war. White Christmas is a family favorite.
6. Performing Arts
its a wonderful life
The Clarence Brown Theatre will present A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Scrooge, the Cratchits, & the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Yet-to-Come return for those who have embraced Dickens' classic as a part of their holiday season & for those about to discover it for the first time.

December 1-18, It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play at the Clarence Brown Theatre. An angel trying to earn his wings shows George Bailey what life would be like without him. Five actors take on all the roles to bring this beloved holiday classic to life. Performances will take place in the Carousel Theatre.

Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker -- Emelianov's Great Russian Nutcracker is acclaimed for exquisite dancing & spectacular sets & costumes. Whimsical & imaginative storytelling, blend with richness of Russian classical dance. Historic Tennessee Theatre.

The Nutcracker. Presented by the Appalachian Ballet Company. This 40th anniversary production featuring over 80 dancers and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra will showcase guest artists Kylie Morton as the Sugarplum Fairy and Aaron Smyth of Australia as the Cavalier. This magical production of The Appalachian Ballet Company's Nutcracker is filled with lavish sets, scenery, costumes, orchestra, choir and dancers. Come enjoy Knoxville's tradition of 40 years and now also playing in Maryville. Knoxville Civic Auditorium and at Clayton Center for the Arts.

Tickets on sale at:
Tickets are on sale at the following locations: Appalachian Ballet 865-982-8463
Knoxville Tickets 865-656-4444
The Clayton Center for the Arts 865-981-8590
Student and Senior Discount $5 Off
Group rates available

Nutcracker on Ice. "The Nutcracker" is performed on ice. Skaters of all ages set the holiday mood with a festive pond skating scene, followed by the story of a young girl and a magical Christmas night. The music of Tchaikovsky is brought to life by the gliding, spinning, & jumping skills of 100+ skaters in this theatrical production. Ice Chalet.

Modern Dance Primitive Light. With illuminated stained glass in the Laurel Theater as a background, Circle Modern Dance presents its most anticipated show of the year, an annual tradition for 19 years. Live music, new dances & spoken word combine to bring you a magical evening of performance and light. Laurel Theater.

8. Knoxville Nativity Pageant
knoxville nativity pageant
Annual Knoxville Nativity Pageant -- The Nativity Pageant is one of the largest all-volunteer community Christmas Pageants in the US. The production will feature live animals, realistic sets, authentic costumes, & an original script told by way of a pantomime drama. Knoxville Civic Coliseum.
9. Choral Holiday Performances
living christmas tree
Throughout the holidays, a number of choral holiday performances are performed at the Tennessee Theatre.

10. Christmas in the City
christmas in the city
The holidays are filled with activities within the city of Knoxville. Tree lightings, choral concerts, symphonies, parades, holiday home tours, and light tours are all family events.

Enjoy holiday shopping extravanzas at the many unique shops inside the city. Market Square District offers a variety of fun things to do and tasty places to eat and just hang out.

For more information on Knoxville's annual Christmas in the City visit

11. Fantasy of Trees
fantasy of trees
Thanksgiving weekend: The Fantasy of Trees has been a holiday tradition in East Tennessee since 1985. This special holiday event showcases a theme, highlighted with whimsical decorations and wintry designs that celebrate and showcase the fun and festive holiday season with reindeer at play, this year's holiday colors and twinkling snowflakes, glitter and lights. In addition, new children's activities and shops will also reflect this year's festive theme.

Location: Knoxville Convention Center.

12. Symphony and Band Concerts
clayton holiday concert
Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Annual Clayton Holiday Concert. East Tennessee's favorite holiday tradition continues as Maestro Lucas Richman leads the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, Knoxville Choral Society and special guests in your favorite songs & carols, plus an appearance by Santa himself! Ask about group discounts for groups of 10 or more. Civic Auditorium.

Jazz for Tots. In conjunction with U.S. Marine Corps "Toys for Tots" Campaign, admission is a new unwrapped toy per person which will be a gift to a less fortunate child on Christmas morning. Cash donations will also be accepted, which will be used toward the purchase of a new toy. 7:00pm, James R. Cox Auditorium, Alumni Memorial Bldg.

Comcast Christmas at Chilhowee. Visit a magical winter wonderland at Chilhowee Park. Local high school bands will perform Christmas carols, have a free picture with Santa Claus in the gazebo, decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus, roast marshmallows in the fire pit & take a carriage ride throughout the park to see the magical Christmas lights. 6:00pm-8:00pm, Chilhowee Park.

Knoxville Jazz Orchestra's "A Swingin' Christmas". Classic Christmas favorites performed in the styles of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, & Glenn Miller. Trombonist extraordinaire & the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra alum Ron Westray will join the band. 8:00pm, Historic Tennessee Theatre.

13. Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland
shadrack's christmas wonderland
November 12 - January 5
Shadrack Watersports & RV presents Christmas Wonderland! This award-winning drive-through light and music show is the largest of its kind in the country

Featuring hundreds of thousands of LED lights dynamically synchronized and dancing to the music, this experience is sure to be something you and your family won't soon forget! Check web site for admission prices and times.

14. Holiday Open House in District Bearden
Holiday Open House in District Bearden
Celebrate the holidays with The District in Bearden’s 5th Annual Holiday Open House. Food will be provided. Special events & shopping . Start the holiday season with special gift ideas from each of the many shops in The District.

15. Knoxville's Holidays on Ice
shadrack's christmas wonderland
November 25, to January 8
Market Square & Krutch Park
• Market Square
• Mon. - Thurs.: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.
• Fri. & Sat.: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
• Sun.: 1 p.m. - 10 p.m.
• Christmas Day: Opens at 2 p.m.
Knoxville's only outdoor ice rink is open every day. Daily admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children under 12 years of age. Admission price includes skates & unlimited time on ice. Season passes & group rates available.
16. Emporium Holiday Extravaganza
emporium center for the arts
The Arts and Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville presents downtown’s most exquisite & affordable holiday shopping event featuring a one-of-a-kind selection of handcrafted gifts & live performances.

