Christmas is a big deal in Gatlinburg, where the holiday spirit can be seen along every street and in every store. Throughout the months of November and December, the town comes alive with lights, music, dancing, and Santa Claus around every corner. Holiday-themed activities abound; the main challenge lies not in finding something to do, but rather, narrowing down your long list of options.
If possible, set aside time to enjoy at least a few of these essential events and attractions:
Fantasy of Lights Parade
A long-held Smoky Mountain tradition, the Fantasy of Lights Parade has enthralled several generations of Gatlinburg residents and visitors alike. Multiple marching bands attend this parade, bringing rousing music to the streets of Gatlinburg. The parade also features classic cars, vibrant floats, lively dancers, and the beloved bluegrass music that has long set Christmas in the Smokies apart.
Grab a spot early, because the parade route fills up quickly — and you’ll definitely want a view. If you’re willing to pay a bit for the experience, you’re welcome to reserve exclusive bleacher seats in advance.
Festival of Trees
In late November, the WL Mills Conference Center comes alive with ornate Christmas trees and a variety of other holiday displays. Take a moment to browse this lovely event, which will give you plenty of ideas for taking the Christmas decor in your home or business to the next level. There’s more to this special event than browsing, however; a variety of family-friendly activities are available, including visits with Santa.
Live entertainment will ensure that you are serenaded as you feast your eyes on trees and ornaments. If nothing else, you’ll want to stop by to support a good cause; all proceeds from this event benefit the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains.
Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show
Pay homage to the talented artisans of Gatlinburg as you check out their most impressive creations. The perfect opportunity for holiday shopping, the Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show makes it easy to find personalized, meaningful gifts while also supporting a hardworking community. Free to attend, the show is situated within the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
Highlights include Christmas cards, quilts, hand-dipped scented candles, handmade jewelry, and stuffed bears. Get your Christmas list ready — you are bound to emerge from this special event with a pile of gifts.
Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales
No Gatlinburg holiday tradition is quite as charming as Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales, which brings music, dance, and costumed characters to the Gatlinburg Parkway. As a much-loved extension of the popular Tunes & Tales program, the winter edition captures the best of the holiday spirit while infusing it with Appalachian vibes.
Your favorite holiday songs will take on a bluegrass feel, which will have you tapping your toes or even jumping up to dance. If you’re lucky, you might meet up with Rudolph, Frosty, or Santa’s elves for a photo.
Christmas charm can be found in many shops along the Parkway — especially during Winter Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales. At Santa’s Claus-et, however, it’s all Christmas, all the time. Stop by throughout the year if you need a little dose of the holiday spirit. That spirit is supercharged in November and December when the shop comes alive with a gorgeous inventory. Gifts, decorations, and snacks abound. Check out the cute bear display, where you’ll find a variety of local ornaments. Edible items are also a big hit. Samples are offered regularly but don’t be surprised if you love the items you sample so much that you feel compelled to buy them on the spot.
Perhaps best of all, Santa’s Claus-et provides the unique opportunity to take a professional-quality photo with the big guy himself — the one and only Santa Claus! He’s in high demand during the holidays, of course, but also enjoys hanging out at the shop in the off-season.
Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights
Take in the stunning lights of Gatlinburg from the comfort of a whimsical trolley. This beloved Smoky Mountain tradition was recently amped up with the installation of LED lights. Already, these have produced considerable energy and cost savings. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to catch the trolley every evening, with rides typically departing at 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 pm.
Although associated with Christmas, this annual tradition actually extends through most of January, giving you the opportunity to enjoy a little holiday cheer long after the ornaments have been taken off your tree. In addition to several trees adorned with lights, you’ll see a variety of memorable displays, including snowmen, fountains, and woodland creatures.
The trolley is just one of multiple conveyances available for viewing the gorgeous holiday lights of Gatlinburg. These twinkling lights can also be seen as you take the aerial tramway up to Ober Gatlinburg. Ober is open throughout the holiday season, so you’re welcome to stop by for a unique Christmas getaway. As you enter the tram, make every effort to snag a spot facing the Parkway, so you can look down on the lights and the hustle and bustle as you slowly ascend the mountain.
The fun doesn’t end after you’ve hopped off the tram, however. From there, you can hit the slopes on skis or skate on Ober’s vast rink.
Christmas at the Titanic Museum
The Titanic Museum just a short way away from the heart of Gatlinburg offers some incredible views and lights of Christmas. The entire museum is decked out with lights aglow and Christmas decor that any Christmas lover will truly admire.
The magic of Christmas in Gatlinburg cannot be denied. Whether you’re browsing stores for gifts, riding the trolley, or listening to bluegrass melodies, you will appreciate all that Gatlinburg has to offer during the most wonderful time of the year.