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The winter months are an exciting time in Tennessee. You'll find ample reasons to plan a winter getaway to the state. Here are just a few ideas on how to make some snowy memories:
Family-Friendly Winter Hikes in Tennessee
Tennessee's largest city-owned park is in Kingsport. Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium is a 3,550-acre nature preserve that includes wolves, bobcats, reptiles and raptors. More than 25 hiking trails cover most of the park; so take a stroll around the lake or trek up to the fire tower. However you spend your day at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium, you can be sure there will be plenty of winter magic to discover.
Explore 24,000 acres of wilderness made of hiking, biking and horse riding trails at Frozen Head State Park in Wartburg, about 46 miles from Knoxville. The peak of the Cumberland Mountains at 3,324 ft. is covered in ice and snow in the winter months. Perfect for that always-coveted Instagram photo op.
Dependent on temperatures and snow accumulation, you just might be lucky enough to see one of Tennessee's gorgeous waterfalls in all its frozen beauty, like Foster Falls. This 60-foot plunging waterfall is in Sequatchie, Tennessee and is a favorite among locals and visitors for its thundering waters and picturesque location.
Explore 10 miles of hiking trails through the forested loops in and around Cedars of Lebanon State Park. Hiking with toddlers or small children? Take the Cedar Glades Trail, a half-mile trail that leads you through cedar woodlands and expansive glade openings. Stop at the educational signs peppered throughout the trail to learn about the ecology of the park and identify animals and plant species. If you want a longer adventure, embark on the Hidden Springs Trail, a 4.2-mile hike featuring streams, a deep sinkhole, rock formations and cedar woodlands. Enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature while passing through reclaimed home sites and crossing old country roads.
Henry Horton State Park is located on the shores of the historic Duck River, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Fishing, biking, golfing, hiking and even a trap and skeet range (includes skeet, trap, wobble trap and five stand shooting) can be experienced at the park. More than 10 miles of hikes are at Henry Horton, including the Wilhoite Mill Trail. This 0.7-mile trail begins near the site that late 1700s settlers made after the first known crossing of the Duck River. Then, the trail winds its way through old farm fields, remnants of abandoned farm homes, cedar glades and more. You'll see remnants of a mill as well. For views of the wetland and native grass fields, do the Adeline Wilhoite River Trail which leads to a 20-foot observation tower. The trail connects to the Wetland Trail and the 1.65-mile Adeline Wilhoite River Trail Loop.
Bask in Tennessee’s winter glory at Fall Creek Falls State Park with their abundance of waterfalls and over 56 miles of hiking trails. Make it a family-friendly weekend with your teens and spend the night at the park’s new lodge. The Lodge at Fall Creek Falls is the perfect hideaway for families or a friend’s reunion where you can escape into the woods of Tennessee, hike, go rock climbing, test your skills on the canopy challenge course, golf and go birding.
While enjoying the blues, barbecue and soul of Memphis, take some time for some fresh air at T.O. Fuller State Park. Historically, it was the first state park open for African Americans east of the Mississippi River and is home to the Chucalissa Indian Village. You and your kids can see the village and surrounding wetlands on the four-mile Discovery Trail. The state park is also a great place for birding, where you can see rare black-bellied whistling ducks and nesting black-necked stilts.
See 15 Native American ceremonial and burial mounds at Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park, a national historic landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Step into the museum first to learn about Native American culture and see artifacts. Then, hit the hiking trails where some are paved and ADA-accessible. You can walk or bike near the mounds, including the Sauls Mound, where you can climb the stairs to the observation deck. Follow the nature trails to see cypress swamps and woodlands. A boardwalk will let you view wildlife and plants at the cypress swamp and the Forked Deer River.
Big Hill Pond State Park in Pocahontas, Tennessee, approximately 92 miles east of Memphis, is potentially one of the most under-the-radar, backcountry hiking and camping spots in the state. With more than 4,000 acres of forested hills and swampy bottomlands visitors adventure on the 14 miles of equestrian trails, seven hiking trails and fish in Old Big Hill Pond. During the winter months, be sure to check out Turkey Call Trail’s Dismal Swamp Boardwalk, Tuscumbia Trail’s Lookout Tower, Fox Hollow Trail and Rocky Knob Trail.
A wealth of history from animal crossings to Native American trade and travel routes can all be found at Natchez Trace State Park. Walk through forests and fields and along streams on the 13.5 miles of hiking trails, ranging from half-mile to 4.5-mile trails. Visitors can spend their days winding through Tennessee’s forests, explore the park’s museum, bike along the multi-use fire trails and go horseback riding over 250 miles of terrain.
