A visit to Cheekwood Lights is a highlight of the holidays in Nashville. During the Christmas season, more than a million lights go up around the 55-acre botanical garden and historic estate, transforming the beautiful property.
As soon as the sun goes down, the lights come on in the form of orbs, stars, candy canes, arches, and more. Some of our favorites were the giant trees around the garden where nearly every limb and twig is illuminated in brilliant color. The whole effect is spectacular.
There is lots to see and do at this special holiday event. Here’s what to know if you’re heading to see the Cheekwood holiday lights.
The display is fun for all ages
There’s just something about holiday lights that seems to put everyone in a good mood.
From beautiful displays to warm cocktails, there’s lots to see here for adults. There are also plenty of things catering to younger visitors. The two-acre Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden comes to life as lights on the trees move in time with music. Plus, the biggest draw for kids is without a doubt the TRAINS! exhibit. It features model trains making their way through different landscapes under colorful lights. There is even an expert on-hand to answer questions from the curious.
You can meet Santa and his reindeer
It’s not the holidays without Saint Nick and his friends who help him get around. Santa is available for photos, and there are two reindeer at Cheekwood, too. They’re available for visits during the day and at night. There are also regular “reindeer keeper” talks for those who are really curious about the animals.
There’s lots of food and drink to keep you warm
Café 29, Cheekwood’s on-site restaurant, is always a good bet for dinner, serving flatbreads, salads, and sandwiches. There are also other spots around the grounds to grab a bite, so you’re sure not to be hungry as you explore.
For something fun, don’t miss the seasonal specialties. There are s’mores stations at the fire pits, which are a great way to warm up and make something delicious. There are also several kiosks throughout the garden selling warm drinks like hot chocolate, spiced apple cider, and hot toddies.
Choose appropriate footwear
There is a lot of ground to cover to see all the great holiday exhibits. With 55 acres of gardens and one mile of lights, make sure to select comfortable, warm footwear. There’s nothing worse than having your feet hurt or being cold for the evening.
Not every area of Cheekwood is lit
Some lovely parts of the garden aren’t on the light trail, including the Family Sculpture Trail and the Japanese Garden. If you want to explore there, it might be a good idea to bring a small flashlight, though it’s not strictly necessary.
There are lots of photo opps
From the candy cane forest to the light show outside the mansion, there are lots of spots to take great photos around the grounds. Don’t miss the poinsettia tree and the glowing arch, which are always popular.
Mansion tours are extra
One of the top attractions in Nashville, part of what makes Cheekwood special is its historic mansion that dates from 1932. The 36-room building that once belonged to the Wood family is now an art gallery.
During the holidays, the mansion features special, seasonal-themed exhibits that are on view during the holiday lights display. Past exhibits have included antique model trains and nutcrackers and costumes from Nashville’s Nutcracker ballet performance. Plus, the mansion is decorated for the season.
Visiting the mansion requires a specific mansion and garden ticket, which is usually $5 more than the gardens-only ticket.
Discounted tickets are available
If you don’t mind visiting on the later side, it’s possible to save a few dollars. Monday through Thursday nights, Late Night Lights tickets are available for guests arriving at the 8:30 or 9:00pm time slots.