One Tank Trips

‘Tis the season to be jolly, so grab your loved ones and spread some holiday cheer at festive events throughout the Southeast! From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Cumberland Plateau, majestic winter wonderlands offer enchanting activities and celebrations for all. The best part? They’re only a short drive away.

Holiday Lights at Barnsley Resort
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway “Santa Express Train”

Less than 100 miles from home:


Blue Ridge, GA


Blue Ridge Scenic Railway  “Santa Express Train”

WHEN: Nov. 23-25 and Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-23
WHERE: 241 Depot Street
CONTACT: or 877.413.8724
COST: Adults $47 / Children (2-12) $31 / Children (under 2) FREE

Hop on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway for a fun-filled trip with Santa! The one-hour daytime ride includes Christmas carols, a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and favorite holiday characters, including Kris Kringle himself. Each child will receive a traditional BRSR memento, activity book, and a candy cane.


Light Up Blue Ridge

WHEN: Nov. 24

WHERE: Downtown Blue Ridge City Park

CONTACT: or 706.258.2432


This small-town holiday celebration kicks off with the arrival of Santa Claus at 11:15 a.m. Visitors can meet Santa and have photos taken in the city park’s gazebo. Holiday music and local performers will keep crowds entertained until the annual Christmas Parade, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Following the parade, the lighting of the 27-foot-tall Great Tree will amaze residents and visitors alike.


Adairsville, GA


Holiday Lights at Barnsley Resort

WHEN: Nov. 22-Jan. 1
WHERE: Barnsley Resort
CONTACT: or 770.773.7480
COST: Adults $15 / Seniors and students $10 / Children (11 and under) FREE with donation of a toy / Overnight guests and members FREE

North Georgia’s historic Barnsley Resort features holiday décor galore. Stroll through the manor house ruins and charming English-inspired village, where more than a million twinkling lights dazzle guests. Festive activities such as wreath-making, gingerbread house crafting, and holiday hayrides are also available.


Spencer, TN


Fall Creek Falls State Park Christmas on the Mountain

WHEN: Nov. 30-Dec. 1
WHERE: Fall Creek Falls State Park
CONTACT: or 423.881.3297

The first weekend in December brings Yuletide fun to Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee’s largest state park located on the Cumberland Plateau. Enjoy live music, hayrides, marshmallow roasting, and a craft fair amidst the park’s natural scenery and festive Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree lighting and a visit from old St. Nick add to the excitement.


Less than 150 miles from home:


Blairsville, GA

18th Annual Mistletoe Market

WHEN: Nov. 17-18
WHERE: North Georgia Technical College
CONTACT: or 706.896.0932

Regional artisans will share their handmade creations at this popular indoor arts and crafts show. Visitors can explore the market’s offerings, including jewelry, pottery, soap, and more, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 17 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 18. A light lunch is available for purchase.

Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood
Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas

Dahlonega, GA

Old-Fashioned Christmas

WHEN: Nov. 23-Dec. 23
WHERE: Downtown Dahlonega
CONTACT: or 706.892.9741

Guests flock to Dahlonega each year for its month-long celebration: Old-Fashioned Christmas! The celebration commences with the Lighting of Downtown Square, to be followed by an ornament unveiling and extended merchant shopping hours. On Dec. 1, Santa comes to town for the Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade. A host of holiday events are scheduled daily throughout December.


Nashville, TN


“A Country Christmas” at Gaylord

WHEN: Nov. 9-Jan. 1
WHERE: Gaylord Opryland Resort
CONTACT: or 615.889.1000
COST: Prices vary by event.

Guests are invited to experience three million lights adorning towering trees and whimsical indoor gardens. Highlights of the season include critically acclaimed Broadway musical, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, and ICE!, where guests can explore Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” created by more than two million pounds of ice. SoundWaves, offering four acres of water attractions, opens Dec. 1. Festive activities continue with visits to Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, feasts with the Grinch, ice skating, gingerbread decorating, and more.


Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood

WHEN: Nov. 23-Dec. 30
WHERE: Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
CONTACT: or 615.353.6965
COST: Adults $17-$22 / Children (3-17) $12-$22 / Children (2 and under) FREE

A Nashville tradition, Holiday LIGHTS illuminates the Cheekwood gardens with one million shimmering lights. Two of Santa’s most trusted reindeer will even be stopping by each night! After strolling along the one-mile path, visitors can warm themselves by the fire with s’mores, or enjoy indoor activities involving live piano music and carolers. Visit the website for more details.


Less than 200 miles from home:


Gatlinburg, TN


Gatlinburg Chili Cook-off Presented by Bush’s Chili Beans

WHEN: Nov. 7
WHERE: Downtown Gatlinburg
CONTACT: or 800.588.1817
COST: FREE to attend / $10 to sample chili

Mouth-watering homemade chili steals the show at this seasonal event, where recipes ranging from mild to wild are waiting to be sampled. Fill your bowl, or brave the Hot Chili Eating Contest, while enjoying live music from Jimbo Whaley and Greenbriar and The Petty Hearts, a nationally touring Tom Petty tribute band. The fun begins at 5 p.m.


Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights

WHEN: Nov. 7-Jan. 26
WHERE: Downtown Gatlinburg
CONTACT: or 800.588.1817
COST: $5

Experience the Gatlinburg Winter Magic on this guided trolley tour of the city’s one-of-a-kind LED lighting exhibitions. Timeless displays featuring indigenous animals, fanciful snowmen, fountains, and more are included in the lineup along the downtown Parkway and adjacent River Road. Trolleys depart at 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 p.m.

Smoky Mountain Christmas

Festival of Trees

WHEN: Nov. 21-25
WHERE: W.L. Mills Conference Center
CONTACT: or 800.588.1817

The annual Festival of Trees brings the joys of the season to all ages. Peruse exquisitely decorated Christmas trees and wreaths that are available for purchase, then have your photo taken with Santa Claus. Guests can enjoy entertainment and a children’s craft and play area throughout the week. This event benefits the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains.


Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show

WHEN: Nov. 26-Dec. 2
WHERE: Gatlinburg Convention Center
CONTACT: or 800.588.1817

Visit the nation’s largest organization of independent artisans at the Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show. Woven baskets, stuffed bears, gorgeous quilts, handmade jewelry, and Victorian ceramic pitchers are just a few of the unique gifts you can find to fill your family’s stockings.


43rd Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

WHEN: Dec. 7
WHERE: Downtown Gatlinburg
CONTACT: or 800.588.1817

The award-winning Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade has captivated more than 20 million people from all over the world. The celebration showcases marching bands, dancers, large balloons, and the man in the red suit – Santa Claus! Visitors are encouraged to arrive early; the parade begins at 7:30 p.m.


New Year’s Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks Show

WHEN: Dec. 31
WHERE: Historic Nature Trail at the Parkway
CONTACT: or 800.588.1817

Ring in the New Year at this annual, family-friendly celebration. Gatlinburg will welcome 2019 in style with a fireworks show, choreographed music, and a LED light display in the 400-foot-tall Space Needle – all to be set off at the stroke of midnight. Local businesses and restaurants will be open for the event.


Pigeon Forge, TN


Smoky Mountain Christmas

WHEN: Nov. 10-Jan. 5
WHERE: Locations vary by event.
CONTACT: or 1.800.365.5996
COST: Prices vary by event.

Dollywood pulls out all the stops for Smoky Mountain Christmas. This festival offers five million lights and memorable holiday entertainment, such as the Parade of Many Colors and live performances of “Christmas in the Smokies” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Additional events include meeting Rudolph and listening to Christmas hymns and songs. New this year is Glacier Ridge, a showstopping lighting experience in Wilderness Pass. 


The Nutcracker

WHEN: Dec. 14-15
WHERE: Country Tonite Theatre
CONTACT: or 865.680.7369
COST: Sweet seats $30 / Reserved seating $25 / Adults $20 / Seniors $15 / Students $10 / Children (5 and under) FREE

This well-loved holiday ballet is coming to the Country Tonite Theatre! Enjoy one of two performances of “The Nutcracker,” presented by the Great Smoky Mountain Dance Theatre, and follow Clara’s adventures with the Nutcracker Prince, Mouse King, and Sugar Plum Fairy.

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