If you’re dreaming of a downhome country holiday or ringing in the New Year Tennessee-style, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to call home for the festivities. Spend your days walking in a winter wonderland among The Great Smoky Mountains and your nights curled up by the fire watching the snowfall from your cozy Prestige Vacation Rentals cabin this Christmas season!
Known as “The Gateway to the Smokies,” Gatlinburg is a top destination for outdoor adventure family fun, and one of the best places to spend the holidays. While Gatlinburg is full of things to do year-round, there’s even more fun to be had with epic light displays, winter festivals, and Christmas parades during the holidays.
If you’re ready for a holiday getaway like no other, here’s your ultimate holiday guide to a Gatlinburg Christmas!
Gatlinburg Winter Weather and Packing Tips
For many, the Christmas spirit is ushered in by holiday decorations, nativity scenes, and a certain kind of weather.
Gatlinburg is situated on the edge of The Great Smoky Mountains and has its fair share of cold weather. Throughout late December and early January, you can expect average daily temperatures to range from the 30s to the 50s. Occasionally, a cold front will bring temperatures as low as the 20s or warm up as high as the 60s, so it’s best to be prepared for all conditions.
You can expect to see some snowfall around Gatlinburg this time of year, especially in the higher elevations. As a general rule of thumb, the higher up you go, the colder and snowier it will be. This is important to remember if you are planning a day hike up into the mountains.
What to Pack
When heading to Gatlinburg for the holidays, you’ll want to pack some cold-weather essentials like jackets, boots, scarves, and hats, but also plenty of layering items like thermals, long-sleeve tees, and jeans so you can adjust for cooler or warmer weather.
This kind of winter magic is perfect for outdoor activities. If you plan skiing, snow tubing, or hiking up to higher elevations, snow pants, and waterproof boots are a must. If you don’t have any, there are places you can rent them.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack a swimsuit so you can enjoy a warm soak in your private cabin hot tub at the end of the day. When the temperature drops — there’s nothing quite like it!
Gatlinburg Holiday Crowds
Gatlinburg is a popular holiday destination for the whole family, but the vastness of the Smokies can make it feel like you’re a world away from the hustle and bustle of the typical holiday season rush.
While you can expect more crowds than usual when heading downtown and longer lines for rides at Dollywood, it’s not unbearable. If you’re attending any holiday events like the Christmas parade or New Year’s Eve Ball Drop, just plan to arrive early to snag a good spot. Otherwise, just relax — you’re on Smoky Mountain time now!
Things to Do in Gatlinburg for the Holidays
Christmas time is one of the best times to visit Gatlinburg. The town is transformed into a winter wonderland with millions of sparkling lights, snowy landscapes, and plenty of fun holiday events. Here are some of the best ways to spend the holidays in Gatlinburg.
Enjoy a Day of Snow-Filled Fun at Ober Mountain Adventure Park
Ober Mountain Adventure Park is your ticket to all-day fun in the Smokies. Ride the mountain coaster, soar over the valley in the aerial tramway for epic views, and ski, snowboard, or snow tube to your heart’s content!
There’s also ice skating, shopping, dining, and plenty of activities for children of all ages. Ober Mountain Adventure Park is the perfect spot for family-friendly fun.
Have a Downhome Country Christmas at Dollywood
Home of the original Smoky Mountain Christmas, Dollywood is full of rides, attractions, shows, games, and, of course — lots of music and memorabilia featuring the Queen of Tennessee herself, Dolly Parton.
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, “America’s Best Christmas Event,” has been a Gatlinburg staple for well over a decade. During December, visitors are treated to a spectacle of lights, special holiday shows, and festive food and drink. Be sure to stop by Santa’s Village to see the big guy himself and stay until the evening when the skies above the park are lit up with their nightly Christmas drone show.
Shop, Eat, Drink, and Be Merry in Downtown Gatlinburg
Downtown Gatlinburg is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit with an endless array of shops, restaurants, distilleries, live music, holiday lights, and even visits from Santa himself!
