Photo by Matt Hamilton / Photo Illustration by Matt McClane

For many in the Tennessee Valley, the arrival of November means facing a headwind of holiday angst.

The next eight weeks will be a blend of merriment and misery for most of us as we navigate the season of friends, family and frenzy. To help you survive the holiday whirlwind we've put together a list of tips and topics designed to make your life easier.

Looking for special holiday gifts? We've got you covered. Desperate for alternatives to a home-cooked Thanksgiving? We'll provide options for that, too. Frantic to get the kids out of the house? We have some suggestions.

Just hang in there. You'll make it to January. You always do. Here are some holiday hacks to help you survive (and maybe even smile) along the way.

— Mark Kennedy


Mark your calendars

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Photo contributed by Dollywood

After being cooped up for months due to the pandemic, the holiday season offers a reprieve. Here are a few red-letter fetes and festivals to inject some fun into your fall and early winter.


NOV. 6

Fall and Christmas Market

Mountain Heights Venue, 1298 Hendon Road, Soddy-Daisy

Fifty-plus vendors, food trucks, mini photography sessions, music, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.


NOV. 6-JAN. 2

Smoky Mountain Christmas

Dollywood, 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd., Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Award-winning festival features more than 5 million lights, themed shows, food, fireworks set to Christmas music, hours vary. $84 ages 10-61 (discounts for children/seniors).


NOV. 12-14

Christmas Village

Tennessee State Fairgrounds, 500 Wedgewood Ave., Nashville, Tennessee

More than 250 merchants selling gift items, toys, clothing, jewelry, pottery, collectibles and food, free make-your-own photos with Santa (certain hours), 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday (all times Central). $10 ages 10 and older, $5 parking fee.


NOV. 17-20

Walker Farm Pioneer Days

Audubon Acres, 900 N. Sanctuary Road

Hands-on historical demonstrations geared to elementary-age students and families, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. daily (timed entry). $7.50 non-members, $5 members.


NOV. 20

Christmas Village

New Hope Presbyterian Church, 7608 Shallowford Road

Arts and crafts vendors, direct sales and small-business products, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.



NOV. 20-21

Mistletoe Market

The Ridges Resort on Lake Chatuge (new location), 3499 U.S. Highway 76, Young Harris, Georgia

Arts, crafts and food vendors, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.


NOV. 29-DEC. 4

Great Smoky Thanksgiving & Christmas Arts & Crafts Show

Gatlinburg Convention Center, 234 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Handcrafted gifts by local artisans, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.


DEC. 11-12

Mistletoe Market

Collegedale Commons, 4950 Swinyar Drive

Over 150 arts, crafts and food vendors, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Free pictures with Santa, 10 a.m-5 p.m. Saturday.


DEC. 4-19

Chattanooga Market's Holiday Market

Chattanooga Convention Center, 1 Carter Plaza

Arts, crafts and food products for gift-giving, music performances, first three weekends in December, plus Lodge Cast Iron Cook-Off on Dec. 11. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Free admission.

— Compiled by Lisa Denton

Editor's note: Event times and locations are subject to change and/or cancellation.


Holiday gifts for the book-worm, history buff in your house

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"Dragonfly Dreams," by Eleanor McCallie Cooper

Sure, you could just pick a title from the national best seller list for the book-lover in your house. But why not make it more personal with a gift book curated with local history in mind. Here are two examples.

"Dragonfly Dreams," by Eleanor McCallie Cooper (Koehlerbooks, $29). Cooper, a Chattanooga native and civic leader, has penned a compelling young-adult novel. Based on the true story of Nini, a Chinese-American teenager, the book follows her travails in China through World War II, telling a family story with Chattanooga ties that spanned the middle decades of the 20th century.

"Hello, Chattanooga! Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley," by David Carroll (Fresh Ink Group, softcover $30). As the name implies, "Hello, Chattanooga!" is a deeply researched compendium of many of the famous people who have visited the Scenic City written by one of Chattanooga's favorite newspeople. Carroll, a news anchor at WRCB-TV 3, has combed through ledgers and library records to document the names and stories in this important book of local history.


Great $20 bottles of wine

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Staff photo by Mark Kennedy / Meiomi Pinot Noir, a favorite choice among local wine drinkers.

Whether you are setting a Thanksgiving table for a houseful of guests, or simply sitting back for an evening watching Netflix, here are two wines for about $20 a bottle that almost never fail to please.

Meiomi Pinot Noir ($18-$21) — A favorite of local wine drinkers, this bottle flies off of shelves in Chattanooga. According to, "It offers bright, berry-rich sweetness, which Americans historically love, plus balance and food-friendliness."

