If you have never attended Chattanooga’s MainX24 festival, you do not know what you are missing. MainX24 is a 24-hour long festival held at the beginning of December celebrating Main Street and the revitalized Southside area. Returning on December 2, 2017, there is something for everyone at this eclectic festival, from music to holiday shopping to incredible food. And don’t forget the Southside Holiday Parade, which is arguably the best Chattanooga parade of the year!
Though it began in 2007, my family did not really discover MainX24 until 2011 when we moved over to the Southside. We have not missed a year since. Even when we were living hours away, we would drive back to celebrate MainX24. Christmas just would not be the same without it.
The schedule of MainX24 is jam-packed, and sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming. You definitely have to have a game plan when tackling this incredible holiday experience. If you have children, that plan becomes your lifeline. This will be our sixth year attending the event with children, and I finally feel confident enough in our strategy to share it with the world.
Here is our Family-Friendly Guide to MainX24:
Before the Event
The first thing you really must do is head over to the MainX24 website. If you click on the “Schedule” icon, you will see a list of all the events available for the entire 24 hours of the festival. They are broken up by the hour and color-coded by type of event. Although a mobile site is available, I find it easier to read the schedule on a PC or laptop. Color-coded printed schedules will be available everywhere on the day of the event. They do come in handy as your plans will probably change, but I would not dream of attending without a tentative plan already in place.
You can filter through the events by the type of event (yellow is for kids!) and can click or hover over each event for a description of what is happening, the times, and the location of the event. You also have the option to sign up for an account and save your schedule after you have decided which events you want to attend. I highly recommend doing this.
Deciding What to Attend
I always read through the descriptions on each and every event available that year before I do anything else. I bookmark anything that looks interesting, making sure to include our traditional favorites. Next, I narrow down where we plan to eat.
There are so many good food options. You can check them all out by clicking the orange “taste” filter on the schedule. Between Neidlov’s lard-fried donuts, the pancake breakfast at the firehouse, the World Heavy-Weight Chili Championship, the Food Truck court, and all the great specials local restaurants offer, trying to decide can feel impossible. But once you have your meals on the schedule, everything else falls into place.
After we decide on food, I always go back to see what events overlap and narrow down any events that are happening simultaneously. Finally I make sure our plan is realistically walkable, run the plan by the rest of the family, and finally save and print it out!
The Day of MainX24
On the day of the festival, we get an early start. We dress for the weather (layers!) and wear sensible shoes. I always bring water bottles, a fully stocked diaper bag, a baby carrier, a stroller, and our schedule, of course! Also, it is wise to prepare for crowds and limited parking.
Can’t Miss Family Events
As previously mentioned, MainX24 has something for everyone, and you are sure to find many events that are a can’t-miss for you, but there are a few events that deserve a little extra recognition this year:
Annual MainX24 Pancake Breakfast
Hosted at Firehall 1 by The Forgotten Child Fund, the pancake breakfast serves as the official kick-off event for MAINX24. From 8:30-11am, you can come enjoy all you can eat pancakes and live music for only a $5 charitable donation!
Tours, Tunes, and Toddies
Songbirds Guitar Museum will be offering FREE admission all day!
MainX24 Southside Holiday Parade
If you can only pick one MainX24 event, pick the Southside Holiday Parade. Main Street shuts down completely from 10:30-11:30am as elaborate floats, bands, adoptable dogs in costumes, crazy bikes and so much more march down the street bringing holiday cheer. The fire station is also open during this time and the whole family can check out the fire engines and gear and ask the firefighters their burning questions. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to find a good spot on the curb and bring a bag to catch some candy!
Family Carnival and Pictures with Santa
A fun family carnival at the Chattanooga ReStore from 2-5pm! Bring one non-perishable food good per child to donate and have a picture taken with Santa! Last year, the double-decker bus transported people to this event for free.
At 7pm, GreenTech will sponsor the first MainX24 fireworks! You can watch from Station Street as the fireworks are launched off of the Chattanooga Choo Choo.
After the exhausted kids flop into bed, Mama usually heads back out for a little more fun with friends! My days of making it the full 24-hours are far behind me, but I can usually fit in at least a couple of the late night events before I crash. This year, Bitter Alibi and Wildflower Tea Shop’s after hours party, Wild and Bitter, sounds like so much fun. I would also love to attend the Twisted Holiday Drag show and the extended “drunk and hungry” hours at The Terminal.