It's the holiday season, and there isn't a better place to experience the magic of holidays than in the Smoky Mountains. Rekindle old traditions or start new ones as you join in with the towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville celebrating Christmas with various events throughout November and December.
(through Feb. 28, smokymountainwinterfest.com)
With millions of twinkling lights and various lighted displays along a 25-mile stretch, it's not an exaggeration to say that Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountain area take on a special glow during Smoky Mountain Winterfest. View them from your car as you drive through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge. In Gatlinburg, do something different by parking your car and hopping aboard Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights (through Jan. 31, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., $5 per person, children under three ride free, downtown Gatlinburg). Sit back and relax as you take in the sights along the Parkway and neighboring U.S. 321.
Find that one-of-a-kind piece for that someone special (or for yourself) at the Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show (Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 22-27, free, Gatlinburg Convention Center. 234 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg. 800-568-4748). Featuring works by the artisans of the Great Smoky Art & Crafts Community, it's the perfect opportunity to get a handcrafted item or two. If you can't make it out to the Thanksgiving Show, there the Great Smoky Christmas Arts and Crafts Show at the same venue Nov. 28-Dec. 4.
Soak in the holiday atmosphere and draw inspiration from the many decorated Christmas trees at Gatlinburg's Festival of Trees (Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m., Nov. 23-27, free; however donations to Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains is greatly appreciated, W. L. Mills Conference Center at stoplight No. 8, Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg). The event also includes a children's area and live entertainment. On Nov. 25-27, children can meet and take photos with Santa. Don't forget to reserve a spot for Breakfast with Santa (Nov. 26, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., $10 per child, $15 per adult).
Be entertained by characters and storytellers as they stroll through downtown Gatlinburg during the Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales (5 to 9:30 p.m., Nov. 25-26 and Dec. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, downtown Gatlinburg). Enjoy the sounds of Appalachia, Bluegrass, and Country holiday music as it rounds out this event.
As if the rides and attractions weren't enough already, Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana (through Jan. 1, hours and admission prices vary, 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd., Pigeon Forge. 800-365-5996) at Dollywood turns the theme park into a joyous Christmas wonderland. From shows to Santa Land (through Dec. 23) to over 4 million lights and more, all ages can take part in the holiday cheer.
Enjoy the new Parade of Many Colors with its whimsical floats and other features. Watch a live performance of the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life . Meet Rudolph and his friends from "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" . A visit to Dollywood isn't complete without trying holiday desserts like pumpkin pies, pumpkin rolls and pumpkin spice funnel cakes. There is even a make-your-own s'mores pit.
Don't forget about Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede's Holiday Adventure Show (times vary, through Dec. 31, prices vary, 3849 Parkway, Pigeon Forge. 865-453-4400) featuring a "Toys Come to Life" musical fantasy, a living nativity scene and more. Making its debut this year is the Christmas Show (times vary, through Dec. 31, prices vary, Traffic Light No. 3, 2713 Parkway, Pigeon Forge. 844-322-4400) at Dolly Parton's Lumberjack Adventure. Get into the Christmas spirit as the lumberjack families discover the true meaning of the season.
Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland (dusk until 10 p.m., through Jan. 8, $25 per car and family vans, $40 per activity van, limo or mini/half bus, $80 per tour/school bus, Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium, 3450 Line Drive, Kodiak) combines lights and music on a 1.5-mile drive-through. New this year is the half-mile Santa Safari section. There are also activities like a petting zoo and pony rides (through Jan. 1), Christmas movies on Saturday (through Dec. 17) and more.
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