16 Ways To Experience Christmas In Gatlinburg For The Holidays

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A Gatlinburg Christmas is what you and your family need this holiday season. I am sure you are dying to get out of the house after being cooped up for months, so if you are wondering what is there to do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smoky Mountains during the holidays – I’ve got you covered. 

Christmas in Gatlinburg starts long before December and is constantly crawling with fun action-packed activities in the surrounding cities of Pigeon Forge and Sieverville. 

The Smoky Mountains are filled with country charm no matter the time of the year you decide to explore the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. 

The area is always full of holiday cheer from the Christmas shows, shopping sprees, holiday parades, and Christmas events that will warm your family’s heart.

Christmas in Gatlinburg is a must-see winter destination and will have your family vacationing in the Smoky Mountains each and every holiday season. 

Keep Reading, and I will answer the following questions:

  • Smoky Mountain Winterfest Events
  • Winterfest Parades
  • Winter Light and Trolly tours
  • What’s open in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg on Christmas Day
  • Where to stay in Gatlinburg and Pigeon for the Holidays

Christmas in the Smoky Mountains

Gatlinburg Trolley Ride of Lights

Date: November 12, 2023 – January 25, 2023

Admission: $10

Location: Downtown Gatlinburg

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The specially designated trolleys carry visitors on a memorable and fun journey through downtown Gatlinburg allowing everyone to experience the magical wonder of Gatlinburg Winter Magic.

Catch the trolley daily at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. from November 22 until December 31. Trolley tours do not run on December 6, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year鈥檚 Eve.

After the holiday season, trolley tours will run on Saturdays at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 until January 25.

The Trolly will include the following:

  • A special costumed storyteller as your guide
  • Complimentary cup of hot chocolate provided by Ripley鈥檚 Aquarium of the Smokies
  • Special Christmas token to show our thanks and commemorate your experience on the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights

The Island Tree Lighting

Date: November 21, 2023 

Admission: $Free

Location: The Island in Pigeon Forge

Light up your holiday season with the Tree Lighting at The Island in Pigeon Forge during Winterfest. Bask in the glow of 40,000 ornaments, half a million lights and more than 5,000 feet of garland.

Festival of Trees

Date: November 27, 2023 – December 1, 2023

Admission: Free

Location: WL Mills Conference Center

Address: 234 Historic Nature Trail

Gatlinburg, TN 37738

What better way to spend Christmas than in a room full of ornately decorated Christmas trees.  The Gatlinburg鈥檚 annual Festival of Trees returns with all new family-friendly activities, live entertainment, visits with Santa Claus and, of course, exquisitely decorated Christmas trees and wreaths that will be available for purchase.

This year marks the 48th year of Gatlinburg鈥檚 Festival of Trees. 

The Festival of Trees runs from November 27th to December 1st and kicks off with Candy Canes and Cocktails Reception on the evening of Tuesday, November 26th.

Families are invited to enjoy Breakfast with Santa on November 30th. The Festival will feature a children鈥檚 craft and play area, entertainment throughout the week, photos with Santa Claus and, of course, the beautifully decorated Christmas trees and wreaths.

This year the event will bring back the Gingerbread House Competition.

Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales

Date: November 29, 2023 – December 22, 2023

Location: Downtown Gatlinburg

Address: Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Phone: (865) 430-4148

Toll Free: 1-800-568-4748

Winter Magic Tunes & Tales will once again present strolling Christmas entertainment on the streets of Gatlinburg, beginning the Friday/Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 30 & Dec 1 from 5:00-9:30 pm, followed by performances again on Dec 7-8, 14-15, 21-22.

Holiday music will fill the air with a sacred-secular mixture of Appalachia, Bluegrass, and Country. Visitors will also enjoy visiting with Santa鈥檚 Elves-Frosty-Rudolph, a little bit of history, humor and more!

This interactive program is a Holiday favorite, staged against a backdrop of millions of lights鈥.making it truly a Winter Magical experience in Gatlinburg!

Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show

Date: December 2, 2023 – December 8, 2023

Admission: Free

Location: Gatlinburg

Phone: Toll Free: 1-800-588-1817

The Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community is the nation鈥檚 largest organization of independent artisans makes its home in Gatlinburg and the 8-mile Arts and Crafts Loop along Route 321, Buckhorn Road and Glades Road.

The Tennessee artists and craftspeople here create beautiful and useful things with techniques handed down for centuries.

Find gorgeous quilts, old-fashioned straw brooms with hand carved handles, exquisitely woven baskets, hand-dipped scented candles, Victorian ceramic pitchers, pottery, dulcimers, stuffed bears and leather vests.

There is handmade jewelry unlike anything you鈥檒l find in the malls back home. Painters capture scenes of landscapes and mountain life, while potters and weavers work magic with clay and cloth.

Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

Date: December 6, 2023

Admission: Free

Location: Downtown Gatlinburg

Phone: 865-430-4148

Toll Free: 1-800-588-1817

On December 6, the 44th Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade will roll through downtown Gatlinburg in celebration of the holiday season and the beginning of Gatlinburg Winter Magic.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m. from Baskins Creek Bypass, a spectacular parade line-up of balloons, floats decorated by local businesses and groups, and 11 marching bands spans through downtown before ending at traffic light #10. 

Parade-goers are encouraged to arrive early to find a spot on the Parkway to watch the parade.

The Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade will be held on Friday, December 6, 2023.

More than 60,000 people came to view the award-winning parade featuring lighted floats, marching bands, equestrian units, giant balloons, and of course, Santa Claus!

The parade route runs through the middle of downtown Gatlinburg.

Christmas in Gatlinburg

Where To Stay in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg For Christmas

Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort

Imagine waking up at Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort in a luxury tropical escape right in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, creating a sense of paradise with a rustic feel.  

Stroll down to Joe Merchant鈥檚 Coffee and Provisions in the lobby of Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort, where you can grab a cup of coffee or a breakfast sandwich to get your day started.  

You can sit in the lobby and spend the morning relaxing in a rocking chair, sipping your coffee while the sun rises over the picturesque Smoky Mountains.  

While you were reading the first paragraph, I鈥檝e already made my reservations and packed my bags for Gatlinburg.

Aside from the marvelous views and a warm holiday feeling, you can not top Christmas in the Smoky Mountains.

Margaritaville Island Hotel In Pigeon Forge

Escape the every day and discover a new outlook, and just chill at the Margaritaville Island hotel in Pigeon Forge for Christmas in the Smoky Mountains.

Located at The Island entertainment complex just off the Pigeon Forge Parkway.  The Margaritaville Island Hotel offers the perfect setting to enjoy the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains for Christmas.

Winterfest at The Island in Pigeon Forge is unlike any experience in the Smokies. With millions of lights, our 23-acre property lights up as the sun goes down to create a holiday ambiance you鈥檙e sure to love.

Every year, The Island hosts a number of opportunities for entertainment throughout Winterfest including live music, carolers, photos with Santa, and a Tree Lighting Ceremony at the beginning of the season to kick-start it all!

Do you still need convincing that a Gatlinburg Christmas is just what your family needs?  Treat your family to Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort or Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon Forge.

Seven reasons why you need a Gatlinburg Christmas.

1. The Pristine Weather

I was born and raised in Tennessee, and those of us who have lived here our entire lives can sometimes take the scenery for granted.

The rooms at Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort and Margaritaville Island Hotel in Pigeon Forge come equipped with a fireplace because when you鈥檙e up that far in the mountains, you鈥檙e pretty much guaranteed a chilly morning while you open presents or gather around for breakfast.

When you celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains, you鈥檙e bound for perfect holiday weather 鈥 not too hot, but crisp.

To enjoy this perfect winter weather, head to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park for a hike with your family.  

Here is the list of my top Christmas hikes to make your holiday in Gatlinburg a memorable one.

