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Winter Fun in the Smokies: 7 Fun Events & Activities

Sunrise in the Smoky Mountains - Gatlinburg TN

Although the Smoky Mountain region is more commonly thought of as a summer vacation destination, there is still plenty of fun to be found year round. Don’t rule out a winter trip just yet. Did you know that there are dozens of holiday shows, festivals, and events taking place during the winter months?

Add in numerous opportunities for winter recreational activities, gorgeous winter cabin rentals, Christmas at Dollywood, beautiful views,  and more – sounds like there is more than enough going on to keep you entertained! Below I have listed 7 fun activities and events in and around Gatlinburg to add to your winter to do list.

Scenic tram ride at Ober Gatlinburg
Aerial tram ride at Ober Gatlinburg

No visit to the Smokies would be complete without a scenic ride along Ober Gatlinburg’s aerial cable car ride. This 10 minute ride takes you up high above the Smokies for a fabulous view of the surrounding landscapes. You will be taken up to the resort which houses beginner to advanced skiing with 100% snow-making.

Don’t worry if skiing is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other entertaining activities including an indoor ice rink, shopping, a wildlife encounter attraction, and restaurants. Tram rides run $12 per adult and $9.50 for Children aged 5-11. Don’t forget to pick up your $1 off coupon in the Sunny Day guide. Trams run daily from 7:30am – 10:40pm (check Ober Gatlinburg website for holiday hours).

Ober Gatlinburg is located at 1001 Parkway #2, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Winter Trolley Ride of Lights

Winter magic trolley in Gatlinburg TN

Hop aboard along Gatlinburg’s fun, festive annual trolley light display event. The 45 minute journey will take you through downtown Gatlinburg’s amazing 1.6 million dollar light display and also pass the many light displays located along Hwy 321. The beautiful snowflakes lining the light posts of Main Street really get you into the holiday spirit. You will find many Smokies themed displays such as Black Bears along the way.

I highly recommend this winter ride for any tourist new to the area – the tour guide provides plenty of interesting and fun stories during your trip! This year’s event runs until January 25th. Visit Eventbrite to book your tickets. Rides cost $5 per person.

Meetup for the trolley is at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, located at 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

Santa Hustle Half Marathon
Santa Hustle Half Marathon Seiverville TN

This year marked the 3rd anniversary of the festive holiday themed half marathon and 5k (which started in Chicago and has grown to include 6 cities including Seiverville TN). Thousands of Santas line up in this brisk mid-December event and race down the streets of Seiverville and Pigeon Forge.

This fantastic themed race, which is loaded with festive touches such as Christmas carols, holiday decorations, and cookies and milk along the route, is sure to please anyone who loves the holidays. A cute dry fit Santa shirt, hat, and beard are given to each participant to wear.

The course is hilly, although the festive atmosphere and great views of the surrounding mountains will help propel you to the finish. In fact, I even PR’d in this race despite the tough hills. Afterwards you can head right over to the indoor water-park at Wilderness at the Smokies Resort (the partner hotel & starting point of the race – runners receive a discounted rate!). Check out the Santa Hustle Smokies Race website for more info.

The Incredible Christmas Place

South's largest Christmas store in Pigeon Forge TN

Make sure to plan a stop at the South’s largest Christmas store. The shop frequently ranks among the best year round Christmas specialty stores in the country. This is the biggest Christmas store I have ever seen; you will find anything in here. The store is absolutely gorgeous with holiday displays, over 60 beautifully decorated trees, and any ornament you can imagine.

Everything is conveniently organized into sections i.e. nutcrackers, water globes, lighting, outdoor decor, color coded ornaments, etc. Great place to shop for unique decorations and ornaments for your house that you will not find in a typical department store. Decorations for every budget and style line the aisles. The shop is open year-round so you can get into the festive spirit no matter what time of the year you visit.

Across the street, you will find The Inn at Christmas Place, a year round holiday themed hotel, featuring beautiful Bavarian architecture and festive events.

The Incredible Christmas Place is located at 2470 Parkway in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Hours are 9:00am-10:00pm (holiday hours may vary).

Visit the Christmas Place website to shop online.

Skiing/ice skating at Ober Gatlinburg

Skiing at Ober Gatlinburg - Tennessee's ski resort

Be sure to schedule a visit to Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s only ski resort, on your winter trip itinerary. The scenic tram ride up to the ski area iis a worth a trip up in itself. Snowmaking starts each season when the temperature drops below 28 degrees. Skiing and snowboarding lessons are available for beginners.

Ice rink at Ober Gatlinburg

The year round indoor ice rink is located right in the middle of the shops and
restaurants. The 140 by 75 rink is large enough to accommodate plenty of skaters. Ice skating is $9 per 3 hour session, skates included. Hours are 9:00am-9:30pm.

Ober Gatlinburg is located at 1001 Parkway #2, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Visit the Ober Gatlinburg website for slope conditions, pricing information, and hours.

Wild Water Dome Indoor Water Park at Wilderness at the Smokies Resort

Indoor water park at Wilderness at the Smokies Resort in Seiverville TN

What better way to warm up during the brisk winter months than a trip to Tennessee’s largest indoor water park? Wild Water Dome, located inside Wilderness at the Smokies Resort, is a fantastic choice for those craving some fun in the sun! With the glass roof, warm indoor air, pool bar, and snack shops, you will feel like you are outside on a summer day’s.

This 66,000 square foot water park features most of the traditional water park features, including a wave pool, a massive indoor/outdoor hot tub, a thrill ride, a family raft ride, a Surf Rider experience, and even a kid’s area. Guests staying at Wilderness at the Smokies resort receive free admission to the park each day of their stay.

The Wilderness resort is a fantastic rustic themed hotel filled with numerous other amenities such as on-site restaurants, gift shops, and arcade and much more. Check out my review of Wilderness at the Smokies for more details.

Winter photography

Gorgeous morning views of the Smoky Mountains - December 2013

Don’t forget to pack your camera on this trip! Plenty of photography opportunities exist no matter the season. The best views during our trip came from the deck of our Timber Tops Life’s a Bear cabin rental. The gorgeous sunrises and sunsets really offered some once in a lifetime photo opps. Check out my Timber Tops cabin rental review for details on our fantastic cabin rental experience.

As you can see, there is plenty of fun to be had in the Smoky Mountains even during the winter months.

Have you/are you planning a vacation to the Smokies? Did you participate in any of the above activities? Which winter activities would you add to the list? Gatlinburg vs. Pigeon Forge – which resort town offers more amenities? Share your feedback on any Smoky Mountain related vacation ideas!



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