11 Festive Things to Do During Christmas in Gatlinburg (2023)

Anakeeta at christmas

Anakeesta is always one of my "must sees" around Christmas time (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

A Smoky Mountain native shares her favorite things to do around Christmas time in Gatlinburg

Fresh snow on mountains, moonshine with cinnamon; bright Christmas lights and warm homemade mittens … these are a few of my favorite things! If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in the winter season, you’re in for a real treat. In my opinion, nobody does Christmas like Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge. November and December are some of the best months to visit, with the city’s lights shining so bright that Rudolph himself would approve. So if you’re looking for some of the best things to do for Christmas in Gatlinburg this year, here are some of my favorite things to do in the city – and the surrounding areas – for the holidays.

Editor’s Note: Most downtown Gatlinburg attractions will require some sort of paid parking unless otherwise noted.

RELATED VIDEO: Christmas in Gatlinburg: 13 Festive Things To Do

christmas tree inside cabin in gatlinburg
One of the best ways to celebrate the season is cozying up in a warm cabin with the family (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

1. Rent a Smoky Mountain cabin

Renting a mountaintop VRBO for all of our family and friends in the Smokies has become a Christmas tradition for me. We invite everyone to go in together on a huge cabin where we enjoy board games, drinks, each other’s company and amazing sights as we sip hot cocoa. The breathtaking tree-top views, cozy fireplaces and hot tubs contrasted with the crisp mountain air, are enough to keep you from wanting to venture anywhere else.

ole smoky with christmas decor at night in gatlinburg
Try some new seasonal flavors at Ole Smoky (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

2. Sample some ‘shine and wine

This time of year, I love allowing myself a jar of seasonal ‘shine. My personal favorite is the Ole Smoky Shine Nog. It goes great with nutmeg and a cinnamon stick. Also, be sure to try to check out Banana Pudding and Pumpkin Spice Cream. If you’re in downtown Gatlinburg, you won’t have to try too hard to find wineries or distilleries. Just walk the strip, and you’re bound to bump into one. Expect to pay about $5 for samples at most downtown distilleries. Ole Smoky has multiple locations downtown but we recommend The Holler location for sips with a side of live music. Ole Smoky’s Holler is located at 903 Parkway Suite 128, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

a sleigh in the village in gatlinburg, tn
I recommend holiday shopping at The Village in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

3. Do some holiday shopping

Whether you’re doing some holiday shopping or trying to catch a few deals for yourself, winter is a great time to take advantage of area shopping centers. In Gatlinburg, I recommend the unique shops around Baskins Square Mall and The Village Shops. There are plenty of specialty stores that are unique to the area. Santa’s Claus-et is another great place to visit for the holiday season. Of course, there’s also The Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, the South’s largest Christmas store, which has personalized items, trees and a wide variety of decor. Addresses for each can be found below. Santa’s Claus-et and The Christmas Place both have free parking available on-site.

homemade wooden snowmen at a gatlinburg arts and crafts show
Shop from a selection of unique, homemade crafts in the Arts and Crafts Community (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

4. Explore the Arts and Crafts Community

The Smoky Mountains is well-known for its arts and crafts. The Arts and Crafts Community showcases the talent of local artisans featuring weaving, candle making, silversmithing, pottery, leather making and more. Shop where you see The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community logo to explore local talent and homemade goods or explore their 8-mile loop of artists and craftsmen. Watch as they work their holiday magic or create your own masterpiece. Plus, there’s free parking available on-site. To find the Arts and Crafts Community, set your GPS for 521 Glades Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

A penguin at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
See what the penguins are up to at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies (media photo courtesy of Ripley’s Aquarium)

5. Keep warm at Ripley’s Aquarium

I don’t know about you but sometimes I just need a break from all that cold mountain air. This is why I like to include a few indoor attractions in my travel itinerary. And I particularly enjoy visiting Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg this time of year. I can’t get enough of the Penguin exhibit – they are just too cute! There’s a paid parking lot available on site but if you want to save a couple of bucks, consider taking the Gatlinburg Trolley instead. Editor’s Note: Buying combo tickets in advance directly from Ripley’s website, is a great way to save a few extra dollars.

Lift at Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Mountain offers the only skiing and snowboarding opportunities in Tennessee (photo by Jaclyn Torrente/shutterstock.com)

6. Go snow tubing, ice skating or skiing

While the mountains can be quite cold in the winter, snow can be hit or miss. However, for those hoping to see some of the fluffy white stuff, you still have a few options. Ober Mountain (formerly Ober Gatlinburg) is also a popular place to visit in the winter months. Ober has traditional snow tubing, year-round indoor ice skating, and most notably, Tennessee’s only ski and snowboard slopes. If you hope to go snow tubing at Ober, be sure to book online in advance. Slots fill up quickly. Don’t forget to take a scenic ride on the Aerial Tramway (tickets available here) while you’re there. Ober Mountain is located at 1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

gatlinburg skybridge with christmas lights
The SkyBridge is stunning this time of year at SkyPark (media photo courtesy of SkyLift Park)

