Experience the Winterfest Lights
Every winter, Sevier County becomes a winter wonderland with more than 5 million lights brightening the night. Now in its 31st year, Winterfest has become one of the most anticipated celebrations in the Smokies. Wherever you drive in the county, you’re sure to see many stunning light displays. Businesses get in on the fun, too. You can see amazing arrangements at The Old Mill, The Island, Dolly Parton’s Stampede and so many more! The city of Pigeon Forge publishes a Winterfest Driving Tour Map that YOU CAN DOWNLOAD HERE that will take you through all the best lights in the city.
Take a Winter Hike Through the Smoky Mountains
There is truly something special about hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the winter. Many people probably think hiking in the winter sounds too cold, but there are some things in the park you can only see in the winter! So bundle up and check out the distant views from the Smokies!
The winter reveals lots of things that are usually hidden. Since the trees are bare in the winter, you can see much farther into the woods while you’re hiking. It gives you the feeling of walking through a wide open space. Also, during the winter, you will have a better chance of viewing wildlife without leaves obscuring the vision.
You’ll also get the chance to see some artifacts you probably missed in the summer and spring seasons. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has the largest collection of human artifacts out of all the national parks. But, many of these artifacts are hidden by the foliage most of the year.
Not to mention all the amazing things you’ll see on a winter hike, there are other perks to hiking this season. Because so many people are turned away from falling temperatures, you won’t have to navigate the large crowds during the busier spring and summer months. The trails are quiet, serene, and offer a better chance of reflection.
If you do decide to tackle a winter hike, make sure you’re prepared. Higher elevations in the park can experience sudden snow, icy conditions and sudden dropping temperatures. Vesna Plakanis from A WALK IN THE WOODS reminds winter hikers to dress in layers that keep you warm and dry, and to drink lots of water. Another thing to consider is road closures. Several secondary roads in the park close in the winter, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE NATIONAL PARK’S WEBSITE FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF ROAD CLOSURES. Preparation is key, but a properly planned winter hike can be magical!
Take a Guided Tour Through the Smokies
Do you want to explore the Smokies but don’t want to deal with the stress of driving or picking a trail to explore? That stress can be especially high in the winter when dealing with snowy or icy conditions. Well, why not take a guided tour through the Smoky Mountains? It takes all the guesswork and stress out of traveling. Worrying about where to stop? Your guide has it covered. Looking for a sight to see off the beaten path? Your guide knows all the spots. Guide services can help connect you with anything you need to have a great vacation, from securing lodging and restaurant reservations to securing tickets to the best attractions. If you’re looking for an amazing guide service to take you and your family through the Smokies, be sure to check out the following chamber members:
With holiday deals, after-Christmas sales and winter offerings, winter is the perfect time of year to do some shopping! It can get you out of the cold and offer a fun respite from outside. Also, just like hiking in the winter, you will be dealing with smaller crowds. This makes for a calmer shopping experience. There are lots of places in the Smokies where you can find many shops concentrated in one area, like TANGER OUTLETS. Tanger Outlets in Sevierville offers your favorite brands in one spot so you don’t have to spend a long in the cold before heading to your next shop!
Explore the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
The GREAT SMOKY ARTS AND CRAFTS COMMUNITY is the largest collection of crafters and traditional artists in the United States. On their 8-mile loop in Gatlinburg, TN, you’ll have the opportunity to visit over 200 different businesses focused on specific traditional arts. From soap makers to woodworkers to glass blowers and potters, the only limit to what you’ll find in the community is the time you have to spend there.
The community and 8 mile loop is open during the winter. And, visiting in the winter is especially fun. The drive on the loop is already scenic in other seasons, but the white on the trees and nip in the air make it extra beautiful. Many businesses in the community regularly offer demos to show off their skills or even classes to teach you how to do what they do. Be sure to check out this amazing community this winter, and see what all they have to offer.
Have a Winter Adventure at Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg is the ultimate destination for a winter adventure in the Smokies. For many people, winter in the Smokies means one thing: skiing and snowboarding at Ober Gatlinburg. The slopes at Ober tentatively opens during the holiday season and continues throughout the winter. There are 10 different ski trails at the park with varying levels of difficulty. Everyone, from beginners to experts, can have a great time!
If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, the folks at Ober also offer lessons from experts in the field. Not up for skiing, but still love the snow? Snow tubing is a great option for everyone – there’s nothing like zipping down the huge hill on an intertube! When you’re done hitting the slopes, you still have so much to do. Your family can head inside to check out the plethora of shops, the food court, or even go ice skating and try out the ice bumper cars!