2. Outstanding Christmas Attractions in Gatlinburg

Everyone knows that Gatlinburg is packed with exciting attractions, and Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort is within walking distance of all of the main attractions from Downtown Gatlinburg to the Ripley鈥檚 Aquarium of the Smokies

  • Ripley鈥檚 Aquarium of the Smokies – Ripley鈥檚 Aquarium is located right next door to Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort and is one of the most popular Gatlinburg attractions.
  • It was voted the number one aquarium in the United States.
  • There is something for everyone to see, with more than 350 species of marine life to explore at the aquarium, including stingrays, giant sea turtles, and seahorses.

When celebrating Christmas in the Smoky Mountains, you have to go to Dollywood鈥檚 Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival.

From November to early January each year, the park lights up with spectacular holiday shows and greet opportunities with Santa and friends.

The kids will love the millions of lights strung throughout the park. Dollywood knows how to celebrate the Christmas season.

The Trolley Tour of Lights is another magical Christmas attraction in the greater Smoky Mountain area. The trolley ride takes you through the most notable areas of town 鈥 all glowing with holiday LED displays.

Nothing will if this trolley ride doesn鈥檛 put you in the Christmas spirit!  When spending Christmas in the Smoky Mountains, riding the trolley and seeing the light displays should be at the top of your list.

3. Play in the Snow

Christmas in the Smoky Mountains would not be complete without playing in the snow. Head to Ober Gatlinburg for extraordinary winter activities, including:

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Snow Tubing
  • A Kids Snow Zone
  • Ski/Snowboard Lessons

Ober Gatlinburg is great for those who want to experience the thrill of skiing/snowboarding and would instead go snow tubing.

There鈥檚 something for everyone at the winter park. Don鈥檛 forget to ride the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway for jaw-dropping views of the Smoky Mountains in winter!

4. Finish Your Last Minute Shopping in Gatlinburg

If you鈥檙e like me, you鈥檝e waited until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping. Between the shops in downtown Gatlinburg and the Tanger Outlets in Pigeon Forge, you鈥檒l have plenty of places to finish up your holiday shopping quickly.

5. Christmas Pancakes Anyone?

Gatlinburg is the pancake capital of the South. Celebrate Christmas in Gatlinburg with the festive holiday pancake specials from Gatlinburg鈥檚 top pancake houses, including Pancake Pantry and Log Cabin Pancake House. I promise your stomach will thank you!

6.  See Lights from the Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Gatlinburg Space Needle provides fantastic panoramic views of Gatlinburg, with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in the background.  

It鈥檚 a great place to see picture-perfect views of the beautiful Christmas light displays. At 407鈥 tall, the Space Needle offers 360-degree views of all the Christmas action below.

Conclusion How to Spend Christmas in Gatlinburg

The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are filled with charm during all seasons of the year, but no season has more of that good old-fashioned Southern charm than Christmas time.

The Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas are absolutely brimming with holiday cheer from Christmas shows that can’t be beat to fantastic shopping opportunities, holiday parades and Christmas events that will warm the heart.

It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting family or if you’re from the area, you won’t want to miss these festive holiday activities this winter.

Christmas in The Smokies

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Travel Guide


The Island at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Things To Do In Gatlinburg

Best Hotels Near The Island in Pigeon Forge

Have you considered spending Christmas in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge? I would love to hear your thoughts so leave me a comment on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.


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  1. So much to do there I see! We were just discussing the holidays and should we travel this year. I am going to share your list with the fam.

  2. We love Gaitlinsburg. I trip up for Christmas never crossed my mind. I am going to look into because I am sure it is beautiful especially at night.

  3. I have always heard about Gaitlinburg, but I have never been! And I have been through the smoky mountains plenty of times, we are definitely adding this to our list!

  4. I am sold! I need to book at room at the Margaritaville Gatlinburg Resort. I appreciate the luxury they offer. I had no idea, I need to see how far away they are from me.

  5. A few years ago when Gatlinburg experienced several fires (i believe it was due to arson) I was so devastated because my husband always sends his parents there on their anniversary. It’s a beautiful place to visit.

  6. I have always wanted to travel to places like this over the holiday season. But with my work schedule, it is always out of the question. Well, I am adding this to my vision board as motivation to do well with my blog, and be able to cut down my hours at my day job.

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