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Top Destinations in Tennessee to Visit This Holiday Season 2021


Written by Leslie Ingraham

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 12/11/2021, edited: 12/11/2021


Holiday cheer is in the air in 2021 in Tennessee! This southern state's mild winters lend themselves to furtastic outdoor holiday celebrations, including the numerous light shows you'll find throughout. These are pawfect for taking your best canine pal along, especially the drive-thru versions. One is even at a race track!

Other outdoor venues include gardens and parks where your fur baby is welcome to celebrate the holidays with you. From tree lighting to strolling and browsing in dog-friendly shops, Tennessee is the ideal place for a visit in 2021!

puppy in a santa's hat

Smoky Mountains: Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg

yellow and orange trees in Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain

Several communities in the Smokies host the Smoky Mountain Winterfest, including Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg and their surrounding towns. The Winterfest has already begun and continues through February 15 to extend the holiday feeling almost to spring!  

  • Visit Sevierville’s “Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland'' and be paw-struck by the dancing lights synchronized to the Christmas music on your car radio!  From 6 PM to 10 PM, drive through the Wonderland’s version of the North Pole. A 300-foot entrance tunnel gets you in the mood for sugarplum fairies, Christmas trees and candy canes, and don’t forget to spy Santa Claus and his elves! Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is happening at the Smokies’ Baseball Stadium in nearby Kodak until after Christmas.
  • In Pigeon Forge, drive through town past shops and houses decorated for the holidays to the Old Mill Square, where the enchantment continues. Visit its dog-friendly shops and eateries with patios, and enjoy the aromas of old-time Southern cooking and candy making. 
  • Gatlinburg hosts its annual Winter Magic festivities at the Lights over Gatlinburg event at Skylift Park, featuring a pawsome Sky Bridge 1,800 feet above the Smokies. Considered by many to be the most popular holiday venue in Tennessee, the paw-noramic views from the dog-friendly lift and walkway bridge are breathtaking. One of the features of the Skybridge during the holidays is the light tunnel above a portion of the walkway’s glass floor. Marvel at the 30-foot multicolored Christmas tree and surrounding dancing trees lit with animated musical accompaniment. General admission is $30 for humans. The doggo, however, is free.
  • If you’re longing to have some doggy fun with your fur baby, check out leash-free Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge near Old Mill Square. Watch the pups work off their “leashed” energy while you take a few turns around the track inside the park. Or during your visit to Sevierville, hop over to the Sevierville Petsafe Unleashed Dog Park. The large, secure park is pawfect for running and playing, and it offers free Wi-Fi so you can check your pup's “flea mail.”

Downtown, Knoxville

The holidays transform downtown Knoxville into a winter wonderland complete with lights, festive trees, and open air marketplaces. All dog-friendly, of course! 

  • Open 365 days a year, but dressed up for the winter holidays, the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum welcomes leashed dogs to stroll with their pet parents among the seasonal blooms and trees. Open from dawn to dusk, the Garden’s 47 acres feature two miles of trails along ambling stone walls and plants.

  • Take a hike on the Peppermint Trail in downtown Knoxville from now until January 2nd. Simply follow the peppermint trails on the sidewalks to pup-friendly stores where you’ll find special treats featuring the red and white candies’ taste and aroma. Visit the Mast General Store with Bella, where you’re sure to find everything Christmas from candles to tree stands. Or stop in at The Cork Wine & Spirits shop to pick up a nice red to go with the Christmas roast.

  • The Old City Holiday Market offers food and goods in an old-fashioned open-air market atmosphere made festive by the holiday decorations. Located up and down Jackson Avenue, shop winter hats and mittens, and other handmade items, along with the creative works of artists and crafters. Open December 12, 11 AM to 4 PM, rain or shine.

  • The Elf on the Shelf adventure will be fun for the whole family, including the furry pal!  A window front scavenger hunt, the Elf on the Shelf features Santa’s elves scattered amongst the shops downtown. Find and photograph as many as you can and enter them for gift card drawings from now until January 2nd!

Downtown, Nashville

Downtown Nashville lights up your holiday season with luminous decorations and holiday music. Join locals and visitors to Music City for the festivities!

