I love winter in Gatlinburg! Except for Christmas and St. Valentine’s Day, the winter crowds in the Smokies are smaller–making traffic and shopping far more leisurely. The winters are mild by Northern standards but far snowier than those just a little south of the Smokies. With the start of Fall just behind us, I am already looking forward to the start of the season (Dec. 21st) full of sweaters & hot chocolate–with a little sledding in between. Here are some of our favorite winter activities:
1. Gatlinburg Winter Magic Lights. Listed as one of winter’s “Top 20 Events” by the Southeast Tourism Society, Gatlinburg’s four-month Winterfest Celebration transforms the mountain resort town of Gatlinburg into a spectacular winter wonderland from November through February. The light display has received a $1.5 million injection of new displays plus a 100-percent conversion to energy-efficient LED bulbs over the past three years.
2. Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. The City of Gatlinburg and Land O’ Lakes Half & Half invite you to bundle up and generate a spirited dose of holiday cheer and soak up Gatlinburg’s Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade (first week in December each year), with more than 100 parade entries including marching bands & giant helium balloons. The parade begins at Traffic Light #1A on Hwy 321 & ends at Traffic Light #10 on the main Parkway in Downtown Gatlinburg. Jamming sidewalks and balconies along the parade route, over 80,000 people come to soak up the festivities.
3. Rent a Cabin. Whether you pick a more rustic log cabin with a wood-burning fireplace or a more modern spa-like cabin with all the amenities, renting a cabin can be a vacation in itself. Build a fire at Critter Corner, make some S’mores and play a board game or two with the family while the snowflakes fall. Looking for a romantic getaway? Reserve a weekend at Above the Rest and snuggle in bed next to a roaring fire or order an in-cabin massage. If you buy groceries on your way to the cabin, you never have to leave your pajamas. The best part? Renting a cabin in the winter is often cheaper. Ask about Winter Discounts.
4. Trolley Ride of Lights. From early November to the end of January each year, enjoy a guided trolley ride of the spectacular Gatlinburg Winter Magic lighting displays. Departure is from the Mass Transit/Trolley Center at Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza. Call 865/436-0535 beginning October 15 for reservations.
5. Holiday Arts and Crafts Show. The Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts community is the nation’s largest organization of independent artisans. Close to a hundred shops, studios, galleries, and inviting little eating establishments line an eight mile loop along Route 321, Buckhorn Road, and Glades Road. As you take in a Gatlinburg art gallery or artisan shop, you will see gorgeous quilts, old-fashioned straw brooms, exquisitely woven baskets, beautiful jewelry, hand-dipped candles, pottery, dulcimers and much more. This community is located approximately 4 miles out of downtown Gatlinburg. Don’t miss their annual Holiday show beginning Thanksgiving weekend each year!
6. New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks. Gatlinburg welcomes the arrival of the new year with a street party that begins around 11 p.m. every December 31st. A crowd of 40,000 revelers gather in the streets of Gatlinburg. At the stroke of midnight, the skies light up with a fireworks & music show. The event is free & features music and party favors.
7. Snow Skiing. Just at the top of Ski Mountain, Ober Gatlinburg offers 8 ski trails serviced by two quad and one double chairlift which keeps you out of lift lines and on the slopes. When temperatures drop, their snow-making equipment blankets 100% of their slopes. Slopes are maintained with the latest in snow-grooming equipment to provide a smoother, more consistent surface creating enjoyable skiing conditions. The slopes are generally open from mid-December to early March.
8. Hummer Tours. Off Road Voyages uses 11 passenger Hummers with stadium seating for you to enjoy spectacular views, water crossings, waterfalls, 2 foot deep mud holes, 15 foot vertical drops and up to 30 degree side slopes. Open 365 days a year, this is not an exclusively winter activity, but it is certainly more adventurous in the snow. To watch an introductory video created by Off Road Voyages, Click Here! To make your reservations, call 1-866-99-VOYAGES. This is a truly unique way to see the Smokies!
9. Snow Tubing. New in the 2008-2009 season was Ober Gatlinburg‘s Snow Tubing Park with 400′ lanes and a 50’ vertical drop. There are no special skills or equipment required – just a sense of adventure! All sessions are 1 hour and 45 minutes. Ticket sales on first-come, first- served basis and may sell out early. Must be at least 6 years old and 42″ tall to ride solo; children ages 3 – 5 must ride with an adult; children under 3 are not permitted to ride.
10. No Lines. Although there is a much smaller crowd in town during winter, most of your favorite attractions like Wonderworks, Christmas at Dollywood, Ice Skating at Ober, the Aerial Tramway and Ripley’s Aquarium are open. The best part is–no lines, generally speaking. Because these attractions sometimes operate with shorter hours, make sure you call ahead or check their websites for winter hours.
This blog is sponsored in part by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN. For more information on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.