Christmas in Knoxville is a time of family activities and holiday events. With thousands of Christmas lights strung between the poles along Gay Street and dozens of trees decked out with decor in Market Square the city is a gorgeous place to visit. I visited Knoxville one year for a week in December and went to a few of these exciting Christmas events.
Note: This story is a part of the Christmas in Knoxville series of blog posts.
Disclosure: This travel blog story was made possible because I was hosted free of charge by Visit Knoxville. This in no way influenced the content of my blog posts, and Visit Knoxville did not receive an advance copy or editor privileges to anything I have written here.
Regal Celebration of Lights
The Friday after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the annual Regal Celebration of Lights with the tree lighting ceremony. When fellow travel blogger Clayton Hensley attended the event in 2018 he described it as “Christmas and the Fourth of July all wrapped into one.” Every night for the next few weeks (typically through the end of the year) Market Square and Kutcher Park are brightly decorated with lights and Christmas trees for visitors to enjoy.
Along with live music, the Holidays on Ice skating rink, and roaming groups of carolers, the Regal Celebration of Lights is a great way to end a day of shopping, eating, and exploring in Knoxville.
Date: Day after Thanksgiving through the New Year
Event Times: 6pm – 10pm nightly
Price: Free Admission
WIVK Christmas Parade
Everybody loves a good Christmas parade! The annual parade winds through downtown Knoxville featuring high school marching bands, quirky entertainers, non-profit groups, and lots of Christmas-themed floats and decor. The parade is held at night so the majesty of the city’s Christmas decor adds to the thrill of watching the parade saunter past.
Date: Typically the first Friday night of December
Event Times: The parade starts at 7pm and lasts until Santa passes by
Tour de Lights
The Tour de Lights is one of the more funky Christmas events in Knoxville. The event is a 5-mile bicycle ride through downtown with participants decorating their bikes and wearing Christmas-themed costumes. Hundreds of people participate each year in an event that is increasingly popular and always interesting. Don’t want to participate? That’s fine, too. Bring out a chair along the parade route and just watch the people pedal past. The event lasts a few hours so it’s a great excuse to get downtown while doing some local shopping and dining along Gay Street and Market Square.
Date: Typically the second Friday night in December
Event Times: 6pm – 8:30pm, with the ride officially starting around 7:30pm
Price: Admission and participation is free!
Christmas in the Cave
The annual Christmas in the Cave event is exactly that: it’s a Christmas event inside Cherokee Caverns. Thousands of Christmas lights line the cave walls as visitors gradually walk through the tunnels beneath the ground. Somewhere deep inside a Santa Claus photo booth awaits children eager to explain their Christmas wish lists. It’s an interesting event to attend and perfect for families!
Date: Typically the first three weekends of December
Event Times: Friday 5pm – 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 3pm – 8pm
Price: $10.00, Children Under 4 are Free
It’s a Wonderful Life at the Tennessee Theatre
Each year the historic Tennessee Theatre (official state theatre) pulls out a few classic Christmas movies for visitors to enjoy. The Polar Express, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Story are just a few of the classics. But my favorite Christmas movie ever is a special treat: the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life. The best part is that these movies are free! But you may have to wait in line for awhile to guarantee yourself a seat.
Date: Various nights throughout December
Event Times: 2pm and 6pm
Christmas at Chilhowee
Chilhowee Park is converted into an amazing Christmas destination throughout December. Thousands of lights are put on display around the small lake. Visitors can hop on a train ride around the park, get a photo with Santa Claus, enjoy hot cocoa and life music, and take part in one of the many free activities.
Date: Typically the last weekend of November through the last weekend of December
Event Times: 6pm – 9pm nightly
Christmas at the Mabry-Hazen House
The Mabry-Hazen House, built in 1858, has an impressive view atop a hill near downtown Knoxville. One weekend in December each year the house opens for a special Christmas tour. Visitors will find authentic period Christmas decor, historically-inspired refreshments, and antique Christmas cards on display. It’s a really wonderful event and rather exclusive with just two days to enjoy it each year, although the museum is open for regular tours throughout the rest of the year.
Date: Typically the second weekend of December
Event Times: Saturday 5pm – 8pm and Sunday 2pm – 5pm
Price: $5 donation requested
Market Square Holiday Market
Throughout December the Market Square Farmers’ Market is replaced with the Market Square Holiday Market. Hundreds of local artisans come out with their arts and crafts on display just in time for Christmas shopping. Food vendors set up along the side streets, carolers fill the air with Christmas melodies, and shoppers scour for the perfect unique gift idea.
Date: Every Saturday in December before Christmas
Event Times: 11am – 5pm