It is so exciting to see lots of our favorite holiday events coming back to life this year as in-person offerings.
Last year, COVID-19 concerns forced so many great happenings to go virtual, and some, like the Nashville Christmas Parade, Christmas tree lighting and some menorah lightings, are virtual again this year.
But I am happy to report that there are dozens of wonderful free events to enjoy this holiday season.
So here is my “Ms. Cheap Guide to the Holidays” for 2021! I hope it will help you enjoy this blessed season in Middle Tennessee.
• Bass Pro’s “Santa’s Wonderland” has transformed the Opry Mills Bass Pro store into a Christmas village with snow-covered hills, elves and other decorations, a chance to write a letter to Santa, as well as free games and activities every day through Christmas Eve. The store offers a free photo with Santa for which you can use an online reservation system to reserve a spot up to seven days in advance of your visit. Just go to basspro.com/santa. Details: basspro.com
• Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center has a calendar full of paid holiday events and activities like musical shows, dinners and ice skating. But there are plenty of free things to do at the resort, too — everything from seeing the 4 million lights, walking through the giant Nativity display, enjoying the nightly atrium light and water shows, and walking through the acres of lavishly decorated indoor gardens. The holiday decorations are up through Jan. 1. Park free at Opry Mills and walk over to the hotel. Details: https://christmasatgaylordopryland.marriott.com
• The Nashville Public Library has a “Holiday Movie Series” that takes place at 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays in December at the Inglewood branch at 4312 Gallatin Road. The lineup includes “Elf” on Dec. 1; “The Santa Clause” on Dec. 8; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” on Dec. 15; “The Polar Express” on Dec. 22; and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on Dec. 29. Details: library.nashville.org
• Nov. 26: Tennessee State Parks has a series of all-park hike days through the year during which all 56 parks offer ranger-led hikes and other activities. Next up is the “All Parks Black Friday Hike,” a good alternative to shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. To find a hike, see https://tnstateparks.com/activities/hiking.
• Nov. 26-27: “String City, Nashville’s Tradition of Music and Puppetry,” the unique all-age show that chronicles the history of country music through assorted puppetry, including marionettes, shadow puppets and hand puppets, will be performed at 10 and 11:30 a.m. at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Ford Theater. The show is a collaboration between the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Public Library’s Wishing Chair Productions. The free show is one hour and 15 minutes. Details: library.nashville.org
• Nov. 30: Lipscomb University’s Lighting of the Green will take place outdoors in the Allen Arena Circle on the Lipscomb campus. Joining Amy Grant for the 17th annual lighting will be CeCe Winans and choirs from Lipscomb Academy and University. Festivities begin at 4 p.m., with the concert starting at 6 p.m. and concluding with the lighting of the giant Christmas tree.
The event also includes a “Merry Marketplace” of holiday vendors inside McQuiddy Gym and free pictures with Santa starting at 4:30 p.m. Plus there will be a Second Harvest booth in the marketplace where you can donate to the Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for the food bank or pick up a collection can. Details: https://www.lipscomb.edu/events/lighting-green-0
• Dec. 3: 5 p.m. Metro Parks Centennial Arts Center in Centennial Park is having its student art show reception 5-8 p.m. The exhibit, which features artwork by Metro Parks Visual Arts students and staff, will be on display through Dec. 16. The reception, where you can purchase the art, will be inside and outside the center, with live music and refreshments. The center is at 301 25th Ave. N. Details: www.nashville.gov.cac or call 615-862-8442
• Dec. 2: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Tennessee Agriculture Museum is having its Christmas open house, with refreshments, vendors, live music and demonstrations. The museum is at the Ellington Agricultural Center, 404 Hogan Road. Details: 615-837-5297
• Dec. 4: 3 p.m. The Williamson County Community Band will present a holiday concert of traditional carols and seasonal favorites at the Williamson County Enrichment Center, 110 Everbright Ave. in Franklin. The all-volunteer band, with 60 musicians, is sponsored by the Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department. Details: www.wcparksandrec.com
• Dec. 4-5: The Nashville Zoo is again teaming up with the Metro police department’s mounted patrol division for the annual Christmas Basket program. The zoo is offering a complimentary admission ticket for every new unwrapped toy donated (limit of two tickets per person, and the tickets can be used any time through the end of 2022).
