Merry Christmas from the Smoky Mountains! Staying in one of our cozy Pigeon Forge cabins or making the drive into the winter wonderland magic of Winterfest in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? With a healthy love for Christmastime and the Smokies, we believe the best gift we can share with you is a list of 12 ways to make memories with those you care about most while visiting the inspiring beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains for Christmas!
- Self-guided Driving Tour of Lights Through Gatlinburg
Having recently revamped the already-incredible Christmas lights display with $1.6 million in new state-of-the-art custom designs and LED lights, the magical Trolley Tour of Lights in Gatlinburg is a fantastic way to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with your loved ones while “oohing” and “aahing” all along the way. Just up the highway in Sevierville, you can also check out the ever so popular Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland!
- Hot Cocoa in the Cabin (+recipe)
Nothing says Christmas like opening gifts by a warm, crackling fire in your Smoky Mountain cabin. Savor every moment along with smooth sips of hot cocoa made from scratch!
Makes 5 cups in about 15 minutes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional-marshmallows, whipped cream, or cinnamon sticks
In a saucepan combine sugar, cocoa, and salt.
Add water and turn stovetop on high to bring mixture to a boil.
Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
Stir in milk and turn heat down to medium to slightly above medium, (serving temperature).
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Whisk until froth.
Add optional garnishes and serve!
- The Nightmare On Christmas Day
A haunted house on Christmas? Tim Burton isn’t the only one who likes to combine holidays! Tour all the nightmarish rooms of Ripley’s Haunted Adventure on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for a terrifyingly fun holiday to remember.
- Walk with the Penguins and Pet a Sting Ray
Another fantastic Ripley’s attraction open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is the Aquarium of the Smokies, where you can enjoy the thousands of sea creatures and interactive exhibits minus the usual crowds!
- Gingerbread Houses Made of Smoky Sweets (+recipe)
Many sweet shops in the area stay open on Christmas Eve but simply close a little earlier than usual. Swing by and pick up your favorite candy house building supplies and make a quick trip to a local grocery store to gather supplies for an evening of gingerbread houses in the cabin! While we don’t shame anyone for snagging one of these simpler kits with supplies and instructions, the Food Network has a nice recipe and guide here!
- Snowy Sight-Seeing in the Smokies
The park is open 365 days a year! Check out the National Park Service’s website for any notable closures or announcements, but a serene drive through Cades Cove for Christmas promises substantially less crowds and breathtaking beautiful views. With less vehicles on the Loop Road, take your time and maybe catch a few glimpses of the wildlife that does not hibernate. The higher elevations often see snow, creating a lovely white Christmas scene laid over the historical cabins and majestic mountains.
- Christmas Day Movie Marathon (+recipe)
Be sure to pack your favorite holiday movies, or simply find the channel with A Christmas Story marathon. Many of our cabins boast big flatscreen TVs and media rooms with tiered seating, projectors, and cozy chairs with cup holders for a theater experience you never have to leave the cabin for. And since it’s Christmas, put a sweet twist on the classic movie popcorn! Fine Cooking has a simple, tasty recipe for a salted caramel popcorn. If you want to take it even further, I love laying the popcorn out flat to cool and then drizzling melted chocolate over the popcorn using those chips oftentimes sold near strawberries for the purposes of chocolate covered fruit.
- Build a Snowman and Ski the Slopes
Ober Gatlinburg’s snowy slopes and play area are open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Ski, snowboard, snow tube, or play with your little ones in the snow play area for a white Christmas your family will cherish.
- Smoky Mountain Christmas Show
Many Smoky Mountain theatrical attractions are open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! Watch a knee-slapping hilarious family feud at the Hatfield and McCoy Christmas Dinner Disaster or be dazzled by the talented voices and stunningly extravagant Christmas sets and décor of Country Tonite. Because fewer shows are offered, plan ahead and buy your tickets online; the links above will direct you to the website you can purchase your tickets.
- Visit Firefly Village Atop Anakeesta Mountain
Even as one of the area’s newest attractions, Anakeesta has already been honored with Tennessee’s Top Attraction Award and continues to grow with new rides, restaurants, and more! The breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains will steal your heart away – if the magical Christmas lights and decorations of Firefly Village didn’t already.
- Get a Bird’s Eye View of the Winterfest Lights
Travel to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle on Christmas Day to experience the magic of Winterfest from over 400’ above the streets!
- Enjoy a Smoky Mountain Meal
They will often close early on Christmas Eve and open later in the afternoon on Christmas Day, but here is a quick list of all the mouthwatering dining options you’ll have when you stay in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for the holidays:
- Blaine’s Bar & Grill
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Company
- Cherokee Grill
- Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
- Johnny Rockets
- Loco Burro
- No Way Jose’s
- Season of Ober
- The Melting Pot
- Smoky Mountain Brewery