Our Favorite Memphis Holiday Traditions

Posted by Holly Whitfield | November 18th 2019 3946 0

Experience the holidays in a very Memphis way this year with this handy guide to our city’s must-do holiday events, parties, and festivals. Updated for 2019.

Memphis Zoo Lights

Christmas at Graceland + Lighting Ceremony – Nov. 21 – Jan. 8
Blue Christmas? White Christmas? Home For Christmas? Whatever your favorite Elvis Christmas song, you’ll love Graceland all lit up for the holidays. The season kicks off with a Lighting Ceremony on November 21st, with live music and the premiere of the new Hallmark movie. Graceland also hosts a Holiday Concert Weekend on December 13 and 14.

Zoo Lights – Nov. 22 – Dec. 30
The Memphis Zoo hosts the SunTrust Zoo Lights again this year on select nights from Nov. 22 through Dec. 30. There are literally a million lights, singing trees, free tram and carousel rides, and a few animals on display. For extra fees, you can also ice skate, ride a camel or a Ferris Wheel, and more. 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. $9 non-members. Traffic tends to back up at peak times, so if you can, try to bike/walk or go at off-peak times. At the very least, carpool.

Enchanted Forest at the Pink Palace – Nov. 23 – Dec. 31
Is this the oldest holiday display in Memphis? Probably. It’s been around since the 50s and now has a home at the Pink Palace along with their annual Festival of Trees tree decorating display. Open daily, hours vary. Open late on Fridays. $6 adults/$5 kids and seniors.

Santa At Carriage Crossing – starts Nov. 22
You know the deal. Mall Santa. Pictures. Hopefully no crying, and I’m sure he’ll stick around until Christmas! It’s free to see Santa, but you have to pay for the pictures. For the Lighting Ceremony on the 22nd, there are kid-friendly activities including Frozen characters. More hours and details here.

Downtown Holiday Tree –  starts Nov. 30
See the big holiday tree at the corner of Peabody Place and Main Street. There are free festivities on Nov. 30 from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. with a lighting at 5:30 p.m.

Starry Nights at Shelby Farms – Nov. 29 – Jan. 3
Drive through two miles of light displays at Shelby Farms every night from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, closed on Dec. 3. There’s also Mistletoe Village with activities and refreshments. The only nights they’ll be open for walkers and bikers and leashed dogs (and closed to cars) are December 2, 9, 16, and 30 and on those nights, it’s $5 per person. This year, they’re doing biker nights on 12/4, 12/11, and 12/18. $15 motorcycles/$20/car, $50/van, $150/bus.

Holiday Wonders at Botanic Garden – Nov. 29 – Dec. 30
The Botanic Garden will host four different areas with holiday displays for its third annual Holiday Wonders experience. Open select nights from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (last admission at 8 p.m.) You can reserve your timed-entry tickets to cut down on waiting. Tickets start at $8.25.

Christmas Tree at the Peabody – starts Nov. 29
Catch the Duck Marches at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. while you take in the classiest holiday decor in town. The tree stays up all season.

Urban Nativity at Hattiloo Theatre – Nov. 22 – December 15
Hattiloo continues its tradition of holiday classics retold. This year, Urban Nativity reimagines the traditional Christmas origin story in a more modern urban setting.

A Christmas Carol at Theatre Memphis – Dec. 6 – 23
It’s a longtime Memphis tradition – go see the classic Dickensian holiday tale and bathe yourself in nostalgia, good cheer, and beloved characters. God bless Memphians, every one.

Delight at the Concourse – Dec. 6
Here’s a newish one for you – the Crosstown Concourse building will flip on the awesome 100-foot-tall lights in the Central Atrium on December 6th.

St. Jude Marathon – Dec. 7
No, the St. Jude Marathon is not a “holiday” event, but it’s a huge deal for the city of Memphis, with tens of thousands of people in town, roads closed on the race route, and opportunities to cheer on the runners and support the lifesaving mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Memphis Holiday Parade on Beale Street – Dec. 14, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Local school bands, cheerleaders, dancers, cars, community groups, and of course, Santa. See the full list of holiday parades here.

15th Annual Stumbling Santa Pub Crawl – Dec. 7
Imagine a horde of hundreds (thousands?) of Santas and sexy Mrs. Clauses (and sexy elves and sexy Grinches or sexy whatever). This is what descends upon downtown every year for the Stumbling Santa Pub Crawl. The crawl begins at Flying Saucer and goes to several other bars. It’s all for an amazing cause – all the crawlers must bring a new, unwrapped toy for the Porter-Leath toy drive. Not into the pub crawls or strangely provocative holiday outfits? Give back at the annual Porter-Leath Toy Truck event instead.

Holiday Happenings At Woodruff Fontaine – Dec. 6, 13
Every year, you can experience the holidays historic-home style in the Victorian Village. The Woodruff Fonatine House Museum hosts several events, including the Yuletide Open House on Friday, Dec. 6 from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. (donations accepted) and the Gilded Twilight Tour on December 13. The Mallory-Neely House will host a holiday open house on Dec. 6, too.

A Victorian Holiday With Opera Memphis, Dixon Gallery, Dec. 13 – 14, 20 – 21
This delightful event is back for a second year. Opera Memphis hosts an interactive experience at the Dixon – singers dressed in Victorian Era costumes, carols, games, an illusionist, and wassail drinks! Don’t know what wassail is? You’ll find out. Dixon members get 20 percent off.


What are your favorite Memphis holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments.


Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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