When the holidays roll around there are a few places that really embrace the season. The Smokies are one of those! I don’t know if its something in the air or the mountain views but Christmas in the Smokies is magical. There is no better place to get into the holiday spirit than in the Smoky Mountains!
Christmas in the Smoky Mountains
In the Smoky Mountains, Christmas lasts the whole month of December. Holiday lights go up and fall decorations are switched out for Christmas trees to spread holiday cheer. There are so many ways to experience the holidays in the Smoky Mountains. And after living there for a few years, Tim and I have our favorites filled with family fun.
1. Rent a cabin for Christmas
If you’re going to be spending time in the Smokies, there is no better way to do it than with a cabin in the mountains! When you light the fireplace and sit on the porch watching the stars at night, you’ll really start to feel the magic of the mountains. And Smoky Mountain cabins are never too far from the fun. There are plenty of options, too, so you’ll be able to find a cabin that fits your family’s needs. From cute little one-bedroom cabins to huge kings of the mountain, there is literally a cabin for every size group.
Many of the cabins have fireplaces which I love. One of my favorite memories from spending Christmas in the Smokies is sitting in front of the fire, reading Christmas stories to my little sister. I always suggest packing some cider or hot chocolate and spend one night in your PJ’s on. Turn on the fireplace, bake cookies, and spend time together as a family.
2. Go see a Christmas show
One of the things that let you know it is Christmas in the Smokies is all the shows switching over to their Christmas script. If you’re looking for family fun while you’re in the Smoky Mountains, you’ve got to go see a show!
There are so many different types of shows in town that it can be a little overwhelming. Even if you are a seasoned Smoky Mountain visitor, picking which one to see can be tough. From comedy to classics, you are in for a treat no matter which Christmas show in the Smokies you pick, that’s for sure! There are even some options for dinner AND a show.
Here are some of the awesome shows you can catch when you spend Christmas in the Smoky Mountains.
Hatfield and McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Feud
The Hatfield and McCoy Christmas Disaster Feud show is sure to get the whole family laughing! These two feuding families will try to put their differences aside as they celebrate Christmas with singing, dancing, stunts, and comedy. You’ll also get to enjoy some good food! Granny’s pulling out all the stops for the holiday dinner! She’s cooking up a heap of fried chicken and country pulled pork shoulder barbecue with smashed taters, creamy coleslaw, fluffy biscuits, corn on the cob, creamy vegetable soup, and dessert!
Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show
Going to a Dolly dinner show is a tradition for so many families. Year after year, families come together to see one of my favorite Smoky Mountain Christmas shows! With 32 magnificent horses, Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Show gives you a little friendly competition but at the end of the day, it is all about the true meaning of Christmas. If you’ve seen the regular season show, you know how amazing a Dolly show’s production is and the Christmas show is no exception. And don’t get me started on that delicious creamy vegetable soup that you get!
Country Tonite Theatre Christmas Show
Country Tonite is an award-winning theater that puts on one hell of a show! The Pigeon Forge Christmas Show is heartwarming and full of unforgettable choreography. There will be some Christmas classics and favorites as well as some special guests like Frosty and Santa! The best part about this show is that you don’t have to love country music to enjoy it either. So if you have family members that aren’t down with the fiddle, this show won’t scare them away.
A Comedy Barn Christmas
The Comedy Barn has long been a Pigeon Forge icon and its famous Christmas show, A Comedy Barn Christmas, is hands down the funniest show in the Smokies. A perfect mash-up of magic, music, and comedy will have you laughing all the way home! Tickets don’t include dinner, but you can add it which I highly recommend doing.
Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry
You are in for a treat when you go see Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry, a multi-million-dollar Christmas treat! Filled with all your favorite Christmas songs there is no better way to celebrate with your family. You’ll see elves dance across the stage, see a Holly Jolly Saint Nick, and one of the largest on-stage nativities! This Vegas worthy production of a show is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
Christmas at Pirates Voyage Dinner Show
Pirates Voyage may be new to Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains, but it is not new to the world of family entertainment. The dinner show has been captivating guests in Myrtle Beach for years and finally got a sister property in the Smokies. For their Christmas show (which includes dinner) you’ll join Captain Scrooge, the most famous pirate to ever sail the seven seas, and his first mate Bob Crachit. These two pirates lead the Crimson and Emerald crews in a very epic battle as they both go for the coveted Christmas treasure on land, on deck, in water and high above full-sized pirate ships in a 15-foot deep indoor hideaway lagoon! There’s mermaids, cannons, pirates, and surprises along the way so practice your “arrrgs!” and get ready for some fun.
