Looking for the best holiday events and winter festivals in the Smoky Mountains? We’ve got you covered.
You may think that not much goes on during the often “slow” months of winter and early spring around Gatlinburg, Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and surrounding Smoky Mountain communities.
But in the mountains, there’s always something going on, and there are lots of Smoky Mountain winter events and festivals that you’ll want to put on your calendar.
The Smoky Mountains are great for hiking and soaking in the beauty of nature during the winter, but with so many festivals going on, there’s always an opportunity to have fun.
November & December Holiday Events in the Smokies
Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies | Gatlinburg
For three days each November, the Gatlinburg Convention Center is the place to get your groove on. After all, what’s a trip to the Smokies with some bluegrass music?
More than a dozen bands play during the festival, and you’ll get to hear some talented artists saw fiddles, pick banjos, and really show their musical chops.
With the city decorated for Christmas and music filling the air, visitors of all ages are sure to be filled with the holiday spirit.
Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show| Gatlinburg
Members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community take over the Gatlinburg Convention Center on Thanksgiving to offer some of the best homemade wares you’re likely to find anywhere. In fact, the Community is one of the largest groups of independent artisans in the United States.
Visitors here can find perfect items for themselves or for friends and family. Items for sale include hand-dipped candles, woven baskets, quilts, jewelry, teddy bears, leather items, and so much more.
Festival of Trees | Gatlinburg
Nothing says Christmas is here quite like a Christmas tree, and this three-day, November festival is a celebration of all things Christmas tree.
This event has been going almost 50 years strong, and it’s not hard to see why. Visitors can attend more than one day of the festival to see elaborately decorated Christmas trees and wreaths. Kids can have some fun in the craft and play area and even get their pictures taken with Santa.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains, so you can ring in the holiday season by donating to a good cause.
Winter Magic Kickoff/Chili Cook-off | Gatlinburg
Drop by this fun November event on the Gatlinburg Parkway for the perfect warm-up on a cold day.
It’s one of the few times during the year when the Parkway closes, so you know it’s a special event. Watch cooks and chili connoisseurs create their famous recipes right in front of you. Visitors can get chili samples and enjoy live entertainment as they fill their bellies.
The chili cook-off paves the way for the Winter Magic Festival, which runs through the end of January. Make sure to stick around for the official lighting of the millions of twinkling, LED lights that shower Gatlinburg in the holiday spirit all winter.
Astra Lumina at Anakeesta | Gatlinburg
November – December
Have you ever looked up at the stars and wished you could reach out and touch them? At Anakeesta, the stars descend right from the sky, making visitors feel like they’re walking among them.
Visitors here can stroll along the grounds of the observatory and discover many cosmic wonders. Through lighting and projections, visitors are treated to an unforgettable experience.
Polar Express Train Ride | Bryson City
November – December
“The Polar Express” has become a beloved holiday movie, enjoyed by kids and adults alike. But, did you know that you can go on a Polar Express train ride in the Smokies in winter?
Head to Bryson City for the Polar Express Train Ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The 75-minute journey winds through the Smoky Mountain wilderness to the North Pole. Along the way, visitors can enjoy a reading of the book, sip on warm cocoa, and snack on a special treat.
Once the train arrives at the North Pole, Santa himself climbs aboard and presents each child with a special gift.
Titanic Christmas and Winter Celebration | Pigeon Forge
November – December
The holiday season is one of the best times of the year to visit this special Pigeon Forge museum. The museum staff really goes all out, decorating the building with twinkling lights, Christmas trees, wreaths, and more.
Visitors are encouraged to stop by and give holiday greetings to the Titanic crew, enjoy the decorations, or visit the gift shop for unique collectibles and gift ideas.
Redneck Comedy Bus Christmas Lights Ride | Pigeon Forge
November – December
Dig out your favorite Christmas sweater, warm up your vocal cords, and prepare to laugh on this one-of-a-kind Christmas tour in the Smokies. This festive adventure will take you to see some of the Smokies’ best spots for Christmas lights, including the national park and through Gatlinburg.
You may make more than a few new friends as you join in the merriment, singing Christmas carols (Redneck-style of course!) and just having a good ol’ time.