The mounted police will collect the toys in the zoo parking lot from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Kids can also drop off letters to Santa for the officers to deliver to the North Pole. Details: Nashvillezoo.org
• Dec. 5: The Music City Bronze community hand bell ensemble has four concerts on the December calendar: 4 p.m. Dec. 5 at Brentwood United Methodist Church; 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at First Baptist in Lebanon; 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Woodmont Christian Church in Green Hills; and 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at Connection United Methodist Church in Donelson. Details: musiccitybronze.org
• Dec. 5: 4:30 p.m. West End United Methodist Church, at 2200 West End Ave., is kicking off the Christmas season with a performance of “Messiah,” Handel’s classic telling of the Christmas story. Join the choirs and orchestra in person or via livestream. Details: westendumc.org or call 615-321-8500
• Dec. 9: 7 p.m. The Brass Band of Nashville, which is a community “Americanized brass band that plays music in the British Brass Band spirit,” will perform “Finally a Merry Christmas” at Vine Street Christian Church at 4101 Harding Pike. Details: brassbandofnashville.org
• Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18: 10:30 a.m. The Nashville Public Library’s Wishing Chair Productions puppet troupe will perform a musical version of “A Child’s Calendar,” which is John Updike’s collection of poems for children that takes you month by month through the seasons. The 30-minute show takes place in the children’s theater on the second floor of the main library, 615 Church St. in Nashville.
• Dec. 10-12 and Dec. 16-19: Gov. Bill Lee and first lady Maria Lee are opening their Tennessee Residence to tours on certain days during the holiday season. The holiday theme this year is “A Storybook Christmas.” The free tours, which last 60-90 minutes, are self-guided and will have docents and volunteers stationed throughout the home to provide additional information and answer questions. You must have a reservation and must bring a valid ID on your tour date. Details: www.tn.gov/residence or call 615-399-4254
• Dec. 11: Granville’s “Country Christmas” celebration is 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. with plenty of free fun, including a 2 p.m. parade, the annual Festival of Trees, Christmas Characters on Parade, a storytime and pictures with Santa. Some of Granville’s attractions have a fee, but all of Granville is decorated for the holidays throughout December. Details: www.granvilletn.com
• Dec. 11-12, Dickens of a Christmas: This 36th annual festival, which is put on by the Downtown Franklin Association and the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County, re-creates the time of Charles Dickens in historic downtown Franklin. This event claims to be the largest Christmas festival in Middle Tennessee, filling downtown with musicians, carolers, dancers and costumed Dickens characters. Details: https://williamsonheritage.org/event/dickens2021-2/
• Dec. 12: 4 p.m. Lessons and Carols at Christ Church Cathedral. This annual festival features nine lessons paired with the singing of Christmas carols. The Episcopal cathedral is at 900 Broadway. Details: Christcathedral.org or 615-255-7729
• Dec. 12: 5 p.m. Nashville First Baptist’s “Keyboards at Christmas” will take place in the sanctuary, with six grand pianos, 528 keys and 24 hands, along with the church’s sanctuary choir, creating a festive musical evening. Nashville First is at Seventh and Broadway in downtown Nashville. Details: nashvillefirst.org or 615-664-6000
• Dec. 13: 7:30 p.m. The Belmont Camerata Christmas concert takes place in the Belmont Mansion. Camerata is the resident chamber ensemble of Belmont University School of Music. Details: www.belmont.edu/cmpa/music or call 615-460-6408
• Dec. 14: 11 a.m. Tuba Christmas is back this year with an 11 a.m. performance of as many as 100 tubas playing Christmas carols in the sanctuary at Nashville First Baptist church, at the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Broadway. The performance is free, but volunteers will collect donations for the Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for Second Harvest after the concert. Details: Call G.R. Davis at 615-714-0247.
• Dec. 17: 4-7 p.m. Winter solstice celebration at Warner Park Nature Center. This annual event includes wreath making, campfires, music, a luminary trail and other winter activities. Registration required. https://www.warnerparks.org/events-to-attend/upcoming-events?12ab85c3_page=2 or call 615-862-8555
• Dec. 19: 5 p.m. The Nashville First Baptist Sanctuary Choir, children’s choirs and orchestra will present a “Carol-Candlelight Celebration,” which will include new arrangements of familiar carols along with holiday classics. Nashville First is at Seventh and Broadway in downtown Nashville. Details: nashvillefirst.org or 615-664-6000
• Dec. 24: 2 p.m. The annual Belmont Carillon concert on Christmas Eve is a longstanding holiday tradition, going back to the Ward-Belmont days. The concert, featuring Dr. Richard Shadinger playing Christmas music on this unusual instrument, takes place in the Belmont University bell tower in the center of campus. You can walk around the campus to hear it, or even stay in your car if the weather is inclement. Details: www.belmont.edu/cmpa/music or call 615-460-6408
• Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve: The Jack Daniel’s New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash event is a free full night of live music, spectacular fireworks and the raising and dropping of the giant Music Note. It takes place at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, and the concert will be headlined by Dierks Bentley, Zac Brown Band and Sam Hunt. Plus the Fisk Jubilee Singers will perform a selection of spiritual music. A five-hour celebration on CBS will feature nearly 50 performances from a dozen locations in downtown Nashville, including acts from Lower Broadway’s honky-tonks, bars and clubs. It will also be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+. Details: www.visitmusiccity.com/newyearseve
• Jan 1: Tennessee State Parks has a series of all-park hike days through the year during which all 56 parks offer ranger-led likes and other activities. The “New Year’s Day Hike” is a good way to kick off the new year. To find a hike, see https://tnstateparks.com/activities/hiking.