Christmastime is finally here, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s my favorite time of year. Some of my best childhood memories revolve around the holidays, and now that I’m a parent, I enjoy holiday activities with my kid—even if sometimes she isn’t as enthusiastic as I am. There are a lot of things to do in Chattanooga around Christmas, so to narrow the list down a bit, here are my four favorite holiday activities in the Scenic City.
Mainx24 is my favorite Christmastime/winter activity in Chattanooga. It’s a 24-hour festival celebrating Main Street and the Southside of Chattanooga. Saying it's a 24-hour festival is not an exaggeration—there are things continually happening on and around Main Street for 24 hours straight. There is so much going on that it’s impossible to see and do it all—but I encourage you to at least try. My personal favorites include the pancake breakfast at the fire station and the parade (the EPB Southside Parade, AKA The Most Awesomest Parade Ever). If pancakes aren't your thing, grab some breakfast at Bluegrass Grill (if you can get in). It's my personal favorite breakfast spot in Chattanooga. The festival runs from Dec. 6 at 7 a.m. until Dec. 7 at 7 a.m.
Er … so I love parades. I love parades so much that I drag my child to them every single year, whether she wants to come or not. She usually ends up (kind of) enjoying them once the parade begins, but I’m going to be honest—I go mostly for me.
One of my favorite Christmastime events—the Holiday Starlight Parade—isn't taking place this year, which causes me to have a sad face. Though the parade downtown won't be happening, there's still a chance to enjoy holiday frivolity. The Red Bank Christmas Festival and Parade is another chance to eat candy off the street. Hurray! It begins Dec. 6 at noon and goes into the evening, ending at 7:30 p.m. If eating Tootsie Rolls off the road isn't really your thing, there are lots of other things to do—food and craft vendors, live music, a bonfire and the bearded man himself (not Jesus—the other one): Santa. Keep in mind that a good stretch of Dayton Boulevard is usually closed for this parade, so you'll want to get into the area early to score some good parking.
Rock City's Enchanted Garden of Lights
I moved to Chattanooga after growing up in Chicago, and the mountains confused and frightened me. Once I got over my fear, I found them quite magical. After my husband (he was my boyfriend at the time) took me to Rock City for the first time, I decided that I wanted to get married there. We didn't end up getting married at Rock City, but we did get married right next to it at Grandview. Ever since, Rock City has held a special place in my heart, and my favorite time of year to visit it is during the Enchanted Garden of Lights. Rock City is awesome to begin with, but when you add in Christmas music and twinkling lights, it gets downright … um, well, enchanting. I love to grab a cup of hot chocolate (or some Starbucks, because it's right across the street) and stroll through the gardens while Christmas music plays around me. It's just so ... well, enchanting. Aptly named attraction, indeed. The underground part with the fairy tale characters is kind of unnerving, but still charming in its own "gee, I hope these don’t come to life and kill me" kind of way. Christmas magic!
The event is open nightly from 6 to 9 p.m. until Jan. 3.
Holiday windows and lights
One of my favorite Christmastime activities is not actually exclusive to Chattanooga. I love to pile into the car, turn on the Christmas music, and drive around looking at decorations and lights. We did this when I was a child, and we’d make a game out of it. We would give people "points" for good decorations and dock points for things that were tacky or gaudy. Minus five points for mixing fat lights and small lights. Minus 10 for placing a plastic light-up Santa next to a light-up baby Jesus. Minus 15 points for mixing colored lights and white lights. (I just don't think it is pretty AT ALL. Pick a color scheme and go with it.) You get the point. Judging the decorating preferences is always a fun family bonding experience. I’ve heard good things about EPB’s window downtown, so it will probably be on our stop of "holiday sightseeing" this year.
So, Chattanoogans, what are your favorite holiday activities in the Scenic City?
Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 4-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots; or you can email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has an (Im)perfect Parenting Facebook page. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
Updated @ 12:17 p.m. to replace one of the events: The Holiday Starlight Parade is not being held this year.