3. See the Winter Fest lights in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg
Christmas in the Smokies is a sight to be seen. During the holidays, the Smoky Mountains are decorated with millions of twinkling lights and displays. Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg all come together to and decorate celebrate Winter Fest.
Starting in Sevierville, you get to see over 15 million lights bring the holiday season to life in just a 25-mile stretch! As you drive on to Pigeon Forge, 5 million lights decorate the town including the “12 Days Of Christmas” display on the Parkway, which has always been one of my favorites. It’s impossible not to sing the song as you drive past each day from the classic song pictured with colorful Christmas lights. Driving through Gatlinburg you’ll keep seeing the spectacular light displays as deer and foxes dance and twinkle.
4. Visit Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland in Sevierville
Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland in Sevierville can be seen from the interstate as can the line of cars waiting to get in. But trust me when I say it is well worth the long line of cars. Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is a light show synched to music that you enjoy from the comfort of your own car – including the music! One of my favorite things to do as the thousands of lights twinkle is to sip on hot chocolate – so if you can, pack some holiday snacks and a thermos with cider or hot cocoa to really bring the holiday spirit to your night.
5. See lights from the Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Gatlinburg Space Needle has always been one of my favorite Gatlinburg attractions. As a little kid, every summer we spent camping in the Smoky Mountains I would beg my grandfather to take me to two things in town: the sky lift and the Space Needle. It’s a little ironic, in retrospect, since I am terrified of heights but it holds a special place in my heart.
The space needle provides amazing views of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During the holidays, you get a birds-eye panoramic view of all the Christmas lights and displays below. You’ll be 407 feet up and have one of the best views in town!
6. Shop at the Christmas Place
There is a place, that isn’t the North Pole, where Christmas is a year-round thing. It is, very appropriately named, the Christmas Place and you can find it in Pigeon Forge. From garland to tree-toppers and from ornaments to stockings, if it is Christmasy, the Christmas Place in the Smoky Mountains will have it! Every Christmas we spent in the Smoky Mountains, I would stop by the Christmas Place to get an ornament for our tree! Every time I see them now, I think of all the family fun we had in our cabin, spending time together as a family with the fireplace going and sipping cider.
7. Go to Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood
One of Dolly’s favorite holidays is Christmas and her theme park, Dollywood sparkles during the holiday season. The park is beautiful during this time of year. Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood is a great way to spend a day with your family if you’re in the Smokies.
You’ll see light displays and Christmas shows, all celebrating the true meaning of Christmas and the holiday season. Dollywood Christmas shows bring people back, year after year. Christmas in the Smokies, one of the park’s long-running shows, and It’s a Wonderful Life are guest favorites so don’t forget to check performance times when you arrive at the park.
The Parade of Many Colors can’t be missed. Make sure you get a chance to meet Rudolph and his friends, too. With more than 5 million lights, Dollywood during the holidays glitters and glistens just like Dolly! And if you want to do a Dolly Christmas, stay or stop by the beautiful DreamMore resort. When they decorate for the holidays, they go allllll out.
8. Shop at The Village in Gatlinburg
During Christmas, The Village Shops look like they are right out of the Swiss Alps! Located in downtown Gatlinburg, the shops are all decorated to the 9’s for the holidays. Stop by the candy store to watch them make old fashioned taffy in the window or do some last-minute shopping at the many boutiques.
9. Go to the Christmas and Candle Shop at the Apple Barn
My mom LOVES candles and Christmas, so this store was one of her favorites. It is part of the Apple Barn Village located in Sevierville and is perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit. They have freshly poured candles, nativities, and ornaments for any last-minute gifts you might need. And they are located right by the Apple Barn restaurant so if you get hungry shopping, you have a delicious option close by.
10. Listen to some music at the Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival
I’ll say what you are all thinking, bluegrass music is for everyone. But when in Rome, right? At Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival in Pigeon Forge, the sounds of Christmas come alive to the tune of a fiddle. It is a unique celebration for sure and worth checking out. And if you have a bluegrass fan in the family, they won’t want to miss it!
11. Run the Santa Hustle Smokies 5K
I am not the kind of person who runs for fun but Tim is. If you have a Tim in the family and are spending Christmas in the Smokies, let them know about this cool 5k! During the Santa Hustle Smokies 5K and Half Marathon, thousands of Santas run and jingle their way through Sevierville. If you participate in the run, you’ll get some Santa gear to help you get festive like a Santa hat, Santa shirt, Santa beard, and special candy cane socks! Even if you don’t run, its fun to watch them all run through town.
