A family trip to the Smoky Mountains usually includes a visit to the big 3—Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Sevierville. They all take part in the creation of the spectacular Smoky Mountain Winterfest, which draws people from all over to the area.
With more than 15 million twinkling lights along a 25-mile stretch, there’s no mistaking when it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas in the Smokies. It is sure to inspire wonder in young children and can be enjoyed from early November to late February. The annual celebration includes displays at Dollywood and other local businesses, yet the focus is on the holiday spirit and the quiet dignity of life in the Smokies during the festive winter months. Kids’ games are free, and the whole family can dance along to live holiday tunes. There are also hayrides with Santa and a Christmas-inspired fireworks show.
Gatlinburg starts its part of the fest with the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade in December. With giant balloons, floats with light displays, marching bands, and Santa Claus, the star of the show, it’s no wonder that the parade attracts an audience of around 60,000 spectators and has won multiple awards. Guests can even buy light displays of their own at Country Christmas & Collectibles in Sevierville.
Gatlinburg’s scenic charm is obvious from the moment you arrive in the mountain resort city. From Ankeesta, an outdoor family experience that just opened in 2017, to the distinct comedy at the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, family-friendly activities abound in the city. Of course, the main attraction is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is the most-visited National Park in the United States. When planning a trip to Gatlinburg, keep in mind that it’s easy to get around town even without a rental car. An affordable trolley runs throughout the day and can take you to over 100 stops around Gatlinburg. You can even use the trolley system to connect with the Pigeon Forge trolley system.
Ober Gatlinburg is the go-to destination in the Smoky Mountains for a wide variety of winter sports and activities. You can go skiing, snowboarding, or snow tubing with the whole family. If you’ve never skied before, that’s no problem. You can take lessons on site. Ice skating at the indoor ice arena in Ober Gatlinburg’s indoor mall is a fun activity for people of all ages. Young children are sure to enjoy the carousel, mini-golf, kiddie rides, and maze. Seasonal flavors are served up each day at the Seasons of Ober Restaurant, and the Loft Lounge has the largest dance floor in the area and unique drinks for a date night with your spouse.
Activities at Ober Gatlinburg vary in price. For example, you can skate for three continuous hours for only $9. A ride on the carousel is $3.50 or one attraction ticket. You can get a book of ten attraction tickets for $31.50. All current prices will be listed on the Ober Gatlinburg website.
Winter Magic Trolley Ride
On chilly winter nights, take your little ones on a joy ride on the enclosed, heated Gatlinburg Trolley. Trolley drivers serve as informative guides as they highlight fascinating facts along the way. From November 8, 2017, to January 31, 2018, three trolley rides are offered nearly every night.
Along the informative ride, the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights takes you through downtown and the adjacent Highway 321. Displays include a group of international children, whimsical snowmen, rocking horses, and wildlife that are indigenous to the Smoky Mountains. Eco-conscious revelers will be glad to hear that the entire winter lights program is created with crisp, energy-saving LED lights.
As a dynamic mountain city that’s deeply influenced by Southern culture and country music, Pigeon Forge boasts Dolly Parton’s beloved amusement park, plenty of music theaters, and some of the most interesting shops in the state. It’s just five miles north of the Smokies. During the winter months, every day seems to be a celebration, and it has museums like the Titanic Museum that are of interest to families.
Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood
Family fun is the primary focus of the holidays at Dollywood. Since Dolly Parton boasts a movie named Smoky Mountain Christmas, it may be no surprise that she does the holidays up in grand style at her beloved them park. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas festival will run from November 4, 2017 to January 1, 2018. Four million dazzling Christmas lights provide a dazzling display throughout Dollywood as you and your family go from ride to ride. Also, you’ll want to make time for several of the incredible holiday shows. From It’s a Wonderful Life to extravaganzas with mountain music, there are a variety of live shows to enjoy at the park, too.
A nightly Parade of Many Colors includes lighted floats, interactive characters, and the same heartwarming message from her holiday film Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. A special Santa Land provides kids with a chance to enjoy some magical time with Santa Claus and the elves. What better place to share a wish list for Santa?
Christmas at Titanic
You can celebrate Christmas on the Titanic from December 4, 2017 to January 4, 2018, and kids can learn while they have winter-themed fun. From the moment you arrive at the Titanic Museum during the holiday season, you will be treated to the grand light display and decorations on the outside of the ship-shaped building. With the Christmas and winter celebration at the Titanic Museum, visitors can also see the grand staircase elegantly decked out in holly, pine branches, and other decor from the Edwardian period. “Snowfall” from the bow of the ship and Christmas trees throughout the museum make the holidays a special time to visit this educational museum.
Island in Pigeon Forge
As a 23-acre entertainment destination with amusement park rides, the Margaritaville Island Hotel, and more than 60 unique shops, the Island in Pigeon Forge is a fun place to do your holiday shopping during the Winterfest celebration. It hosts a variety of special events in November and December, and it is done up in grand style with thousands of lights, bows, garland, trees, and festive decor.
The annual tree lighting ceremony will feature a 35-foot tree. Santa will visit often during the holiday season for photo opportunities and visits with little ones. The sounds of the Island Carolers will bring a spark of Christmas musical magic to special nights on the island. You might even get a glimpse of Scrooge there, too, but the “bah” and “humbug” won’t be anywhere to be found.