Smoky Mountain Christmas Light Spectacular Drive-Thru | Bryson City
November – December
Christmas music on the radio, magnificent light displays in front of you, holiday cheer in the air. Is there any better combination?
That’s exactly what you’ll find here as you slowly cruise by stunning, custom-built light displays that are sure to make your eyes widen in amazement. From the 12 days of Christmas to other well-known holiday scenes, there’s something amazing everywhere you look.
This is perfect for packing up family and friends in the car, bringing some snacks, and enjoying a fun night filled with Christmas cheer.
Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas | Pigeon Forge
November – January
For more than a decade, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas has been voted one of the best Christmas events in America. You’ll definitely feel the holiday spirit when you see millions of twinkling lights all around you, Christmas cheer in the area, and family time to enjoy.
The event lasts from November to January, and there’s so much to see. Bright lights illuminate Glacier Ridge to tell the story of the Polar Bear and the Black Bear reunited.
Enjoy performances of your favorite holiday music. Have some delicious holiday treats, and make sure to visit Santa’s workshop to see if you’re on the naughty or nice list.
Pigeon Forge Winterfest Driving Tour | Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, & Sevierville
November – February
There’s just something about Christmas lights that can get anyone in the holiday spirit. Pigeon Forge Winterfest treats visitors to a magnificent light show throughout Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville from November to February.
This amazing array of Christmas lights is on display for three months, giving visitors plenty of time to see it. Whether you’re a regular visitor to the Smokies or it’s your first time, it’s hard not to be awestruck by the displays that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg create.
Start the holiday fun on the Pigeon Forge Parkway where you can see the entire 12 days of Christmas represented in lights. Continue to Gatlinburg where you can see native animals displayed with twinkling lights.
Past displays have included 16-foot-tall frogs and grasshoppers, 7- and 8-foot-tall flowers, and even a 17-foot dragonfly. It’s pretty darn impressive to see these creations all lit up by millions of lights.
No matter where you are, it truly is a winter wonderland. Between Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, there are more than 5 million lights to usher in the holiday season.
So dress warm, drive at a leisurely pace, and let yourself be amazed by the exciting displays in front of you. If you want to see a winter wonderland, this is one not to miss!
Christmas in the Village | Townsend
November – December
Take a trip back to the days of the pioneers this holiday season at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center’s Christmas in the Village.
Here, you’ll be guided by living history interpreters through a historic Appalachian village that’s all decked out for the holidays. You’ll learn lots of fun Smoky Mountain history, see hands-on demonstrations, and enjoy hot refreshments.
Shadrack’s Christmas Adventure | Sevierville
November – January
This brand-new event at Soaky Mountain Waterpark will be a real treat for residents of Sevierville and visitors alike.
What makes this event so special? It’s a drive-thru storybook experience where the LED-lit art is bigger and better than anything you’ve ever seen. With festive sound and larger-than-life art, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event you don’t want to miss out on.
The event starts after Thanksgiving and rights nightly until January.
Editor’s Note: 2022 is the first year for this event.
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland | Sevierville
November – January
There are many opportunities to get outside and see wondrous light displays around the Smokies in the winter months. But if you want to stay out of the cold and see the lights, this drive-thru Christmas display is the perfect winter activity.
For more than 10 years, this has been a holiday favorite among residents and is a show that you don’t want to miss. The drive-thru is 1.5 miles long, features LED lights and music, and is one of the most immersive experiences you’ll find during the holidays.
Editor’s Note: 2022 is the last year for the Christmas Wonderland show at Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium.
Ice Skating at Wilderness at the Smokies | Sevierville
November – January
There’s something so peaceful about gliding around an ice rink on a winter day, feeling the nip of winter on your nose, and hearing your skates glide across the ice.
Wilderness at the Smokies offers a 3,200-square-foot skating rink that’s perfect for visitors to enjoy during the holidays. Not only is it fun, but there are also holiday lights, music playing, and a snack area that serves hot chocolate. Added all together, you have the ingredients for a perfect day!
The rink is open from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekends and during Thanksgiving and Christmas break, and from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Sevierville’s Christmas Parade | Sevierville
If you love Christmas parades, you’re in luck because this annual December parade has been going strong in Sevierville for decades, and you can visit to get in on the fun!
