CELEBRATING, SHOPPING, EATING & LODGING
Sipping hot cocoa with wintry mountain scenes, celebrating the season at dazzling parades and fun festivals, enjoying holiday shows, gift shopping for yourself and loved ones, whipping up sweet treats at your cabin, and unwrapping presents together by a crackling fireplace — Christmastime in the Great Smoky Mountains is always memorable.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are filled to the brim with holly jolly events, attractions are decked out for the holiday season, and special Christmas performances are at every theater. Best of all, cozy cabins of all shapes and sizes abound with decorations, crackling fireplaces, homemade goodies, and a heartwarming atmosphere. If you’re interested in spending time for Christmas in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, our list of festive DOs and DON’Ts will help you plan the perfect holiday!
DON’T MISS OUT ON HOLIDAY EVENTS!
Dazzling holiday lights adorn the streets, the enchanting Great Smoky Mountains surround you, and there’s a chance snowflakes will fall at any moment — when you spend Christmas in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. With the spirit of Christmas on their side, these 2 towns pack the calendar with holiday events that feature 1,000s of decorations, festive parades, exciting fireworks, cheerful caroling, local crafts, and Santa Claus! Some of our favorite events are listed below, and be sure to check our Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge events page before your trip so you don’t miss out on any festivities while you’re in town!
• Winterfest Chili Cookoff | Nov 12
Kicking off Smoky Mountain Winterfest and the start of the holiday season at the Anakeesta Plaza, this chili cookoff in Gatlinburg offers some of the best flavors around that pair well with free live music and the kickoff for Gatlinburg Winterfest.
• Smoky Mountain Winterfest | Nov 13, 2020 – Feb 22, 2021
The area’s largest winter event, Smoky Mountain Winterfest involves Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville! It encompasses everything wintry, from shows and events to decorations and holiday fun. Smoky Mountain Winterfest just keeps getting better, with the celebrations adding more lights, music, and attractions each year!
• Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show | Nov 30 – Dec 6
The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community will host its annual Christmas show — displaying their skilled craftsmanship and offering one-of-a-kind gifts for the holidays — at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. Admission is free, and as guests browse, they can watch many of the craftsmen and artisans at work.
• Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade | Dec 4
Grab a warm cup of hot chocolate and head to the streets of Gatlinburg for a magical Christmas parade along the Parkway — featuring 100s of parade floats, marching bands, performers, giant helium balloons, and musical productions! See all the kids’ favorite North Pole characters, including Santa, along with elaborate floats and tons of decorative lights. In the past, there have been more than 80,000 spectators, so get there early for a good spot. And the parade lasts about an hour and a half, so be sure to bundle up!
• Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival | Dec 9-12
Come see the country’s most talented bluegrass bands and musicians packed into one harmonious event at the Smoky Mountain Convention Center. This bluegrass music festival will warm your heart during the most magical time of the year! Tickets are limited to 300 total to keep with current safety precautions and run at $125 for each reserved spot or $35 for remaining spots on the days of the performances.
• New Year’s Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks | Dec 31, 2020
Sending off 2020 in style, this annual New Year’s Eve event will count down a ball drop and shoot brilliant fireworks at the intersection of Parkway and Historic Nature Trail at the base of the Space Needle. Plus, there are usually refreshments and live music to enjoy while you wait for the big moment. This event is free, so make plans to ring in the new year with family and friends in Gatlinburg.
• Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales | December
Throughout the weekends of December, the city of Gatlinburg gives visitors and locals a classic Christmas experience with Tunes and Tales. North Pole characters (including Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph), talented musicians, and passionate storytellers pour into the streets of Gatlinburg to celebrate the most wonderful time of year! Carolers dressed in Dickens-era costumes warm the hearts of those strolling the sparkling Parkway.
• Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights | December
Experience Gatlinburg’s incredible Winter Magic display — featuring state-of-the-art custom designs and twinkling lights — in an enclosed, heated trolley that embarks nightly, drifting through the magical wonderland of Christmas lights in downtown Gatlinburg and along Hwy 321. You can also opt to drive the tour in your vehicle and venture into Pigeon Forge and Sevierville that have even more Christmas light displays to enjoy!
DO CHECK OUT FESTIVE ATTRACTIONS & CHRISTMAS SHOWS!
Local attractions decorate for the season and feature Christmastime activities while area shows put on special seasonal performances filled with holiday cheer! Check out some below!
• Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
During the holidays (Nov 7 – Jan 2), Dollywood in Pigeon Forge hosts its own Smoky Mountain Christmas extravaganza! With 5+ million lights blanketing the theme park and decorations among all the usual exciting rides, it’s one of the most incredible displays of Christmas in the Smokies.
• Skiing & Ice Skating at Ober Gatlinburg
Skiers and snowboarders of all levels are welcome to hit the 10 powdery slopes at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area & Amusement Park for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. You can bring your own gear or rent what you need and take lessons if you wish, warm up in the mall with shopping and good food, and watch the kids glide on the indoor ice rink on skates or in the ice bumper cars. *Open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
• Christmassy Spooks at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
A haunted house for Christmas in Gatlinburg? Tim Burton isn’t the only one who likes to combine holidays! Tour all the nightmarish rooms creeping with ghoulish fiends of Ripley’s Haunted Adventure on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day for a terrifyingly fun holiday to remember.
• Titanic Christmas & Winter Celebration
During November and December, the entire ship is filled with awe-inspiring, magical lights and displays! Decorations from the Edwardian period adorn the ship, and live reindeer hang around the entrance to the museum.
• Ripley’s Festive Aquarium of the Smokies
For Christmas at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, enjoy 1,000s of sea creatures and interactive exhibits minus the usual crowds! Seasonal decorations make the underwater adventure feel extra special for the holidays, and it’s a neat place to grab a last-minute gift for someone you cherish.
• Enchanted Winter at Anakeesta
As winter approaches, Anakeesta gets decked out in Christmas cheer with the rest of Gatlinburg, draping the fairytale-esque Firefly Village in lights with visits from Santa and his elves! You can even walk inside a snow globe, stroll under a 1,000-foot canopy of twinkling lights, and enjoy live trees with decorations.
• Pigeon Forge Snow
Dreaming of a white Christmas on your Smoky Mountain vacation? Make it happen at Pigeon Forge Snow! No need to bundle up for snow tubing here — this exciting attraction is the first of its kind in the country, boasting real snow in a comfortably climate-controlled facility of 65-70 degrees.
• Snowy Sight-Seeing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Open 365 days a year and free to the public, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful place to visit for Christmas. Take a serene drive through Cades Cove, a stunning valley area with higher elevations typically offering a lovely white Christmas scene laid over the historical cabins and majestic mountains. Maybe you’re feeling up for a cool hike? Venture along a paved path to see the 80-foot cascading Laurel Falls draped in ice. It’s just over 2 miles roundtrip and is well worth the effort to enjoy a picturesque wintry scene in person. Just be sure to wear extra layers!
• Christmas Shows in Pigeon Forge
Throughout the holiday season (even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), numerous dinner shows and theaters in Pigeon Forge put on festive performances — from the hilarious Hatfield & McCoy Christmas Disaster to the jaw-dropping acrobatics and equestrian teams during Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Stampede! Special Christmas shows can also be found at Pirate’s Voyage Dinner & Show, Country Tonite, The Comedy Barn, and Dollywood. Get ready to cheer, sing along, and swoon into the Christmas spirit!
Take a sneak peek of Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Stampede for a taste of what Pigeon Forge brings to the Yuletide table!
DON’T FORGET YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING LIST!
With 100s of specialty shops plus malls, outlets, and store complexes, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge have you covered with gifts for Mom, Dad, the kids, grandkids, extended family, pets, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and anyone else! Many local boutiques have that warm, mountain feel, and there are even shops completely dedicated to Christmas.
• The Old Mill Square
Hit up The Old Mill Square that features shops, forging displays, a working grist mill along the Little Pigeon River, hearty restaurants, and cozy outdoor spaces to enjoy.
• Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
For years, the 100+ talented craftsmen and artists along the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community loop road (designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail) have been making, showcasing, and selling their woven baskets, quilts, candles, pottery, dulcimers, glass blown ornaments, leather goods, jewelry, wood carvings, pet items, and much more.
• Mountain Mall
Located in downtown Gatlinburg, the Mountain Mall is a completely indoor shopping plaza featuring tons of unique shops that can help you start or finish up your Christmas list.
