9 Unforgettable Christmas Activities In Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in winter, is a surprisingly fun place to spend time,. especially during Christmas. What events and memories are to be made during Christmas in Gatlinburg?

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What are some things to do around Christmas in Gatlinburg?

There are many things to do in Gatlinburg around Christmas.

  • The fantasy of Lights Christmas parade takes place early in the month
  • Great Smoky Mountains Christmas Arts and Crafts Show
  • The Festival of Trees
  • Winterfest

All of the above are both fun and family-friendly to visitors and people who call Gatlinburg home.

We’ll discuss each event and what makes celebrating Christmas there special. We’ll also give recommendations about non-event things to do in Gatlinburg in late December into the New Year.

Christmas in Gatlinburg events

Gatlinburg is in the Smoky Mountains and is a neighbor to Pigeon Forge, a beautiful part of Tennessee that combines southern hospitality with somewhat warm weather for Christmas. 

Let’s look more at how to spend Christmas in the Smoky Mountains.

Festival of Trees

While our first event doesn’t quite take place around Christmas, the week following Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. 

The Festival Trees has been happening for nearly 50 years and are delightful for adults and kids. 

 The kids will have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus and tell him what they want for Christmas. In addition, there are lots of holiday decorations along with a kid’s craft and play area where you can make a keepsake ornament for your own Christmas tree.

For adults, there is also a Candy Cane and Cocktail event before the party starts, you don’t feel left out though any adult enthusiastic about Christmas in Gatlinburg.

Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

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The Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade has also been going on for a long time and has become a staple of downtown Gatlinburg. 

The parade features twinkling lights and an overall Christmas-themed parade that will make you feel like you are at the North Pole. Santa Claus has his own float, of course. 

The parade is genuinely entertaining too. With real musical guests, including those who have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Of course, Tennessee is known for its music and country style, so it definitely sounds like home too.

One of the better parts about the outdoor parade is that Tennessee doesn’t get too cold about Christmas, so people traveling from the north might not need to bundle up as much!

Gatlinburg Winter Magic

Want to see some Christmas lights? Winter Magic actually starts in early November and extends throughout the Holiday season. 

The city of Gatlinburg deploys over 3 million Christmas lights throughout the city, often designed in ways to mimic local wildlife like foxes, bears, and horses. 

These are interspersed through the town so taking a walk in the city is extra nice for those needing to walk a distance – though the Christmas lights can also be readily viewed from the Gatlinburg Needle. 

A Smoky Mountain Christmas is truly magical with winter magic, especially since the town switched to using LED lights years ago, making the event last considerably longer and open to more visitors in downtown Gatlinburg. 

Christmas in Gatlinburg is merry and bright!

Winter Magic also starts with a chili cookoff complete with games and live music. At $10 per person last year it’s a relatively cheap night of entertainment and very good, local food.

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Trolley of Lights

Along with the Gatlinburg Winter Magic event is the ability to see their bright Christmas lights – from a trolley.

These trolleys leave from their station a few times during the evening during the event and offer an easy, comfortable way to view the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Event without having to walk much – though of course you can get out and enjoy downtown Gatlinburg too if you want.

Great Smoky Mountain Christmas Arts and Crafts Show

Spend Christmas in Gatlinburg and you’ll be around for the Christmas arts and crafts show. The city actually holds a few of them. 

The Great Smoky Mountain Christmas Arts and Crafts Show in particular has many Christmas-related vendors so you can find Christmas ornaments, elves, or whatever else you like to build up Christmas decorations.

You’ll love being in the Great Smoky Mountains over Christmas.

The craft show takes place with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in mind too – and is sometimes called the Pigeon Forge and Great Smoky Mountains Christmas Arts and Crafts show.

Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival

The Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival takes place in part at Dollywood, which is Dolly Parton’s county theme park. 

The entire village is lit up with lights and a Christmas village is there too. 

The best way to visit the Christmas Festival is by train, according to the Dollywood website. 

The Christmas Festival also features several Christmas-themed shows to take in, including a beautiful rendition of the ever-popular “It’s a Wonderful Life.” and enjoy Christmas cheer.

This festival is a great addition to any trip to the Smoky Mountains over Christmas. You should visit the rest of Pigeon Forge as well.

Pigeon Forge Snow and other outdoor events

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Snow can get or miss in the Smoky mountains. Pigeon Forge Snow makes snow fresh every day of the year for visitors. 

There are also many resorts and places that offer man-made snow for tubing and skiing around Gatlinburg, and a place called Wilderness at the Smokies that converts its wave pool to a skating rink in the winter. 

Anakeesta’s Winter Village

Aankeesta is a theme park in itself, but when it is lit with Christmas lights, it is truly something else! Santa’s sleigh also visits Anakeesta on select days in November and December, so definitely bring your kids for that one!

Rent a Cabin

The Smoky Mountains have many cabins available. 

While not entirely Christmas-themed, a cabin rental can be a great way of getting the family together for a few days over Christmas while enjoying a soak in a hot tub and the beautiful sights of the mountains

You can even see the stars at night – which might not be possible in your city!

Key Takeaways

  • Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains offer many Christmas events 
  • For lights, check out the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Event in downtown Gatlinburg
  • You can use the Trolley of Lights to visit the Winter Magic stations and Christmas lights.
  • The Smoky Mountains Christmas Festival includes a “It’s a Wonderful Life” play.
  • The Fantasy of Lights Christmas lights  parade is a big event with musicians and lights