Maitre de Chai, Clements Hills Red Table Wine ($20) — The New York Times calls this California bottle "earthy, soulful and pure" and suggest that it pairs well with "burgers, ribs and other meaty treats."


Ditch the kitchen, carry-out options for Thanksgiving Day

If past is prologue, here are some local restaurants that have traditionally offered Thanksgiving carry-out options.

> Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant, 2 W. Aquarium Way. The Thanksgiving takeout menu has included smoked turkey, pulled pork and Southern-fried catfish, along with sides such as mashed potatoes and green beans, and pie for dessert.

> Sticky Fingers, 420 Broad Street. You can order a whole meal to go (enough for 8 to 10 people) or individual items a la carte. The meal includes a whole turkey, sides, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie.

> Southern Star, 1300 Broad Street; 1300 Broad Street and 1210 Taft Highway, Signal Mountain. For people who like to cook their own turkey (or a ham) and leave the side dishes to experts, Southern Star (with locations downtown and on Signal Mountain) specializes in cornbread dressing, casseroles and mashed potatoes. Call ahead a few days in advance to order.

— Compiled by Anne Braly


Antidotes for kiddo cabin fever

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Staff file photo / Climbing coach Lisa Rands watches 10-year-old Hugo Hoyer climb a bouldering problem in 2018 at High Point Climbing Gym in Chattanooga.

There comes a time in every holiday vacation when the kids are itching to get out of the house. Here are a couple of energy-melting options to help them through the day — and, importantly — to help them sleep later.

Highpoint Climbing and Fitness, 219 Broad Street, Chattanooga and 2499 Keith St. NW, Cleveland, Tennessee. With 30,000 square feet of climbing area inside and outside, Highpoint is a great place for kids and adults to shed cabin fever and calories. Parents, you can even book an onsite massage while the kids climb. Sound good?

DEFY Chattanooga, 7455 Commons Boulevard. Nothing burns off cabin fever like a romp at a trampoline park. DEFY Chattanooga (off Gunbarrel Road in the Hamilton Place area) offers a Ninja Obstacle Course, Extreme Dodgeball and Foam Pits among other diversions. A one-hour flight ticket is $16. To the south, Xtreme Air Mega Park in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia is another great trampoline park option.


Make a date at the movies

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Associated Press file photo / "Spider-Man: No Way Home" is coming to theaters this December.

The November-December period is traditionally one of the biggest movie release seasons of the year. As film lovers inch back to theaters this fall and winter, here are the release dates for three highly-anticipated films.

"Ghostbuster: Afterlife" (Nov. 19)

"West Side Story" (Dec. 10)

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" (Dec. 17)

— Source: The Associated Press


Take a hike

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Miranda Haynes encourages her 5-year-old daughter, Lyla Haynes, as they ride bikes at Greenway Farm on Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Hixson, Tennessee. Lyla, who got the bike for her fifth birthday, was struggling to get her wheels moving across the gravel path. / Staff photo by Erin O. Smith

Maybe the simplest stress reliever is a family (or solitary) hike. Thankfully, the Tennessee Valley is hiker heaven, boasting countless miles of family-friendly trails.

1. Greenway Farms, 5051 Gann Store Road, Hixson, Tennessee. Six miles of walking trails, plus three canoe access points and an off-leash dog park.

2. Blue Blazes Trail at Moccasin Bend, 409 Moccasin Bend Road. A short and simple loop trail, traveling 3 miles through young hardwood forests, alongside the banks of the Tennessee River and around a swampy floodplain.

3. Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, 400 Garden Road. Fifteen miles of trails, wildflower meadows and live education animals, including its endangered red wolf exhibit. Open sunrise to sunset everyday of the year.


Hide and Go Boutique

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Charlie and Courtnay McGinness at Chattanooga Shoe Co.

If shopping malls and big box stores aren't your cup of tea there are plenty of boutiques in the area that offer a more relaxed and curated holiday shopping experience.

Here's are two examples:

The Chattanooga Shoe Company, 313 Manufacturers Road. Husband and wife Charlie and Courtnay McGinniess have established a trend-setting boutique on the North Shore. It is a hot shopping destination for hundreds who appreciate an independent shoe store stocked for both style and comfort. The store features such brands as Birkenstock, Dansko, OTBT, Blundston and Naot.

Free2Fly, 283 N. Ocoee Street, Cleveland, Tennessee. The storefront at the corner of North Ocoee Street and Central Avenue in downtown Cleveland, Tennessee, is part of an emerging boutiques district. The store carries handmade purses, handbags, casual clothing and jewelry and serves as a jobs training center for women in transition from rehab and/or homelessness.

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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Women work on jewelry, clothing, purses and other items at Free2Fly in Cleveland, Tennessee.