9 Tips That Will Make Your Smoky Mountain Christmas More Magical

dollywood sign during smoky mountain christmas event covered in lights

Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Christmas event is running now (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

TN native lists tips for navigating Dollywood’s Christmas festival

Dollywood at Christmastime brings together the very best of the holiday season – music, food, millions of Christmas lights and even jolly people. Honestly, visiting Dollywood to see the lights is one of my favorite holiday family traditions. This year, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas event (presented by Humana), runs from Nov. 4, 2023 through Jan. 6, 2024 with more than six million Christmas lights, holiday treats and miles of garland throughout the park.

I think it’s difficult for others in the Smokies to compete with country singer and entrepreneur Dolly Parton and her elves in the decoration department. Since there’s so much to do and see, here are a few tips to help you navigate this popular celebration:

santa's list at dollywood's smoky mountain christmas event
Santa’s List is an interactive experience for kids of all ages (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

1. Visit Santa in his Tennessee cabin

I bet you didn’t know that Santa has a cabin in the Smokies! Of course, this feature is geared toward the little ones in the family, but even if you don’t have kids, I think the experience is so well-done that it’s worth exploring even if you’re an adult. The elves in Santa’s cabin fully embrace the magic, and at the end, you’ll see Santa himself and find out if your name made “the list”.

2. Ride a roller coaster (but bundle up)

If the weather permits, many of the rides and attractions are still operating throughout the day. And, it’s a great way to see some of the lights and decorations from a bird’s eye view. It’s practically become one of my family traditions to ride roller coasters day and night, even in the cold weather. The lines may not seem short, but compared to spring or summer, it’s usually a better wait time, and lines do move quickly. If you’re brave enough to opt for the coasters, wear warm clothing. I recommend layers.

lighted christmas tree in blue with snow around at dollywood during christmas
Dollywood has a new drone show this year (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

3. See the holiday shows

Dollywood has some spectacular special effects that capture the holiday spirit. Specifically, don’t miss the Christmas tree at the plaza or this year’s drone show called the Joyful Season of Light. When the sky darkens, the Dollywood winter skies light up as drones dance to seasonal tunes!

maple bacon funnel cake at dollywood
Don’t miss out on the special holiday treats. Pictured: The Maple Bacon Funnel cake, featuring candied bacon and walnuts with a caramel drizzle (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

4. Enjoy the quality theme park food

Dollywood serves quality food throughout the park, even at the quick step-up-and-order kiosks. There is also a variety of sit-down restaurants that serve everything from hamburgers to a big bowl of pinto beans and cornbread. But during Smoky Mountain Christmas, Dollywood will have dishes and desserts with a seasonal flare. I recommend being patient with the staff, as wait times can sometimes be long.

Dollywood Christmas
Dollywood features millions of lights during Smoky Mountain Christmas (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

5. Enjoy the brilliant holiday lights

I recommend taking some time for a stroll throughout the park with the millions of holiday lights. Santas Village will be lit in classic red and green, and Glacier Ridge presented by GooGoo Cluster will feature the blues and whites of winter. There will be dozens of Christmas trees as well. Also, I think a fun way to see the lights is from the scenic Dollywood Express train.

6. Check out Dollywood’s arts and crafts

Dollywood is home to several noted craftsmen, and you can find great gift options here – many of which will be more affordable than you think. The gifts are cute and tasteful, with many capitalizing on Dolly’s hit lyrics. Who wouldn’t want a coffee cup labeled “Cup of Ambition”?

grist mill at night during christmas with lights at dollywood
Make sure you dress in layers as you walk around the theme park after dark (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

7. Wear layers and good shoes

This is East Tennessee. In other words, you might experience up to four seasons in one day. During the day, you might think you don’t need a jacket. However, I’ve made the mistake of not bringing one in the past and have regretted it once the sun goes down. Check the forecast and bring some warm layers to be safe. Even if you make a trip to the car or rent a locker, having a good jacket is worth it.

a closeup of butterfly jumbo ornament at dollywood
Dollywood’s holiday decor will surely get you in the spirit of Christmas (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

8. Plan ahead

It’s best to purchase your ticket in advance for expedited entry to the park, skipping the line of folks purchasing tickets when they arrive. Tickets are the same price all year: $89 plus tax for a one-day pass for adults, at the time of this writing. Remember, you can also do a two-day pass for $109. Also, be sure to check the operating calendar. Dollywood may be closed on the day(s) you wish to visit. Verifying park hours before you make your plans is key. Remember, Dollywood is very busy this time of year. Consider what you want to prioritize throughout the park and plan accordingly.

street performers at dollywood theme park at christmas
Dollywood features live performers throughout the park during the Christmas festival (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

9. Download the Dollywood app

Last but not least, download the Dollywood app before you visit. It’s very user-friendly and helpful when planning your day. When you have the app, you can easily access all the happenings of the park the day you are there, and it’s a great way to see the lineup of holiday shows throughout the park.

Dollywood is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863. You can use Tripster to book in advance. What are your best tips for making the most out of the Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration? Let me know in the comments below.

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.

1 thought on “9 Tips That Will Make Your Smoky Mountain Christmas More Magical”

  1. Thank you for the information. We are in our 80s and looking for options / places / shows that do not require a lot of walking. I did enjoy the virtual tour to Dollywood, and will definitely look for the Shadrack’s Light Show in Seiversville. Have a blessed day!!

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