Dixie Stampede Christmas Balcony Santa

Winter is here already? I know we just saw the peak of fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains, but the Smokies starts their festivities off early. Early, like the second week of November!


Gatlinburg Winter Magic kicks off with a toasty Chili Cookoff from 5–8 p.m. on November 9th, which coincides with the start of the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights that runs through January 31, 2017. Pick up the trolley and journey through downtown and experience LED lighting displays, festive foundations, and animals native to the Great Smoky Mountains area. Times are 6:40 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. Admission is free for kids under age three if they sit on an adult’s lap.

Also in Gatlinburg, we see the return of a 30-year-old tradition—the Festival of Trees. Benefitting the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, it runs from November 23–27. Admission is free at the WL Mills Convention Center. Kids will love the crafts area and photos with Santa, and parents can enjoy the beautifully decorated trees and entertainment. Breakfast with Santa happens on Saturday, November 26, but you’ll need to reserve quickly as there are limited spaces.

Ready for some holiday cheer and entertainment? Just after Thanksgiving, you can hear live music as the Winter Magic Tunes and Tales will take to the streets of Gatlinburg with both sacred and secular songs from genres like Country, Bluegrass, and folk music from Appalachia. The first two performances are Friday, November 25, and Saturday, November 26, from 5–9:30 p.m. The troupe will perform on December 2–3, 9–10, and 16–17 thereafter.

If you have never been to a parade at night, don’t miss the 40th Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade held on December 4th at 7:30 p.m. Get a good spot and watch with the other 60,000 people as you witness lighted floats, horses, balloons, marching bands, and Santa. Wear a Santa Hat and strut your Christmas spirit! Rachel Grant from “Die Another Day” will be the Grand Marshal for this year’s parade.

Need just a little bit more time to shop for last-minute Christmas gifts? There are plenty of places to shop in the Smokies! Look for a blog post coming up that covers just that.

Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge kicks off their Winterfest on November 8th at 4 p.m. with games for kids. Then enjoy the National Anthem at 5 p.m., followed by the fireworks and lighting ceremony, entertainment, and free Trolley Tour of Lights rides. Winterfest continues through February 28, 2017. Winterfest is the best time to watch a holiday show in Pigeon Forge, as many venues put on their holiday themed shows along with Winterfest.


Sevierville, TN, has its share of Christmas and Winter festivities. Starting on November 7, the lights turn on during the Smoky Mountain Winterfest, which boasts over 15 million lights in 25 miles! For even more lights, be sure to check out the unique 1.5-mile drive-through light show at the Tennessee Smokies Stadium, which runs from November 4 through January 8, 2017, from dusk until 10 p.m as part of Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland. Sevierville also hosts its parade, which is even older than Gatlinburg’s. Celebrating 54 years of festive tradition, the Christmas Parade in historic Sevierville comes to life on December 3 at 9 a.m.

Do you and your family do anything special when you visit the Smokies during the holidays? Let us know with a comment below! We’ll be following up on this post with a list of great cabins for rent that are all decked out from floor to ceiling (and the halls!).

Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.

About April Sadowski

April Sadowski is a wife, mother of a toddler, and a travel junkie. She's a content author for the Smoky Mountain region and is always looking for the latest tip for making a vacation a memorable one.

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