As the weather ranges from chilled to frigid, it’s a great time to visit the largest natural lake in Tennessee located in Tiptonville, directly adjacent to the Mississippi River. Reelfoot Lake was formed by an earthquake in 1811-12 and during its formation there were reports of the Mississippi River flowing backwards and filling the lake. In January and February, take the family on one of the Reelfoot Lake State Park's popular Eagle tours. Reserve your spot today to catch a glimpse of an eagle soaring across Reelfoot Lake.
Every winter the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency hosts the annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival in Birchwood which showcases the migration of thousands of Sandhill Cranes that soar across the Hiwassee River Wildlife Refuge on their yearly migration. This breathtaking event that occurs Jan. 14-15, 2023 is a fun activity for the whole family and is something that you cannot experience anywhere else across the state.
Stunning Christmas Light Displays
Located only six miles away from downtown Chattanooga, Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights is a magical night-time winter experience. The spectacularly decorated gardens and scenery atop Lookout Mountain feature four main “realms of wonder,” the Yule Town, Magic Forest, North Pole Village, and Arctic Kingdom. Stroll through this amazing winter wonderland a family tradition that the whole group can enjoy and look forward to. The Enchanted Garden of Lights is open nightly from November to January, though they are closed on Dec. 24. Quick tip: Tickets must be purchased online in advance.
With well over one million lights, Cheekwood Estate and Garden’s Holiday LIGHTS Experience is one of the best light displays in America, offering the prettiest winter stroll of the season. Located 30 minutes outside Nashville, the display is sure to amaze with illuminated paths, dazzling light displays, starbursts, candy cane wrapped trees, light tunnels, and beautifully illuminated trees. Also featured is Cheekwood’s newly renovated TRAINS! exhibit which is always a hit with kids. Beyond the lights, you can also visit the Mansion which houses over 500 poinsettias and classic holiday decorations, enjoy festive holiday drinks, and roast marshmallows by the fire in a s’mores pit.
A wonderous lights display not to be missed during your winter vacation in East Tennessee is at Bristol Motor Speedway, where you can drive along a 4-mile trail that features over three million lights, 250 unique Christmas light displays, and the chance to take a lap around “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” As part of your festive drive, you can circle the concrete oval and can visit the Christmas Village set within the track’s infield which offers a variety of activities from roasting marshmallows, shopping for artisan crafts, carnival rides, and seeing Santa. The event, which runs through Nov. 18, 2022 through Jan. 7, 2023 is $20 per car from 6-10pm on Sunday through Thursday and $25 per car from 6-10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. More pricing and event information can be on Bristol Motor Speedway’s website.
Celebrate the holidays and gather your family at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. Featuring stunning light displays, Gaylord Opryland’s signature ICE! Exhibit is returning this year. You can step into a winter wonderland carved by expert artisans out of over two million pounds of colorful ice, see the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and even plunge down slick slides made of ice. Also available is a 9,000 square-foot outdoor skating rink, personal visits with Santa, ice bumper cars, and an impeccably decorated interior space to enjoy. Open for guests of the resort as well as day visitors, please see Gaylord Opryland’s website for more information.
Family-Friendly Skiing and Tubing in Tennessee
Yes, Tennessee is home to its own ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg, where you can ski and snow tube, ice skate indoors and take a ride on the Ski Mountain Coaster year-round. Purchase a ski area ticket for unlimited access to all the slopes during your session. Ober Gatlinburg has all your gear covered as you can rent skis and snowboards, jackets, pants and helmets. After hitting the slopes, grab a bite to eat at Seasons of Ober Restaurant where you can soak in the views while dining on steaks, chicken and more from the seasonally-inspired menu. Take a spin on the indoor ice skating rink, open year-round, and browse the shops for apparel, gifts, jewelry and more.
Experience America's first indoor snow park at Pigeon Forge Snow, where winter fun can be had all year. Leave the parka at home as Pigeon Forge Snow is always 60-70 degrees inside. For snow tubing, children must be at least three years old and 38 inches to ride. The SnowPlay area, where you can build snow forts and snowmen, make snow angels and more, is perfect for children of all ages and heights, including toddlers.
Get into the wintertime spirit at Gaylord Opryland during Winterfest. Fun, winter memories are waiting for you and your family with a bunch of seasonal activities that appeals to a wide variety of ages. The full 2022-23 events and activities will be announced soon.
Family-Friendly Tennessee Ice Skating Rinks
Have a party or enjoy an afternoon skating the ice rink every day with extended hours in late December to early January at the Ice Chalet in Knoxville. View the full schedule to plan your day accordingly. You can purchase a public season pass for $30 which includes five sessions on the ice or a Public Session Pass Plus which includes skate rental for $60 and five sessions. One day admission is $7.50 and $7.50 for skate rentals.
