20 Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg in December (Winter 2023)

snow tubing runs

Are you planning a trip to the Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge area during the winter season Downtown Gatlinburg and the communities around the Smoky Mountains are the perfect places to visit to get into the holiday spirit.

With snow activities, Christmas lights, live entertainment, and Santa sightings, Gatlinburg is a great place to enjoy the holiday season with the whole family! In this post, we’ll provide our top picks for the best things to do in Gatlinburg in December.

Some of these special events even run through the entire winter season, beginning in November and running all the way through February. Check out the best Christmas and winter activities in Gatlinburg below, so you don’t miss out on any of the festivities!

Winter at Ober Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg is home to lots of fun winter activities. Visitors can catch the aerial tramway in downtown Gatlinburg to ride to the top of the mountain.

snow tubing runs

Once they arrive, guests will find all sorts of fun things to do, including snow tubing, skiing, ice skating, mountain coaster, ice bumper cars, wildlife encounter, Cubbies Snow Zone play area, and a carousel. We will provide more details on these fun winter activities below:

Snowboard and Ski Slopes 

Visitors to Ober Gatlinburg can purchase tickets for downhill skiing and snowboarding, which include access to the slopes and lifts. Lessons and equipment are available at an additional charge. Since snow in Tennessee can be unpredictable, the ski season usually doesn’t open until sometime in December through March.

Snow Tubing

Available at Ober Gatlinburg during the winter season, snow tubing is one of the best outdoor activities for even the younger kids. The “outdoor escalator” takes tubers back to the top of the hill after each slide, so guests don’t have to worry about hiking back up. Ober Gatlinburg typically offers snow tubing beginning the Saturday before Thanksgiving through March.

Ski Mountain Coaster

Conveniently located at Ober Gatlinburg, the ski mountain coaster is a fan favorite. Visitors can reach speeds up to 25 mph as they enjoy the beautiful views while riding the ski mountain coaster.

Ice Skating

Located indoors at Ober Gatlinburg, the ice-skating rink is the perfect spot to escape the cold weather conditions in the winter months.

people ice skating

The large rink features a handrail so even first-time skaters can put their minds at ease while enjoying this popular winter activity.

Ice Bumper Cars

In addition to skiing and ice skating, Ober Gatlinburg offers ice bumper cars for guests to enjoy. The circular cars slide around on wheels on the ice and are a great time for the entire family!

Enchanted Winter at Anakeesta

Visitors to downtown Gatlinburg’s Anakeesta can take in all the fun of its winter wonderland adventure known as Enchanted Christmas. This event, which runs from November 10-January 1, features light displays, live music, hot chocolate, and more! 

Astra Lumina

Astra Lumina at Anakeesta is the first of the Enchanted Night Walk series in the United States. This journey through the stars is an additional fee to your Anakeesta ticket.

Santa’s Village

Santa’s Village at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies takes place starting at the end of November through Christmas Eve. Families visiting the aquarium during the Christmas season can have their picture taken with Santa. Children also receive souvenirs from this annual event.

Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show

The Hatfield and McCoy Christmas Disaster and Dinner Feud is a popular event each holiday season. Guests can enjoy a southern meal as they’re entertained by the antics of these feuding families. This seasonal dinner show takes place nightly November 1, 2023 – January 5, 2024.

Winterfest at The Island

Located just outside of Gatlinburg, The Island in Pigeon Forge is fun to visit year-round. With a giant tree lighting event in mid-November, The Island gears up for the Christmas season with loads of light displays and decorations.

ferris wheel at the island pigeon forge

The Island Fountain Show shouldn’t be missed as the fountains and trees dance to your favorite tunes. Winterfest at The Island runs from November 18, 2023 through January 5, 2024.

Lights over Gatlinburg

This annual event takes place at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. Guests can enjoy holiday lights, including dancing trees and a tunnel of lights. Visitors will also find many photo ops available at this super popular event. The Lights over Gatlinburg event runs from November 9, 2023 through January 31, 2024.

Pigeon Forge Christmas Show at Country Tonite

Take in all the sights and sounds of the holidays at the Pigeon Forge Christmas Show at Country Tonite. Guests are awed by the Christmas decorations, holiday songs, amazing choreography, and special guests like Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas is an annual event that begins in early November and runs through the new year. Visitors can enjoy all kinds of special entertainment that is sure to get them in the Christmas spirit. With Christmas lights, fireworks shows, seasonal live shows, and holiday inspired food, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas is a must-do activity to add to your list.

Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights

Gatlinburg goes all-out during the winter season by decorating the town with millions of lights.

Christmas Lights in the sky above Christmas tree

Visitors can drive along the Parkway to enjoy the beautiful display of lights, or they can board the downtown trolley to view the lights. 

Pigeon Forge Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights

Similar to the Gatlinburg Ride of Lights (minus the trolley), Pigeon Forge features its own Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights. This Christmas lights display begins in early November and runs through February.

Gatlinburg Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

The annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade is held on the first Friday in December. Visitors can watch the parade full of floats and Christmas lights, which starts at Baskins Creek Bypass and East Parkway. Santa himself even makes an appearance!

Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Get into the spirit of Christmas at Dolly Parton’s Stampede show. Guests are treated to a four-course meal prepared and served by elves from the North Pole. Visitors will love the holiday decorations and festivities at this popular Christmas season event, which starts on November 1 of this year.

Christmas Shopping

Stop by the Village Shoppes in Gatlinburg to shop for gifts to mark off your Christmas list.

two females in winter clothes with shopping bags

This unique shopping area features lots of fun stores like Toy Crazy, which features a large selection of items for kids.

Gatlinburg New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show

This annual New Year’s Eve celebration takes place at the Gatlinburg Space Needle. The Gatlinburg New Year’s Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show is a free event that includes live entertainment.

New Year’s Eve at The Island

The Island in Pigeon Forge features its own New Year’s celebration complete with midnight fireworks. This annual event is free to the public.

Best Places to Stay near Gatlinburg

If you’re headed to the Gatlinburg area this holiday season, you may be searching for the best places to stay. We highly recommend checking out Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. This upscale hotel offers an indoor pool, several restaurants, holiday decorations, and Christmas entertainment.

dollywood dreammore resort hotel

If you’re looking for a hotel closer to the downtown Gatlinburg area, these are our top picks from Expedia:

You could also choose to book a beautiful cabin or vacation home in the Smoky Mountains for your vacation. These vacation homes feature desirable amenities like private pools, game rooms, hot tubs, and more.

Final Thoughts on Gatlinburg in December

Overall, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to spend time during both the fall season and the winter holiday season. With so many family-friendly attractions in Gatlinburg and entertainment options, you could spend a whole week in the Smokies and still not see it all.

pictures of winter activities with text overlay 20 Best Activities in Winter Gatlinburg

If you’re planning a visit to the Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge area this Christmas season, we hope you have a magical time enjoying all the festive activities!

So, what do you think? What are the best things to do in Gatlinburg in December? Comment below to share with us!

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