Smoky Mountains at Christmas: 13 Most Festive Things to Do

Twas’ the night before a Smoky Mountain Christmas, not a creature was stirring. From Bob Cats to Black Bears, all was quiet in this tranquil Tennessee town. With an abundance of natural beauty, the promise of snow, and tons of twinkling lights it’s no wonder Dolly Parton holds Christmas in the Smokies in such high esteem.

Follow along to discover the most festive ways to celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains.

Whether you’re yearning to harness the holiday season through the twang of the banjo at a mountain-style musical festival or wish to take on fresh powder runs at Ober Gatlinburg, a Smoky Mountains Christmas Vacation will please just about everyone.

Settle in with a good book and steaming cup of cocoa at the Christmas Inn, or plan a day of Yuletide yarns, lights, and eats at Dollywood’s award-winning festival.

Can’t wait to unravel the magic of Christmas Smoky Mountains? Read on…

Smoky Mountains Weather in December

Wondering what to pack for your Christmas in the Smokey Mountains? The contents of your carry-on will vary widely depending on your trip’s itinerary and time of year. It is important to keep in mind that cities such as Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg will be blessed with milder temperatures and less precipitation than the national park.

Visitors window shopping and caroling in Gatlinburg can expect highs of mid-50 degrees with lows of mid-30 degrees. In addition, the average chance of rainfall, snow or sleet, or hail in Gatlinburg is about 30% each day in December. Thus, if you are planning on hiking, skiing, or just relishing that crisp mountain air, be sure to bring along tons of thermal layers, hiking boots, and a warm jacket.

Please keep in mind that temperatures will drop considerably past December and into the New Year.

First time vsiitor to the Smokies? Get all the insider tips and tricks to this majestic National Park with our Complete Guide to Smoky Mountain National Park.

aerial view of the great smoky mountains in the snowy winter in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USAHotels for Christmas in the Smoky Mountains

Footed pajamas, stockings hung above the fire, and the dulcet tones of Sinatra crooning over Christmas. There’s something about the Yuletide season that just goes hand in hand with getting cozy. Enjoy every minute of the Smoky Mountains at Christmas when you reserve the perfect lodgings.

No matter if you wish to relax in a luxurious resort with searing mountain views in Pigeon Forge or soak the day away in a hot tub in Gatlinburg, Tripster provides accommodations for every taste. Cook up a Christmas dinner in your condo’s fully equipped kitchen, or delight in convenient access to the National Park’s Trails.

However, you choose to cohabitate for your holiday, book with confidence, knowing you are always guaranteed our lowest rates online.

Snowfall on Cabin Outdoor SpaceChristmas Inn Gatlinburg

Lodgings with so much Christmas spirit they’ve been pre-approved by St. Nick? Yes, please! Spend your snowy smoky getaway surrounded by sparkling lights, miniature trains, and tons of Santa time at the Christmas Inn Gatlinburg. If you’ve ever dreamed of living in your very own Hallmark Christmas movie, this is your chance!

This beloved Christmas-themed hotel sits nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Guests of all ages will feel like fairy tale characters as they appreciate Bavarian architecture, lushly landscaped gardens, and seasonally appointed accommodations.

In addition to suites trimmed with trees, velvet bows, baubles, and more, little elves will delight in nightly cookies, photos with Mr. Claus, scheduled activities, scavenger hunts, and more.

On the hunt for lodgings even closer to the mountain? Check out our full range of Smoky Mountain Resorts.

Great Smoky Mountains Christmas Activities

Snow Tubing

Dreaming of Smoky Mountain National Park snow tubing? While there is a chance Cades Cove or Clingmans Dome may receive enough fat flurries for tubing, December weather does not always guarantee snow. Instead, Secure your day of arctic outdoor fun by making a reservation at Rowdy Bear’s Smoky Mountain Snowpark.

Slip and slide through real snow as you experience lanes of fresh powder over 500 ft in length. Hold on to your hat as you take down a 70 ft drop, or try your hand at America’s first alpine flyer coaster. Widely considered the best tubing in the Smokies, Rowdy Bear boasts state-of-the-art facilities, a gift shop, a tasty cafe, and a creamery.

Two friends snow tubing
Snow tubing and smiles go hand-in-hand.

Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood

No wintery sojourn during Christmas in the mountains is complete without a visit to Dollywood. Welcome in the Happiest Season when making a plan to see the dazzling Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas decorations, lights, and attractions. Let everyone’s favorite queen of country music bless you with heaps of holiday cheer from November 4 through January 6, 2024.

Adrenaline junkies can still get in their kicks with stomach-churning rides aboard the Wild Eagle and Blazing Fury before partaking in the Noel and nativity festivities. From charming country carols to more than 5 million twinkling lights, there’s no denying the appeal of this enchanting holiday homage. Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland of furry friends, 12 ft tall Christmas trees, and live caroling excitement.

Savor sweet seasonal treats, sing along to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, or find out if you’ve made Santa’s nice list. Be sure to bring that camera as you’ll be dying to document the many glowing hues of Glacier Ridge, Santa’s Village, and Craftsman’s Valley, all at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas.

christmas lights at dollywood's grist millChristmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival

Get ready for plenty of feisty fiddling and banjo ballads when you attend the Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival. This three-day mountain affair kicks off on November 16, and is a love letter to the Appalachian region.

Held in the W.L. Mills Auditorium, this extravaganza of soul, gospel, and bluegrass features over a dozen local and regional artists. Witness the talents of headliners such as Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, and Paul Williams. But don’t forget to explore the decorated streets of Gatlinburg as you take in Christmas sparkles, lots of shopping, and yummy treats.

Winterfest at the Island

An island adventure in Pigeon Forge? No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Winterfest at the Island in Pigeon Forge may not feature sandy golden beaches, but every winter, this 23-acre attraction is transformed into a wonderland of millions of lights, garlands, and towering LED trees.

Savor festive Christmas decorations and sights, including a choreographed fountain show and visits from Santa. Swing by on November 18 to celebrate the season with music, memories, and a 40 ft tall LED Christmas Tree. Groove out to the sounds of the Knoxville Streamliners, and then be sure to go for a spin in the 200 ft high Great Smoky Mountain Wheel.

Indoor amusement parks, adventure courses, and soulful salutes to Elvis. Whether you are a musical theater maven or dead set on riding a mountain coaster, there are tons of Gatlinburg Things to Do.

a wide image of a road with green Christmas lights and Christmas Tree on the opposite side.
photo credit: My Pigeon Forge via Facebook

Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter Celebration

Scenic chondola rides, sweeping mountain views, and thrilling zipline adventures come together to make Anakeesta a can’t-miss Smoky Mountain attraction. Gather up the whole family as you enter a world of whimsy and fun. Meander through an interactive garden, see as far away as Kentucky from the Anavista Observation tower, or swing through the Treetop Skywalk.

Cheer with a craft cocktail at the Cliff Top restaurant, or dig into tasty BBQ at the Smokehouse. The chilly season brings extra charm to this haven of outdoor fun as groups can gather around fire pits, sip whipped cream-topped hot cocoa, or pose in front of Willow the forest nymph.

Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas kicks off on November 14, and will last through January 9. Visitors can also partake in festive light displays, breakfast with Santa, or the celestially stunning Astra Lumina.

group of friends with drinks seated around Fire Pit at Bear village in Anakeesta,Gatlinburg, Tennesee, USA
photo credit: Anakeesta via Facebook

Ober Gatlinburg

Calling all snow bunnies! Ober Gatlinburg is fulfilling your fantasy of a White Christmas with a one-way ticket to the Snow Zone. Relish tons of icy fun, scenic mountain views, and that wholesome apres ski flush when you tackle all the wintery exploits of this iconic adventure park. Let the 120-passenger aerial tramway transport you to a world of forests, mountains, and Alpine endeavors.

Athletically skilled adventurers will have their hands full trying to choose between indoor ice skating, snow tubing, or skiing. Gaze out over a frost-bitten winter as you zoom through 2750 ft of turns, dips, zig-zags, and corkscrews on the Ski Mountain Coaster.

Keen to hit those slopes like a pro? Schedule a professional snowboarding or ski lesson, and you’ll be hitting those black diamonds in no time. Once you’ve retired your lift pass and pulled off those snow boots, celebrate your icy achievements with a brew at the Loft Lounge.

Close up of people wearing their ski gear with the slopes behind them at Ober Gatlinburg in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: Ober Gatlinburg via Facebook

Things to do in Pigeon Forge Around Christmas

Christmas at Crave Golf

Ho ho, hole in one! Take a break from the chilly elements and defrost at Pigeon Forge’s only 19-hole indoor mini golf course. Crave Golf Club promises to satisfy your craving for the green. Warm up that swing, and make your way through 19 holes of candy-coated rooftop fun, or stay toasty with their indoor course.

Take turns trying for strikes with mini bowling, or treat yourself to a luscious creamy milkshake from Cocos. Savor even more sweet treats and escape room hijinks with Crave’s Candy Christmas.

Santa’s helpers of all sizes will fall head over heels for the hundreds of festive trees and thousands of illuminated winter lights. While parents will love the complimentary photo opportunities with Santa and the Grouch. Plan your visit from now through January 15, 2024, and take part in all of Yuletide merriment.

