My family lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., and for more than a decade, we’ve included a visit to Rock City on our Christmas tradition list. Starting around Thanksgiving and running through the first week of January, Rock City is not just open during the daytime, but also at night. The staff spends weeks stringing lights on trees and setting up lighted holiday scenes along the trail. Thus, Rock City is transformed into an Enchanted Garden of Lights.
EGL, as the locals call it, seems to get better every year. This year, I took my nephews for their first visit to this spectacular event, and they loved it. Trying to surprise them, I jokingly told them we were going to the moon when they asked the notorious questions, “Where are we going?” and “Are we there yet?” Assuring them it takes a long time to get to the moon, we drove up Lookout Mountain, and I pointed out the city lights below.
Safety note for drivers: There are car pull-offs on the way down the mountain, so if you want to view the spectacular lights, please use a pull-off. That being said, the most spectacular view of the city lights is from Rock City’s famous Lover’s Leap, where you can see seven states on a clear day.
Once we arrived and entered the trail, the lights shimmered from the treetops all the way down to the stone trail before us. My older nephew told me how beautiful the lights were, staring up in amazement with the awe and wonder only a child can truly project. My younger nephew informed me with all sincerity that he forgave me for fibbing about going to the moon because the lights were so awesome.
In the 1920s, Garnet and Frieda Carter lived atop Lookout Mountain. While Garnet worked to create a residential area atop the mountain called Fairyland, Frieda was busy turning a “city of rocks” into a magical garden filled with creatures from her beloved German folklore.
Year-round visitors to Rock City will discover Freida’s gnomes along the trail, atop bluffs and peeking out from behind the foliage. Visitors to EGL will find them among the dozens of lighted displays along the trail, in addition to teddy bears, toy soldiers, and even a Chattanooga-themed choo choo train.
My favorite part of Rock City’s holiday event is the telling of the Christmas story. A beautiful lighted nativity scene sits in the midst of the enchanted trail. Wooden benches and naturally smoothed stones create the perfect seating area for visitors as they listen to the biblical narrative. Upon the telling of each significant part of the Christmas story, different displays light up: shepherds with their sheep, wise men with their camels, heavenly angels and the holy family.
My second favorite scene is the Gingerbread House, decorated with lollipops, candy canes and an assortment of Christmas candy. Located next to the Sky Bridge and Lover’s Leap, visitors to this section of the trail also can have their photo taken with Santa and tell him their Christmas wish. Other photo ops along the trail include visits with the Ice Queen, Jack Frost and Rocky the Elf, the attraction’s famous mascot.
Christmas Plaza offers hands-on activities for the kids, from designing their own stockings and ornaments to Sugar Plum Fairy Makeovers. The holidays aren’t complete without some yummy treats like Reindeer Corn, hot cocoa or cider, and there are plenty of treats to be had along the trail. At the North Pole Lodge, visitors get a chance to meet Mrs. Claus, enjoy a variety of entertainment from local and regional bands and choruses, and decorate their own gingerbread cookie.
With all there is to do at Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, it’s recommended that visitors arrive as soon as the sun goes down so they’ll have plenty of time to see all the sights and lights and make as many holiday memories as possible.
For more information, visit Rock City.
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