You can try some real Tennessee Moonshine at Sugarlands Distillery (the Appalachian Apple Pie flavor is a must-try) and pick up a one-of-a-kind handmade Christmas ornament at Santa’s Claus-et. Be sure to stop by at night to see the millions of twinkling lights downtown Gatlinburg is draped in during the holidays!
Walk Through a Winter Wonderland in The Great Smoky Mountains
Winter is a whimsical time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can take a scenic drive through the parkway lined with snow-covered trees, take a hike through a frozen forest, see waterfalls made of ice, and much more. Just be sure to bundle up and be prepared for temperature changes at higher elevations. During times of heavy snow, you can even join a ranger-led snowshoe tour for a one-of-a-kind walk through this natural winter wonderland!
While the park’s famous bears are all in their dens for the winter, you still have plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities. Deer, elk, and wild turkeys still roam the valley in large numbers during winter; you may also get a chance to spot a mink, bobcat, or fox amid the snow.
Have a Holiday Light Night
You’ll find no shortage of holiday lights around Gatlinburg. The whole city is lit up like one big Christmas tree! While you can see lights pretty much everywhere, some attractions offer a little extra holiday magic.
Take a stroll through Anakeesta Adventure Park’s Light Up The Night event, a dazzling display of lights, dozens of Christmas trees, live music, costumed Characters, and more. It’s the perfect family-friendly outing.
For a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the city, head to the Gatlinburg Sky Park for their annual Lights Over Gatlinburg event. Walk across the famous sky bridge, covered in thousands of sparkling lights, head up to the sky deck for incredible views of the illuminated city, and marvel at the over 30-foot-tall Christmas tree.
For even more lights, pop over to Pigeon Forge, just about 15 minutes outside of Gatlinburg; this other charming Smoky Mountain town offers even more holiday light displays during its annual Winterfest.
Learn Some Appalachian Holiday History at Winter Tunes and Tales
On special nights in December, costumed performers take to the streets to tell tales of Appalachian history through song and dance and give visitors a taste of an authentic Smoky Mountain Christmas. You can find them strolling through different parts of town, each night presenting a different tale and spreading lots of holiday cheer.
Festive Fun at The Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
A visit to Gatlinburg during the holidays isn’t complete without watching the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. Dozens of dazzling floats, lights, marching bands, and, of course — Santa Claus himself all go dashing down the parkway for an evening of festive fun. You can watch the parade from various locations for free or purchase grandstand tickets for special seating.
Ring in The New Year at The Gatlinburg Space Needle Ball Drop
Gatlinburg is the perfect place to ring in the New Year. Downtown becomes one big party as revelers take to the streets to enjoy live music, fireworks, food, and drink. When the clock strikes midnight — the highly anticipated Gatlinburg Space Needle Ball Drop takes place. Move over to Times Square!
If you’re traveling with little ones, don’t worry — there’s still plenty of family-friendly fun to be had. During the day, you’ll find numerous kid-friendly celebrations happening around town featuring games, music, face painting, and an earlier countdown complete with sparkling cider toasts.
Staying in Gatlinburg for the Holidays
Between the whimsical winter landscapes, endless Christmas lights, and a full calendar of holiday happenings, there’s no better place to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year than in Gatlinburg.
For the ultimate holiday escape, stay in The Smoky Mountains, where you can relax in your own cabin, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of in-town hotels. Enjoy sipping your morning coffee from a rocking chair on your front porch and enjoying hot chocolate by the fire at night.
Prestige Vacation Rentals offers a variety of cabins to choose from, offering all the comforts of home plus amenities like private hot tubs, cozy fireplaces, and unbeatable Smoky Mountain views.
Whether you’re planning a couple’s retreat family vacation or want to bring your four-legged friends along — you’ll find everything you need with Prestige Vacation Rentals. Book your holiday cabin now!