Winter Traditions 3

A Winter Wonderland in Knoxville

Knoxville transforms into a winter wonderland each winter. With activities, markets and events galore, you’ll feel the holiday spirit while exploring the city and enjoying the 100,000-plus lights that earned Knoxville a place on Travel + Leisure’s Best Cities for Holiday Lights list.

The holiday season officially kicked off downtown on Black Friday with a grand lighting ceremony of a glorious 42-foot tree. Come at 7 p.m. December 1 to claim your sidewalk spot at the WIVK Christmas Parade. Watch in awe as floats, bands, dancers and even Santa Claus march through downtown.

Explore downtown this season and step into a holiday movie. An open-air ice rink appears in Market Square, where skaters of all ages and levels can breathe in the crisp wintry air while skating under the stars. The shop windows in the downtown central business district are exquisitely adorned: an annual window decorating competition creates breathtaking displays. Market Square transforms into a festive holiday market from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday in December before Christmas. Farmers, artisans, food producers, crafters, food trucks and more fill downtown with their wares.

Christmas in Chilhowee takes place December 8 at Chilhowee Park and Exposition Center. Featuring a tree lighting, live historical Appalachian music, hot cocoa, gingerbread house building, Santa, face painting and balloon animals, this is a must-see event.

The 11th annual Tour de Lights will be at 7 p.m. December 15. Decorate your bike and yourself before riding a 5-mile course through downtown. Prizes are awarded in various categories. After enjoying the festivities, explore the Peppermint Trail downtown. Peppermint decals on the sidewalk will lead you to stores and shops selling peppermint treats, including peppermint cocktails, coffees, cocoa and desserts throughout the holiday season.

Looking for kid-friendly activities this season? University of Tennessee alumnus Carol Aebersold co-authored the children’s book Elf on the Shelf with her daughter. For the only Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt in the country, Santa sends scout elves to dozens of downtown businesses beginning November 24. If you want to participate in the scavenger hunt, simply pick up a North Pole Pass at Mast General Store, then go searching! At every store where an elf is spotted, a stamp awaits with surprises along the way. Then head over to the Christmas Lantern Express. Climb aboard the Three Rivers Rambler for a one-of-a-kind Christmas experience: hot chocolate, gingerbread men, story time and Santa make this one train ride you’ll never forget.

The finale of the year, Knoxville’s New Year’s Eve celebration isn’t to be missed.

“The last celebration for the year is New Year’s on the Square,” Judith Foltz, Knoxville special events director, says. “We have a band play; we do this fabulous ball drop. We drop the ball, shoot fireworks off, there’s a big screen on the stage that shows highlights of the year, and a big sign over the stage lights up at midnight with 2018.”

Magic is in the air this season in Knoxville. With tree lightings, fireworks, parades, skating rinks, markets and more, explore the magic of the season in our wonderful city.