• Santa’s Claus-et
For all things Christmas, all year long, stop by Santa’s Claus-et in Gatlinburg. This charming country store is packed full of gifts, gourmet foods (including jams and jellies, salsa, pasta, and coffee), Christmas ornaments and décor, fun toys, and lots of mountain music. And Santa might be there, so definitely bring the kids!
• Tanger Outlets
For incredible deals on all of your favorite brands in one place, the Tanger Outlets in nearby Sevierville is the best place to visit.
• The Village
Find treasures in The Village, a collection of 27 unique shops and eateries nestled in the heart of Gatlinburg. As you stroll through this perfectly charming European village experience, nibble on fudge, browse the art gallery, and enjoy the enchanting atmosphere by the fountain while you shop.
• The Incredible Christmas Place
As the largest Christmas store in the South, it’s no wonder this Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge is Incredible! It’s jam-packed with everything Christmas and offers famous holiday brands (Christopher Radko, Lemax, Mark Roberts, and Department 56) and designer assistance to decorate the interior or exterior of your home!
The Incredible Christmas Place is magical — see for yourself!
• The Island
Pop over to The Island, a massive shopping and entertainment complex in Pigeon Forge filled with dozens of boutiques, neat rides, delicious restaurants, live entertainment, games, and annual events.
DO STAY IN A CABIN FOR CHRISTMAS!
‘Tis the season for precious memories — at your cabin for Christmas in the Smokies! Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Granddaddy reading classic Christmas stories to the kids, cocoa simmering on the stove, and presents tucked under the decorated tree — inside a cozy cabin with views of the Great Smoky Mountains — what better way to spend Christmastime with loved ones?
10 Christmas Activities at YOUR Cabin
- Splash in the private indoor pool downstairs, where color-changing lights and water features elevate this special cabin treat.
- Wrap secret presents, play card games, or build a gingerbread house at the wooden dining table.
- Whip up a steaming pot of rich cocoa on the stove — pouring mugs for all with cinnamon sticks, marshmallows, and candy canes!
- Let the kids open an early Christmas present, but make them work for it with a creative, fun holiday scavenger hunt!
- Read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to the kiddos as they head to dreamland in their bunk bed or sleeper sofa in the living room.
- Screen Christmas classics, like Home Alone, The Grinch, Elf, The Polar Express, It’s a Wonderful Life, or The Santa Clause, on the big screen TV by a warm fire or in the theater room with booming surround sound!
- Buy that game the family has had their eye on and spend hours playing and laughing around the dining room table or the coffee table in the living room.
- Snap a few family photos with matching pajamas in front of the dazzling Christmas tree or with a snowy mountain backdrop.
- Head onto the deck and enjoy another cup of coffee (because it’s Christmas) in a rocking chair or porch swing.
- Grab a partner and head to the hardwood dance floor with holiday tunes cranked on high volume.
Pro tip: be prepared for road and weather conditions. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are busy during the holidays, leaving the Parkway congested. If traffic is slow in town, enjoy the LED light displays that will surely brighten the trip! Roads can also become icy at times, so make sure you are well prepared for local weather conditions. If you’ll be traveling up a steep road to your cabin, consider tire chains and always exercise caution.
DON’T STICK TO YOUR DIET — ENJOY RESTAURANTS & CHRISTMAS RECIPES!
While you don’t want to completely blow your diet just because it’s Christmas, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer some of the best and most diverse food options around, so you don’t want to miss out.
Restaurants Open on Christmas Day in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
Many area restaurants will close early on Christmas Eve and open later in the afternoon on Christmas Day. A few open include:
- Applewood Farmhouse
- Blaine’s Grill & Bar
- Golden Corral
- J.T. Hannah’s Kitchen
- Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina
- No Way Jose’s Cantina
- Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen
- Reagan’s House of Pancakes
- Smoky Mountain Brewery
Christmas Recipes for the Cabin
In between all the restaurants and specialty eateries, one of the best parts about Christmas in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is the time spent with loved ones and a meal or treats at your private cabin rental. Each Cabins for YOU property features a full kitchen with tools, appliances, and dishes for prepping holiday meals. Check out some tasty recipes on our blog!
Need more recommendations on Christmastime events, attractions, shops, and cabins? Reach out to Cabins for YOU at 1.800.684.7865 today.
Note: Due to COVID-19, proper safety measures, including social distancing, mask requirements, hand washing/sanitizing stations, staff checks, and more rigorous cleaning and disinfecting routines, are being implemented at every event, attraction, show, and cabin.