For most of the year, we plug away at our ambitious dreams and goals, fully dedicated to productivity and hard work. Yet, the return of December reminds us that rest and connection are just as important. The Christmas holiday season gives us a chance to readjust our focus onto the immaterial things that matter most: family and community, spiritual and religious practice, and most simply, the joy of loving life.
Embrace the call to relax and reconnect with a vibrant getaway filled with enchanting events, magical lights, and specialty shopping excursions. This 2021 Christmas guide will give you the run-down on everything you need to know to make the most of your Smoky Mountain holiday vacation!
Winterfest 2021: Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg Christmas Events
Winterfest is the amalgamation of all Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Christmas events occurring throughout December. There is no shortage of festive things to do in these small mountain towns, from parades to light shows, theatrical performances, and more. We’ll highlight a few fun ways to celebrate the season with your family and friends, like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Christmas parades that you won’t want to miss.
November 5 – January 22
Turn on your car radio and drive leisurely through a 300-foot RGB tunnel, around a 70-foot light tree, and past Santa’s Mountain, where Santa and company can be seen enjoying a relaxing vacation! Come see these custom-built LED lighting displays at the Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium.
November 5 – January 31, 9:00 am – 10:00 pm
Lights Over Gatlinburg at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is even bigger and better this year! Witness over 20,000 lights, dancing trees along the NEW SkyTrail, a 30 ft. multicolored Christmas tree, and a magnificent 200 foot tunnel of lights on the record-breaking Gatlinburg SkyBridge. Lights Over Gatlinburg runs daily and access is included with your SkyLift Park admission ticket at no additional cost. Your admission ticket allows you to visit during the daytime to take in the gorgeous views, includes access to the new SkyTrail, and also lets you return that night to enjoy the lights! Don’t miss this awesome experience–and great value–this holiday season!
November 6 – January 2
Behold some of the most impressive Christmas lights in Pigeon Forge from the exhilarating vantage point of Dollywood’s award-winning roller coaster rides. Each zone of the amusement park is illuminated with millions of sparkling lights, while audience-favorite theatrical performances like “Christmas in the Smokies” and live musical performances like “Appalachian Christmas” keep the holiday cheer flowing. Each night concludes with the Merry & Bright Holiday Lights, a spectacular fireworks show seen from anywhere in the park.
November 11 – February 20
Winterfest lighting displays include five million lights in Pigeon Forge, featuring native Smoky Mountain wildlife illuminated along every street, gigantic trees and ornaments at The Island, and audience-favorite fairytale characters on the Parkway. Take a slow drive through Pigeon Forge to get lost in the magical winter wonderland!
November 24 – 28
Dozens of glittering Christmas trees deck the halls of the WL Mills Conference Center, located in the Gatlinburg Convention Center, for a charitable purpose. All proceeds from this Gatlinburg Christmas lights display go to the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains and the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation Scholarship Fund, which totaled $30,000 last year. Not only does this free event display elaborate Christmas trees and decorations, but it will also present a special appearance from Santa Claus on Friday and provide kids with fun take-home crafts.
November 29 – December 5
The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community presents a special holiday show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center, plus a chance to pick out perfect holiday gifts from the handmade crafts of Tennessee’s best artisans.
December 3, 7:30 pm – 9:00 am
The 46th annual Gatlinburg Christmas parade celebrates the holiday season with enchanting floats and gigantic balloons, fantastical LED lights, live music from marching bands, dancers and costumed characters. Bring your foldable chairs to a good spot along the downtown Parkway, and enjoy the show with a thermos of hot cocoa to keep you warm. If you are unable to attend the in-person event, tune in to your local television station and watch the Gatlinburg Christmas parade on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. You won’t want to miss the Fantasy of Lights Christmas parade, known as one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast.”
December 4, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
The 59th annual Sevierville Christmas Parade brings classic cars, fun floats, holiday music from live bands, and Santa Claus himself to the Parkway.
