Start the Holidays Off Early in the Great Smoky Mountains

There’s no place like the Great Smoky Mountains, TN during the holiday season. For the past thirty years Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville have welcomed visitors from around the country—and beyond—to their annual Smoky Mountain Winterfest celebration.

This year, the 31st annual Winterfest kicks off on November 11th, 2021 and runs through February 12th, 2022. During this time, guests can expect to witness the holiday spirit in all its splendor with spectacular light displays, dinner shows, shopping, parades, and much more.

We suggest visiting in mid-November and early December—before the crowds arrive. Here are some our favorite things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains during the holidays:

Dollywood
Dolly Parton is one of the most famous—and beloved—Tennesseans. As such, a trip to the Smoky Mountains would be incomplete without a visit to her popular amusement park—Dollywood.

There’s no better time to experience Dollywood than during the holidays. Visitors can expect twinkling light displays, fireworks, holiday shows, good food, music, and seasonal shopping. Check their website for open dates!

Dollywood

Holiday Parades

Holiday Parades
Fancy a parade? During Winterfest visitors can enjoy two parades along the Parkway: the Townsend Christmas Parade (stay tuned for more information) and Gatlinburg’s Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. Both parades feature floats, holiday music and Santa, of course!

December 3rd, 2021, marks Gatlinburg’s 46th annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, which celebrates the start of the winter holidays. The parade kicks off at 7:30pm at the Baskin Creek Bypass at Highway 321 (East Parkway) and ends in Gatlinburg at traffic light #10.

Marvel in spectacular floats decked-out with elaborate light displays, as well as marching bands, festive characters and more. We suggest you dress in your holiday best, as the parade will be broadcast on local television stations throughout the United States on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Dinner Shows
While you’re in town, take advantage of the many dinner shows that this area of eastern Tennessee is famous for, including the Smoky Mountain Opry, The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, and Dolly Parton's Stampede.

There are also several holiday themed dinner shows to take in. Some of our favorites include the Hatfield and McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Feud and Christmas at Dolly’s Stampede (both shows start in mid-November).

Dinner Shows

Ober Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg
Yearning to hit the slopes? Look no further than Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s premier skiing, snowboarding, and snowtubing destination.

The ski and snowboarding season in eastern Tennessee typically runs from December through mid-March. However, snowtubing—a favorite of kids and adults alike—opens November 20th making it ideal for guests traveling to the Smoky Mountains earlier in the holiday season. Advanced tickets go on sale here starting October 15, 2021.

Ober Gatlinburg also offers ice skating year-round on their 140’ x 75’ indoor ice rink. The rink is ideal for both beginner and more seasoned skaters. Novice skaters will appreciate the handrail around the perimeter of the rink, which helps them to maintain their balance until they get their footing.

Enjoy winter views of the Smoky Mountains from the perspective of Ober Gatlinburg’s Aerial Tramway. The tram departs at regular intervals from downtown Gatlinburg, taking riders on a spectacular 2.1-mile ride up to the ski area. Make sure to have your camera ready, as the mountain vistas are truly breathtaking!

Winter Hikes

Shopping

Winter Hikes
The natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains draws outdoor enthusiasts to eastern Tennessee all year round. However, the trails tend to be less crowded in the winter months, and the views of the snow-covered mountains and trees are remarkable.

Popular hikes include Laurel Falls Trail which is considered easy, and the moderate level—Alum Cave Trail. Be aware that wet weather and ice can make trails slippery, so proceed with caution during winter weather hikes.

Shopping
The Smoky Mountains are the perfect place to get ahead of your holiday shopping. Price-conscious gift-givers can take advantage of the bargains at the Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet Mall, as well as the Tanger Outlet in Sevierville. There are also several places along the Parkway in Pigeon Forge that sell cowboy boots at amazing prices. Buy one, get one—sometimes two—free!

While the outlets are fun to visit and the prices can’t be beat, we suggest supporting local artisans. Head to the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community which features more than 100 artisans along eight-miles of Loop Road. Here you’ll find unique handmade jewelry, painting, ceramics, metalwork, woodcarving, soap, and much more. The artisans here are often happy to discuss their craft with visitors, and you may be able to watch them while they work!

A visit to the Great Smoky Mountains, TN during the holiday season is a wonderful experience. It’s even better before the holiday crowds descend upon Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg in mid-to late December. So, book your stay for a bit earlier in the season to avoid the hustle and bustle that often comes along as the holidays approach. We look forward to seeing you!

*Check back with us for updates as they become available.

Ready to book your Smoky Mountain cabin rental with Natural Retreats? Contact our Reservations Team for more information.