7. Walk through a tunnel of lights at SkyPark

The Lights Over Gatlinburg event at SkyPark is one of the most breathtaking sights in the Smokies. The event runs through Jan. 31 and features decorated Christmas trees and a tunnel of lights that expands the entire length of the SkyBridge (at 1,800 feet above sea level). It’s a truly magical experience. There are a variety of tickets available online, regular admission tickets start at $35.99. There is no on-site parking but the attraction is walkable from most downtown parking lots and hotels. Reminder: The only way up is via chairlift. So if you’re afraid of heights, be prepared. But then again, if you’re afraid of heights – maybe you should avoid the SkyBridge altogether! SkyPark is located at 765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

santa and mrs claus review the nice list at anakeesta
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will be visiting Anakeesta this season on select dates for Breakfast with Santa (media photo courtesy of Anakeesta)

8. Enjoy Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas

Anakeesta is certainly one of the top attractions in downtown Gatlinburg. It is stunningly beautiful this time of year with its Christmas decorations and offers brilliant views of the city below from high elevations. Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter celebration features a village of twinkling arctic lights around Firefly Village, Vista Gardens and throughout the 70-acre outdoor mountain-top park. Santa’s sleigh will also be landing on Anakeesta Mountain on select dates throughout November and December. Paid on-site parking is available. And unlike SkyPark, Anakeesta offers an alternative to their chairlift (or as they call it the chondala). Just take the Ridge Rambler – Anakeesta’s large open-air truck. Plus, there’s usually less of a line for the truck, which is favorable when the weather is cold and icky. General admission tickets to Anakeesta start at $34.99. Anakeesta is located at 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. Editor’s Note: Check Tripster for discounts before you go.

a lighted photo op christmas wreath at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas event provides several photo ops for the family (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

9. Visit Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

While you’re in town, if you have time, make sure to spend at least a couple of days in Pigeon Forge. In Pigeon Forge, Dollywood pulls out all the stops when decorating for the holidays, with the park completely covered in lights. Glacier Ridge, one of Dollywood’s newer expansions, features a Northern Lights display, a 50-ft Christmas tree and a symphony of lights in the plaza. Throughout the park, you’ll also find special crafts, holiday favorites (I recommend the cinnamon bread) and a variety of festive shows. The Dollywood Express is also a fun way to enjoy the sights in the park. (Be sure to bundle up — it does get cold in East Tennessee and you wouldn’t want to cut your Dollywood day short because you didn’t prepare.) General admission starts at $82.00 per person, but sometimes you can find specials on Tripster. Paid parking is also available on-site. Dollywood is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863.

The area’s shows also become festive during the holiday season. Pictured: Christmas at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud in Pigeon Forge (media photo courtesy of Lumberjack Feud)

10. See a Christmas-themed show

While you’re in Pigeon Forge, be sure to catch one of the area’s many Christmas-themed shows. Shows in the Smokies offer a variety of entertainment options featuring comedians, live animals, singers, comedy, dancers and more. The Comedy Barn (an area favorite), Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirate’s Voyage, The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud, Country Tonite and Lumberjack Feud offer Christmas-themed shows this time of year. Note that the Stampede, Pirates and Hatfield and McCoy are dinner shows. The others are not. Come prepared with either an empty or full tummy, as situations apply. Addresses for each can be found below. Free parking is available on-site for each.

kids sit on santa's lap at crave golf
This year, Santa and the Grouch will be visiting Crave Mini Golf on select days for free photo ops (media photo courtesy of Crave Mini Golf)

11. Enjoy some festive indoor mini-golf

Finally, we have one last Pigeon Forge suggestion. When the temperatures outside are looking a bit frightful, you can always enjoy a festive round of mini golf at the indoor/outdoor Crave Golf Club. This year, the candy-themed course will deck the halls in garland, trees and 30,000 Christmas lights. Santa the Christmas Grouch will also be visiting on select days in December. Crave Mini Golf is located at 2925 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863. Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our coupons page for discounts on this attraction!

Are you celebrating Christmas in Gatlinburg or the surrounding areas this year? What are your plans this holiday season in TN? If so, let us know in the comments!

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at info@thesmokies.com.

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Disclosure: We have used and experienced all the products and activities recommended on The Smokies. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products and experiences featured.

5 thoughts on “11 Festive Things to Do During Christmas in Gatlinburg (2023)”

  1. I would love to be able to come to pigeon forge and Gatlinburg for Christmas this year one last time before I leave this world but don’t have the finances to do it

    Reply
  2. All the attractions sound so fun a and interesting. The hardest part will be narrowing down what to do in a few days.
    Sincerely,
    Monique Jackson

    Reply
  3. They to make a trip for Christmas happen for my kids this is all they want they dont want any gifts but I can’t get anything in order

    Reply
  4. My daughter wants to come to see Dollywood and the Christmas parade she hadn’t been since she’s a small girl and she said that’s her one wish for Christmas this year

    Reply

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