Cumberland Basin Holiday Guide 2021

A guide to this year's best small-town celebrations around the basin


map of basin with various watersheds

The holiday season is upon us and there’s no better time to explore the Cumberland River Basin. The basin is home to a wealth of small towns and villages, each with their unique holiday traditions. From wacky Christmas parades to ice skating rinks to train rides through some of the basin’s most scenic spots, we’ve got the best small-town celebrations in our guide below.

You-Pick Christmas Tree Farms
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Spend time outdoors, get into the holiday spirit, and support local farms around the Basin by cutting down your own tree at a You-Pick Christmas tree farm this season. There are a variety of different locations throughout Tennessee and Kentucky that offer you-pick services throughout November and December. 

Below are a few of our suggested locations. Make sure to check their websites and read their latest updates on tree availability and hours, as these factors can vary depending on the year and demand for trees. 

Photo: Camron Flanders

Christmas on the Cumberland
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Clarksville, TN

640 N Riverside Dr, Clarksville, TN 37040

Come see over one million lights on display on the bank of the Cumberland River at Christmas on the Cumberland! This holiday season, McGregor Park RiverWalk turns into a winter wonderland with nearly a mile of lights and decorations to view as you stroll along the river. 

The festive lights and displays will be lit and available to view for the duration of the holiday season through the new year, with visits from Santa on December 11th and 18th. Peruse downtown Clarksville for gifts and goodies and then make your way to the waterfront for an evening stroll that is sure to be full of cheer. 

Dates: November 23, 2021- January 2, 2022

Cost: Free

Find more event info here.

Photo: City of Clarksville website

Polar Express Ride through Big South Fork
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Big South Fork Scenic Railway

66 Henderson St. Stearns, KY 42647

You may have enjoyed a Polar Express- style train ride before, but chances are it didn’t involve the breathtaking backdrop of a National Park. The Big South Fork Scenic Railway travels along 16 miles of the BSF National River and Recreation area and provides a one-of-a-kind festive experience when it converts into the Polar Express every November and December. 

This Polar Express ride is the perfect experience for the whole family as you read the Chris Van Allsburg story and zip along the “North Pole” landscape of Big South Fork. Each ticket insures an experience filled with caroling, hot chocolate, a meeting with Santa, and a special gift for each child. 

Dates: Select dates in November and December 2021

Cost: $20-60/ticket

Find more info here. 

Photo: David Marvin

Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade
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Leiper’s Fork, TN

4151 Old Hillsboro Rd, Franklin, TN 37064

Looking for a Christmas parade to get you in the holiday spirit? The self-proclaimed “Almost World Famous ,Wacky and Wonderful” Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade is sure to give you a small town holiday experience filled with quirky traditions and a tight-knit community feel. 

Leiper’s Fork, located right outside of Franklin, TN, is known far and wide for bringing the holiday spirit to their funky Christmas parade. The small village, decked out with holiday decorations, evokes sentiments of a Hallmark movie, making it the perfect location for a festive display of holiday cheer. The parade itself features animals, people dressed in wacky costumes, local business floats, classic cars, and is known to attract the occasional Tennessee celebrity– you won’t want to miss it!

Date: December 11, 2021

Cost: Free!

Find more event info here.

Photo: Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade Facebook

Christmas on the Mountain
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Fall Creek Falls State Park

2009 Village Camp Rd, Spencer, TN 38585

Travel to Fall Creek Falls to experience holiday fun in the backdrop of the one of the basin’s most visited state parks. Christmas on the Mountain is a holiday tradition hosted by the park every year that showcases local talent, artisan crafts, and festive cheer all weekend long. 

Christmas on the Mountain features holiday decorations, visits from Santa, live music, and a craft fair with goods from local artists and businesses. The holiday event is co-hosted by Friends of Fall Creek Falls and the state park itself and is sure to provide entertainment and good cheer to revelers of all ages.

Date: December 3- 4, 2021

Cost: Free!

Find more event info here.

Photo: Fall Creek Falls Facebook page

Christmas in the Park
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Cookeville, TN

30 E Broad Street Cookeville, TN 38501

Travel to Dogwood Park in downtown Cookeville, TN to start off the holiday season by participating in the 7th annual Christmas in the Park tree lighting celebration. A 40-foot-tall tree will grace the center stage of the celebration, and its lighting will be followed by a light show synchronized to holiday music and a performance by local Lee University a-capella group “Voices of Lee.”

Be sure to roam around the park afterward to soak in holiday cheer from additional decorations, which will be present for the entire holiday season for those who can’t attend the lighting but want to experience Cookeville’s Christmas magic at another time. Grab a treat at Poet’s Coffee and wander around Christmas in the Park for a cozy night on the town. 

Date: December 1, 2021

Cost: Free!

Find more event info here

Photo: Cookeville Town website

YMCA Art & Craft Christmas Market
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Sparta/White County YMCA

123 Moore St, Sparta, TN 38583

Support local artisans at one of the Upper Cumberland region’s largest craft show at the YMCA Art & Craft Christmas Market. The White County YMCA hosts this regional craft fair, where all funds generated go directly toward a holiday drive for local families in need. Support local businesses in the Upper Cumberland and find holiday gifts at this one-day artisan event.

