Fresh snow on mountains, moonshine with cinnamon; bright Christmas lights and warm homemade mittens – these are just a few of my favorite things.
In my opinion, nobody does Christmas like the Smokies. If you’re visiting Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg this winter, you’re in for a real treat. Below are some of the best things to explore this winter to get you in the holiday spirit.
Editor’s Note: It’s been a crazy year and we’ve seen a lot of last many schedule changes from local attractions. Always check the attraction’s website or call ahead before planning your visit.
10. Sample some moonshine and wine
These next four words will change your holiday drinking habits forever: Ole Smoky Shine Nog. Garnish with nutmeg and a cinnamon stick, and you have the ‘Shine Nog Sipper’ – and it is delicious. Other Ole Smoky recipes include ‘Spiced Apple’, ‘Cookies N’ Milk’ (I think Santa would approve) and the ‘Pumpkin Pie Dream’.
There are many distilleries and wineries in the area and many offer free samples and tastings. Most moonshine distilleries will ask for a small fee, (usually around $5 for a tasting) but given the large number of samples you get – it’s a real bargain.
Popular wineries and distilleries in the area include Sugarlands, Doc Collier Moonshine, Tennessee Homemade Wines, Smoky Mountain Winery and Mill Bridge Winery, just to name a few.
The Apple Barn Winery is also a popular choice if you enjoy fresh apple cider and sweet, fruity wines.
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.
Tanger Outlets in Sevierville has several brand-name and designer outlet stores and has been one of my favorite places to shop in the area for years. Further into Gatlinburg, Baskins Square Mall and The Village Shops offer a few specialty stores that are unique to the area.
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 Smokies is a huge area for arts and crafts. The Arts and Crafts Community showcases the talent of local artisans featuring weaving, candle making, silversmithing, pottery, leather making, painting, carving and more.
Shop where you see The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community logo to explore local talent and homemade goods, or explore their 8-mile loop of artists and craftsmen in Gatlinburg.
Watch as they work their holiday magic or create your own masterpiece!
7. See a dinner show
Cozy up indoors and enjoy popular dinner shows in the Smokies. Shows in the Smokies offer a variety of entertainment options featuring comedians, live animals, singers, dancers and more.
Many of the area’s shows add some Christmas flare this time of year to get in the spirit of the season.
The Hatfield and McCoy show is one of the first dinner shows in the area to reveal its 2020 Christmas show plans with the Hatfield & McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Feud, which begins Nov. 1, 2020.
6. Visit a museum attraction
If you’re simply trying to get inside from the cold, a museum attraction is a great way to stay warm and learn something new.
The Titanic Museum is beautiful to visit this time of year since they get all decked out (pun intended) for the holidays. Alcatraz East and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies are also popular attractions that are fun to visit for the whole family.
5. Go snow tubing, ice skating or skiing
The Smokies can be quite cold in the winter, but snow can be hit or miss. However, for those hoping to see some of the fluffy white stuff, you still have a few 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.
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.
This year, Wilderness at the Smokies will also be offering ice skating from their converted outdoor wave pool. Ice skating at Wilderness begins on Nov. 13, 2020 and is available to the general public.
4. Enjoy Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter celebration
The ever-popular Enchanted Winter at Anakeesta event is set to officially kick off Monday, Nov. 23, 2020 and run through Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.
During the Enchanted Winter event, 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.
And for the first time ever, new for the 2020 season, guests will also be able to climb to the tallest point in Downtown Gatlinburg, the AnaVista Tower, and enjoy a breathtaking view of snow-capped mountains as far as the eye can see. For more information, visit Anakeesta online at anakeesta.com.
3. Visit Dollywood during 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, is expected to 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.) See the lights early in the winter; this festival begins Nov. 7, 2020 and lasts until Jan. 3, 2021.
2. See the Winterfest lights
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 or a trolley tour to explore the area in all its glory. Winterfest begins Nov. 13, 2020 and ends Feb.15, 2021.
1. Rent a cabin
Renting a cabin 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 outdoor 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 the Smokies this year? What are your plans this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!