Bring the whole family to the historic Glenn Miller Outdoor Gardens at the Chattanooga Choo Choo to enjoy the seasonal return of Ice on the Landing Ice Skating Rink. Get a season pass for $100 or a family pass for $200 for a family of four so you can experience the rink unlimited days and times Nov. 19 through Jan. 30, 2022.
Have a holly jolly holiday in Elizabethton by showing off your ice skating skills. Sail away on an open-air ice skating rink at Covered Bridge Park Nov. 27-Jan. 16, 2022. Make a reservation on Thursdays-Sundays for $10 which includes skates.
Take the family for a winter afternoon of ice skating at the Ford Ice Center in Antioch. Register online in advance to secure your spot for a public skate session. Skate sessions are $10 and include rental skates if needed. Need to learn how to ice skate? Take the seven-week session which includes ice skate rental for classes, a 30-minute group instruction with instructors on the ice at all times.
Tennessee Winter Resorts
For an experience like none other, book a stay at the world-class Big Cypress Lodge, a resort situated within Memphis’s one-of-a-kind Bass Pro Shop at the Pyramid. Offering over 100 rustic, distinctively arranged rooms and suites (some of which are designed to resemble tree houses, duck hunting camps, and more) suspended among Cypress trees, this resort immerses guests in the Bass Pro Shops outdoor lifestyle all while in the relaxing resort atmosphere. All rooms feature handcrafted furniture, fireplaces, and balconies or porches which can overlook the shops and Cypress Swamp. Available amenities at the resort include a 13-lane bowling alley, various fish and alligator ponds, the world’s largest freestanding elevator (leading to an observation deck at the top of the pyramid offering stunning views of Downtown Memphis), two distinct restaurants, shopping, and more. And, during winter months, the lodge is festively decorated to provide a holiday getaway you won’t soon forget.
Experience the perfect winter vacation in East Tennessee at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa in Pigeon Forge. Impeccably decorated for the holiday season, you’ll feel as if you have stepped into a Hallmark movie at this beautiful property. In addition to the festive atmosphere and picturesque views of the Smoky Mountains, a stay at DreamMore will provide you well-appointed rooms, various restaurant options like Song & Hearth, an indoor pool, a tranquil spa, and when paired with a visit to Dollywood, complimentary timesaver passes, preferred parking, and shuttle services to the park. DreamMore is fun for the whole family, offering plenty of fun and relaxing activities like crafts, smores, and special seasonal activities for children available during the winter and at Christmastime.
Located in close proximity to many of main attractions in the Smokies, The Resort at Governor’s Crossing is a wonderful location to enjoy a Smoky Mountain winter getaway. The ideal choice for vacation condo lodging, the resort has great guest amenities in addition to a number of winter seasonal celebrations including Christmas at the Cove and Winterfest. See over 100,000 lights during Christmas in the Cove now through Jan. 16, 2023, as well as festive Christmas trees, special holiday crafts and activities at Camp Firefly and ice-skating rink. During this time, guests can reserve specially decorated one/two-bedroom Christmas Condos. Winterfest Celebration starts Jan. 1, 2023 with ice-skating, festive lights, and unique winter displays. Available lodging includes king and queen studios and one/two/three-bedroom condos that feature fully equipped kitchens, baths, and more. Also on-site is a climate-controlled indoor water park.
A huge indoor waterpark, arcade, laser tag, 9-hole indoor mini golf, comfortable rooms, and beautiful views of the mountains are just some of the things you can expect to enjoy with a stay at the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort in Sevierville. With a family-friendly environment accentuated by a number of nice amenities including all-inclusive access to one of Tennessee’s largest indoor waterparks, the resort is perfect for family getaways. There are a number of different accommodations that can fit your needs, including River Lodge Suites, Villas (which can sleep up to 16 guests), and the Stone Hill Lodge. During the winter months, Wilderness Resort hosts a number of fun activities like ice-skating on a festive outdoor rink from Nov. 11, 2022 through Jan. 15, 2023 and Santa’s workshop which includes cookie decorating, holiday crafts, and Santa appearances throughout November and December.
Small TN Towns if You Love Winter
Immerse yourself in history in Tennessee’s second oldest town, Greeneville. Established in 1783, Greeneville oozes southern charm on every street corner and takes you on a journey back through time with its numerous historical sites and museums. Shop around in local boutiques, visit 17th President of the United States Andrew Johnson’s home, explore the David Crockett Birthplace State Park, and take in the beautiful surround mountain views.
Take a step back in time when you step foot in the charming small town of Granville. This quaint town is full of preserved homes and buildings including the famous T.B. Sutton General Store, the homestead of Mr. Sutton and the Granville Museum which is located inside a historic church. On Saturday nights, make plans catch a bluegrass concert as part of Sutton Ole Time Music Hour and feast on a delicious meat-and-three dinner. Then, spend the night at Wildwood Resort where you can wake up to waterfront views and unwind in lakeside luxury.
