Featured in this Article:
Tennessee is full of winter and holiday fun for the family. We've done the work for you and curated a list of options to help you select activities your whole family will enjoy. From winter festivals and other events in winter to Christmas lights and small town celebrations, choose how you'll spend your winter in Memphis and the surrounding area.
Parade on Beale or Starry Stroll in the Park?
Memphis Holiday Parade
Be a part of the one of the region’s most grand holiday parades in Memphis this winter season. Located on the iconic Beale Street and set for Dec. 9, 2023, the parade features marching bands, colorful floats, twirlers, and more as the “Home of the Blues” rings in the holiday season. A popular event, be sure to arrive early to grab a good viewing spot and if you’re staying downtown after sunset, be sure to check out the South Main Arts District where the buildings are covered in festive lights.
Experience the magic of the holiday season at Starry Nights presented by Shelby Farms Park. This 4,500-acre urban park hosts the spectacular Starry Nights exhibit each year, with dazzling displays featuring millions of lights you and your family can enjoy. Opening Nov. 24, 2023, the event offers a variety of experiences, from drive-through nights where you can stay in your car and drive the paths to walking/biking nights and even select nights where the park’s own Mistletoe Village is open for holiday shopping and meeting with Santa. Please visit the Shelby Farms Park Starry Night website to learn more and purchase your tickets.
Magical Christmas Tree Lighting or Small Town Christmas Celebration?
Join in the jolly Christmas celebration in Collierville and stroll through the quaint downtown decorated with over 250,000 lights. Open from Thanksgiving to New Year's, Christmas in Collierville is filled with a number of fun events, parades, concerts, and more. The annual Christmas Tree Lighting is taking place this year on Nov. 21, 2023 and the Christmas Parade is rolling through down on Dec. 1, 2023. Saturdays between Christmas and New Years feature extra special events, like visits with Santa in the Gazebo downtown as well as special music performances so merry and bright that you’ll surely be singing along.
About halfway between Memphis and Nashville, Savannah is a delightful destination to visit for the holidays. Complete with reindeer feeding, carolers, a parade (taking place Dec. 4, 2023), ice skating, shopping, dining, live performances, movies in the historic Savannah Theatre, carriage rides, and, of course, visits with Santa, Savannah is full of Christmas festivities just waiting to be enjoyed. With picturesque scenery, Savannah’s small-town celebration puts you right into your own holiday Hallmark movie. Taking place the first three weekends of December this year, activities are from 5-8:30pm each night and totally free of charge. Check out the Christmas on Main website to learn more.
A Blue or Zoo Christmas?
Celebrate one of Elvis’s favorite times of the year at Graceland this Christmas. During the holiday season, guests can attend the opening Holiday Lighting Weekend as well as special holiday tours of the Graceland Mansion and grounds impeccably decorated for the Christmas season with light displays and even Elvis’s own Santa and sleigh lawn decorations. Voted the No. 1 Best Historic Holiday Home Tour by USA Today five years running, it’s truly the most wonderful time of the year to experience the beauty and wonder of this American holiday tradition. Graceland is decorated now through Jan. 8, 2024, but guests visiting before Dec. 23 can enjoy an ultimate VIP holiday experience and special holiday tour featuring live tour guides sharing holiday stories through the property.
Open for select nights from Nov. 24 to Jan. 6, 2024, the Memphis Zoo is illuminated at night with thousands of Christmas lights to celebrate the holidays. Brighten your holiday season with extravagant light displays, snow, the signature Light Tunnel, ice skating, Gingerbread Forest, enchanted Ferris wheel, delicious hot chocolate (boozy hot chocolate available for guests 21+), s’mores, and so much more. Though most of the resident animals will be fast asleep during the festivities, a few exhibits are open during Zoo Lights, including Animals of the Night (bats, sloth, porcupine, owl monkey, and more) and the Herpetarium (snakes, alligators, lizards, frogs). Open from 5:30-9:30 p.m, limited tickets are available, and tickets are exclusively sold online.