Take a Scenic Drive Through Cades Cove in the Winter
Anyone who has driven through CADES COVE knows that is one of the most beautiful parts of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But, in the winter, there is a special beauty to Cades Cove that you won’t find any other time of the year. One of the most popular things to do is to take a winter drive. Cades Cove is situated on an 11-mile one-way loop road that gives you the chance to sightsee at a leisurely pace. Along the way, there are plenty of pull-offs if you want to stop and take in the scenery. You’ll definitely want to take your time. With the bare trees of winter, you have a much greater chance of seeing some of the wildlife that calls the cove home. Some of the animals you could potentially see include black bears, white-tail deer, coyotes, turkeys, and more!
One of the coolest things about Cades Cove at any time of the year is the history. Cades Cove has a plethora of historic sites from the early European settlers to the area as well as evidence of the original hunters of the cove: the Cherokee. Some of the many historical sites include three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and several other restored buildings. You can grab a self-guiding tour booklet at the start of the cove that discusses the history of the area.
Like we indicated earlier in our list, winter hiking is an awesome activity. And, Cades Cove has no shortage of fun winter hikes. Two hikes of particular interest are Abrams Falls and the Middle Prong Trail. Abrams Falls is a five mile, moderately strenuous hike that culminates with the titular waterfall. Although Abrams Falls is only 20 feet tall, the massive volume of water that rushes over makes up for it! The Middle Prong Trail is considered one of the best waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. You’ll pass by three major waterfalls, several smaller falls, cataracts, and cascades. Winter is the only time when you’ll have a chance to see beautiful frozen waterfalls while hiking the Middle Prong Trail.
Take a Spin on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
Whenever you visit riding the iconic Great Smoky Mountain Wheel is a must. Riding the wheel is fun any time of year. But, when you ride in the winter, you have the chance to see the beautiful mountains blanketed with snow. There’s nothing like experiencing a bird’s eye view of Pigeon Forge during a winter snow shower. If you’re worried about the cold, don’t stress. Each pod that you ride in on the wheel is climate controlled, meaning you can have a comfortable ride any time of year!
View Nighttime Winterfest Lights from the Sky
You can now experience the magic of Winterfest from a one-of-a-kind point of view! Scenic Helicopters will launch its Winterfest Night Flight tours in conjunction with Pigeon Forge’s Smoky Mountain Winterfest. This guided tour will fly you over the cities of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge
on your way to see the millions of twinkling lights of Dollywood and The Island. Scenic’s pilots are your helicopter adventure guides, providing their unique perspective of the cities and lights below.
Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Rain or shine, snow or sun, there’s never a bad time to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. This immersive facility is regularly recognized as one of the top aquariums in the United States. And, in 2016, it was named by USA Today as the best place in the US to see penguins! There are so many exhibits to explore and animals to see, that you could spend the entire day at Ripley’s and still have more to do. In addition to their exhibits, the aquarium regularly hosts special events, such as divers heading into the shark tank to feed the fish. Once you’re done checking out the fish, the kids can enjoy the aquarium’s new gigantic indoor playground! If you’re looking to escape the cold and still have an adventure, Ripley’s is the place to go.
Whether you’ve been to Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains dozens of times or never at all, you’re in for more fun and excitement that ever before in 2019. From new attractions and thrill rides to peaceful hikes in the mountains, there is truly something to do for everyone.
Here is a list of some of our top suggestions for 2019:
Dollywood’s New Wildwood Grove – Opening this spring 2019, Dollywood’s biggest expansion ever top our list of one of the main things to do this year. In addition to new restaurants, shopping, and an indoor play area, Wildwood Grove features several new and exciting rides, including The Dragonflier roller coaster, Treetop Tower, Mad Mockingbird, and Benjamin Bear.
All New Family-Fun Dinner Shows – Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains are home to some incredible live entertainment, including some of the best dinner shows in the country. Topping our list in 2019 is the brand new Pirates Voyage Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge. Modeled after their sister show in Myrtle Beach, the show boasts to include exciting acrobatics competitions, state-of-the-art special effects, live animals, and a 15-foot-deep indoor lagoon. Other area dinner shows that are equally as good are Dolly Parton’s Stampede and Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show.
Gatlinburg Skybridge – Located at the top of the Gatlinburg Sky Lift, the new Gatlinburg Skybridge will be the longest pedestrian suspension in North America and will boast breathtaking views of downtown Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition, the new development also features a mountain top shopping village.
Dave and Buster’s – If you’ve never been to a Dave and Buster’s, you’re in for a real treat. Think super arcade with awesome food and beverages for all ages – a true family-fun experience for the whole family. Dave and Buster’s is set to open in early spring 2019 across from Tanger Outlets Sevierville.