Date: December 11, 2021

Cost: Free!

Find more event info here.

Photo: Nick Ford

Christmas on the Square
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Jamestown, KY

101 Monument Square, Jamestown, KY 42629

Join locals in Jamestown, KY as they ring in the holiday season at Christmas on the Square. This quaint town, situated on Lake Cumberland, hosts an annual tradition that showcases its small town charm with holiday lights, local vendors, live music, and more. 

Kick off the night by watching the tree lighting ceremony on the Judicial Center Lawn, then indulge yourself in goods from the pop up vendor market and wander the town square as you take in the festive sights. The event also offers free horse-drawn carriage and sleigh rides, photos with Santa, musical performances, and hot chocolate to help you get into the holiday spirit. 

Date: December 3, 2021

Cost: Free!

Find more event info here.

Photo by Linda Waggener, CM Photo.

Corbin Christmas Village and Ice Skating Rink
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Corbin, KY

208 N Main St, Corbin, KY 40701

Get into the winter spirit by ice skating in downtown Corbin, KY as part of the town’s Christmas Village holiday celebration. This week-long holiday event transforms the town’s downtown area into a winter wonderland, complete with a skating rink!

For a small fee, which includes a skate rental, skaters can participate in winter fun as they explore historic Corbin. The town is located just outside of Daniel Boone National Forest and draws many visitors on their way to the famous Cumberland Falls. Corbin is also celebrated as the birthplace of Colonel Sanders and is home to the Colonel Sanders Cafe and museum. Be sure to check out these notable landmarks as you enjoy good holiday fun at the Christmas Village and ice skating rink!

Dates: December 4-11, 2021

Cost: Small fee for skating and rentals

Find more event info here. 

Photo: Texas Tongs

Christmas at Rugby
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Rugby, TN

1331 Rugby Pkwy, Rugby, TN 37733

Celebrate the holidays Victorian style at the Christmas at Rugby celebrations, which take place the first two Saturdays of December. Located in the historic settlement of Rugby, TN, the Victorian-style village will come to life with Christmas cheer during these celebrations. A ticket to the event includes holiday private home tours, tours of historic buildings, cookies and spirits, sounds of carolers reveling around the lit up town, and more. Step back in time to the 1880s and experience a Victorian Christmas sure to evoke Dickens-era fun. 

For an additional cost, participants can opt-in for a Christmas Dinner meal, served in Rugby’s newly renovated community building. 

Dates: December 4 &11, 2021

Cost: $20/person, additional $37/person for holiday meal ticket

Find more event info here. 

Photo: Historic Rugby website

New Years’ Eve Festive Follies
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Rugby, TN

1331 Rugby Pkwy Rugby, TN 37733

Looking for a fun Tennessean New Years’ Eve celebration that doesn’t involve Broadway and booze? Join the fun at New Years’ Eve Festive Follies, in historic Rugby, TN for good fun and some raucous entertainment. The Festive Follies is an annual variety show tradition that combines Hollywood glamour, music, and humor as the Actor’s Co-op performs in the historic Johnson Theater. 

This family-friendly show benefits the Rugby Historical Society and Actor’s Co-op and is sure to be a great way to ring in the New Year. Purchase your tickets in advance before they sell out!

Date: December 31, 2021

Cost: $20/ticket

Find more event info here.

Photo: Brent Moore

Winter Solstice and New Year Celebrations
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Bledsoe Creek State Park

400 Zieglers Fort Rd, Gallatin, TN 37066

Join park rangers at Bledsoe Creek State Park for a variety of solstice and New Year celebrations that will get you outside to explore the winter scenery and wildlife of Middle Tennessee.

Just a few days before the winter solstice, head out on an evening hike around the state park’s Shoreline trail to view the full moon. The ranger-led hike follows a 2 mile loop of Bledsoe Creek, giving hikers beautiful views of the moon from the water and around the serene scenery of the state park. Park trails are closed to the public after 5pm, so you won’t want to miss out on this opportunity to view the full moon and tour the park during this full moon hike. 

Come back to the park after your full moon hike and get into your crafty side by participating in the park’s winter solstice ornament event. For a small registration fee, bring your whole family to make birdseed ornaments for the wildlife in your backyard in celebration of the shortest day of the year. This event is perfect for little ones and gives your family the chance to be outside and enjoy the park while celebrating the solstice.

If you’re looking for even more fun, visit Bledsoe Creek on New Years’ Day to head out on their first day hike. This ranger-led trek takes hikers on a 1.5 route through the park while celebrating the New Year. Take time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the new one while hiking through the beautiful state park. 


Full Moon Hike: December 19, 2021

Winter Solstice Ornaments: December 20, 2021

First Day Hike: January 1, 2022


Full Moon Hike: Suggested donation

Winter Solstice Ornaments: $5/registration

First Day Hike: Suggested donation

More event and registration info here.

Photo: Bledsoe Creek State Park Facebook page