Dazzling Decorations or Amazing Outdoor Light Display?
Staying at The Peabody Memphis Hotel, heralded as the “South’s Grand Hotel”, during the holidays means you’ll see some of the most ornate holiday decorations in Memphis. Beginning with the annual Peabody Tree Lighting Ceremony, hotel guests can enjoy drinks, snacks and music in the Grand Lobby while admiring the beautiful decorations and following the afternoon duck march, Santa will make an appearance to light the tree and meet with the children. Featuring a number of other special events and holiday promotions like Gingerbread Village on display and choirs singing Christmas carols throughout the day, the Peabody provides guests a magical experience and a splendid way to get in the spirit of the season.
Enjoy an unforgettable evening at the Memphis Botanical Garden’s Holiday Wonders, a unique and expansive 24-night outdoor holiday exhibition. Featuring special themed evenings like Santa-on-Site, Snow Queens, Ugly Sweater Night, a pet-friendly Paw-Liday Wonders Night, and even a Holi-Date Night (for adults 21+ only), guests can explore the property which is full of fun exhibits and displays 5-8:30 p.m. beginning Nov. 24 with special guest, Santa Claus. New for 2023 is an area filled with festive photo-ops, increased character engagement, and food trucks on-site on weekend nights. Check out the Memphis Botanical Garden website for more information, the select dates for special events and themed nights, and to purchase your tickets.
A new and expanded Let it Glow walk-thru and drive-thru exhibit is here this holiday season at the Discovery Park of America with even more lights and decorations. Enjoy holiday performances from the Jackson Symphony and a special appearance by Santa Claus. The Let it Glow drive-thru will display more than 1 million twinkling lights accompanied by popular Christmas melodies. The walk-thru will transform the north side of the park into the North Pole, with the museum’s typical exhibits transformed into a glowing winter wonderland with plenty of great photo ops. Also onsite will be a shop with local handmade gifts, Rudolph’s Barn where children can write letters to Santa, and a brand-new display of over 150 special nutcrackers. Open now through Dec. 30 (closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day), the highly acclaimed festivities at Discovery Park of America are sure to delight.
Winter Stroll or Eagle Tour?
When you need to get some fresh air, set out on Overton Park's Old Forest Trail. The Old Forest has a 1.4-mile running trail, over 1 mile of paved trails and four miles of unpaved walking paths like the popular Old Forest Loop. The loop contains 35 markers to guide your walk. Download a map to start planning your movement here.
Stretch your legs on more than 20 miles of hiking trails at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. You'll love the 8-mile, wooded Chickasaw Bluff Trail (also a horse riding trail) that meanders along a bluff with the largest loop overlooking Poplar Tree Lake. Other hiking trails include the natural surface, 4-mile Pioneer Springs Trail and the 3.5-mile natural surface Woodland Trail. Once finished hiking, play a game of disc golf as the park is home to one of the largest disc golf courses in the Southeast.
Bundle up and secure your spot on one of the two-hour eagle tours that are hosted in January and February at Reelfoot Lake State Park. A naturalist will take you out on the lake to see bald eagles perching, flying and snatching a fish from the lake. Telescopes are provided and you'll learn about the natural and cultural history of the wildlife and area. The annual Eagle Festival is a family-friendly festival that offers eagle tours and interpretive program. Check out the park's Facebook page for event information.
Luxury Lodge or Rustic Cabin?
Experience nature like never before at Big Cypress Lodge, located inside Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. Suspended among cypress trees, the 103-room hotel has ADA accommodations that include king-size beds, electric fireplaces and some have balconies. All rooms are outfitted with a rustic luxury that's warm and inviting. Book a wellness treatment at the Big Cypress Spa. Take the Sky High Ride up the country's tallest free-standing elevator to the observation deck where you'll get amazing views of Memphis and the Mississippi River.