The traditional parade route goes north on the Forks of the River Parkway, right on Main Street, and right on Court Avenue before returning to the beginning point.
Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade | Gatlinburg
If you need some Smokies holiday spirit before Christmas, you can find it in spades at this annual December tradition. Visitors can watch the grand lighting of the Gatlinburg Christmas tree and arrive for the festivities early, including the parade.
The parade features balloons, colorful lights, floats, and marching bands — everything you need for a wonderful time.
Santa Hustle Smokies 5k & Half Marathon | Sevierville
Have you ever wanted to run a winter marathon? Have you ever wanted to do it wearing a Santa suit and beard? At Soaky Mountain Waterpark, you have a chance to do both!
This event is a holiday-season favorite and has been going strong in the Smokies for more than a decade. Runners start in the water park and head down Winfield Dunn Parkway and Highway 441, before turning around and ending back in the park.
Along the way, there are candy stations and a good dose of Smoky Mountain haze as participants wind through the river valley. It’s a great way to enjoy some holiday fun and get a cool snowglobe finisher medal when you’re done!
New Year’s Eve Ball Drop/Fireworks | Gatlinburg
Where better to ring in the New Year than in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains? You can do just that at the Gatlinburg Space Needle on Dec. 31.
This event has been an annual tradition for more than 30 years and is one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the country. After all, there’s nothing better than watching fireworks blast off from the 400-foot-tall space needle.
Visitors will be treated to the ball drop and a fireworks show. There are also free concerts, some of which have included local recording artists in years past.
January to March Smoky Mountain Winter Events and Festivals
Winter Heritage Festival | Townsend
As you’ve already read, Townsend is an interesting place that transports visitors back to simpler times. This festival treats visitors to traditional food, skill and craft demonstrations, storytelling, and much more, all in a historic Appalachian village.
Wilderness Wildlife Week | Pigeon Forge
Get in touch with nature and discover the beauty of the Smoky Mountain wilderness during this four-day event. The week is all about showcasing just what makes the Smokies so special, and that specialness is showcased through its animals, plants, trees, wildflowers, and rich history.
Come for four days filled with classes, demonstrations, seminars, workshops, guided hikes, and so much more. By the end of the week, you’ll be itching to explore more of the Smokies on your own.
Tennessee Winter Special Olympics | Gatlinburg
This inspiring January event, put on by Special Olympics Tennessee, shows that there are no limits to what special needs athletes can accomplish on the snow.
The three-day competition has events that are spread out at Ober Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Convention Center, and Rocky Top Sports World. Competitors of all ability levels and ages participate in a wide variety of fun events, including basketball, speed skating, snowboarding, and skiing.
The games also include group dinners, a dance, and much more. It’s a great time to just have fun, get into the friendly spirit of competition, and see that anything is possible.
Winter Carnival of Magic | Pigeon Forge
For almost 20 years, the Winter Carnival of Magic has delighted visitors of all ages at Pigeon Forge’s Country Tonite Theatre.
The three-day carnival is held in March and is a showcase of all things magic, including close-up card tricks and elaborate stage illusions. The carnival features a close-up magic competition, a stage magic competition, a dealer room, evening shows, lectures, and more.
Tickets can be purchased for a single day or for the whole convention.
Smoky Mountain Jubilee | Pigeon Forge
This free event gathers visitors together for a weekend of Gospel music and preaching in the scenic Smoky Mountains. Held at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, this is a chance to enjoy some incredible, soul-stirring gospel music and church services.
Plan Your Winter Visit to the Smokies Today
This winter season, the Smokies are the place to be if you’re looking for winter fun. Whether you’re looking for outdoor festivals with fireworks and parades or indoor festivals with opportunities to shop, the mountain towns in the Smokies can offer it all.
So, clear your calendar, and make plans to attend these exciting, fun-filled annual events. They’re chock-full of activities, fun for attendees of all ages, and of course, plenty of holiday spirit.
Whether you come for one event or all of the events listed above, you’re sure to have a magical time. You may just make these events part of your annual holiday traditions. You can even explore more things to do in winter in the Smoky Mountains.