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Clark Griswold’s fever dream is a reality in Kodak, Tennessee, just off exit 407 on Interstate 40.
Each Christmas season, Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland takes over the large parking lot of the Tennessee Smokies minor league baseball team and creates a drive-thru Christmas event that literally lights up the holidays.
Hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights – some crafted into entertaining scenes like a snow-boarding Santa – dance along to Christmas music to create a sensory experience that brings visitors from all over. It’s an orchestra of colored lights, all seen from the warmth of your car as you drive through the display specifically designed to engender Christmas spirit even in the most ardent of Scrooges.
Shadrack’s is open from early November until early January and has become a staple of East Tennessee Christmas celebrations. The first section has the lights made into little vignettes, flying reindeer, elves and a variety of Santas, often designed in such a way as to simulate motion.
It’s during this portion that the kids have a hard time staying in their seats as they jockey to look out the other windows and take in the sensory overload of dozens of Christmas scenes exploding around them. This year, the show features giant, LED displays of the “12 Days of Christmas” with a comical spin on the traditional song.
It’s the second half, though, where Shadrack’s really shines. With surfing Santa behind you, it’s a carnival of light ahead. The music varies from contemplative to Trans-Siberian Ochrestra-esque rocking and the lights perform accordingly. It’s an art, like being inside a fireworks show. And, if you have a good-enough camera, it is a delight for photographers.
A relatively new edition is the RGB-Drive Through tunnel. The path takes you through what essentially amounts to a tunnel of light dancing to the music. The effect, in person, is really quite stunning.
As much of a part of the trip to Shadrack’s as the lights, however, is the stop afterward at Santa’s Village. Fresh from their sensory overload, Santa’s Village give the little ones an opportunity to unleash some of that freshly created energy with a petting zoo, pony rides, bounce houses and even pictures with Santa – all available for an extra price.
There are also concessions for sale, like hot chocolate, coffee and kettle corn for anyone who rode through the lights with their windows down to get a better look.
Pricing varies depending on the day and time of year. Friday and Saturday nights, and the immediate weeks preceding Christmas are slightly more expensive, $30 for a passenger car of up to 8 people. It’s $50 for an activity van of up to 25 people and $100 for a tour bus, max of 75 people. Also, if you have a tour bus drive through Shadrack’s you should bring a little tip money for the effort because that’s slightly insane. It’s like asking them to drive through a festively lit obstacle course. Any driver who completes the course successfully should have their license automatically renewed.
Off time peak-time pricing starts at $25 per passenger car.
Be prepared, especially at peak times, as the wait to get into Shadrack’s can be lengthy. The line backs up on Highway 66 towards Sevierville. You might be able to skip a bit of the line by approaching from the opposite end, coming in the backway on 66 and trying to make a left turn in. Some kind soul, filled with the Christmas spirit might let you in. I’ve seen it happen. Or you might be left with your tail lights exposed until Santa comes. It’s a risk.
I can promise you this, though. If you try that stuff after I’ve been waiting in line for an hour, expect a Christmas cussing that would make Ebenezer Scrooge seem saintly and I hope Santa puts coal up your … stocking.
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