Where to get festive in Nashville

Kami L. Rice

Nashville-based writer

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November 2018

From summer 2019, you’ll be able to fly straight to the Music City every day of the week, up from its current five weekly flights. Clearly the buzz around Nashville shows no signs of abating, making it the perfect time to head across the pond for some Christmas cheer Nashville-style, or to ring in the new year with Keith Urban, fireworks and the midnight Music Note Drop.

Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight

For the New Year’s Eve bash that dreams are made of, Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, right in downtown Music City, is the place to be on 31 December. An annual free, public event since 2009, Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight gets bigger every year, attracting tens of thousands of revellers. Headlined by Keith Urban for the third year in a row, the night’s multi-genre line-up includes Peter Frampton, Devon Gilfillian, Judah & the Lion, Caitlyn Smith, and the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Nashville was even named number one Best Place to Ring in the New Year by the December 2017 USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice listings. Gates open at 4pm, and midnight sees the traditional Music Note Drop that triggers fireworks and biodegradable rice paper confetti.

From late November through December, the Holiday LIGHTS exhibit illuminates the estate’s botanical garden with one million holiday lights, bringing a bit of calm to the frenzy of the holiday season

Santa's Pub

Whether you hit up Nashville during or after the festive season, Santa will be waiting for you at his very own dive bar, located beyond the well-worn paths of downtown’s party-packed streets. You’ll enjoy a cold beer, a warm welcome and the chance to appreciate a taste of Nashville’s less glitzy past. The Santa Pub’s owner’s St. Nicholas resemblance is real, as are the chilled beers and the nightly karaoke magic that starts at 7pm, except on Sundays when it follows the house band’s 7pm show. What’s more Southern than a mobile home trailer filled with year-round Christmas decorations? Don’t forgot to bring cash, as that’s the only payment Santa will accept.

  • Head to Santa’s Pub for a night of spectacular karaoke and chilled beers.

    Festive cheer

    With beers from US$2, this kitsch bar is packed to the rafters with happy punters all year-round.

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  • The Ryman’s wrap-around church pews are over a century old.

    Pitch perfect

    The concert hall has been enhanced with cutting edge technology so that all sound is rich, warm and clear.

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  • Oliver Twist, Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim Cratchit will all make an appearance at Franklin’s Christmas of a Dickens.

    A Christmas Carol

    Step back in time at this annual street festival, where 200 musicians, dancers, and Dickens’ famed literary characters dress up in Victorian garb to celebrate the season.

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Gaylord Opryland's A Country Christmas

From early November through to 1 January, Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas offers a variety of Christmas-time favourites, including fun activities like ice skating and gingerbread decorating for the little tikes in your entourage. Plenty of Nashvillians, at least the ones willing to brave large crowds and heavy traffic, make an annual tradition of wandering Gaylord Opryland Resort’s three-million-light-strong holiday decorations. Ticketed events include ICE!, this year featuring Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! portrayed in interactive ice sculptures; the dazzling Cirque Dreams Holidaze acts; and A Trace Adkins Christmas.

Christmas shows at The Ryman

The Ryman is a favourite venue for locals and tourists alike, no matter the time of year. But the Christmas season brings a number of annual concerts to the Ryman that are staples of many locals’ festive plans, though there are enough tickets available for visitors to get in on the tradition too. For two nights in December, the 19th annual Behold the Lamb of God tour by Dove Award-nominated Andrew Peterson will make two stops in Nashville, Peterson’s home base. In these concerts, Peterson always pulls in a solid roster of fellow artists to give voice to the Christmas story’s deepest meanings. Also, at the top of the list of many people’s Christmas traditions are the annual Christmas at the Ryman shows put on by superstars Amy Grant and Vince Gill. They’ve added additional dates this year to accommodate the high demand for their only-at-the-Ryman holiday season concerts.

  • The Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight is one of Nashville’s standout music events.

    Nashvillian new year

    Voted the Best Place to Ring in the New Year by USA Today, this year’s line-up includes Keith Urban, Peter Frampton, Judah & The Lion and Caitlyn Smith.

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Holiday LIGHTS at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

Nashvillians love Cheekwood year-round, located as it is away from the tourist hubs in downtown Music City. From late November through December, the Holiday LIGHTS exhibit illuminates the estate’s botanical garden with one million holiday lights, bringing a bit of calm to the frenzy of the holiday season. Perfect for families, Cheekwood regularly adds live reindeer and costumed carollers to the scene.

Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin, Tennessee

On the weekend of December 8, you can catch the annual Dickens of a Christmas street festival in historic downtown Franklin, Tennessee – one of Nashville’s nearby neighbours and the site of key events in the American Civil War. To reach this Victorian era recreation of Charles Dickens’ beloved novels, hire a car from Avis and head south – Franklin is just a half hour’s drive from Nashville. Featuring music and dance performances, arts and crafts vendors (souvenirs and gifts!), pony rides, and a town Christmas carol sing-along, the streets will also be filled with costumed characters. Feel free to don your own Victorian attire to add even more ambience to the event – or alternatively, you can wear your entry for the Ugly Sweater contest.