Gatlinburg has been a tourist destination for some 75 years, but for much of that time, the city was primarily a summertime stop. However, for nearly 25 years, folks have been flocking to Gatlinburg and its nearby Great Smoky Mountains during what was traditionally referred to as the "off season." That off season isn't as off as it used to be thanks to Winterfest, a four-month-long celebration of winter that is observed in Gatlinburg as well as in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.
Winterfest in Gatlinburg kicks off every year in early November with the annual Gatlinburg Winter Magic event. Taking place downtown, the celebration includes a chili cook-off complete with live entertainment. That's also when the city's Trolley Ride of Light tours get underway. These special trolleys take visitors all over the city in heated comfort, giving them up-close views of the millions of LED lights and dozens of custom-designed displays. Rides cost $5 per person and embark from the city's mass transit center at traffic light #5, nightly through the end of the year.
And that's just the beginning of four magical months in this charming alpine village in the Smokies. Another highlight of Winterfest are several different crafts events, two of which are presented by the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Show has its Thanksgiving presentation in late November, while the Christmas event runs late November into early December. Craft magic also shines in late November at the annual Festival of Trees. Surrounded by the twinkling lights and sounds and smells of the holidays, guests can shop handmade centerpieces and craft items surrounded by hundreds of festive Christmas trees.
During Winter Magic Tunes & Tales—late November through late December—visitors can meet costumed characters, storytellers and carolers along the Parkway on Friday and Saturday evenings. At Christmas on Ice in early December, local skaters display their talents to the sounds of holiday music in a performance at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort's ice arena. And at the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, also in early December, thousands of holiday revelers line the downtown Parkway to get a glimpse of this classic hometown holiday parade, which has been a tradition for nearly 40 years.
Finally, you can ring in the new year at the annual New Year's Eve Ball Drop And Fireworks Show at the intersection of Parkway and Historic Nature Trail at the base of the Space Needle. Count down to midnight and share in the celebration with tens of thousands of your closest friends. Before making any Winterfest travel plans, however, be sure to browse our web site for our wide selection of rental cabins in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville.