20 Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg in December (Winter 2022)
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!
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Ski slopes tend to open in mid-December, but the other snow activities (Snow Zone and snow tubing) usually open in late November.
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.
Located indoors at Ober Gatlinburg, the ice-skating rink is the perfect spot to escape the cold weather conditions in the winter months.
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 Winter.
This event features light displays, live music, hot chocolate, and more!
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 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.
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.
The Island Fountain Show shouldn’t be missed as the fountains and trees dance to your favorite tunes.
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 typically runs from early November through the month of January.
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.
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.
Stop by the Village Shoppes in Gatlinburg to shop for gifts to mark off your Christmas list.
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.
If you’re looking for a hotel closer to the downtown Gatlinburg area, these are our top picks:
- Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg – Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is a family friendly hotel featuring balconies and outdoor pools with a water slide.
- Bearskin Lodge on the River – Bearskin Lodge on the River features family-friendly rooms and a seasonal outdoor pool.
- Courtyard by Marriott Gatlinburg Downtown – Courtyard by Marriott sits in an ideal location in downtown Gatlinburg and boasts a pool and onsite restaurant.
- Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg – Hilton Garden Inn in Gatlinburg features amenities like an indoor pool, hot tub, onsite restaurant, and balconies.
- Holiday Inn Express Gatlinburg Downtown – Holiday Inn Express in Gatlinburg offers family friendly amenities like free breakfast, an indoor pool, and water slides.
You could also choose to book a beautiful cabin or vacation home in the Smoky Mountains for your vacation.
Our post on the best vacation rentals in the Smokies features our top picks for the most family-friendly spots in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
These vacation homes feature desirable amenities like private pools, game rooms, hot tubs, and more.
You can check out the VRBO website for a huge selection of vacation rentals in the Smoky Mountains.
Final Thoughts on Gatlinburg in December
Overall, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to spend time during both the fall season and the holiday season.
With so many family-friendly attractions and entertainment options, you could spend a whole week in the Smokies and still not see it all.
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!
Visiting in January or February? Check out our list of Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg in Winter!
So, what do you think?
What are the best things to do in Gatlinburg in December?
Comment below to share with us!