The newly renovated Lodge at Pickwick Landing has spacious rooms with incredible balcony views of Pickwick Lake. Book a king-sized bedroom with a spacious tiled bath and shower combo, free wifi and cable TV. ADA accessible king rooms are available as well. The Lodge also has six suites which have two guest rooms and a center living room. Enjoy the Restaurant at Pickwick Landing which serves complimentary continental breakfast for guests, lunch and dinner.
Enjoy gold on the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Design Golf Course, paddling on Lake Placid, hiking and biking. Then, relax in one of the cabins available at Chickasaw State Park. The standard 2-bedroom cabins are nestled among tall pines and includes a queen bed and two twin beds, a full kitchen with utensils and full-sized appliances, a wood-burning fireplace and TV. The historic WPA cabins are one-bedroom cabins with a queen bed in the main living area, two twin beds in an adjacent room, a full-sized kitchen with utensils, a wood-burning fireplace and a patio with a picnic table, fire ring and grill.
Holiday Pop-Up Bar or Local Coffee Shop?
The MIRACLE pop-up bar is coming to The Liquor Store's Broad Avenue location with holiday-inspired libations, fun and festive decor and delicious bites. Make plans to curl up by the outdoor fire pit and revel in the Christmas spirit.
Warm up at local coffeeshop, UrbanHouse in downtown Henderson. It's a great place to relax after exploring West Tennessee's small towns and surrounding state parks. Have a delicious peppermint mocha latte, one of their specialty drinks like The Avalanche - quad espresso blended with white chocolate sauce, poured over ice - or the Honeysuckle Latte made with local honey and hand shaken. Pair with a gourmet grilled cheese, avocado toast, grilled Italian sandwiches, egg souffle, salads and soups.
Downtown Christmas Festival or Merry Main Street Extravaganza?
West Tennessee brims with holiday events throughout its small towns. Head to Paris for the annual Christmas festival, an all-day affair with Santa, craft booths, Christmas stories, trackless trains, and holiday fun. Enjoy shopping in the quaint historic downtown with a variety of retail stores festively decorated for the season. With food trucks open throughout the festival, you can spend the whole day enjoying this merry Christmas celebration in Paris.
A free family friendly event in Humboldt taking place at the beginning of December, Christmas on Main is a small-town holiday must-visit. From carolers, shopping, snacks, hot chocolate, pictures with Santa, and the annual lighting of the downtown Christmas tree, the day’s festivities are wintry and wonderful. In addition to the Christmas on Main, Magnolia Manor in Humboldt will host its Annual Holiday Tea 2 p.m. Dec. 10, 2023. Join the Manor for a luxury tea service complete with signature Holiday tea and with tier courses of scones, tea sandwiches and holiday desserts. Tickets can be purchased on the Magnolia Manor website.
Pictures with Santa or Festive Holiday Show?
A unique Memphis experience, the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid presents Santa’s Wonderland and seasonal festivities at the Big Cypress Lodge located within the Bass Pro. A stay at the Big Cypress Lodge will give guests the best view of the pyramid’s interior decorated like a winter wonderland in addition to the big comfy beds, warming fireplaces, and cozy cabin feel. During the holidays, Bass Pro Shops Pyramid is decked with Christmas trees, bows, lights, and more and features a pop-up holiday village where children can see Santa. And of course, the store offers a bountiful array of fun gifts for any last-minute shopping. The perfect Christmas outing is awaiting you at the Pyramid.
Originally built in 1890, the Orpheum Theatre has been a staple of the Memphis performing arts scene for over 130 years. This year, the Orpheum will welcome in the Christmas season with a number of featured shows, including “The Nutcracker” presented by Ballet Memphis from Dec. 9-17, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical on December 19, and Drew & Ellie Holcomb’s Neighborly Christmas concert on Dec. 20. Tickets for each show are available for purchase. Enjoy family-friendly fun this holiday season by singing and dancing along with seasonal performances at the Orpheum.
Find more winter vacation ideas:
Check out these haunted places in Tennessee that'll send a shiver down your spine.