The Most Dazzling Light Displays in Nashville This Holiday Season

Music City is currently a Winter Wonderland.

Courtesy of Cheekwood Estate & Garden
Courtesy of Cheekwood Estate & Garden

The end of the year is fast approaching, but there’s still time to get your twinkle on at numerous displays of holiday lights in and around Music City. From a gigantic array of millions of bulbs at a massive resort hotel to drive-thru experiences in surrounding small towns to a family-run front yard winter wonderland, here are some of the best opportunities to turn up the lumens on your holiday spirit.

Courtesy of Gaylord Opryland

Nightly, 5 pm to midnight
Gaylord Opryland Resort, Free
Gaylord Opryland Resort starts decorating for the holidays months before most people even think about dragging the Christmas tree bag out of the basement, and that’s because they have more than three million lights and decorations to hang through the resort, including converting a nine-story atrium into a winter wonderland with a gingerbread forest, bedazzled trees, and romantic paths under the towering glass canopy. While the resort also offers activities that charge admission fees and the parking charge can be a little steep, it’s free to leave your car at Opry Mills Mall next door, walk over, and soak up the Christmas spirit while gazing at the beautiful lights.

Nightly, 5 pm to 10 pm
Cheekwood Estate & Garden, $28 and up
Holiday LIGHTS has become a beloved Nashville holiday tradition where families and romantic couples stroll on over a mile of paths around the botanical gardens of Cheekwood marveling at more than a million lights strung from tree to tree. Hidden gardens offer secluded spots to enjoy warming firepits and bonfires plus the chance to roast your own s’mores by firelight. Kiosks set up around the grounds provide hot chocolate and seasonal cocktails to warm guests from the inside out.

Sunday through Thursday: 5 to 10; Friday and Saturday: 5 to 11
Lebanon, $30 per vehicle
If you prefer to enjoy holiday lights from the warmth and comfort of your own vehicle, head to the Wilson County Fairgrounds in Lebanon, TN for one of the longest drive-thru Christmas experiences in the state. Tune your radio to the dedicated station that acts as a soundtrack while you traverse more than two miles of track featuring prancing reindeers, cavorting candy canes, and festively adorned Christmas trees. Your price of admission also includes access to a petting zoo and a visit with St. Nick.

Nightly, 5 pm to 10 pm
Franklin, $30 per vehicle for up to eight passengers; upcharges for larger and commercial vehicles
Another drive-thru lights spectacle, the FrankTown Festival of Lights covers a mile-and-a-half route through the Williamson County Ag Expo Center with more than 200 separate displays crafted to delight and a synchronized playlist of holiday songs to play along on your car stereo. Carnival-style concessions are available for purchase, and on special “Walkin’ Wednesdays” you can travel the path on foot from 5 until 6:30 when they set the automobiles loose on the course.

Courtesy of Zoolumination

Nightly, 5 pm to 9 pm
Nashville Zoo, Monday through Thursday: $23 for adults, $19 for children; Friday through Sunday: $26 for adults, $22 for children
The Nashville Zoo plays host to the nation’s biggest collection of illuminated Chinese lanterns depicting scenes from legend and folklore. Walk through the brilliant displays of silk lanterns while enjoying a bracing cup of cocoa and then make your way to the North Pole Village where the tableaus depict holiday scenes. Santa himself will make nightly visits until Christmas Eve when he has to get to work delivering presents around the world.

Sunday through Thursday: 3 pm to 8:30 pm; Friday and Saturday: 3 pm to 8:45 pm
Nicky’s Coal Fired, Free
Tony and Caroline Galzin, the owners of Nicky’s Coal Fired, love to go big when it comes to celebrating the holidays. Through the years, they have collected more and more Christmas swag so that they can convert their cozy Italian restaurant into an explosion of lights and colors during their annual Saint Nicky’s celebration. In addition to gaily strung lights and holiday-themed food and drink specials, this year they’ve added a new holiday tiki bar called Tropical Tidings on their heated back patio with more lights and boozy island drinks so you can discover how Santa chills out during the off season.

Nightly, 5 pm to 10 pm
Lebanon, $25 per vehicle
Unlike some of the more professional light celebrations created by teams of holiday experts, Chad’s Winter Wonderland is just the creation of a guy named Chad who so loved the season that he would annually decorate his private home with a display that would make Clark Griswold envious. For decades, visitors have traveled to Lebanon to marvel at Chad’s millions of lights and animatronic holiday figures. Don’t leave without buying some of the operation’s famous cinnamon bread to enjoy for breakfast tomorrow, if it makes it home.

Sunday through Thursday: 5 pm to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday: 5 pm to 11 pm
Clarksville, $30 per vehicle
Clarksville is slowly bouncing back after tornadoes rolled through the area at the beginning of December, and you can help lift their spirits during the recovery by paying a visit to the Clarksville Speedway and Fairgrounds to travel along the one-mile track through more than three million twinkling bulbs that light up the raceway. Admission is $30 for passenger vehicles, but they also offer special discount nights for military, seniors, and first responders at various times during the week.

Nightly, 5:30 pm to 9 pm
Springfield, Free
If you’ve already tapped out your holiday budget buying presents, the City of Springfield is happy to help with their free Winter Wonderland experience in J. Travis Price Park. The 23rd year of this light extravaganza features drive-thru and walking paths lined with lights and holiday scenes, plus special activity nights throughout the holiday season, including pony rides, youth craft nights, and a petting zoo. You know you can’t beat the price.

Sunday through Thursday: 5 pm to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday: 5 pm to 11 pm
Clarksville, Free
Christmas on the Cumberland is another free opportunity for some Christmas cheer where families and couples stroll along the Cumberland Riverwalk lit up by the warm glow of more than a million Christmas lights that cast a festive shimmer on the surface of the water as the river rolls by. Carolers entertain the crowds with holiday standards, and food and drink vendors offer up comestibles to make an entire evening of it.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer. Follow him on Twitter @CeeElCee.