Your Guide to the Top Winter Events in Gatlinburg

All throughout the winter in Gatlinburg, there’s never a shortage of fun events to attend. From gift shows and train rides to parades and festivals, the events promise to keep you well-entertained all season long. If you’re simply not sure which ones to put on your calendar for 2021, take a peek at this guide to learn all about the most-anticipated winter events in Gatlinburg.

Smoky Mountain Gift Show

For over 55 years, the Smoky Mountain Gift Show has proudly served as the top spot to start your holiday shopping. For 2021, this event will start on November 10th and run through the 13th at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.

The gift show opens its doors bright and early at 9 am and doesn’t close up shop until 5 pm. Between those hours, you can find all the best artisan goods in the region, including home décor, games and toys, jewelry, and souvenirs galore.

The Polar Express Train Ride

Every year for the holidays, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad offers their ever-popular ‘The Polar Express Train Ride. This year, the rides will begin on November 12th and continue through the winter season.

Upon signing up for this roundtrip journey, you’ll spend over an hour sipping cocoa while traveling through the wilderness to the North Pole. As the soundtrack to the film plays overhead, the crew members ready the story to all the guests. After reaching the North Pole, Santa Claus will board the train and give each child a silver sleigh bell as a gift.

Festival of Trees

In its 49th year running, the Festival of Trees brings the community together in support of the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains and other local organizations. Held at the W.L. Mills Conference Center, the festival will begin with the Candy Canes & Cocktails Preview Party on November 23rd at 6 pm.

After that, it will be all fun and games starting at 10 am on the 24th and running through 4 pm on the 28th. All throughout the event, you can buy beautifully decorated wreaths and trees plus get photos with Santa. There will also be a craft and play area for the kids along with plenty of entertainment for all.

Great Smoky Thanksgiving & Christmas Arts & Crafts Show

On November 29th through December 4th, the Gatlinburg Convention Center will open the doors for the Great Smoky Thanksgiving & Christmas Arts & Crafts Show. During that time, you can come by from 10 am to 5 pm to shop all the wares up for sale, including hand-dipped candles, stuffed bears, and woven baskets.

All the items come from local craftsmen who only use the finest materials and time-honored techniques to create their goods. You can even come by to pick their brains and see how the magic happens before selecting which items to buy.

Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival

To get in the holiday spirit, there’s perhaps nothing better than all the music played at Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival. If you want to attend this concert series in full, you’ll need to get your tickets for all four days, which will go from December 1st through the 4th.

Then, you’ll want to show up at the Stone Hill Lodge around 5 pm each day and plan to stay until at least 10 pm each night. During that time, you’ll hear music from talented local musicians, like Remington Ryde, Caroline & Company, The Crowe Brothers, Junior Sisk Band, and Nick Chandler & Delivered.

Fantasy of Christmas Lights Parade

Downtown Gatlinburg will dazzle brilliantly in lights and music as the Fantasy of Christmas Lights Parade cruises through town. The event is set to start on December 3rd at 7:30 pm and will continue until the last float goes down the lane at 9 pm.

At the center of the fun, you’ll find floats decorated for the holidays in bright lights plus lots of large balloons floating along overhead. Marching bands and dancers will jazz things up even more, while the holiday characters promise to keep everyone in the Christmas spirit. In order to get a spot right up front, you’ll want to arrive early to claim your space, and then kick around the downtown area until the fun starts.

Festival of Christmas Past

On December 11th, 2021, the Festival of Christmas Past will transport you back to a simpler time. To get the full experience, all you have to do is show up at the Sugarlands Visitor Center between 9:30 am and 3 pm.

Once you arrive, you’ll hear the sound of old-time music and harp singing plus lots of exquisite story-telling. Alongside the musicians, you can find artisans completing demonstrations to show their crafts, including spinning, quilting, and weaving.

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show

If you’d like to ring in the New Year Gatlinburg-style, you cannot miss the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show. Held every year at the Gatlinburg Space Needle, this event starts right as the sun goes down on New Year’s Eve.

Although the fireworks don’t start until the clock strikes midnight, fantastic light displays keep everyone oohing and ahhing until then. On top of that, live entertainment plays all through the night, up until the moment the ball starts to drop for the countdown to the new year.

Afterward, you can get on over to the Hard Rock Café to catch the last half of the show played by musicians of the day. In 2020, they had a KISS tribute band playing until 1 am, but there’s no one scheduled quite yet for the 2021 festivities.

As organizers get their plans in order, events will continue to land on the calendar through the end of the season. So, keep your ear to the ground to avoid missing out on all the fun. If you do miss any events, no worries, you’re likely to see them come back around for 2022, especially if they were a big hit.