Bristol Motor Speedway has the reputation for being the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” But it becomes something else for a few weeks around Christmas each year. The Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights is the region’s best drive-through Christmas light display, best enjoyed with a slow drive.
And you get to drive on the infamous half-mile oval racetrack during the event.
The Speedway in Lights is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities. It’s become a local favorite Christmas event that draws thousands of eager visitors. But it’s also worth an overnight drive to see the spectacular light display around Thunder Valley and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Learn everything you need to know with this guide to the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights in Tennessee.
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Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights Maps
How to use this map: Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the (very faint) star at the end of the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol Motor Speedway held its first NASCAR race in 1961. The fourth-largest sports venue in America – with a seating capacity for 146,000 people – is infamously known for the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”
The treacherous half-mile concrete oval track is one of the most demanding races of the year for NASCAR drivers.
In 1970, the 0.25-mile Bristol Dragway was completed. It’s earned the nickname Thunder Valley in relation to the echoes produced in the mountain terrain during competitions.
In 2016, in preparation for a college football game pitting local rivals University of Tennessee Volunteers against the Virginia Tech Hokies, the tower supporting the 4-sided position board was replaced by “Colossus TV.” The 30-foot-tall rectangular digital screen is 63 feet long on each side and suspended mid-air by cables. It’s one of the largest suspended televisions in the world.
Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights 2023 Schedule
The Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights runs from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. nightly from November 17 until January 6, 2023.
The best times to see the Speedway in Lights is on weekdays and after the New Year.
2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers
Find the best gifts for travelers, road trippers, coffee lovers, and stocking stuffers with the annual guide – including my top gift recommendations.
Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights Tickets
The Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights is the largest annual fundraiser for the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.
Passenger vehicle tickets are $20 on Sunday – Thursday nights and $25 for Friday and Saturday nights. These ticket holders turn right after entering the speedway at Entrance #3 and enter a long queue that takes about 30-45 minutes to travel.
Fast Lane tickets allow visitors to skip the queue and go directly to the ticket booth after entering the speedway at Entrance #3. Fast Lane tickets are a flat $50 for passenger vehicles and require purchasers to choose a 30-minute time slot for entry. Fast Lane tickets are only available on select nights and are limited in quantity for each 30-minute time slot.
Fast Lane tickets are available for the following dates in 2023:
- November 24-25
- December 2
- December 9
- December 15-23
Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights
The Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights, officially the Pinnacle Speedway in Lights powered by TVA, began in 1997. Since the inaugural season, the lights have been upgraded, and the route has changed. But one thing has always remained: a loop on the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”
In 2023, the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights features an impressive 3 million LED lights attached to 250 displays. The route travels the length of the Bristol Dragway, winds through parking lots, passes beneath the seating, and enters the half-mile racetrack at Turn #3. The 5.35-mile route takes about an hour to complete.
Did You Know?
The 5.35-mile route through the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights is ten times longer than the 0.53-mile oval track. The track record for the fastest lap belongs to Sam Hafertepe Jr., who completed a lap in 13.326 seconds in 2021. It takes approximately 60 minutes to complete a lap at the Speedway in Lights.
The dozens of themed displays are my favorite aspect of the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Sea of Illumination is a spectacular display. A tunnel beneath the grandstand is decorated with thousands of lights and animated displays depicting sea life. It’s a dazzling display that might convince you to visit the aquarium in Gatlinburg.
Other themed displays include the Mycroft Signs Race to Space, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Dinosaur Land, Victorian Village, and the Nativity Scene.
Driving on the Racetrack at Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights
After twisting, turning, and winding through the parking lots around the speedway, the traffic slowly inches through a short tunnel and enters the racetrack at Turn #4. It was an exhilarating experience even though we were limited to an achingly slow three miles per hour.
Bristol once boasted 36-degree banks, making it NASCAR’s most steeply banked track. But after decades of resurfacing and redesigning, the banks are now listed 24 to 30 degrees.
It’s steep enough to make riders in a Ford Explorer feel like they’re about to tip over.
No passing is allowed while driving on the racetrack. Traffic moved slowly. It won’t satisfy your need for speed – but then again, this is the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights, not a NASCAR race.
The popular Symphony in Lights is best viewed with a slow lap around the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.” 300,000 lights spread across the Darrell Waltrip Grandstands pulse in tune to popular holiday music played across the speedway’s public address system.
After visiting the Christmas Village, traffic exits at Turn #4 and returns to a meandering line through parking lots to the exit.
After entering Bristol Motor Speedway’s infamous half-mile track at Turn #3 and slowly trudging around the track, you’ll enter the Christmas Village in the infield. The Appalachian-themed holiday market and entertainment village is a great place to stretch your legs after a couple of hours cramped in the car.
Activities include roasting marshmallows over a bonfire, taking a family photo in front of special displays, and shopping for Christmas gifts among the local arts and crafts vendors. A few carnival-style rides await children, like a merry-go-round and bumper cars.
And, of course, Santa Claus is patiently waiting in the Barter Theatre Santa Hut. Professional portraits printed on a photo card are $5 each.
The Christmas Village is a great place to stop for a respite because it’s a little more than halfway through the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights.
Bristol Motor Speedway Ice Skating
If you enjoy ice skating, then the Tri-Cities Airport Ice Rink at Bristol Motor Speedway awaits you. The family-friendly ice skating rink operates from November 16 until January 14. The hours vary throughout the season – check the Bristol Motor Speedway website to see the hours.
Admission is $12 on Mondays through Thursdays and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission includes ice skates and unlimited time on the ice.
The ice rink is near Entrance #1 on U.S. Highway 11. This additional event is not connected to the drive-through Christmas lights. Use 151 Speedway Boulevard, Bristol, TN for turn-by-turn GPS navigation.
How to Get to the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights
Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights visitors must use Entrance #3 on TN Highway 394. Use the address 106 Thunder Valley Drive, Bristol, TN for turn-by-turn GPS navigation.
From Virginia, take Exit 3 on Interstate 81 into Bristol. After passing State Street, turn left onto Weaver Pike and continue to the TN Highway 394 interchange. After exiting, turn left onto 394 and continue to Bristol Motor Speedway on the right.
From Tennessee, take Exit 69 on Interstate 81 at Blountville and turn right onto TN Highway 394. Continue to Bristol Motor Speedway on the left.
From North Carolina and Johnson City, take Exit 19 on Interstate 26 and turn into U.S. Highway 11E toward Bristol. Continue past the Tri-Cities Flea Market and then exit right onto TN Highway 394.