12 Best Things To Do in Gatlinburg TN at Christmas

Christmas in Gatlinburg TN is a special time, with snow-covered Mountains, Christmas Light displays, holiday shopping, Christmas shows, an incredible Christmas Parade, and so much more! 

Gatlinburg is one of our favorite Christmas Towns in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.  While Gatlinburg is always full of fun things to do and see, Gatlinburg at Christmas time becomes pure Christmas magic.  

You don't want to miss all of the best things to do at Christmas in Gatlinburg.   Our list below highlights some of our personal favorites during the holiday and Christmas season!

1 - See the Gatlinburg Christmas Lights

Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge go all out for the holidays, with millions of Christmas lights and light displays.   Both towns begin the season early and turn the lights on in early November.  The lights fill both towns and even the merchants and local businesses decorate as well.   The large light displays feature various holiday scenes, wildlife, and local history and landmarks.  

2 - Visit Dollywood for A Smoky Mountain Christmas

Our personal favorite Christmas event in the Smoky Mountains is A Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood.  This magical event begins in early November and lasts until the end of the year.  Smoky Mountain Christmas is one of Dollywood's oldest and most popular events, and for good reason.

Dollywood goes all out, decorating the park with more than 6 million Christmas lights, the nightly parade of Many Colors, Santa Claus, Rudolph, Christmas shows, and a Nativity Story.  You'll also find lots of holiday treats as well.  Oh, and don't forget a ride on the Dollywood Express for a magical Christmas train ride.

3- View the Christmas Lists from the Gatlinburg Space Needle

The popular and very noticeable Space Needle provides outstanding panoramic views of surrounding Gatlinburg, and all of the lights and festivities during the holiday season.  At 407 feet and with 360-degree views, the Needle provides incredible and unique views of all the Gatlinburg Christmas lights.

4 - Attend the Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival

Join hundreds of Bluegrass fans in Pigeon Forge to enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas at the Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival.   The event is at the Smoky Mountain Convention center and features an amazing lineup of country and bluegrass bands and artists.   

At the Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival in Pigeon Forge, the sights and sounds of Christmas come alive. Hundreds of fans crowd the Smoky Mountain Convention Center to hear an incredible lineup of bands and artists. It’s a unique holiday celebration that bluegrass fans won’t want to miss.

5 - Go skiing, snow tubing, and skating

Ober Gatlinburg is a mountain top Amusement park that sits high above Gatlinburg TN on Ober Mountain.  If you're looking for a guaranteed White Christmas, Ober Gatlinburg is the place for you.   You'll be able to have tons of snowy fun, regardless of the weather in or around Gatlinburg.  

The snow-making machines of Ober Gatlinburg have you ... "covered" and provide lots of snow to enjoy.   You can enjoy the snowy ski slopes skiing and snowboarding, snow tube, and even ice skating.  They even have a mountain coaster and icy bumper cars.

You'll arrive on the mountain top via the Aerial Tramway from Downtown Gatlinburg.  If you prefer to stay indoors and warm, they have plenty of indoor activities as well.

6 - Visit one of the many Christmas and Holiday themed shows

Photo courtesy of: Hatfield & McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Show

Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are full of popular, entertaining, and themed shows.  Many of these theaters do special shows just for the holidays, with a Christmas and holiday season focus.  The shows typically blend the theater themed shows with a holiday spin that will really get you into the holiday spirit! 

Some of these include:

7 - See the Gatlinburg Christmas Parade - Fantasy of Lights 

For 2022, the Gatlinburg Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade begins at 7:30 pm on December 2nd.   This beautiful small-town parade features balloons, floats, high school marching bands, and more!    At 7:25 pm, just before the parade begins, the Gatlinburg Christmas tree grand illumination ceremony will be held.

The Parade begins at Baskins Creek By-Pass, travels to Traffic Light #3, turns south onto the Parkway, and ends at Traffic Light #10.

8 -Go Shopping!

Of course, both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are full of various stores to find pretty much anything you need for that special Christmas gift, but they also have a few stores and shopping centers that are Christmas Themed.

A Christmas Place

Inside the Christmas shop, located in Pigeon Forge, it's Christmas time year around!  A Christmas Place is one of the largest Christmas stores in the south, and full of ornaments, decorations, lights, music, and more.  They even wrap all gift purchases.

The Village in Gatlinburg

The large shopping center, located in downtown Gatlinburg is popular year-round with visitors, but at Christmas becomes magical and beautifully decorated for the holidays.   All of the shops in The Village in Gatlinburg are decorated with garland, lights and surrounded by Christmas trees.   The Village becomes a Christmas setting, straight out of a Christmas book.

Santa’s Claus-et

Visit the largest Christmas store in Gatlinburg, Santa's Claus-et.   Visit them to shop, and pick out unique gifts for family and friends.  While there, enjoy some food samples as well.  The store has toys, ornaments, games, decorations, and even Christmas trees.  You kids can even enjoy a visit with Santa and get a photo.

Apple Barn's Christmas and Candleshop

Another very popular Christmas shop in the Smoky Mountains is in Apple Barn Village in Sevierville.  The Christmas and Candle Shop is full of Christmas-themed items including 30 different scents of candles that are made right in the store.  As you shop, you'll be surrounded by twinkling Christmas lights, Christmas trees, and tons of holiday decor.  

Winterfest at The Island

You’ll love visiting The Island in Pigeon Forge during the Christmas season! Not only can you do some holiday shopping at the different stores, but you can enjoy Christmas fun for the whole family too. Enjoy millions of bright Christmas lights, walk through the 40-foot Christmas tree, or listen to the sounds of the Christmas carolers.

You can even get photos with Santa Claus when you visit! Of course, you can also do all the other things you love at The Island, like ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel and see the Island Show Fountain’s performance of water dance and light.

10 - Have Breakfast with Santa at the Old Mill

For a special morning treat, take the family over to the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge for Breakfast with Santa.  Beginning in early December, Santa visits The Old Mill Restaurant to eat some breakfast, spread some Christmas cheer, and spend time with children and families.  Reservations are required, for details, visit the Old Mill website.

11 - See Lights Over Gatlinburg at the SkyLift Park

Beginning November 14th and running through January 31st, you can visit the most popular light shows in the Smoky Mountains.  The entire Sky Lift park is covered with Christmas decorations and lights, including dancing Christmas trees, a 30foot tall multicolored Christmas tree, and a 300-foot tunnel of lights!   

The amazing Christmas event runs daily and is included with your SkyLift Park admissions ticket. 

12 - Explore Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland 

Located in Sevierville, near Gatlinburg, is a beautiful drive-through Christmas light show by Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland.  The best part?  You can see all of these beautiful lights from the warm comfort of your vehicle!

Thousands of Christmas lights are synced to music (yes you can hear it in your car).   While there, you can also find many different interactive activities, a petting zoo, pony rides, and visit Santa's Workshop.  

Don't forget some snacks from Santa's Workshop as well, including hot chocolate and coffee.

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.

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