Emporium Center for Arts & Culture.

Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 865-523-7543
17. 23rd Annual Historic Old North Knoxville Victorian
Holiday Home Tour
old north knoxville
Visit 10 historic homes decorated for the holidays in Old North Knoxville.

Tickets are available at Knoxville Kroger stores for $9 or on the days of the event in the ticket booth at St. Mary’s Hospital’s parking lot on Woodland Ave. Prices: adults $12, senior citizens $9 & children under 12 admitted free with an adult. Free parking will be offered at St. Mary’s Woodland Ave. parking lot.

There will be free bus rides to all of the homes, or you may drive or walk through the historic neighborhood. Allow 2-3 hours to complete the tour. Old North Knoxville Neighborhood.

18. Holidays at Blount Mansion
blount mansion christmas
The Blount Mansion will be decorated for the holiday season and special guided tours will be given throughout the month of December.

Candlelight and Carols at the Mansion
Free Admission and Holiday Treats

Christmas Open House
Free Admission and Holiday Treats

19. Tour de Lights
tour de lights
Join this fun bike tour of downtown, 4th & Gill and Old North Knoxville. Riders are encouraged to get creative with lights, costumes and decorations for themselves and their bikes. Awards will be presented by a panel of celebrity judges in several categories.

Hot cocoa and treats provided before and after the ride by Mast General Store and Three Rivers Market.

Free bike safety checks begin at 6 p.m. Helmets are required as well as legal lights. 7 p.m., Krutch Park.
20. Holiday Festival of Lights
holiday festival of lights concord park
December 16 - 26
The Cove at Concord Park glitters with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights. Vendors will be on site with kettle corn, hot chocolate & coffee. Bonfires for warming toes and roasting marshmallows. 865-215-6607

Image courtesy of R. Neal

21. Christmas Day Buffet
crowne plaza knoxville
11:00 am - 2:00pm, Crowne Plaza, Knoxville
Chef Tom Ortman and his talented staff will delight guests with traditional favorites of the holiday season. Finish off an amazing meal with some decadent desserts...and leave the dishes to us!

Adults $26.95, Children $9.95, Children under 6 free.
Reservations highly recommended and can be made by calling
865-522-2600 ext. 2324.
22. Christmas Eve Services
first baptist church knoxville

Christmas Eve Services
First Baptist Church Knoxville. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. 5:00 pm. 865-546-9661

St. John's Episcopal Cathedral Christmas Pageant & Holy Eucharist; 6:00 pm Holy Eucharist; 10:45 pm Choral Eucharist. 12:00 Noon & 2:00pm (Chapel) Holy Eucharist; 4:00 pm. 865-525-7347

Redeemer Church of Knoxville, 1642 Highland Ave. 4:00pm-5:00pm Service; 5:00pm-6:00pm Christmas Eve Soup Dinner. 865-524-4552

First Presbyterian offers two Christmas Eve services. The 5:00pm Family Service is in the chapel & consists of favorite Christmas stories for children & carols. The 11:00pm Candlelighting & Communion Service begins with a prelude of music at 10:45 pm & continues with lessons, carols & communion. 5:0 0 pm & 11:00 pm, First Presbyterian Church. 865-546-2531

Candlelight, Carols & Christmas Stories" designed for families with young children. Communion is not part of this service. 7:30pm, Church Street United Methodist Church, 865-521-0282

Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Services

Musical Prelude begins at 4:30 pm and 10:30 pm, with traditional services at 5:00 pm and 11:00 pm, Church Street United Methodist Church. 865-521-0282

Christmas Eve Services of Holy Eucharist
The 5:30pm service is a family service with the Nativity Pageant. The 11:00 pm service has a musical prelude beginning at 10:30 pm. 5:30 pm & 11:00 pm. St. James' Episcopal Church. 865-523-5687

23. Winter Magic Tunes & Tales
gatlinburg tunes and tales
November 25 - December 17
The City of Gatlinburg spices up the holiday season with free weekend entertainment by presenting the Gatlinburg Winter Magic version of its Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales program live on the Parkway on Friday and Saturday nights between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Groups of Dickens-style holiday carolers dressed in traditional Victorian era costumes will stroll along the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the evenings of November 25-26 and December 3, 9-10 and 16-17.
(Image courtesy of Sevier County News)
24. Alive into 2020
alive into 2012
December 31
9:00pm-1:00am, Knoxville Museum of Art
Great live music, a fabulous down-home buffet, party favors, dancing, and a great view of the fireworks on Market Square at Midnight.

For tickets/information: Michael Gill – 865-934-2039 / Admission includes an all you can eat buffet, dancing, and party favors. Free Parking. 865-525-6101

25. First Night Knoxville
first night knoxville
New Year's Eve Celebration of the Arts in downtown Knoxville
First Night® is a family-friendly, alcohol-free New Year's Eve community celebration of the arts. The celebration began in Boston in 1976 and has grown to an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of celebrants each year. Since then the event has expanded to over 100 cities in 30 states across the country, as well as internationally into Canada and New Zealand.

• Family-friendly and alcohol-free
• Enjoy music, dance, theatre, storytelling, artists & more at 10 different downtown venues
• Market Square outdoor entertainment is free
• First Night Admission button gets you into all of the venues and gives you discounts on other attractions
• Special Children's activities
• Market Square District businesses open late
• Multiple food vendors, rides, & amusements
• Evening builds to the New Year countdown!

Published November 23, 2011

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