*Free photos are available on select days in December.

See a Cheery Christmas Show

Who says glamor and glitz is just for Broadway? Soak in sublime scenery, show-stopping musical numbers, and sparkling costumes when you spend an afternoon or evening at the theater.

No matter if you’re keen to combine your candy-striped dance numbers with dinner or can’t wait to chow down on BBQ with Dolly, Pigeon Forge is the primary destination for live entertainment:

Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Equestrian feats, battles between the North and South Pole, and a nativity featuring live camels. Get your fill of home cooking, sleighs, and sugar plum fairies when you celebrate the joy of Christmas with Ms. Parton at Dolly Parton’s Stampede.

Ladies and Santa on a balcony gathered around a Christmas tree and Santa is putting the star on top at Dolly Parton's Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USATis the Season

Classic carols, gospel hymns, and some ditties from the King himself. It may be a ‘Blue Christmas’ in Pigeon Forge, but this Grand Majestic Theater production will warm your soul with its bright costumes and audience-led sing-along.

The Comedy Barn Christmas Show

Prepare yourself for some side-splitting laughs as you chuckle through the Comedy Barn’s Christmas Show. This spectacular of music, costumes, decorations, and kid-friendly jokes will feature appearances from the Comedy Barn Canines and Cloggers.

Need even more music, magic, and swashbuckling antics to complement your Smoky Mountain stay? See our complete list of the 5 Top Christmas Shows in Pigeon Forge.


Train your eyes on the night sky, and we swear you’ll see Santa’s sleigh making a stop in Pigeon Forge. The lights of Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest shine so bright that even Santa and Rudolph can’t resist a pit stop. Eastern Tennessee is starting to look a lot like the North Pole, thanks to the incandescent glow of five million lights.

Merrymakers of all ages will fawn over intricate light displays of animals native to the Smoky Mountains, dancing snowflakes, and oversized flowers. Beginning on November 10, 2022, and lasting through February, winter-minded visitors can scout out prominent light masterpieces everywhere, from Patriot Park to the Riverwalk Greenway.

For a full map of every last Winterfest light display, click here.

couple walking through path surrounded by lights at night at Winterfest Wonders of Light Walking Trail in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: My Pigeon Forge via Facebook

Scenic Helicopter Tours

Looking to stretch your wings? If the city starts to feel suffocating, get above it all on a scenic helicopter tour! Gaze in awe at the Smoky Mountains, a river, and rolling hills from a unique bird’s eye view.

Outdoor Gravity Park

Speaking of unique activities, Outdoor Gravity Park is another must-visit for the daredevils among us! Try zorbing — a one-of-a-kind activity you can’t experience anywhere else in the United States. Roll down a hill in an inflatable ball as water splashes all around for a true adrenaline rush.

Christmas at the Titanic

Pretend you’re ‘king of the world’ when you visit Pigeon Forge’s premier museum attraction. The Titanic Museum is a one-of-a-kind educational experience that lets you learn about the world’s most famous luxury liner. Browse through over 400 artifacts, or embrace your inner Rose as you walk down a $1 million replica of the Grand Staircase.

Feel freezing 28-degree water, or muster up some muscle to shovel coal in the Boiler Room. Visitors during December can even pay their respect to the poor lost souls of the maiden voyage with the Titanic Museum Christmas Honors RMS Titanic.

In addition to remembering these men, women, and children, the ship will be aglow with twinkling lights, festive costumes, and dazzling Edwardian decorations.

Psst…still searching for more things to do in Pigeon Forge during Christmas? Check out our rundown of Christmas in Pigeon Forge: 11 Must-See Holiday Festivities.

Looking up at the staircase with garland and lights strung all over at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USARolling fog, shimmering icicles, and an avalanche of rustic Tennessee charm. As Dolly Parton once belted, a ‘Smoky Mountain Christmas is truly a sight to see.’

Memorialize your Yuletide vacation for years to come when you plan an escape to Mother Nature’s Christmas card.

Rest your head in an Inn outfitted in red and green, and wind down every night by sharing cookies with Santa.

Sign up for the tastiest mini golf session ever when you putt putt with the Grouch at Crave Golf or try conquering Ober Gatlinburg Ski Mountain Coaster.

From synchronized Christmas seasonal light and fountain shows at the Island to jaw-dropping equestrian feats enjoyed with buttery biscuits, a Noel in the Smokies will never disappoint.

Ready to follow your heart to a Christmas in Smoky Mountains? Don’t wait; book your wintertime retreat today!

What are Your Favorite Smoky Mountain Holiday Activities?

Did we miss any of your favorite Smokey Mountain Christmas things to do?

Tell us in the comments below!

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Written by Isis Maya Nissman

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central...

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