It’s the Most Magical Time of Year in the Smokies!

Mesmerized by the surreal city draped in lights and this magical North Pole come to life, it can be daunting to know where to start. Every holiday season, beginning in early November and carrying all the way through January, Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains become a paradise for those who love Christmas and everything about it! From fantastic shows to wintry landscapes to millions of lights, a Christmas in Gatlinburg is certainly a bucket-list-worthy destination for new visitors and makes many fall in love with the contagious holiday spirit to return year after year.

Growing up in North Georgia and Tennessee, many of us here at Cabins For YOU are very familiar with the other-worldly experience of Winterfest in the Smoky Mountains as a popular vacation destination for many of us throughout our lives. It has not stayed the same, either, with the celebrations adding more lights, music, and attractions each year! While you are a guest in one of our perfectly sublime Cabins for YOU cabins – whether it be a large holiday gathering, a Christmas reunion with friends, small family vacation, or romantic retreat – here are the 25 best ways to get into the holiday spirit and have the best Christmas ever in Gatlinburg!

1 – 15 are Christmas-in-your-dream-cabin ideas and 16 – 25 are our all-time favorite events and activities in Gatlinburg!

  1. There is no better way to cuddle in the cabin than in front of a warm fire, hot cocoa or fresh coffee in hand, and wooly socks on your feet.
  2. Let the kids open an early Christmas present, but make them work for it with a creative, fun holiday scavenger hunt!
  3. It might be cold outside, but keep warm while enjoying breathtaking wintry views as steam rises off the hot bubbling waters of the outdoor hot tub.
  4. Host an elegant Christmas feast in a beautiful large group lodge with a church group or with multiple families.
  5. Screen your family’s favorite Christmas movies each evening of your stay in the cabin’s theater room or on the flatscreen TV by a warm fire.
  6. Buy that game the family has had their eye on, like the latest expansion of Catan or the newest top games on Amazon Prime, and spend hours playing and laughing around the dining room table or the coffee table in the living room. (Add a no cell phone rule to these game nights, too.)
  7. Bake Christmas treats in the fully loaded kitchen and decorate them while seated at the breakfast bar and listening to your favorite holiday music.
  8. Host a Christmas pool party in your cabin’s indoor pool! This one is especially fun for kids who have birthdays during the holidays; vacation with a few other families for a birthday they won’t soon forget!
  9. Christmas Olympics! Play air hockey, foosball, and other games in the rec room on teams, girls versus boys or kids versus adults, for a unique activity. Winners open an early present!
  10. Write letters to Santa while drinking hot chocolate before heading to Anakeesta to hand deliver them to the big, cheery man in person! (See Christmastime in Anakeesta below)
  11. Surprise your special someone with an in-cabin Christmas surprise like one of our romantic gift baskets filled with spa goodies, a massage, or a private dinner made by a chef from Savory Solutions!
  12. Exchange gifts with a big game of White Elephant with friends and family by the fire. The kids can even have their own White Elephant after a visit to the Sevierville Tanger Outlets and a little financial assistance from mom and dad.
  13. With everyone gathered in a large group lodge, it’s a perfect time to play games like hide-and-seek and charades, laughing and making memories everyone will cherish.
  14. Bring crafting supplies and cheap Walmart sweatshirts to decorate ugly Christmas sweaters together during a girls’ cabin getaway while sipping on glasses of local wine from the Smoky Mountain Winery and sport them while you tour the lights of downtown Gatlinburg!
  15. Help the kids put on their own little nativity theatrical event for the relatives in the cabin!
  16. Winterfest Chili Cookoff in Gatlinburg
    When: November 7, 2018
    Where: Downtown Gatlinburg
    Admission: $10.00

    Kicking off Winterfest and the start of the holiday season, try some of the best chili around along with free live music by The Petty Hearts, a nationally touring Tom Petty cover band!