You'll be enriched by the storied past found in Shiloh where you can explore the Tennessee River, learn about early Native American culture, eat at a haunted catfish hotel and walk the battlefield where nearly 110,000 American troops clashed at the Shiloh National Military Park. Considered one of the best preserved battlefields in the U.S., the park not only preserves the battle history, but it’s also a U.S. National Cemetery with 4,000 soldiers and their families laid to rest.
Looking to warm up a little bit? Tennessee is home to the cutest coffee shops. Whether its Awaken Coffee in Knoxville, the Bell Buckle Coffee Shop & Book Shop in Bell Buckle or To the Last Drop Coffee Shop in Trenton, these local coffee shops will warm up your freezing hands and provide a cozy ambience. Check out this full list of Cozy Coffee Shops across Tennessee.
Where to Get Hot Chocolate in Tennessee
Take the kids to shops across the state for a hot chocolate treat. At The Hot Chocolatier in Chattanooga, sweet connoisseurs will find house-made hot chocolate made with the highest quality ingredients. Try a hot chocolate bomb at Sugar Magnolia Bakehouse in Spring Hill. It's like a bath bomb, but in a mug with warm milk poured on top. Your kids will jump for joy at the UrbanHouse Venue in Henderson when you order them gourmet hot chocolate to chase away the winter chills.
Cozy Tennessee Restaurants
Located in Sevierville on a real apple farm, Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant features fresh, local ingredients with seasonal dishes perfect for your winter vacation. The relaxed atmosphere is accentuated by breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains from the restaurant. Ideal for chilly winter days, a stone fireplace adorns and warms the dining area. Offering country omelets and farmyard specials for breakfast as well as old-time farmhouse specials, specialty sandwiches and more Southern comfort food for lunch and dinner, you’ll be sure to find something you’ll love on the menu. A great eatery for families, be sure to visit the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant during your trip to enjoy a cozy setting with comfort food at its finest.
In downtown Gainesboro, sample Celtic and Southern fare at The Bull & Thistle Pub. A full bar, 20 beers and ciders on tap and live music every Friday and Saturday night makes the pub a popular spot for locals. Grab a table and order dishes like Irish meatloaf, bacon-wrapped salmon, chicken Beaujolais, Jamaican jerk chicken, corned beef and cabbage, crab pasta and more. Hand-cut steaks, burgers and salads are also on the menu. Sides include crispy Brussels sprouts, braised red cabbage, sweet potato hash and garlic cheese potatoes to name a few. A kid’s menu is also available with meals like a cheeseburger, grilled cheese sandwich, creamy mac & cheese, and chicken tenders that will delight even the pickiest of eaters. For a fantastic dining experience, great food, and a cozy atmosphere definitely be sure to stop at Bull and Thistle.
All stemming from a little grocery store founded in Leiper’s Fork in the 1950s, Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant has become a Tennessee staple found at 6 locations across the state, including Franklin, Nashville, Columbia, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro and Pigeon Forge. Serving up some of the best Southern hospitality and authentic comfort food around, Puckett’s has not only won over the hearts of its patrons but has also won numerous awards for its barbecue. The restaurant also features their signature meat & three specials, classic Tennessee favorites, as well as a number of homecooked sides and sweet desserts. With food sure to warm your hearts during the chilly winter season and fill your belly, Puckett’s will be sure to please and delight. Quick tip: Puckett’s also features live music. Check out their website to see who will be on stage when you visit.
Walk up the classic sloped walkway and enjoy the old cinema ambiance at The Majestic Grille in Memphis. Vintage 1913 movie theater turned upscale American restaurant, this eatery serves up delicious food and plays classic silent films on a 20-foot screen on the back wall while you dine. Sit in a comfortable private booth, enjoy your meal, and take in the retro ambiance at this truly one-of-a-kind restaurant. Perfect for date night, an afternoon out with friends, or a family get-together, Majestic Grille has something for everyone.
Tennessee is home to seven genres of music. It’s where legendary songwriters and soon-to-be greats share the same stage. Tennessee Songwriters Week (Feb. 20-26, 2022) supports music venues, generates awareness of songwriters’ contributions to Tennessee, paves the way for future artists and inspires travelers to experience the state’s music stories, history, attractions and venues. While on vacation with your teens, catch a Qualifying Round at venues across the state of one of the six Showcase events. For more music-filled adventures, check out the places, people and events that inspired the music on the Tennessee Music Pathways. From big cities and small communities, this program identifies, explains and preserves the legacy of Tennessee and is a great way for you to dive deeper into Tennessee’s musically rich storied past.