12. Visit the Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum is an unforgettable experience no matter what time of the year you visit. But during Christmas, the entire ship looks stunning for the holidays with lights and festive decor. If you’ve ever wondered what Christmas would look like on one of the world’s most luxurious ships, make sure you stop by the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge!
13. Have a snow day at Ober Gatlinburg
We’re all dreaming of a white Christmas in the Smoky Mountains. But if it doesn’t happen you can always go to Ober Gatlinburg to have a fun day in the “snow” regardless of what the weather decides to do. The resort has snow-making machines that help create a winter wonderland where you can hit the slopes for skiing or snowboarding. They even offer lessons! As much fun as that is though, you’ll always find me on the snow tubing slopes.
14. Experience Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic Tunes and Tales
Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic Tunes and Tales is a Christmas celebration filled with music, Christmas characters, history, and humor. You can listen to your favorite holiday songs with a touch of Appalachian bluegrass and country. Santa’s elves can be seen milling around with Frosty and Rudolph.
15. Watch the annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
Christmas in the Smoky Mountains is taken very seriously. Gatlinburg goes all out with its takes Christmas seriously and goes all out with its Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. The parade is one of the largest in the area and has been going on annually for over 40 years!
16. Trolley Ride of Lights
As we told you before, Gatlinburg during Christmas gets lit up for Winter Fest. The Trolley Ride of Lights follows the Winter Fest route and is three times a night. As you see the twinkly lights on a 45-minute tour, you’ll learn about the city’s unique history!
17. See the giant Christmas tree in Bryson City
Christmas in the Smokies isn’t limited to the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains. Bryson City is worth spending some time in too! With a stunning 75-foot-tall Christmas tree in the town square, there is no shortage of holiday lights here. While you’re in town, stop by the Appalachian toymaker where you can watch him make wooden toys! At the visitor center, little ones can write letters to Santa.
18. Ride the Polar Express Train
The Polar Express train is a cannot miss, must-do for families with small kids. As you board your Great Smoky Mountains Railroad steam train, you’ll leave behind the Smoky Mountains and head to the beloved Polar Express story by Chris Van Allsburg. As you chug to the “North Pole” for an hour and a half long ride, you’ll get to enjoy hot chocolate and warm cookies. Santa will be waiting for you when you arrive so make sure to wear your most festive PJs!
20. Hot chocolate and views at Anakeesta
Few views are more impressive than those you find at Anakeesta! Head up the mountain in a chondola and get ready to see Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park like you’ve never seen them before. While you’re up there, grab some hot chocolate and take in the views. Don’t miss the treetop skywalk for a fun adventure through the Smoky Mountain tree canopy!
21. Tree Lighting Ceremony at The Island
The Island at Pigeon Forge is full of family-friendly activities, most of which are free. Every year, The Island embraces the holiday season as the 23-acre property comes to life for Winterfest. There’s live music, carolers, and photos with Santa all throughout the holiday season but the real gem is their Tree Lighting Ceremony.
22. Enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas with the National Park
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park takes you back in time with their Festival of Christmas Past at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and an old-fashioned Christmas celebration at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Music, storytelling, and traditional crafts are at the heart of the festival that celebrates a bygone era and Appalachian traditions. If you have anyone in the family that loves history and culture, this is an event they will really enjoy.
23. Have breakfast with Santa
Grab breakfast or brunch with Santa Claus at my favorite restaurant in, the Pottery House Cafe & Grille in Old Mill Square. The food is delicious and the memories will last a lifetime. I highly recommend the loaded potato soup and any of their quiches, my go-to for lunch when I lived in the Smoky Mountains. You can make a reservation by calling the restaurant at (865) 406-6558.
24. Experience an old-fashioned Christmas in Dillsboro
Just 20 minutes down the road from Bryson City is the small town of Dillsboro. This adorably charming town celebrates Christmas in the Smokies in an old-fashioned kind of way. You’ll experience carolers, horse and buggy rides, a live Nativity scene, and see Santa.
25. Make memories and enjoy family time
At the end of the day, the most important thing about spending the holidays in the Smoky Mountains is being with friends and family. Getting to be with those you love and make memories in one of the most beautiful places in the country, is truly special. So, make time to spend quality time together. Play board games, tell stories, sip cider (and maybe some moonshine!) and spend time together.
No matter what you do or where you go when you spend Christmas in the Smoky Mountains, you’re going to have a great time. There are so many more things to do in the area but these are my top 25 things to do for a vacation full of family fun. If you have time, you can maybe add in an easy hike or explore some of the historic areas in and near the GSMNP.