Sometimes the hardest part of a winter vacation is finding fun activities that are still available in the off season. If you decide to visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge this winter we doubt you’ll have this problem. Summer may be peak tourist season in the Gatlinburg area, but the Smoky Mountains provide a perfect winter retreat too. When summer is over, the cooler weather brings with it loads of fun winter-time activities for the whole family. Here’s our list of 15 fun winter activities and attractions to try in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge this winter.
Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is open 365 days a year which will give you a nice warm place to go when the weather is cold. Take your kids to Touch-A-Ray-Bay where they can pet and interact with live stingrays. Visit the coral reef and see the colorful sea creatures. Stop by the penguin house and watch a parade of African penguins. There are so many fun and educational things to do at the Aquarium!
Have a Winter Adventure at Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg is the best place in Tennessee for snow tubing, snowboarding and skiing. Mid December to mid March is skiing season at Ober Gatlinburg. From the bunny slopes to the big hills, you’ll have a blast hitting the powder with family and friends. You also won’t find a better place to grab a hot chocolate and watch the kids on the indoor ice skating rink. We love Ober Gatlinburg any time of year, but winter time is always extra magical.
Take a Winter Hike in the Smoky Mountains
Wintertime in the Smokies turns the mountain trails into a beautiful landscape of snow and ice. You’ll see ice crystals, snowy vistas, and waterfalls frozen in time. Some of our recommended trails for winter hiking are Metcalf Bottoms Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Grotto Falls Trail. Just make sure you are familiar with wintertime hiking safety tips before you decide to venture out on any of these gorgeous excursions.
Explore Frozen Waterfalls at Smoky Mountains National Park
When you’re out on those hiking trails, be sure to stop by one of the gorgeous waterfalls in the park. There are numerous waterfalls to see around the Gatlinburg area. Our favorite in the winter time is Rainbow Falls. Rainbow falls is about 80 feet high and it’s known for forming huge ice crystals when the weather is freezing. Gorgeous any time of year, but it’s a truly breathtaking sight to see in the winter.
See the Amazing Christmas Lights in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge
About halfway through November each year, all of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge is transformed into a winter wonderland. Over 5 million sparkling lights illuminate both towns. Nothing will get you into the holiday spirit like driving through town at night. You’ll see tinkling icicles dripping from every light pole, and huge displays of holiday themed light sculptures everywhere you look. Nobody does Christmas like Gatlinburg.
Enjoy the Enchanted Winter Celebration at Anakeesta
From November 11th through February 14th, Anakeesta mountain will be lit up with a celebration of lights. You can enjoy a delicious meal, or stroll through the mountaintop villages. The kids can play at TreeVenture or walk along the TreeTop Skywalk. Then, at night, the whole family can climb tot the top of Anavista Tower and see the entire city of Gatlinburg below lit up with millions of sparkling holiday lights.
See the Dolly Parton Stampede Christmas Celebration
The Stampede in Pigeon Forge is the most visited show in the entire country and it’s easy to see why! What’s better than dinner and a spectacular show to watch while you’re eating it? You will be entranced by the performances down on the 35,000 arena while you enjoy a delicious four course dinner. During the holidays, be prepared to be filled with good cheer. Snow will fall and the show will be full of Christmas lights, evergreens, and old fashioned holiday costumes. You’ll hear familiar holiday music while the playful elves from the North and South Poles have a friendly competition. Be sure to reserve early. These shows sell out very fast!
Go Skiing on Clingmans Dome Road
If you are a bit more athletic and enjoy a bit of cross country skiing, try visiting Clingmans Dome Road. Clingmans Dome is closed for the winter to motorized vehicles. The road is never plowed and has some of the best snow conditions around for cross country skiing. This is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and offers beautiful scenery. Since it gets fewer visitors in the winter, you may just have the mountaintop all to yourself.
See the Christmas Parade
On December 3rd at 7:30, you’ll be able to see one of the best Christmas parades in the country. The Parade starts on Baskins Creek Bypass on East Parkway and will make it’s way through downtown Gatlingburg, ending at stop light #10. You’ll see incredible marching bands, balloons, dancers, floats and musicians at this award winning parade. Pick your spot on the parkway and enjoy!
Go Shopping Downtown
One of THE BEST things to enjoy in Gatlinburg is all of the amazing shopping! Take a walk down the strip and shop to your hearts content. You’ll see leather work, quilts, pottery, old fashioned furniture, handmade jewelry, woven baskets, paintings, and more. You’ll also find the Mountain Mall which is home to Paws and Claws Pet Fashion and the Sock Shop. There really is something for everyone.
Visit the Gatlinburg Skylift Park
Take the SkyLift conveniently from downtown Gatlinburg up to the Skylift Park to see beautiful wintertime mountain views. You can enjoy a snack or a beer at the summit. Then take a walk across the SkyBridge. At 700 feet long and 140 feet in the air, the bridge offers incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains.
Check Out Fun Indoor Activities
If the chilly weather is not for you, there’s no shortage of fun indoor activities in the area. Your kids will love the super fun trampoline park in Pigeon Forge, TopJump! No trip to downtown Gatlinburg would be complete without a trip through the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. Why not catch a dinner mystery show like the Who Shot the Sheriff Murder Mystery in Pigeon Forge? Get your brain working and your heart pumping at an escape room like Breakout Games in Gatlingburg. You will not run out of stuff to do!
Warm Up With a Tour of Local Distilleries
Visit “The Holler” in Gatlinburg to try out all the flavors from Ole Smoky Moonshine. It is the country’s most visited distillery and it’s it’s easy to see why! They offer samples at the distillery every day from 10 Am to 11 PM. You can also reserve a guided tour to get the behind the scenes look! If you’d prefer bourbon to moonshine, you can always book a tour of another local favorite, the Log Still Distillery. You can visit their tasting room to get a taste of some really amazing Kentucky Bourbon. Gatlingburg and Pigeon Forge also host a ton of other Wine and Spirits tours for the connoisseur in your family. We can’t think of a better way to warm up in the winter!
See a Show in Pigeon Forge
If you love laughs, why not try to catch a show at the Comedy Barn! If you love Magic, try out Steven’s Best Magic Shows. You can see tribute shows to Elvis, Conway Twitty and Red Skelton. If there’s an entertainment junkie in your group, you can definitely find a show for them in Pigeon Forge.
Hang Out at Your Beautiful Mountain Cabin
What better way to spend a winter time vacation with family and friends, than in your private mountain cabin. Sit by the fire and talk with family and loved ones. Sip a glass of wine while hanging out in the hot tub with your closest friends. Enjoy the amazing mountain views from the windows while you enjoy the warmth inside. Take a look at everything our gorgeous luxury cabins have to offer and book an enchanting winter vacation with us!