Winterfest Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg 2021: Top 11 things to do, ranked

Winterfest at The Island

Winterfest at The Island in Pigeon Forge (photo by Scott Heaney/Shutterstock)

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When the leaves have fallen, the pumpkins have been put away and the temperatures begin to drop in the Smokies that only means one thing – Winterfest is on its way!

Winterfest is Sevier County’s winter wonderland celebration.

If you’ve never heard of Winterfest, well, tourist, you’re in for a treat.

Winterfest is a magical time in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

Each year, millions of twinkling lights blanket the county, illuminating area streets, businesses and local attractions.

The event also includes special events, parades, shows and light tours.

The tradition began in 1989 in an effort to boost the slower winter tourism months in Sevier County and the Great Smoky Mountains.

It was a roaring success, but of course, this also means you can now expect to see many taillights as well.

When does Winterfest start in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg?

The 2021-2022 Smoky Mountain Winterfest season is scheduled to run from Nov. 11, 2021 through Feb. 15, 2022.

Below you will find a list of must-dos for this year’s Winterfest celebration.

11. Go for a run at Santa Hustle Smokies 5K and Half Marathon

Each year, hundreds of “Santas” gather together to work off those milk and cookies in the Santa Hustle 5K and Half Marathon.

This year’s event will take place Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021.

Runners will receive a swag bag including:

  • Women’s or unisex full zip hoodie
  • Santa hat
  • Santa beard buff
  • Finisher medal

Registration runs from $54.99-$80. The earlier you register, the more you save.

10. Listen to live music at Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival

Each year, bluegrass bands gather together in the Smokies for a multi-day music festival like no other.

This year, the event will run from Dec. 1, 2021-Dec. 4, 2021.

You can download a detailed schedule of the current line-up here.

Tickets are available online for $25-$35. Advanced reserved tickets are available for $125.

Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival will be held at Stone Hill Lodge at Wilderness at the Smokies Resort at 190 Gists Creek Rd in Sevierville, TN.

9. Attend Gatlinburg’s Festival of Trees

The Gatlinburg Festival of Trees is back for 2021.

This year, the Festival of Trees will run from Nov. 24-28, kicking off with a Candy Canes and Cocktails reception on the evening of Nov. 23.

Gatlinburg Festival of Trees features a children’s craft and play area, entertainment, photos with Santa Claus and beautifully decorated Christmas trees and wreaths for sale.

Proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains and the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation Scholarship Fund.

The Festival of Trees will be held at the W. L. Mills Conference Center at stoplight #8, Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN.

Parking is located at the city parking lot on Reagan Drive (rates are usually $8-$10 per day).

Guests ice skate at Wilderness at the Smokies (photo courtesy of Wilderness at the Smokies)
Guests ice skate at Wilderness at the Smokies (photo courtesy of Wilderness at the Smokies)

8. Go ice skating at Wilderness at the Smokies

Each year, Wilderness at the Smokies transforms into a winter wonderland complete with an outdoor ice skating rink, hot cocoa and s’mores.

The ice rink occupies 3,200 square feet of space where the resort’s outdoor wave pool normally resides.

The ice skating rink is available to both resort guests and to the general public.

The rink will be open from 10 am-10:30 pm, every Saturday and Sunday including Thanksgiving and Christmas break and 4 pm-10:30 pm Monday-Friday.

A DJ will be onsite Friday and Saturday nights from 7 pm-10:30 pm.

Admission is $12.99 plus tax for resort guests, and $17.99 for the general public.

Resort guests who book their stay online ahead of time can use promo code ICESKATE for free admission to the rink.

Didn’t plan ahead? No worries! Resort guests may opt also to add a room-based admission upgrade to their stay for $20 per room per night which covers the cost of up to four people upon check-in.

And for those who have never skated before, skating lessons will be available every Saturday (except Dec. 4) between 9-10 am. The cost of a lesson is $15 for 25 minutes or $25 for 50 minutes.

On Saturday, Dec. 4 from 7 am-noon, Wilderness at the Smokies will be hosting youth hockey games featuring players from the Knoxville area. Select players and Chilly Bear from the Knoxville Ice Bears professional hockey team will also be onsite for the event.

Wilderness at the Smokies Resort at 190 Gists Creek Rd in Sevierville, TN.

Shadrack's Christmas in Kodak TN
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is a drive-thru attraction held at Smokies Stadium in Kodak, TN (photo by John Gullion/

7. Enjoy the lights at Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland

Shadrack’s is a drive-through light display, taking place from dusk until 10 pm nightly at the Smokies Stadium.

Additional attractions are available, including photos with Santa, concessions, souvenirs and more. Admission to Santa’s Village is free with admission to the light show.

At the time of this writing, range from $25-$40 per car (up to 8 people) and $50-80 per van (up to 25 people).

Tour bus packages are also available for a flat rate of $150.

Pro-tip: It’s cheaper to go on a “value night”. Current value nights include:

  • Nov. 7-11, 2021
  • Nov. 14-18, 2021
  • Nov. 21-24, 2021
  • Nov. 29-Dec, 2, 2021

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is set to take place from Nov. 5, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022. Tickets are available for purchase both online and at the door. But it’s generally a better idea to buy online before you go to avoid long queues.

Smokies Stadium is located at 3540 Line Dr. in Kodak, TN.

Read Also: Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland 2021, what you need to know

Anakeesta at night christmas lights
Don’t forget to check out Anakeesta’s lighted holiday celebration each night during their Enchanted Christmas event (photo by Morgan Overholt/

6. Attend Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter Celebration

Immerse yourself in a canopy of lights and enjoy Christmas trees, fire pits and giant snow globes at Anakeesta’s Enchanted Winter Celebration.

