Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN in December: Ultimate Winter Guide

November 11, 2022

Calling all snow bunnies! If a frosty Smoky Mountain winter vacation is what you crave, Sevier County should be on your radar. A vacation in Gatlinburg means plenty of holiday season annual events set against the scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Follow along as we take you through the best things to do in Gatlinburg TN in December 2022.

Thrive on the thrilling snowboarding runs at Ober, or seek out the serenity of an icicle-covered Cades Cove. Perfect your hot toddy recipe as you stay holed up in a cozy cabin or cheer along to a festive Christmas parade.

While a winter vacation in Tennessee may sound unassuming, come December, this oasis of theme parks, food, and handmade crafts is transformed into an enchanted wonderland.

Still, wondering what places to visit in Tennessee in winter? Pick up that pen and paper as we are about to spill the tea on the top things to do in Gatlinburg in December!

Tennessee During Winter

Never experienced the beauty of a Tennessee winter? Don’t fret, as Gatlinburg is blessed by near-perfect December temperatures. Lucky visitors planning a Gatlinburg winter vacation can expect high temperatures of 50 degrees with lows of 29 degrees.

In fact, thanks to its lower elevation, Gatlinburg generally receives less precipitation and warmer weather than the Smoky Mountains. While you may be blessed by a White Christmas, it is important to note that Gatlinburg, on average, receives only 9 inches of snowfall a year, as compared to the park’s 69 inches.

Pack lots of warm layers, a proper winter coat, and boots, and you’ll do fine. As always, we highly recommend checking the weather 1-2 weeks before your arrival.

Never enjoyed the sights and attractions of Gatlinburg before? Take a gander at our complete list of Gatlinburg Things to Do.

Gatlinburg Hotels and Cabins

What do all the best Tennessee winter vacations have in common? First-class lodgings! Delight your travel companions with searing mountain views, hot tubs, and more when you book any of our exclusive Gatlinburg Hotels. Whether you are craving a luxurious resort complete with a climate-controlled waterpark or a condo with a fully equipped kitchen, we provide a medley of options to assuage even the most discerning tourists.

Reserve your winter vacations in Tennessee worry-free, as Tripster always guarantees the lowest rates online.

More in the mood for a week of solitude? Enjoy your morning coffee with a side of contemplation when you book a stay at the Preserve Resort in the Smoky Mountains. Perfectly situated on a ridge top in the mountains surrounding Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Townsend, this resort boasts unparalleled natural beauty.

Snuggle up for a rustic cabin stay as you savor breathtaking views of both the Smoky Mountains and Wears Valley. From crackling fireplaces to alpine-influenced decor, the Preserve is committed to crafting your group an unforgettable getaway.

log cabin in winter woodsTennessee Places to Visit in Winter

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Howdy there, mountain man! While wildflowers and flowing streams may get all the glory in springtime, but winter in the Great Smoky Mountains has its own allure. With appropriate gear, you’ll be able to appreciate miles of unspoiled Appalachia and less congested trails.

Take on Porter’s Creek by foot, or opt for a scenic drive on the Newfound Gap Road.* Marvel at ice formations, old farmsteads, and vegetation-covered caves. A few of our favorite midwinter hikes include:

  • Trillium Gap Trail
  • Alum Cave Trail
  • Laurel Falls
  • Porters Creek Trail
  • Rainbow Falls

*Please check the road's availability prior to your arrival, as both entries to Newfound Gap Road and Cades Cove are weather dependent. For the latest information and road status updates, follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter or call (865) 436-1200.

Who says penny-pinching can’t be fun? Save those hard-earned cents and dollars when you bundle your activities and accommodations with any of our exclusive Gatlinburg Vacation Packages.

Snowy scenic overlook of the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkAnakeesta

Scenic chondola rides, sweeping mountain views, and thrilling zipline adventures come together to make Anakeesta a can’t miss Gatlinburg 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 your way through the Treetop Skywalk.

Toast with a craft cocktail at the Cliff Top restaurant, or dig into 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, 2022, and will last through January 1. 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

Gatlinburg Space Needle

Forgot to pack those hiking boots? For a superior view, minus the sweat, scurry on over to the iconic Gatlinburg Space Needle. Open 365 days a year, this towering 407 ft observation tower overlooks the sublime Southeastern topography of both Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains.

