Nashville Holiday Happenings 2023

Nashville Holiday Happenings 2023: Lighting Displays, Concerts, Special Events, Pop-Up Bars and More

November and December are packed with all sorts of holiday excitement. Whether you want to join in on a rousing rendition of “Joy to the World” or cozy up for a firepit, Nashville is ready to welcome you.

Lighting Displays and Decoration
Concerts and Musical Events
Special Events
Holiday Pop-Up Bars

Lighting Displays and Decoration

Nashville goes all out to light up the night. You can walk through, drive through or even take a trip back in time. Find the attraction that suits your fancy.

Christmas at Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Now-January 1

No one does Christmas any bigger than Opryland Hotel (photo above). First off, there’s the decoration that takes months of set-up. Just walking through the front lawn displays or the Cascades atrium is pretty magical but there’s so much more.

Returning this year is their stunning ice sculpture display cleverly called ICE featuring The Polar Express along with an ice skating rink, ice slides, and more. Daryl Worley is presenting a series of Christmas concerts and there are a bunch of other options. Check out their website for details and pricing. Note: due to its popularity, there are restrictions on when it is open (See FAQ #6) to those who are not hotel guests or don’t have tickets to one of these special activities.

Dancing Lights of Christmas

Now-December 31

Travel out to Wilson County Fairgrounds for the area’s largest drive-thru display of lights. Stop by Santa’s Village for a visit with ol’ Saint Nick and treat the kids to the petting zoo. They charge $30 per carload so load up everyone.

Franktown Festival of Lights

Now-December 31

Drive through displays at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center in Franklin featuring more than 200 displays in sync with a soundtrack you can play on your car radio. This year they’ve added Walk-Thru Wednesday if you prefer traveling on foot. Priced at $34.69 per carload of 8 people. Benefits Franktown Open Hearts non-profit organization.

Cheekwood Holiday Lights

Now-January 7

In recent years, Cheekwood Gardens has gone to great lengths to attract visitors with a million lights illuminating a one-mile path. The grounds are beautiful in daylight but become magical at night. There’s typically an area for kids and a hot chocolate station.

Zoolumination at the Nashville Zoo

Now-February 4

Zoolumination at Nashville Zoo

Imagine enormous Chinese lanterns in the shapes of all manner of animals–both real and fanciful. Over 100 creations in all. We toured the zoo grounds last year and were blown away by the artistry and vibrant colors. From November 24-December 24, an illuminated North Pole Village is included in admission.

Christmas at Belmont Mansion

Resplendent in Victorian holiday decoration, tours of this opulent mansion provide a glimpse of Nashville aristocracy 160 years ago. Check the link for the limited schedule.

Concerts and Musical Events

Nashville has a longstanding love affair with Christmas music–from Handel’s “Messiah” to Brenda Lee’s hit “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” I’m featuring some of the most popular multi-night concerts before shifting into one- or two-night concerts.

Christmas at the Ryman with Amy Grant and Vince Gill

Now a full-fledged Nashville tradition, Amy and Vince settle into the beloved Ryman Auditorium for a “tender Tennessee Christmas” with cherished favorites as well as selections from Amy’s extensive Christmas catalog.

December 13, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22 and 23 including several matinees.

General Jackson Christmas Cruise

Choose between midday and evening trips up the Cumberland River from Opry Mills to downtown Nashville. Your cruise includes a live show of holiday music and a nice meal. Priced $44-$135 per person.

Now-December 25

Opry Country Christmas

The Grand Ole Opry gives a special nod to the holidays with shows that add a little Christmas spirit.

December 7, 10, 11, 14, 17, 18

The Ornaments in Concert

Longtime Nashvillians have a yuletide tradition of taking in the annual reunion of a band called The Ornaments as they perform the soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” They’ve bounced around through the years but this year they’ve settled into Eastbowl’s performance space.

December 18-23

Holiday Tunes at Rudy’s Jazz Room

Check the calendar for these offerings: “An Old-Fashioned Christmas,” “An Evening of Holiday Magic,” “Jingle Jam,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and “Sinatra at Christmas.”

Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors Christmas concert
Ricky Skaggs Christmas
Isaacs Christmas concert

Abbreviations for venues listed below:
CW–City Winery
FT–Franklin Theater
FC–Fisher Center at Belmont University
NSH–Nashville Symphony Hall
OH–Opry House
RA–Ryman Auditorium

December 1-14

Boyz II Men Christmas concert

December 15-24

Michael W. Smith Christmas

Special Events

Here I’ve included a hodgepodge of activities including the performing arts, a street festival and a few other events where music isn’t the primary emphasis.

Jingle Bell Run/Walk

December 2

I don’t have a category for charity athletic events so I’ll drop this in ahead of the entertainment options. Choose from a 5k, 1-mile, or Kids Fun Run. It takes place at Two Rivers Park near Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Benefits the Arthritis Foundation.

A Tuna Christmas

December 1-16

Two actors play about a dozen characters in this fast-paced, fast-change comedy set in the tiny town of Tuna, Texas. Laugh-out loud hilarious. Presented by Franklin’s Pull-tight Players.

