For most of the year, the all-but-endless views from atop Lookout Mountain are enough to draw visitors in the tens of thousands up the twisting curves of Ochs Highway to the gates of Rock City.
Every holiday season for almost 20 years, however, the gardens get a bit more oomph, courtesy of hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights, creating a nightly spectacle that makes visiting after dark just as spectacular.
The 19th annual Enchanted Garden of Lights celebration starts Friday, Nov. 22, and will continue nightly through Saturday, Jan. 4. Last year’s celebration attracted more than 50,000 guests, an increase of “a few thousand” over 2011, according to Rock City officials.
“Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights is a magical experience for family and friends of all ages,” says Rock City public relations manager Meagan Jolley in a news release. “It’s the ‘North Pole’ of Chattanooga.”
During Enchanted Garden of Lights, Rock City maintains extended evening hours, during which guests pay a slightly higher ticket price for a chance to take in more than 30 glowing “scenes” as they wander the gardens’ 4,100 feet of walking trails.
This year, the lights are getting a little brighter with the addition of an LED star that has been hung over Lover’s Leap and a new Santa scene featuring a backdrop based on New York City’s famed Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.
Once they make their way to the gardens’ pavilion area — redubbed the North Pole Lodge during the event — guests can continue the holiday fun with nightly performances by area musicians, get a holiday makeover, decorate a stocking or enjoy a cup of hot cocoa.
The Enchanted Garden of Lights has been named one of America’s Top 100 events by the American Bus Association and has made repeated appearances on the Southeast Tourism Society’s list of Top 20 events.
Contact Casey Phillips at email@example.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
IF YOU GO
* What: Enchanted Garden of Lights.
* When: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, through Saturday, Jan. 4 (closed Christmas Eve night.) Daytime tours also available 8:30-4 p.m. (closed Christmas Day).
* Where: Rock City Gardens, 1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, Ga.
* Admission: $21.95 adults, $12.95 ages 3-12 Thursday-Saturday; $19.95 adults, $11.95 ages 3-12 Sunday-Wednesday.
* Phone: 706-820-2531.
* Website: www.seerockcity.com.
DINNER WITH SANTA
On select nights, guests can opt to spend a little more to have dinner with Santa during Enchanted Garden of Lights. Attendees will be greeted by Santa, the Candy Cane Elves and Rock City mascot Rocky when they arrive.
Tickets include VIP admission to the gardens and a holiday buffet dinner that includes turkey and dressing, ham, chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. Admission is $37.50 for adults and children, and children’s tickets include a special gift and a voucher for gingerbread cookie decorating in the North Pole Lodge. Annual pass holders can purchase discounted tickets for $28.95.
This special event has limited availability and is open only on select nights: Dec. 8, 16 and 17.
In addition to a visual overhaul of the park, the Enchanted Garden of Lights also features a packed schedule of musicians. A full list is available at SeeRockCity.com/Lights.
* Friday, Nov. 22: Lee University’s Ladies of Lee ($6 admission to Lee students and faculty)
* Saturday, Nov. 23: Chattanooga Singers and the UTC Brass Quintet ($6 admission to UTC students and faculty)
* Sunday, Nov. 24: Candies Creek Ensemble
* Monday, Nov. 25: Lookout Valley Elementary School Chorus
* Tuesday, Nov. 26: Chattanooga Folk School dulcimer players and Dade County School eighth-grade chorus
* Wednesday, Nov. 27: Singer/songwriter Jennifer Daniels
* Nov. 28-29: Dulcimer player Dan Landrum
* Nov. 30: Sweet Georgia Sound
* Dec. 1: Tuba Christmas
* Dec. 2: Bradley Central High School Chorus
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...