With winter being one of the slowest seasons in the Smoky Mountains, visitors have a chance to enjoy the delights of both Gatlinburg and the surrounding countryside without the crowds. Savoring a peaceful, snow-covered vista from Newfound Gap Road is one of the most magical sights of the winter season in Tennessee, but the city itself also offers its own unique range of fun activities for those who love to visit when there’s snow in Gatlinburg.
Gatlinburg pulls out all the stops for winter holiday season, spending nearly two million dollars on decorations alone. The Winter Magic Tour of Lights lasts from November to the end of February and showcases the city’s extravagant display of holiday decorations, many of which feature depictions of animals native to the region. Take in the lights while wandering the downtown area or hop on the Gatlinburg Trolley Ride of Lights to enjoy the magical evening scene in warmth and comfort.
There’s also the Winter Magic Tunes and Tales taking place each Friday and Saturday in the lead up to Christmas. Singing choirs in Victorian-era dress perform traditional carols in the downtown area while storytellers keep crowds enthralled with fantastical tales.
Early in December, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade features a dazzling array of parade floats festooned with sparkling lights, marching bands, popular characters in costume and an appearance by none other than Santa Claus himself. Crowds line the route along Highway 321, so be sure to come early for a great spot.
The last week of November features the Festival of Trees, a fun event for the whole family that includes crafts for kids, an array of creatively decorated trees, photo opportunities with Santa Claus, musical performances and many other seasonal activities.
Each December 31st, visitors gather to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop and enjoy a fireworks show to ring in the new year. Crowds gather to enjoy the festivities at the Space Needle. The ball drops over 400 feet from the top of the Needle, kicking off the fireworks show while crowds are entertained by a free musical concert.
Winter Sports at Ober Gatlinburg
A fun destination year-round, the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort winter season begins in December and runs through March. While skiing and snowboarding are the most popular pursuits on the slopes, there are other outdoor activities like tubing and ice skating to enjoy. The tubing hill has multiple lanes, and tubers can even ride the “Magic Carpet,” a mechanical lift, right to the top, so there’s no trudging up the hill carrying an inflatable tube. Renting the proper equipment for skiing, tubing and skating is a snap, and soon visitors can be gliding down the slopes or practicing their best skating moves on the ice. After all the fun in the snow, relax inside with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.
Sledding From Sites Along Newfound Gap Road
For those who enjoy experiencing nature without the crowds, exploring Newfound Gap Road in the winter is a stark contrast to its popularity in the summer months. Visitors can often enjoy having a spot all to themselves, and there are gentle slopes along the road that are perfect for some impromptu sledding or tubing. The opportunity to take some wonderful pictures of snow-covered peaks and pine trees are another perk of this scenic area. Even when Gatlinburg itself has no snow, the higher elevations may still experience dramatic snowfalls, allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty of the snowy landscape before returning to the warmer elevations below.
Gatlinburg Sky Lift
One way to take in the winter landscape by day and the sparkling Christmas lights by night is a ride on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. Not only is Gatlinburg laid out in all of its glittering holiday glory below visitors’ feet, but the 360-degree view of the Smoky Mountains add all of their breathtaking beauty to the experience. The panorama from the top of Crockett Mountain is spectacular, aided by the binoculars available to visitors. Savor the view and enjoy a look through the gift shop or a warm drink before descending to the valley.
Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing
Those with an adventurous streak can enjoy the snow in Gatlinburg by making their own fun. Beautiful Cades Cove offers a number of suitable trails for either snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and promises plenty of opportunities for spotting deer, turkeys and other local wildlife in addition to the unparalleled natural beauty. Cades Cove Nature Trail and the trek to Abrams Falls are short and promise particularly pretty views. For longer treks, the seven-mile-long Old Sugarlands Trail is a good choice.
Streaking across the downtown area on a zipline is a unique way to take in the sights, even more enjoyable in winter when the Christmas decorations are on full display. ZipGatlinburg is located right in the heart of the city, and other zip line operators like Climb Works that are located further afield allow visitors to take in the natural snowy beauty of the surrounding area.
Gatlinburg is a city that offers a little something for all ages during every season. Cooler temperatures and deep snowfall only serve to transform the city into a winter wonderland that offers unique opportunities not available to visitors at any other time of year. Savor the winter beauty of the surrounding mountains and take part in all of the festivities that are only possible when there’s snow in Gatlinburg. The winter months promise the opportunity to make memories lasting a lifetime.
After having lots of fun in the snow in Gatlinburg, you’ll need a warm and cozy place to rest. Old Creek Lodge has in-room whirlpools and fireplaces in their rooms on those cool snowy nights. Reserve your room today.