AAA Travel Tips / 10 Festive Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Gatlinburg

10 Festive Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Gatlinburg

Courtesy of Ober Gatlinburg
By AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
January 10, 2022
The small town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, transforms into a winter wonderland around the holiday season, with twinkling lights and a full calendar of events to get you in the holiday spirit. Whatever the time of year, it’s never too soon to start dreaming about a holiday trip to Gatlinburg. To give you some inspiration, here are our picks for the best ways to celebrate Christmas in Gatlinburg.
Courtesy of Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa

Cozy up in your whirlpool tub

When the weather outside is frightful, you can stay cozy when you book one of Gatlinburg’s hotels with a Jacuzzi in-room. A few of our top picks for hotels with whirlpool tubs include The Edgewater Hotel (some rooms have gas fireplaces, too), Old Creek Lodge (all rooms have balconies overlooking a stream), Baskins Creek Condominiums (full kitchens and stone fireplaces are a draw) and Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa (a full schedule of holiday activities will keep families entertained).
If a Christmas-themed lodge seems right up your alley, book a room at The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge. Just 20 minutes north of Gatlinburg, the Bavarian-style inn features year-round Christmas decorations and live music performed by Santa. One- and two-bedroom suites include in-room Jacuzzi tubs.
Gatlinburg Skybridge/Marcus Watson

Experience the tunnel of lights at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

From November to January, your daily admission to Gatlinburg SkyLift Park includes “Lights Over Gatlinburg.” The magical nighttime event brings more than 60,000 twinkling lights to the mountaintop park. For a memorable photo op, walk across the Gatlinburg SkyBridge and through its 200-foot tunnel of lights.
iStockphoto.com/SolStock

Get in the spirit with holiday street performances

Stroll the streets of downtown Gatlinburg around the holidays and you’re likely to come across Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales. Costumed singers, dancers and storytellers perform on Friday and Saturday nights in early to mid-December.
Courtesy of Ober Gatlinburg

Play in the snow at Ober Gatlinburg

As the only official ski area in Tennessee, Ober Gatlinburg is the place to be for snowy fun in winter. Ride the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg up to the mountaintop park, where you can ski to your heart’s content (or until your nose gets too cold). There’s also indoor ice skating, snow tubing and a mountain coaster you can ride. The ski area typically opens in mid-December and closes in early March, with holiday hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
AAA/Sherry Mims

See a frozen waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The reward for braving the cold on a winter hike is the chance to see frozen waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Near the park’s Gatlinburg entrance is Laurel Falls. You can access the 80-foot waterfall via a moderate hike on the 1.3-mile Laurel Falls Trail.
If you’d prefer to drive rather than hike, head to The Sinks, a short but wide waterfall 12 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center. Another good waterfall along the roadside is Meigs Falls, 13 miles west of the visitor center.
iStockphoto.com/Sandra Lund

Sip hot chocolate on a mountaintop

Spend a romantic evening sipping hot chocolate and watching the sunset at Anakeesta, Gatlinburg’s mountaintop theme park. A 14-minute gondola or chairlift ride will take you to the top of Anakeesta mountain, said to be the highest point in downtown Gatlinburg. All sorts of activities (and great mountain views) await you at the top.
Mid-November through mid-February, your admission includes the “Enchanted Winter of Lights.” The winter activity features choreographed light displays, specialty hot cocoa and seasonal shops.
iStockphoto.com/M_a_y_a

Shop for handmade gifts at the Christmas Arts & Crafts Show

Quilts, candles, baskets and jewelry are among the handmade treasures you’ll find at the Christmas Arts & Crafts Show. The free annual Christmas show is held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in late November and early December. It’s the perfect place to do some holiday shopping. A variety of handcrafted items are for sale, all made by members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community.
AAA/Sherry Mims

Warm up with a moonshine tasting

If winter in Gatlinburg has you chilled, warm up with a tour of a distillery and the chance to sample some seasonal moonshine. Tours of Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery include a tasting of seven varieties, which means you can try seasonal flavors like peppermint, pumpkin pie and eggnog. Sugarlands Distilling Company, another popular distillery, offers tours and tastings of seasonal flavors and seasonal cocktails available for purchase.
iStockphoto.com/Akshay Thaker 'Photovation'

Watch the Gatlinburg Christmas Parade

A tradition for almost 50 years, the Gatlinburg Christmas Parade—officially known as the “Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade”—draws tens of thousands of spectators to downtown Gatlinburg on a night in early December. During the event, lighted floats, marching bands and performers make their way from east to west along the Parkway. You’ll need to arrive early or else buy a ticket in advance to reserve a spot in the grandstands at the start of the route.
iStockphoto.com/nd3000

Bonus: Stay for the New Year’s celebration

Live music performances, a midnight fireworks display and a ball drop make up the festivities of Gatlinburg’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. Downtown Gatlinburg is the place to be to ring in the New Year, with a number of events and viewing parties at local attractions leading up to the big celebration.
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