Watch in awe as you rise, rise, rise through the glass elevators until you reach the summit. Bring a fully charged camera, as you’ll be dying to document the 360 views. After you pick your jaw up from off the floor, take time to stroll through the various Higher Learning exhibits and dive into the rich history of the area.

Mini gamers can round out their day of facts, and refreshing scenery with escape games or live theater acts at Arcadia, the onsite 25,000-square-foot playground and theater.

Aerial view of the Gatlinburg Space Needle ready for the ball drop on New Years Eve in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Visit Gatlinburg via Facebook

Arts and Craft Community

Time-honored traditions, handmade goods, and a commitment to crafts. The Arts and Crafts Community is the largest independent organization of artisans in the United States and an integral part of the Gatlinburg community. From painstakingly molded ceramics to handmade jewelry and quilts, each item found here is an artisan gem.

Surprise your friends and family with thoroughly unique holiday gifts when you tackle your Christmas shopping at the annual Christmas Arts & Craft Show. From November 22, 2022, through December 4, chat with local artists and peruse thousands of special wares. Discover the techniques used to weave baskets, hand dip candles, or work with leather.

Wintery Eats

Need a little extra splash of sunshine to beat your winter blues? Nothing turns our frown upside down like a healthy helping of comfort food. Fortunately, Gatlinburg overflows with options of everything from BBQ to Pancakes. Fill your tummy with some tasty carbs at any of the following eateries:

  • Pancake Pantry
  • Split Rail Eats
  • Mama’s Chicken Kitchen
  • Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Cue

Dashing pirates, very grouchy Grinches, and feuding cousins are what's on the menu when you take in a Gatlinburg Christmas Show!

Things to do in Gatlinburg TN in December*

Ober Gatlinburg

Can’t make it to the Swiss Alps this year? Save on airfare and savor the same incredible views and apres ski flush when you flock to Ober Gatlinburg. 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 2,750 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

Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

A parade so awesome even Santa Clause is rumored to stop by. Prime yourself for an evening of Holly Jolly fun when you attend one of the top winter events in the Southeast. The Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade will roll through downtown Gatlinburg on December 3, 2022.

Visitors and locals alike will be on their feet cheering as Sevier County celebrates the commencement of the Happiest Season and the beginning of Gatlinburg Winter Magic.

Witness a multitude of floats bedazzled with one-of-a-kind LED light displays, melodious marching band music, dancers, and more. Keep your eyes peeled for larger-than-life holiday characters, especially of the Snowman variety!

Volunteers carry a gigantic green Christmas ornament through downtown as part of Gatlinburg's Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

Photo Credit: Visit Gatlinburg / Facebook

Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud Show & Adventure Park

Rough, tough, and covered in flannel. It’s not easy being a Lumberjack (or Jill). Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show and Adventure Park provides the ideal atmosphere for Smoky Mountain adventure. Watch Lumberjacks split logs, boom run, and speed climb.

Guests with nerves of steel can muster up their mettle to zipline or try 80-foot free fall jumps. Lean into the Yuletide spirit when you reserve a Christmas show and sing along to carols inspired by the folklore of the forest. Treat yourself to some rich hot cocoa, and appreciate the Noel-themed twists of classic logging activities.

Have your heart set on a holiday in the Smoky Mountains? Let yourself revel in snow-topped cabins and world-class theme park attractions when you pre-book any of our premier Smoky Mountain Vacations.

performers balancing on log in pool wearing santa hats at Paula Deen's Lumberjack Feud Christmas Show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: visitmysmokies

*Please take note that this is by no means an all-encompassing list of things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in December, Tennessee things to do in December, or things to do in Gatlinburg in winter. The Volunteer State is a hotspot for cold-season getaways and contains extensive activities and events to conquer.

Family, food, and perhaps a whisper of snowfall. Many would consider this a darn near perfect recipe for a Gatlinburg TN winter vacation.

Fortunately, this rugged mountain city offers way more than prize-winning pancakes and pleasant weather.

A Tennessee winter vacation means wind-swept snowboarding runs, 360 views from a very special space needle, and tons of bespoke ceramics.

Admire the brute strength of a real lumberjack, or load up on moisture-wicking fabric to complete a chilly Laurel Falls hike.

Stop wondering what to do in Tennessee in December, and start planning your Gatlinburg getaway today!

What are Your Favorite Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN in Winter?

Did we miss any of the best Gatlinburg things to do in December?

Leave us a comment below!


isis with mural in background

Written By Isis Maya

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

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