  17. Great Smoky Christmas Arts and Crafts Show
    When: November 26 – December 2, 2018
    Where: Gatlinburg Convention Center
    Admission: Free

    Want to find the most unique and meaningful gift for a special someone on your shopping list? You will definitely not want to miss the opportunity to peruse the numerous displays of handcrafted quilts, ceramic pitchers, jewelry, candles, leatherwork, and much more among the country’s largest organized group of independent artisans!

  18. Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales
    When: Fridays & Saturdays November 23, 2018 – December 22, 2018
    Where: Downtown Gatlinburg
    Admission: Free

    As Christmas creeps a little closer after Thanksgiving feasts are devoured, North Pole characters, musicians, and storytellers pour into the streets of Gatlinburg every Friday and Saturday night from 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to celebrate the most wonderful time of year as free traveling shows for visitors to enjoy while shopping along the Parkway!

  19. Skiing in Ober Gatlinburg
    When: December 15, 2018 – March 10, 2019 (estimated opening and closing)
    Where: Ober Gatlinburg
    Admission: Details here

    10 incredible slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels! Take a group or private class if you’re new to the slopes and pick up some super- rental gear before hitting the slopes for a budget-friendly ski-trip in the Smokies!

  20. Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights
    When: November 7, 2018 – February 28, 2019
    Where: Downtown Gatlinburg
    Admission: $5.00 (Children 3 and under are free)

    Experience the incredible light display in an enclosed, heated trolley tour that departs every evening at 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 (p.m.) and drifts through the magical wonderland of Christmas lights in downtown Gatlinburg and Hwy 321. You can also opt to drive the tour yourself in your own vehicle!

  21. Christmastime in Anakeesta
    When: November 7, 2018 – January 26, 2019
    Where: Atop Anakeesta Mountain
    Admission: Details here

    After recently receiving the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Attraction of the Year for 2018, this is a magical Smoky Mountain attraction filled with gardens, ziplining, and breathtaking mountain views that you can experience any time of year! However, Anakeesta gets decked out in the Christmas cheer with the rest of Gatlinburg, draping the fairytale-esque Firefly Village in lights with visits from Santa and his elves!

  22. Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
    When: December 7, 2018
    Where: Downtown Gatlinburg
    Admission: Free

    Get to the Parkway of Gatlinburg early to stake out your spot along the streets for the 43rd Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade beginning at 7:30! See all the kids’ favorite North Pole characters, including Santa, along with elaborate floats filled with décor, lights, and ushered through the streets by marching bands!

  23. Ollie’s Festive Follies Holiday Show
    When: Select Dates from November 22, 2018 – December 31,2018
    Where: Sweet Fanny Adams Theater
    Admission: Adult (13+): $24.12 Kids (2-12): $8.50

    As one of Gatlinburg’s official state treasures, experience the side-splitting comedy of their vaudeville-style holiday show featuring the “World’s Shortest Version of A Christmas Carol,” Christmas classic carols with a twist, and tons more surprising laughs!

  24. A Smoky Mountain Christmas
    When: November 10, 2018 – January 5, 2019
    Where: Dollywood
    Admission: Details here

    Just down the road in Gatlinburg’s sister city of Pigeon Forge, Dollywood puts on their own incredible Christmas extravaganza filled with nightly parades, shows around every corner, and all of the North Pole gang.

  25. Wintertime in Cades Cove
    When: December – February
    Where: Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    Admission: Free

    Cades Cove brings in droves of visitors during peak season from April to October, but with the action of Winterfest and cooler temperatures, the crowds are deterred. The lack of masses and the snow-capped mountains make for some of the most peaceful, beautiful Smoky Mountain landscapes. Cades Cove annually sees 20” of snowfall on average, so be sure to check with the National Park Service before your visit! The roads in the park are a major passage from North Carolina to Tennessee, so regular snow-plowing and road maintenance are kept up through the winter, allowing you to experience the natural winter wonderland of the Great Smoky Mountains!


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