Snow-capped peaks, twinkling lights, the voice of Dolly Parton singing “The Greatest Gift of All” — there’s nowhere quite like eastern Tennessee during December. Here’s a guide to events and attractions where you can get in the holiday spirit, Smokies-style.
Winterfest sees Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville transforming into a sea of twinkling white lights, which you can view on foot or driving around the parkway. A “12 Days of Christmas” light show, intricate sculptures inspired by local animals, and other dazzling displays are complemented by trolley rides and parades. A large Christmas village also pops up, selling delicious treats and traditional Appalachian crafts.
Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
Hundreds of festively attired revelers take over the streets of Gatlinburg for the Fantasy of Lights Christmas parade. The event has been occurring annually since the mid-1970s and comprises marching bands, bluegrass musicians, dancers, classic cars, floats, and appearances by Santa Claus.
“Yuletide Madness,” the Christmas show at the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, brings seasonally inspired Victorian-style musical comedy by the Great Victorian Amusement Company. You’ll enjoy an abbreviated version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a sing-along, Christmas carols, and other entertaining performances.
Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights
One of the best ways to experience Gatlinburg during December is attending the Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights. The event puts you up close with thousands of LED sculptures, winter scenes, and more, as heated trolley cars wind through the lit-up streets of downtown and Highway 321.
Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival
The Christmas in the Smokies festival is a four-day bluegrass festival that takes over the Parkway in December. Musicians and bands including Paul Williams & Victory Trio, Joe Mullins & Radio Ramblers, and Dewey & Leslie Brown perform, while a food truck hawks tasty burgers and square-dancing events take place.
Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival
Dollywood Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival is one of the park’s most impressive annual events. Musical productions of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Dolly’s “Christmas in the Smokies” are held; Santa, Rudolph, and other characters interact with guests; a parade inspired by Dolly’s “Coat of Many Colors” album sweeps through the grounds; and Christmas services are held in the Smoky Mountain Christmas Chapel.