After working so hard all year, the holidays are our chance to slow down and find balance. This year, in particular, has been a rollercoaster for many people, making it especially crucial to give the healing gifts of relaxation, fun and celebration. This winter, take your family and friends on vacation to the snow-cloaked Great Smoky Mountains. The small towns of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville are brimming with holiday festivities and wintertime entertainment to reinvigorate your spirits before the new year.
Winterfest in Pigeon Forge
The 31st annual Winterfest runs through February 15, 2021, transforming Pigeon Forge into a festive paradise. Winterfest consists of a diverse range of merry activities, including evening performances, seasonal shopping at local vendors and heavenly grub at the local restaurants. Hop on the Trolley Tour of Lights at Patriot Park to enjoy and photograph over five million multi-colored lights adorning the downtown area. Write your letter to Santa Claus and pop it in the mailbox, or better yet, meet him in person at The Island to confide your holiday wishes. The wider Winterfest of the Great Smoky Mountains oversees fantastical events in several of the surrounding towns. Read on to learn about other Winterfest events like Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic and Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland in Sevierville.
America’s only Dolly Parton-themed amusement park celebrates the holidays each year in Pigeon Forge with Smoky Mountain Christmas. Dollywood shuts down for a week to prepare for this award-winning festival featuring lighting displays with over five million lights, delicious eats and treats, and holiday gift shopping. This year introduces the brand new “Merry & Bright” fireworks display every Friday and Saturday for the festival’s duration. Watch your kids’ faces light up in the spectacular bursts of color in the night sky as you unwind to a Christmas soundtrack.
The festival also evokes laughter and cheer at DreamSong Theatre. Award-winning favorites like “Christmas In the Smokies” and “Kingdom Heirs Christmas” return to the stage. The brand new “Heart of the Holidays” show calls upon Dolly Parton’s extended family members to share stories, Christmas music and original songs from Dolly’s new holiday album. Make memories among red and green lights, cool blue and gold decorations, awe-inspiring performances and heart-warming music. Open now through January 3, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas is sure to become a quintessential tradition for you and your family.
Dollywood isn’t the only homage to Appalachia’s beloved country music idol. Dolly Parton’s Stampede is known as the “Smokies’ #1 Choice For The Holidays,” featuring evergreens, poinsettias, enchanting Christmas lights, festive games and family-friendly entertainment. The Stampede arena is adapted for performances like the Sugar Plum Fairy’s “Living Toys,” a living Nativity scene complete with three kings on the backs of actual camels, and a hilarious competition between North and South Pole elves as they serve you dinner. Watch this one-of-a-kind comedy unfold over a four-course holiday feast of rotisserie chicken, hickory-smoked barbecue pork loin, creamy vegetable soup and a decadent dessert. Don’t forget to stroll through the Horse Walk to greet the talented cast of 32 horses up close before they trot out on stage. Get your tickets before the final showtime on January 2, 2021.
Gatlinburg Winter Magic
Aptly named, Gatlinburg Winter Magic evokes a sense of wonder with the spectacle of millions of environmentally-friendly LED Christmas lights. This free event began in 1989 with only a few humble lights and has since grown to illuminate all of downtown Gatlinburg. Walk or drive through the streets at night to encounter scintillating snowflakes and joyful snowmen along each street. Squirrels, rabbits, foxes and other native mountain fauna glow vibrantly in every nook and cranny. Take a leisurely hike through endless light tunnels while magnificent fountains of light steal the show.
Finally, head up to the SkyDeck at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park to warm up by the fire pits and enjoy the romantic view of magical lighting displays below. Their three-seat chair lift sails you five hundred feet up to Crockett Mountain for unmatched views of the glittering lights against Gatlinburg’s mountainous backdrop. There’s nothing quite like concluding an evening of Winter Magic with pizza and beer at the SkyCenter’s indoor seating area and bar. Catch the event anytime from now until January 31, 2021.
With so much to do and see, you could easily spend your entire vacation at Ober Gatlinburg! The amusement park is home to restaurants with delightful views and brews, plus shops where you can finish your last-minute Christmas gift shopping. Inside the Ober Gatlinburg mall, you’ll also find an ice-skating rink that can be reserved for large parties. Fun is around every corner even in cold weather with family-friendly activities like Ice Bumper Cars, the Ski Mountain Coaster, the Wildlife Encounter and the indoor carousel. The park is also ripe with breathtaking photo ops on your way to or from downtown Gatlinburg on the Aerial Tramway, one of the country’s largest aerial tramways.
Most notably, the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg are recognized as Tennessee’s #1 skiing, snowboarding and tubing destination. Adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers will love hitting top speeds on their variety of beginner, intermediate and advanced level courses. Take advantage of the options to rent gear and purchase group or private lessons, or shred the snow like a pro on your own trusty equipment.
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is the ultimate Christmas lights show, located at the Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium in Kodak. Invite as many friends and family members as you can to pack an entire car, van, limo or tour bus — the more, the merrier! The lighting displays are unlike any other. An unfathomable number of colorful lights twinkles rhythmically in synchronicity with the holiday music on your radio. The all-new lighting display called “Santa’s Beach Party” is made up of gigantic, custom-built LEDs of Santa on vacation at the beach. For a final hurrah, drive your caravan through 300 feet of the ethereal RGB tunnel and around the impressive 70-foot light Christmas tree. From 6:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. every evening, Santa’s Village provides the opportunity to take pictures with Santa, visit the animals at Little Ponderosa Zoo and purchase snacks and souvenirs. Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland will whisk you away into a winter fantasy now until January 3, 2021.
December brings not only glittering snowfalls and sweater weather but also a desire to retreat into those comfortable, warm spaces we call home. As a result, the magic of winter reconnects us to what truly matters. That priceless sense of belonging with our loved ones sparks joy in an otherwise bitterly cold and frozen outside world. This winter season, savor this quality time with your loved ones through the countless things to do in the festive mountain towns of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.
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