There are so many holiday happenings in Middle Tennessee, which makes it so much fun to live here. During these final few days leading up to Christmas, here are my Top 10 holiday-themed things to do that will add extra spirit to your holiday hearts.

10) CHRISTMAS EVE CARILLON CONCERT

When: Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 2 p.m.
Where: Belmont University's Bell Tower, Nashville
Admission: FREE
Info: 615-460-4608 | belmont.edu/music

It's by far the most unique holiday concert your family will experience, and it's a long-standing tradition at Belmont University that's open to the public. On Christmas Eve, Belmont School of Music's Richard Shadinger performs holiday tunes on the carillon inside the historic bell tower in the center of the university's campus. It's a magical experience like no other!

 

9) IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ON THE BIG SCREEN

When: Dec. 20 - 24 at 12, 2:45, 5:30 & 8:15 p.m.
Where: The Belcourt Theater, Nashville
Admission: $9.50 matinees; $11 adults, $9.50 youth evening shows
Info: 615-383-9140 | belcourt.org

The only thing better than watching the most classic Christmas movie of all time is experiencing it on the silver screen. And not just any silver screen ... one inside Nashville's most iconic movie house, The Belcourt. It's an annual Belcourt tradition, and it's a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of all of the other holiday hubbub. Don't forget the popcorn!

 

8) GINGERBREAD DECORATING WORKSHOP

When: Saturday, Dec. 21 from 9 - 10:30 a.m. or 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. (register at the website)
Where: Cheekwood, Nashville
Admission: $60 members, $75 non-members
Info: 615-356-8000 | cheekwood.org

There's no better place to be than Cheekwood if you're setting out to do something creative, and what's more fun and creative during the holidays than making a festive gingerbread house?! All ages can create a gingerbread masterpiece this Saturday, and here's the best part: the price include up to five people who can enjoy the day at Cheekwood after having fun creating edible art. Plus, Santa is in the Frist Learning Center from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., so be sure to hop on his lap for a photo op while you're there.

 

7) RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER: THE MUSICAL

When: Dec. 20 - 27 (showtimes vary daily)
Where: Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville
Admission: $24.99 - $109.99
Info: 615-889-1000 | christmasatgaylordopryland.com

It's remarkable how the creators of this stage musical managed to perfectly capture the exact essence of the beloved holiday TV classic in live-action form. Rudolph is so magical, so delightful, so heart warming. It's literally like watching the TV classic live onstage. All of the characters we know and love are there, and it's spectacular watching Rudolph take to the air. And experiencing the larger-than-life Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster make his appearance onstage is incredibly awesome. Your kids will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this show!

 

6) THE DANCING LIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS

When: Thru Jan. 4 from 5 - 10 p.m.
Where: James E. Ward Ag Center, Lebanon (use entrance across from Dollar General)
Admission: $30 per vehicle
Info: thedancinglightsofchristmas.com

The best drive-through holiday lights experience in Middle Tennessee celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Tune your car's radio dial to the appropriate channel, then crank up the volume as you make your way through the two-and-a-half-mile route watching more than 2 million lights dance in sync with the music! It's truly a sight to behold. New this year in conjunction with the 10th anniversary, the activities in Santa's Village are free! They include a pony ride, train ride, spider jump, inflatables, "Tubs of Fun," swings, mechanical reindeer, a petting zoo, an outdoor move and a visit with Santa!

 

5) AMY GRANT & VINCE GILL'S CHRISTMAS AT THE RYMAN

When: Dec. 22 - 23 at 3 & 7 p.m.
Where: Ryman Auditorium, Nashville
Admission: $40 - $140 (remaining seats are extremely limited)
Info: 615-8890-3060 | ryman.com

When it comes to Christmas music, no other artist does it better than Amy Grant. She has four Christmas records under her belt at this point, and since 1993, her annual Christmas concerts have been the much-anticipated live holiday musical experiences to attend in Nashville. Several years ago, Grant along with hubby Vince Gill began their annual "Christmas at the Ryman" residency which continues to grow each season. This year's schedule includes 12 shows altogether, and this is the first year that matinee shows are on the lineup. "Christmas audiences are special," says Grant. "They tend to involvedthe whole family, and their emotions are a wonderful mix of anticipation and reverence. It's a thrilling experience for both me and Vince," she adds. Blending both the sacred and the Santa, it's the most delightful holiday concert in town. One of the favorite parts of the show is when Grant pulls kids onstage to engage the audience in a massive snowballs (furry ones) fight. Grant and Gill's friend Rodney Crowell opens the show.

