Fresh snow on mountains, moonshine with cinnamon; bright Christmas lights and warm homemade mittens … these are just 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.
If you’re looking for some of the top things to do for Christmas, check out this list of my favorite things to do in the surrounding areas for the holidays.
10. Sample some moonshine and wine
Gatlinburg is moonshine country. This time of year, I love allowing myself a jar of seasonal moonshine.
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 Pie.
If you’re in downtown Gatlinburg, expect to pay about $5 for samples.
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.
You can also book a walking tour with a professional guide, if there’s room in your budget.
However, sometimes if you go a bit further from the strip, you can find free samples.
In Sevierville or Pigeon Forge (about a 30-40 minute drive, depending on traffic), you might also enjoy visiting the Apple Barn Winery.
The Apple Barn is free to visit, but I still recommend tipping your servers.
9. Do your holiday shopping
Whether you’re holiday shopping or trying to catch a few deals, winter is a great time to take advantage of area shopping centers.
In Gatlinburg, check out the unique shops around Baskins Square Mall and The Village Shops. There are plenty of specialty stores that are unique to the area.
If you venture into Sevierville, you’ll find Tanger Outlets. It has several brand-name and designer outlet stores and has been one of my favorite places to shop in the area for years.
Be sure to pack your patience, though, because it can get a little crowded.
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.
8. Explore the Arts and Crafts Community
The Smoky Mountains is well-known for 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.
The Christmas Arts and Crafts show this year will run from Nov. 29 through Dec. 5 and offers free admission.
7. See a Christmas-themed show
If you’re in Pigeon Forge, catch one of the area’s many themed shows.
Shows in the Smokies offer a variety of entertainment options featuring comedians, live animals, singers, dancers and more.
Note that the Stampede, Pirates and Hatfield and McCoy include dinner, and Country Tonite does not. Come prepared with either an empty or full tummy, as situations apply.
6. Visit a museum attraction
Another way to stay warm is by visiting an indoor museum attraction.
Specifically, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge is beautiful to visit this time of year since they get all decked out (pun intended) for the holidays.
I also enjoy visiting Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg this time of year. And, if you buy combo tickets, you can make your vacation dollars go even further and visit multiple attractions.
5. 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 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.
And if you’re planning on riding the scenic Aerial Tramway while you’re there, booking with Tripster can save you a few dollars.
Venturing further down into Pigeon Forge and Sevierville will also offer some more options.
Pigeon Forge Snow is an indoor snow park where you are guaranteed to see snow each and every day. The snow is 100% pure snow, made fresh every day of the year.
Also, Wilderness at the Smokies will also be offering ice skating from their converted outdoor wave pool for both resort guests and the general public.
Rowdy Bear Ridge is also offering snow tubing this year at its Pigeon Forge location.
Be sure to check Groupon for discounts.
4. Enjoy a mountain-top attraction
Anakeesta and Gatlinburg SkyLift Park are two of the top attractions in downtown Gatlinburg.
It’s hard to choose just one. Both are stunningly beautiful this time of year with their Christmas decorations. And both offer brilliant views of the city below from high elevations.
Anakeesta offers an Enchanted Winter celebration, where guests will discover a village of twinkling arctic lights as they stroll through Firefly Village, Vista Gardens and the rest of Anakeesta’s 70-acre outdoor mountain-top park.
You can book online with Tripster to save a few dollars, and also save some time when you get there.
If you visit SkyLift Park, you’ll get to visit the all-new SkyTrail and walk along the world-famous SkyBridge, the longest cable bridge in all of North America.
3. Visit Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
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, will return this year and is set to feature a Northern Lights display, a 50-ft Christmas tree and a symphony of lights in the plaza.
Throughout the park, you’ll find special crafts, holiday favorites (I recommend the cinnamon bread), and a variety of holiday 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.)
Check Tripster for discounts.
2. See the Christmas lights in Gatlinburg
The Great Smoky Mountains become a true winter wonderland during the Winterfest Celebration, a Smoky Mountain tradition featuring more than 5 million holiday lights throughout Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Take a driving tour or walking tour around the city of Gatlinburg.
For even more lights, be sure to check out Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland further down in Sevierville.
1. Rent a Smoky Mountain cabin
Renting a large cabin in the Smokies has become a Christmas tradition in my family.
We invite our friends and family and all go in together on a huge cabin, where we enjoy board games, drinks, each other’s company and amazing sights. (Cheesy but true!)
With the breathtaking tree-top views, cozy fireplaces and hot tubs contrasted with the crisp mountain air, it’s enough to keep you from wanting to venture anywhere else.
Are you celebrating Christmas in Gatlinburg or the surrounding areas this year? What are your plans this holiday season?
Let us know in the comments!