A Christmas Carol

December 1-17

Time-travel back to Dickensian London with this lavish production telling the transformative tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Presented by Tennessee Repertory Theatre at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

December 7-17

Set in a radio station on a snowy night, a cast brings to life all the beloved characters of Bedford Falls. Presented by StudioTenn in Franklin.

Nashville’s Nutcracker

December 8-24

Inspired the Emmy-winning 2020 film with some touches customized to this production, the production is presented by Nashville Ballet in conjunction with the Nashville Symphony at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC).

Dickens of a Christmas

December 9-10

Downtown Franklin pays tribute to merry ol’ London with this two-day Victorian throwback. Expect roving carolers, Father Christmas, characters from Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, festive foods and beverages, and all manner of venders. It’s been a huge hit in years past so expect large crowds.

Walk Through Bethlehem

December 10

Woodmont Christian Church in Green Hills goes all out to create a bustling marketplace with 200 costumed characters and a nativity scene with live animals. FREE.

A Holiday to Remember

December 14-16 and December 20-22

I love the two Truman Capote short stories that provide the basis for this charming evening. This special performance is presented at historic Belmont Mansion by one of Nashville favorite actors, David Alford accompanied by music by Paul Carrol Binkley.

New Years Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash

December 31

Unless you head to Times Square, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more festive place for free fun than Nashville’s Big Bash. In addition to one of the nation’s largest fireworks displays, we light up the night with high-calibre talent. This year’s concert at Bicentennial Mall State Park features Lainey Wilson, Thomas Rhett, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Holiday Pop-Up Bars

A growing number of downtown establishments (and a few beyond downtown) go all out with holiday decorations. Whether you’d like something elegant or kitschy, Nashville can accommodate…and most have concocted special beverages for the season.


  • Bobby Hotel  At their seasonal Camp Bobby, rent a private campfire igloo, the vintage lounge aboard the rooftop Greyhound Scenicruiser or enjoy the fire pits. (Photo above)
  • JW Marriott  Love “The Polar Express”? Chances are good that you’ll be enchanted by JWStarlight, the hotel’s immersive offering described as “60-minute sensorial expedition across stunning landscapes complete with weather events, environmental surprises, craft cocktails​, and more.”
  • Westin  Don’t have time to jet to the Alps? Here’s a convenient solution. The rooftop bar has been transformed into Chalet27, an elegant escape to Bavaria in the heart of the city.
  • Noelle Hotel  Its popular Hidden Bar pays tribute to the cherished film “A Christmas Story” with Ralphie’s Christmas. Don’t put an eye out.
  • Union Station  It’s not exactly a Christmas theme but it certainly magical. The lobby bar has been transformed into 9 3/4, inspired by the enchanted platform in the Harry Potter series.
  • W Nashville  The rooftop lounge has been christened The Lodge at Proof for Christmas. Decorated with a woodsy vibe, drop by for a little down-time or rent a private cabin for your party.
  • Teddy’s Tavern  It’s wreaths, lights, trees, gift wrap, and garlands galore on the rooftop for Tinsel at Teddy’s, just around the corner from Broadway and across the street from Bridgestone Arena.
  • Pancake Pantry  Yeah, seems a bit odd to turn a pancake diner into a holiday pop-up but that’s just what they’re doing with their “Elf”-themed Buddy’s Bar Thursday-Saturday, 6-11pm. Downtown location only.
  • Grand Hyatt Downtown  The fifth floor of the Hyatt Downtown playing host to The Rink Above Broadway. Cost is $10 for an hour of skating Monday-Thursday and $15 Friday-Sunday; skate rental is included. No charge for admission. Kid-friendly? Yep, there’s even breakfast with Santa on select mornings and cookie decorating too.
  • Fairlane  For a cool evening of drinks and nibbles, try the “whimsical, woodland wonderland” of Frosted Fairlane atop the Fairlane Hotel.
  • Dream Hotel  Downtown The Parlour Bar gets a bit wonky with a confectionery dream called The Cocktail Factory. Among its seasonal delights are the 12 Cocktails of Christmas including The Pear Tree and Tequila Calling Bird.
  • Layer Cake SoBro The Cherry Lounge of the restaurant shines with feminine charm on display with Santa Baby: A Mrs. Claus Pop-Up. Thematic cocktails and decor designed for photo ops.

Beyond Downtown

  • Virgin Hotel  Music Row. Experience Rudy’s Rooftop Retreat, a nostalgic poolside encampment inspired by rustic campsites. They’re even serving up Grandma Golden’s cookies fresh from the oven.
  • Santa’s Pub  Wedgewood-Houston. Ain’t nothing popping up here because it’s Christmas year-round at this famous lil dive bar whose proprietor is affectionately known as Santa. Gotta have cash–no credit cards.
  • Jane’s Hideaway  East Nashville. This trendy bluegrass club decks itself out for the holidays as Candy Cane Jane’s, adorned with lots of trees, tinsel, and garland.
  • The Treehouse   East Nashville. Are you a fan of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”? If so, you’re bound to smile at the dining room decorated ala the Griswold living room.
  • Nicky’s Coal Fired  The Nations. Transformed into Saint Nicky’s for Christmas, the place is aglow with tiki-inspired tropical fun and serving Christmas Tree pasta.

Year-round you can get a peek of what’s upcoming at my Nashville Calendar.