Hike the Smokies – Not everything in the Smokies comes with a cost, and that definitely holds true to hiking in the Smokies. With over 800 miles of official hiking trails, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be enjoyed by all – from beginners looking for a leisurely hike to more advanced hikers looking for a real challenge with extreme difficulty. For more information, visit http://nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/hiking.htm
The Island in Pigeon Forge – Quickly becoming one of the must-sees in Pigeon Forge, The Island features a 23-acres destination in the heart of Pigeon Forge. From fabulous dining to unique shopping and entertainment, The Island offers plenty of fun for everyone. You’ll definitely want to take a ride on the 200-foot-high Great Smoky Mountain Wheel and take in the sights and sounds of the dancing fountain show.
Celebrate your Smoky Mountain Christmas this season at the most festive attraction in the Smokies! With the brightest lights and newest additions to the park along with your favorites, your family will enjoy all the fun this festival has to offer. See the park transform into a winter wonderland and enjoy all your favorite rides, shows, food , and more! Experience DOLLYWOOD’S SMOKY MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS from November 10th through January 5th.
Exciting New Additions
The largest christmas expansion is here and glowing all season long! Experience the all new Glacier Ridge, a fantastical winter wonderland packed with lights and displays. Not only are there dazzling lights, but also, see the beautiful 50 foot video motion christmas tree that will make your spirits extra bright!
Tis The Season of Show Stopping Performances
Your favorite stories will come to life through the many productions at Dollywood. Smoky Mountain Christmas brings you your FAVORITE SHOWS including, It’s A Wonderful Life, Christmas in The Smokies, Dreamland Drive- In, and so many more. Celebrate the season with festive music, dancing, and cheer!
Parade of Many Colors
Grab a blanket and some hot cocoa! It’s time for the much loved Parade of Many Colors! In addition to the shows, this tradition is a favorite for all those, young and old, to celebrate the season and dazzling light displays. The Parade of Many Colors begins at 8:15 pm each night during the Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. Watch as the light studded floats and characters move through the park to entertain each and every visitor.
Grab the family to head to Dollywood this season for the Smoky Mountain Christmas festival! Seasonal favorites of holiday food, games, shows, and lights make the season bright and merry. Plan your christmas visit and grab your tickets today! VISIT DOLLYWOOD!
Autumn is finally here and we know what that means – gorgeous fall colors! Now that the fall equinox has passed, it is officially fall in the Great Smoky Mountains. So, while temperatures begin to cool, there’s a few things everyone needs to know to help them plan the perfect fall getaway.
Beginning in late September, the leaves in the higher elevations begin to change and like a waterfall cascading down the mountain will continue to change to the lower valleys as the days progress through the month of October. Typically, the middle two weeks of October are peak in the mountains, Pigeon Forge has brilliant colors typically through the end of the month.
Here are a few places that we recommend visitors go now to see the leaves before the peak of the season comes.
Newfound Gap Road
There is no questioning Newfound Gap Road’s popularity throughout the fall season, however for visitors traveling to the Smoky Mountains in mid-fall it is key to point out that you can still drive along this road and see some of the leaves changing colors at one of the many overlook stops. While driving on this Smoky Mountain driving trail, be sure to stop and see the Franklin D. Roosevelt and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., memorial on the Tennessee-North Carolina state line.
Clingmans Dome is the tallest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From its observation deck, visitors can see upwards of 100 miles away on a clear day. Thanks to the high elevation that this deck has, Clingmans Dome is one of the first places guests can go to see the Smoky Mountains fall colors begin to change.
Cades Cove is hands down one of the most popular areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An area that is known for its beauty year round, we encourage guests to drive the loop road when the leaves are at their peak. If you want to capture the true majestic beauty of the Smoky Mountains fall colors, you will see them from Cades Cove.
The peaceful mountain hideaway located between Pigeon Forge and Townsend, the Wears Valley area of the Smoky Mountains is a great place for families to go who are looking to a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle. This area is best-known for it’s rolling mountain view and quiet nature.
Millions of annual visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains and the neighboring, popular tourist destinations of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville know one thing for sure: The Smoky Mountains offer some of the best scenic drives in the U.S.
Cades Cove Scenic Loop
At the top of our list of best scenic drives in the Smokies is Cades Cove. Featuring a one-way, 11-mile loop around a spectacular, picturesque valley full of natural and wildlife, Cades Cove is chock full of things to see and experience unlike anywhere else on the planet. Surrounded by mountains, Cades Cove offers rare wildlife viewing opportunities, including white-tail deer, black bear, coyotes, ground hogs, turkeys, raccoon, and more.
