The Great Smoky Mountains are a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but something truly magical happens during the winter. Twinkle lights shimmer in the midst of freshly fallen snow, festive decorations adorn the streets, and jubilant music floats through the crisp mountain air spreading cheer through every valley. Then after the holidays, you can keep the post-holiday blues at bay with fun winter activities like arts & crafts festivals, skiing, snowboarding, tubing and so much more!
There are so many incredible Smoky Mountains winter events throughout the season, that it’s tough to keep track of them all. Keep reading for a list of some of the most popular festivals and events that both locals and travelers look forward to every year.
Disclaimer: Please check with each venue before visiting to find the latest details on safety precautions, times, or closures.
What Is There To Do In the Smoky Mountains in Winter?
Pigeon Forge Winterfest
November 11, 2021 – February 15, 2022
The neighboring towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville come together to create a true holiday winter wonderland that carries on well beyond Christmas day. From live Appalachian music to delicious treats to thousands of colorful lights, Winterfest takes pride in reflecting the local culture of the Smoky Mountains in its festive displays.
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
November 6, 2021 – January 2, 2022
Dollywood kicks off its holiday festivities with phenomenal light shows that include over 4 million dazzling lights. The famous amusement park has its own winter calendar of events that include live musical shows, nightly parades, and stunning fireworks displays, plus costumed and animated characters that keep kids of all ages entertained.
Lights Over Gatlinburg at SkyLift Park
November 11, 2021 – January 31, 2022
Marvel at the best views in all of Gatlinburg from SkyLift Park. This year, the SkyBridge and SkyDeck will be draped with over 40,000 lights as well as festive decorations and fun new features. If you’re visiting Gatlinburg anytime from now through the end of January, you’re in for a real treat!
Ice Skating at Wilderness at the Smokies
November 12, 2021 – January 9, 2022
Over in Sevierville, TN, Wilderness at the Smokies turns a 3,200 square foot portion of their outdoor wave pool into a real ice skating rink. Both hotel guests and the general public are welcome to venture out into the invigorating winter air amid a magical atmosphere filled with music and festive lights.
The Polar Express (Bryson City, NC)
November 12 to December 31, 2021
Take a memorable Christmas journey when you board the Polar Express at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Depot in Bryson City. A favorite holiday tradition for kids of all ages, this exciting train ride will have you believing in magic all over again. Hop on board for a 1¼-hour round-trip ride over the river and through the woods to the North Pole. Set to the delightful sounds of the motion picture soundtrack, riders will stay warm with hot cocoa and cookies while reading along with the story.
And when the train pulls into the North Pole, kids’ faces will light up with joy when they’re greeted by Santa and Mrs. Claus. Each child will receive a special gift – their very own silver sleigh bell just like in the story. On the return journey, riders will sing Christmas carols to round out the trip.
Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
December 3, 2021 from 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Gatlinburg’s famous Christmas Parade is back this year! Experience the holiday spirit like never before as the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade rolls through downtown Gatlinburg. Admire the festive floats decked out with one-of-a-kind displays of LED lights, marching bands, dancers, holiday characters, and more!
Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies Music Festival
December 1, 2021 – December 4, 2021
Celebrate the holidays with some amazing bluegrass music! Every winter, talented bluegrass bands come together in the Smoky Mountains for a toe-tapping multi-day music festival. Find a detailed schedule of the current line-up on their website here. (No follow link)
Gatlinburg Winter Magic and Chili Cookoff
November 11, 2021 from 5:00pm to 8:00pm
A favorite event for local foodies, Gatlinburg hosts its annual Chili Cookoff as part of the Winter Magic festivities. Live entertainment and holiday light displays up to 40 feet tall create a delightful ambiance for chili tasting. For a small fee you can sample as many mouth-watering recipes of homemade chili as your heart desires. And while you’re there, be sure to cast your vote for the People’s Choice award for best chili! Tickets will be required this year and can be purchased here.
Gatlinburg New Year’s Eve Celebration and Fireworks Show
December 31, 2021
For the 34th straight year, the Gatlinburg Space Needle presents it’s famous fireworks show. The area around traffic light #8 comes to life at the stroke of midnight with a colorful and booming fireworks display to ring in the new year. Rated the “Best New Year’s Eve Show in the South”, you’ll enjoy live entertainment in addition to the star spangled night.
January 21, 2022
Robert Burns is the national poet of Scotland and is one of the most widely read Scottish poets both in Scotland and around the world. His works represent the rich local Scottish heritage in the western North Carolina Smoky Mountains, and you’ll find people honoring his birthday all across the area. The Meadowlark Motel in Maggie Valley, NC hosts an annual event that includes traditional Scottish food, bagpipe players, and storytellers reading Burn’s iconic works.
Smoky Mountain Gospel Jubilee
February 10 – 11, 2022
Fans of gospel music and people of faith will enjoy multiple days of inspiring music and powerful teaching at the annual Jubilee at The LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Winter Arts Smokies Style
Winter Arts Smokies Style is a monthly event in Waynesville, NC that celebrates the local art and music of the Smoky Mountains. Enjoy live music, art demonstrations from local artisans and makers, and taste delicious homegrown food that reflects the flavors of the mountains.
Winter Heritage Festival
The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Smokies with an exciting display of arts & crafts, storytelling, and live music in their historic village in Townsend, TN. Stroll among live demonstrations of traditional Smoky Mountain vocations like open-hearth cooking, weaving, spinning, and blacksmithing.
Wilderness Wildlife Week
January 25 – 29, 2022
Every year, Pigeon Forge, TN hosts the family-friendly Wilderness Wildlife Week to encourage outdoor fun in the Smoky Mountains. Discover educational programs designed specifically for the kids, and if you’re feeling especially adventurous, join a guided hike into the woods. There’s something for every member of the family during this exciting week of outdoor winter activities in the Great Smoky Mountains.