 

4) ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH

When: Dec. 20 - 22 | Fri 3 & 7 p.m.; Sat 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; Sun 12 & 5 p.m.
Where: TPAC's Polk Theater, Nashville
Admission: $40 - $55
Info: 615-782-4040 | tpac.org

This season marks the second year that TPAC and Lythgoe Family Panto have teamed up to present a holiday family panto show (last year it was Peter Pan and Tinker Bell: A Pirate's Christmas). This year, the joint effort treats audiences to a magical spin on the Aladdin story. What's more, in keeping with the collaborative spirit, TPAC and Lythgoe brought in Nashville Children's Theatre's Ernie Nolan to direct the show. This theatrical hit is full of celebrities onstage performing well-known pop songs that are cleverly interwoven into the show's plot (which is part of the panto makeup). And it's highly interactive with lots of audience participation. Kids love hollering out to boo the bad guy and cheer on the good guys. And everyone is invited to sing along all the way. Read my full review of the show HERE.

 

3) NASHVILLE REP'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL

When: Thru Dec. 22 | Fri 7:30 p.m., Sat 2:30 & 7:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m.
Where: TPAC's Johnson Theater, Nashville
Admission: $25 - $64
Info: 615-782-4040 | nashvillerep.org

While any traditional production of A Christmas Carol (no matter how good it might be) would probably never make it into any Top 10 roundup I'd put together, Nashville Rep's the player in town this season offering a fantastic — and refreshing — approach to Dickens' timeless tale by presenting Patrick Barlow's inventive adaptation. Five actors portray all 25 characters in this fast-paced adventure, and while keeping within the realm of the important "moral of the story," there's a ton of humor in the mix. Nashville Rep has enjoyed an amazing 35th season thus far, and this production of A Christmas Carol is the only one in town you need to experience. You can read my full review HERE.

 

2) NASHVILLE'S NUTCRACKER

When: Thru Dec. 23 | Fri 2 p.m.; Sat 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Mon 2 & 7 p.m.
Where: TPAC's Jackson Hall, Nashville
Admission: $35 - $98
Info: 615-782-4040 | nashvilleballet.com

Nashville Ballet's annual production of Nashville's Nutcracker is one of this city's favorite holiday traditions. The Nashville Symphony performs Tchaikovsky's beloved music while the ballet's company members are joined onstage by students in the School of Nashville Ballet along with regular kids from the community who snagged spots during an audition process earlier this year. Several years ago, Nashville Ballet Executive Artistic Director Paul Vasterling revamped the prior version of Nutcracker by creating a whole new approach that captures elements of the Nashville community with nods to the Belle Meade Plantation, Centennial Park, Shelby Bottoms and Andrew Jackson. Uncle Drosselmeyer produces new magic tricks each year. Regardless of how many times you've seen it, Nashville Ballet's Nashville's Nutcracker truly has a unique and magical way of making it known that the holiday season is officially here. Read my Q&A with Sugar Plum Fairy Kayla Rowser along with the four girls playing Clara HERE.

 

1) AUNTIE CLAUS

When: Thru Dec. 29 (hours vary daily)
Where: Nashville Children's Theatre, Nashville
Admission: $23 adults, $17 ages 3 - 17
Info: 615-252-4675 | nashvillect.org

In 1999, when Elise Primavera's new holiday children's picture book, Auntie Claus, arrived on my desk at work to review, I was instantly smitten, elated and inspired. I immediately fell in love with this whimsical new character that has strokes of Auntie Mame, Coco Chanel and a little bit of Mary Poppins thrown in for extra magical measure. Way back then I thought Auntie Claus should become a stage production, perhaps even a movie. Lo and behold, 20 years later, Nashville Children's Theatre, under the brilliant leadership of Executive Artistic Director Ernie Nolan, within the framework of NCT's Hatchery program that develops new works, NCT turned Primavera's book into a live stage musical — the world premiere opened on Nov. 14 and it's been dazzling kids and adults alike all season! Megan Murphy Chambers presents the title character with lots of pizzazz. There are musical numbers in this show that come with the same kind of highly potent energy as watching the Rockettes in New York City. And the entire show is bursting with a huge holiday heart that can't be beat. It's truly the best new thing in town this year, and I love that's it's so sophisticated that it comes with immense appeal to children and to adults as well (even ones who don't have kids). Read my complete review HERE.