The Sugarlands Visitor Center hosts a delightful evening of old-time music and harp singing, storytelling, and children’s activities at their Gatlinburg location. Stick around to see some fascinating demonstrations in handmade crafts like weaving, spinning, quilting, and basket-making.
Hope Pavilion is an outdoor tent venue just off the Pigeon Forge Parkway. Evangelical sermons run on select weekends featuring gospel preachers like Sean Tabb, Dr. Tim Lee, Dr. Phil Kidd, and Kenny Marr, plus live musical performances from the Tabb Family, Micah Tyler, Jason Crabb, and The Allens. On December 18, Sean Tabb Ministries presents GoodTidings Christmas, a one-day charitable event that distributes gifts of fruit, candy, shoes, clothes, and more from individual donors, companies, and organizations to those in need. Hope Pavilion gives you a unique way to make time for the true meaning of Christmas!
Unique Christmas Shopping in the Smokies
There are plenty of opportunities to get your holiday shopping done while on vacation in the Smokies. Cute boutiques bring warmth to the streets of downtown Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, while shopping malls like Sevierville’s Tanger Outlets fulfill your quota for national brands. Yet, there are a few shops in particular where you can find highly individualized gifts.
At Sandman’s Workshop, you can get a custom-made stone or rock carving as a sentimental gift, a garden decoration, a pet’s memorial headstone, or a personalized photo stone slab. Plus, their store offers a wide selection of other unique earthy gifts, like Himalayan salt lamps, rock oil lamps, stone crosses, and even concrete benches.
For the past century, Lodge Factory Stores has been the authority on cast-iron cookware. Browse their Sevierville or Pigeon Forge stores not just for high-quality cast iron but also for grilling gear, cookbooks, kitchen accessories, and discounted factory seconds. Lodge Factory Stores is the place to go shopping for the culinary artist in your circle!
Your gift for your special someone can’t get any more original than a rare find at the Great Smokies Flea Market. This 200,000 square foot space in Kodak, TN, consists of over a thousand rotating vendors selling everything from antiques and collectibles to artisanal crafts and artwork to apparel and musical instruments, cosmetics, Amish jams, and more. Plus, there’s no shortage of delicious snacks and fresh-baked treats for sale to keep you energized as you mull over the best clearance deals.
Getting Around Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg
When you just want to relax and enjoy your Christmas vacation, logistics are the last thing you want to worry over. Thanks to the area’s excellent public transport and commercial transportation services, it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
The Pigeon Forge trolley is one of the most reliable ways to get around. The fleet of thirty buses can take you anywhere in Pigeon Forge and even to parts of Sevierville for only $3 a day. Hop on and off the Pigeon Forge trolley as much as you want between 8 am and 10 pm from November through March. Keep in mind the trolley does not operate on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Similarly, the Gatlinburg Trolley System consists of over twenty trolleys that take you everywhere you need to go in the Gatlinburg area, every day of the year. Instead of struggling to figure out where to park downtown or worrying about driving after enjoying an adult beverage at dinner, the Gatlinburg Mass Transit system is there to deliver you to your destination safely for free!
If you prefer the independence of driving your own vehicle but won’t be traveling to the Smokies with your car, you’ll definitely want to stop by Wranglers & Razors. Their 2- and 4-door Jeep rentals will keep your whole family in good hands, while their Polaris Slingshot rentals offer an exciting and refined way to bounce around town. They even rent Razor 1000 UTVs, perfect for hitting the trails just as much as touring the streets lit up in Christmas decorations.
In the Great Smoky Mountains, traditional Southern culture inspires us to reconnect with our family under the vibrant holiday lights and starry skies. The glorious mountain scenery evokes a vivid awareness of our higher power, while Christmas-themed festivities give us a chance to celebrate it. Additionally, the region’s abundance of family-oriented entertainment offers the opportunity to let loose, have fun, and play like a kid again. With so many enchanting things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the Smokies make an ideal destination for a holiday getaway. It’s not too late to start planning!
Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.