  • Fifth & Broadway is a pedestrian mall that invites you to their Winter Wonder celebration on December 11th from 2 PM to 6 PM. Dogs are welcome in the mall and some of the shops and restaurants. Shop with Bella at the Free People, Ray-Ban, Ariat, and Tecova stores. There will be children's activities to be had as well, like ornament painting and gingerbread man decorating! When you’re shopped out, sit down for some down-home fare at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, or Cava for a Yuletide meal, southern style. 

  • If you and the pup would like to escape to the great outdoors near Nashville, the Percy Warner Park Trails are a true holiday gift!  Featuring two trails that total about eight miles, the Mossy Creek Trail and the Warner Woods Trail, these moderate-level loops are more than worth the detour from downtown shopping and browsing, not to mention a breath of fresh air.

  • While you’re visiting Nashville, no holiday trip would be complete without a jaunt to nearby Franklin, where you’ll find the largest outdoor festival in the mid-Tennessee area. The 36th Annual Dickens of a Christmas festival re-creates the time of Charles Dickens, with Franklin’s historic Victorian architecture as a backdrop. You’ll  meet musicians and dancers, along with Dickens’ characters from A Christmas Carol, like Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge. And no Victorian celebration would be complete without a visit from Father Christmas!

Downtown, Memphis

Memphis has pulled out all the stops to make the 2021 Holiday Season the best!

  • Holiday Wonders at the Memphis Botanical Garden, open until December 23rd, features a towering, lushly decorated Christmas tree. While you can’t bring your fur baby most nights, the Garden has set aside December 9th and 16th as Santa Paws nights where your pup is welcome to leisurely stroll among the beautiful plants and flowers. The Garden is open from 5 PM to 8:30 PM.

  • On December 10th, be sure to get over to the Holly Jolly Celebration on iconic Beale Street! This outdoor holiday experience offers free pics with Santa, lots of holiday music and free hot chocolate. Browse the street for holiday souvenirs and gifts from 5 to 7 PM.

  • Come back to Beale Street on December 11th to watch the Beale Street Holiday Parade at 3 PM. The parade will feature marching bands, baton twirlers and steppers with their exaggerated, energetic dancing. And of course there will be floats and Santa in his sleigh, pulled by reindeer! 

  • If your pup has any energy left, be sure to check out the Shelby Farms Dog Park where Bella and her pals can cavort until the sun goes down. The huge, 100-acre park is mostly fenced, so a sharp eye and good recall skills are necessary to keep the pooch from slipping away. Or leash them back up and walk one of the many trails within Shelby Park. There are four lakes, pawrfect if it’s not too cold to swim. 

Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol

In the summer, this popular arena is filled with thousands of race car fans breathing exhaust and cheering on their favorites. During the holidays, it becomes something else entirely, but just as much fun!

  • Climb in the car with your kids and pup and drive over to the Bristol Speedway for The Pinnacle Speedway in Lights. Once there, enjoy 3 million lights on display along the concrete oval. The route is four miles long with a beautiful Menorah and Nativity Scene at the end. Drive-throughs run from 6 - 10 PM. A Santa’s Village on the infield invites the children in your clan, but your pupper will have to stay in the car while they cavort. Tickets are $20 - $25 for cars, $50 for vans and $125 for buses. Open every day until January 1st.

  • While you’re in Bristol, check out Downtown for the Holidays in nearby Kingsport. Kingsport is decorated for the holidays and is ready for you and your doggo to visit downtown, do a little window shopping, and maybe some actual shopping. Gabriel’s Christmas is a dog-friendly store filled with everything Christmas. Another pup-welcoming shopping experience is Bass Pro Shops where you’ll find everything for outdoor fun with Bella!

  • Bristol Bark Park in the Charlie Robinette Park is a pawsome place to blow off some of your pup’s pent-up steam. Surrounded by large trees outside the fence and equipped with comfy benches, this is the ideal spot to get away from it all, from 9 AM to 9 PM.

If you want to visit an attraction in Tennessee that doesn’t allow dogs this holiday season, check out the dog sitting services in your area. Fun and friendly sitters with Wag! can visit with your pup in your home or hotel room for as long as you need to be away. Your pooch will have a ball, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your events, knowing your pup is well-cared for by a professional! 

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