Along the drive through Cades Cove, sightseers will also come across some of the historical structures – log homes, churches, barns – that were left by the area’s early settlers after the National Park was formed and their homeland purchased. Many of these structures are open to the public.
In addition to exploring the historical buildings, there are many places to pull off the side of the road or park to take in the great outdoors. Many visitors take picnic baskets while others make a day of it and go for a hike on one of the park’s trails. Abrams Falls is one of the best.
Traffic during the peak months of the year, including summer and fall, can make driving the loop a little slow and leisurely, so it’s best to allow at least 2-3 hours to tour the entire 11-mile loop. There are a couple shortcut roads to shorten the trip, though, for those who want to limit their time a little.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Named after a beautiful mountain stream, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a short, easy-to-get-to drive for anyone vacationing in the Smokies. Just a short drive from downtown Gatlinburg, this 5.5-mile one-way loop road is a favorite by many visiting the area. Along the scenic drive, visitors enjoy coming across rushing mountain streams, old log cabins from original settlers, like the Ogles, and, of course, native wildlife.
Another reason people choose to drive Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail it to access the trailhead for Rainbow Falls, which is one of the most popular waterfalls and trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
When planning a trip to Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains, many – you worry about what to do with their babies – their fur babies, that is. Fortunately, the area has a ton of pet-friendly things to do just like it has pet-friendly hotels like our La Quinta Inn & Suites Pigeon Forge.
Over the next few months, we’ll share with you inside tips on things to do with your pet while on vacation in the Smokies – in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville. Here’s one of our first pet-friendly tip:
Your pets with LOVE Doggywood at Dollywood (Yes, Doggywood 🙂 )
Over three millions visitors make Dollywood part of the family vacation each year. However, many of those visitors have no idea what to do with your pet all day while at the park. Although your fur baby is not a allowed inside the park, Doggywood at Dollywood is a furtastic place for your dog to spend the day. Doggywood offers twelve Kennel Runs (4’ x 6’) and four Cottages (approximately 5’ x 5’). What if you have than one dog? No worries. They have kennels that the two can share.
Doggywood is open the same hours as the park, and you can drop them off 30-minutes prior to the park opening. Click here for tickets to Dollywood.
Vacations are all about relaxing, having fun, and, of course, shopping! Here are our Top 10 places to shop on your next trip to the Smokies:
Tanger Outlets, Address/Map, 2.0 Miles Away, 800-408-8377
The Island, Address/Map, 0.8 Miles Away, 865-286-0119
Rocky Top Harley Davidson, Address/Map, 0.4 Miles Away, 865-774-3445
Christmas Place, Address/Map, 0.3 Miles Away, 800-445-3396
Smoky Mountain Knife Works, Address/Map, 9.8 Miles Away, 865-453-5871
Old Mill General Store, Address/Map, 2.0 Miles Away, 865-428-0771
Three Bears General Store, Address/Map, 1.3 Miles Away, 800-867-2272
Stages West, Address/Map, 0.8 Miles Away, 865-453-8086
Lid’l Dolly’s Dresses, Address/Map, 1.1 Miles Away, 865-429-4867
Thomas Kinkade Gallery & Gifts, Address/Map, 3.0 Miles Away, 865-366-3266
Whether you’re an adventure junkie or someone who likes a little thrill, the Smoky Mountain area boasts some of the best ziplining experiences in the country. It’s also a fantastic way to experience our mountain area up close and personal for some of the best views around.
Here are three of our favorite ziplining adventure parks to choose from that offer safe, fun experiences for people of all ages and skill levels.
Climbworks Canopy provides guests with an incredible 2 ½ hour guided adventure in the treetops. The nine ziplines are connected by sky bridges providing amazing views and the thrill of a lifetime.
One of the first ziplines in the area, Foxfire Mountain is a fantastic outdoor adventure park that’s easy to get to and great for ages 8 and up. The two tour features seven ziplines, a swinging bridge and ATV rides. The tours includes two certified guides and doesn’t require any climbing. They also offer other packages, including whitewater rafting combos.
Gatlinburg Zip Lines Adventure Park
Boasting the area’s largest age range, Gatlinburg Zip Lines Adventure Park offers an adventure for everyone ages five to 75. Like the other, certified guides ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, and are there to tour you for 1 ½ hours over nine ziplines. The park also features a sky bridge, and views that overlook downtown Gatlinburg.
Wears Valley Zip Line Adventures
If height is what you’re looking for, then Wear Valley Zip Line Adventures has you covered with the highest zip line in the Smokies. Located between Pigeon Forge and Townsend, this popular outdoor park offers spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains and is easy to get to for a short adventure.