It may get darker earlier, but the lights of Gatlinburg’s Winterfest illuminate the night in the Smoky Mountains from early November through February! Exciting holiday events, incredible lighting displays, and hundreds of ways to celebrate the most wonderful time of year in a Gatlinburg cabin make it a truly magical time to be in the Smokies. From cozy nights by the fire with your favorite bottle of wine from Smoky Mountain Winery to skiing on the slopes of Ober Gatlinburg, there is something for every visitor drawn to the magic of Winterfest.
Surprise your special someone with a ski trip in the mountains of Gatlinburg in a dreamy winter log cabin, give your little ones the Christmas of a lifetime in a cozy 3-5 bedroom cabin, or put together the most memorable holiday gathering with friends and family in a fantastic large lodge with an indoor pool or theater! Winterfest inspires Christmas spirit all season long, so explore the magic of the season in Gatlinburg, Tennessee…
Winter Magic Chili Cook-Off
When it’s time to ignite the millions of lights across the city, it’s time to heat up the crockpots of the best chili you can find in Gatlinburg! The Winter Magic Chili Cook-Off coincides with lighting of Winterfest, making it a perfect combination of warm food on a chilly night of Christmas lights and decorations. During the first weekend of November, it’s free to attend the Winter Magic Kickoff, and with a $10 wristband you can taste the divine chili made from all of Gatlinburg’s best and most popular restaurants.
Great Smoky Thanksgiving and Christmas Arts & Crafts Show
This inspiring event is full of beautiful works of art and live demonstrations from the generations of talented artisans of the historical Great Smoky Mountain Arts & Crafts Community, the nation’s largest and oldest group of independent artisans! The best part: admission is FREE for guests to enjoy during the 5-day festival filled with handmade goods, live music, intricate art, delicious treats, and much more! The Thanksgiving show takes place during the week of Thanksgiving while the Christmas show follows the next week or in early December.
Festival of Trees
Want some inspiration for your own home Christmas decorations or love being submerged in the spirit of the season? The Festival of Trees is a FREE event filled with magnificently decorated Christmas trees, family-friendly fun, visits with Santa Claus, and live entertainment! Guests can bid on some of their favorite decorated wreaths, trees, and other gifts during a silent auction or wake up early for a pancake breakfast with Santa. Usually hosted during the same week as Thanksgiving, it’s the perfect holiday outing while staying in a large group cabin with family.
Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales
When the Christmas lights shine against the night sky of Gatlinburg each Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, the streets of Gatlinburg come to life under the dreamy wonderland glow with performers and storytellers. From 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. until Christmas, Winter Magic Tunes and Tales entertains passersby with fantastical stories of the North Pole and Christmas in the Smokies. Kids will love meeting the classic characters while everyone enjoys the carolers and musicians plucking guitars, banjos, and fiddles, creating a surreal holiday atmosphere everyone can enjoy – for free!
Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
Ushering in the most magical month of the year with marching bands, mesmerizing dancers, incredible floats, and the big man himself, Santa Claus, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade proceeds along the streets of Gatlinburg on the first Friday of December. This is a free popular event, so be sure to arrive early and claim your spot on the sidewalks! However, the parade marches from the Baskins Creek Bypass at 7:30 p.m. to traffic light #10, so if you want to enjoy the show over cocktails, head over and watch the parade from the balcony at Blaine’s Bar & Grill.
Gatlinburg Trolley Ride of Lights
Soak in the incredible beauty of the wondrous lights of Winterfest throughout Gatlinburg through your own vehicle or join the kids in utter amazement on the Gatlinburg Trolley! The enclosed, heated Trolley Ride of Lights is only $5 and free for kids under 3 in a parent’s lap. Dispatching every night, at 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30, from the beginning of Winterfest to the last week of January, the route follows along a magical tour of Christmas lights featuring Smoky Mountain native wildlife, North Pole characters, and dancing fountains. Keeping up with advances in technology, Gatlinburg recently revamped this incredible display by replacing bulbs with LED lights and a $1.6 million-plus rejuvenation to the tour with new, custom light designs! So, you may have toured the lights before, but the Christmas wonderland seemingly gets more magical every year.
Outdoor Winter Fun
Before touring the inspiring lights of Winterfest at night, don’t let the cold weather keep you in your cozy cabin all day! Here are a few ways to have fun during the winter months of the Smoky Mountains:
Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snow tubing at Ober
From mid-December to mid-March, Ober Gatlinburg transforms into an enchanted snowy resort! Seasoned winter sport enthusiasts and those new to “shredding some powder” will love the range of slopes and plethora of things to do with friends and the whole family. In addition to playing in the snow outside, hit the ice rink to skate or hop in to their newest addition: ice bumper cars!
The leaves may be gone, but that simply means clearer views of the vast, rolling mountains as you enjoy some fresh air during the more sedentary months of winter. Throw on a couple extra layers and explore the beauty and tranquility of the Smoky Mountains during wintertime where quiet forestry and less tourists on the trails lead to an inspiring, introspective time in nature. In addition to some of the clearer views, it’s worth checking out the glittering frozen streams and waterfalls found throughout the park!
Cross-Country Snow Skiing
This activity is not for the faint of heart! The road to Clingmans Dome is closed due to ice and snow on the roads and the steep climb, but it makes for some of the best snowy hillsides to ski and snow tube. The steep climb requires the right gear and some resolve, but the payoff is breathtaking. Miles upon miles of snow-capped mountains and clear skylines rest from the viewing dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Just be sure to check the National Park Service website for road closures before heading to the entrance of Clingmans Dome!
Cozy Winter Cabin in Gatlinburg
Besides being the #1 cure for the winter blues, a holiday gathering or surprise romantic getaway in a Gatlinburg cabin makes everyone happy! Cozy nights by the fire, fun amenities like indoor pools, theater rooms, arcade games and gaming tables, fully loaded kitchens, hot tubs and jetted tubs, and more await guests in many of our charming, luxury, and large group cabins. Spend the holidays with wine nights with the girls by the fire, card and board games with kids around the dining room table, and taking your time getting out of bed while enjoying forest, river, valley, or mountain views.