Santa Claus will be landing his sleigh at Anakeesta on Nov. 26-27, Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 10-11 from 11 am-3 pm. Photos with Santa will be available for purchase.

The Enchanted Winter Celebration will run from late November to early January.

Anakeesta is located at 576 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN.

Read Also: A walk between the trees in Tennessee at Anakeesta: Prices and location

The Island in Pigeon Forge is open year round including Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (individual store hours may vary) (photo by Morgan Overholt/
The Island in Pigeon Forge is open year-round including Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day (individual store hours may vary) (photo by Morgan Overholt/

5. Check out Winterfest at The Island in Pigeon Forge

The Island in Pigeon Forge is a beautiful place to visit in the Smokies, and even more so at Christmas time.

The Island comes to life with millions of Winterfest lights to create a holiday ambiance that’s perfect for holiday festivities, shopping and photo ops.

This year, The Island’s Christmas celebration will begin Nov. 12, 2021.

Admission is free if you just want to walk around and soak up the holiday cheer. There is an additional cost for rides, restaurants and shops.

The Island in Pigeon Forge is located 131 The Island Dr in Pigeon Forge, TN. Free parking is available on site.

The SkyBridge
The SkyBridge at Gatlinburg’s SkyLift Park lights up during the Christmas season (photo courtesy of SkyLift Park)

4. Check out Lights Over Gatlinburg at SkyLift Park

Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland and celebrate the holidays at SkyLift Park, home of the famous SkyBridge.

Each winter, the SkyLift Park lights up the night sky with thousands of holiday lights, decorations and spectacular views.

This year, SkyLift Park promises even more lights that will brighten your winter evenings.

Guests can soak it all in while sipping on hot chocolate or cider around the fire pit. Lights Over Gatlinburg will run from early November 2021 through the end of January 2022.

SkyLift Park is located at 765 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN.

Hatfield & McCoy Christmas show
The Hatfield & McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Feud will make you feel better about spending Christmas with your in-laws (photo courtesy of the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show)

3. Attend an area Christmas show

Area shows also get into the spirit of Christmas with a variety of holiday-themed performances throughout the months of November and December. Here are a few of our favorites:

Hatfield and McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Show

Join the Hatfield and McCoy families as they have their Christmas Disaster Dinner Feud.

This holiday take on this classic feud is guaranteed to make you feel better about spending the holidays with your in-laws. The Christmas Disaster Dinner Feud is one of the area’s most popular holiday shows.

Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show

During the Christmas extravaganza, Dolly Parton’s Stampede features fun, games and a friendly North Pole vs. South Pole rivalry.

Country Tonite Theatre Christmas Show

Christmas comes together with choreography, holiday sets and colorful costumes … and of course, country music.

The Comedy Barn Christmas Show

Christmas at the Comedy Barn features a lighthearted and clean comedy act with costumes, music and special Christmas acts.

2. Attend a Winterfest parade

There will also be a variety of parades taking place throughout the season.

Gatlinburg Fantasy of Lights Parade 2021

The 46th annual Fantasy of Lights Parade is scheduled to take place on Dec. 3, 2021. The event begins at 7:30 pm at the Baskins Creek Bypass on East Parkway and rolls through downtown Gatlinburg.

The parade will feature marching bands, balloons, dancers, musicians and more.

Sevierville Christmas Parade 2021

The Sevierville Christmas Parade will take place on Dec. 4, 2021 at the Historic Downtown area from 10 am-1 pm.

Townsend Christmas Parade 2021

The Townsend Christmas Parade is currently set for Dec. 5, 2021 at 2:30 pm and will run from 2:30 pm-4 pm. The parade will start at IGA and end at Nawger Nob Village.

Glacier Ridge
The Smoky Mountain Christmas event at Dollywood kicks off on Nov. 6, 2021 (photo submitted by Laura Akens)

1. Check out Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration

And of course, our favorite Winterfest event will always be Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas.

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration features millions of lights, holiday-themed shows, and seasonal culinary treats.

This year, Old Saint Nick will be returning for an interactive experience that your kids will love.

The Merry & Bright fireworks show will also be returning this year.

The festival will run from Nov. 6 2021-Jan. 2, 2022.

Dollywood is located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd in Pigeon Forge, TN.

What are your favorite Winterfest activities in the Smokies? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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10 thoughts on “Winterfest Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg 2021: Top 11 things to do, ranked”

  1. So excited to be going for the first time this year! Don’t forget the incredible Christmas Place! Also the Trolley Ride of Lights!

  2. Hey Ali! We agree! But just a note – the Trolley Lights tour has been cancelled this year due to health and safety concerns.

  3. Where and what is the Christmas place? Ty! We will be going December 18-23 with our 3 year old granddaughter and all the family. Suggestions plz for our granddaughter to enjoy. Ty!!

  4. Hi Britt, The Christmas Place is a large Christmas store in Pigeon Forge! (2470 Parkway, Pigeon Forge). They have several trees, novelty items and more. Santa usually makes a visit as well during select hours 🙂 Hope you enjoy visiting with your granddaughter!

  5. Pigeon Forge is absolutely beautiful at Christmas. First time I was like a kid hanging out the window. I didn’t want to leave. We reserved a beautiful cabin for the week just miles from the activities. I love you got a little bit of country living and few miles from the fun. Enjoy.

  6. Hi Jill!

    SkyLift Park is dog friendly, and so is The Island (but individual shops will vary). Dollywood offers Doggywood for boarding if that helps as well. 🙂

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