Stretching across the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, the Smoky Mountains region provides a year-round vacation destination for countless tourists from around the world.
Yet the best time to visit the Smokies is always at Christmas. The Smoky Mountains come alive with festivities for the whole family, creating a special Christmas experience you can’t find anywhere else.
If you’re planning to come to the Smokies this holiday season, be sure to check out our list of 10 things to do in the Smoky Mountains at Christmas!
1. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
Named after Dolly Parton, arguably the region’s most famous resident, Dollywood provides year-round fun and thrills, but none better than at Christmas. This family-friendly amusement park becomes 130 acres of Christmas spectacle you won’t want to miss with its Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration.
In addition to its year-round rides, the park boasts over 5 million Christmas lights to explore, plus an extravaganza of holiday festivities:
- Merry and Bright Fireworks Spectacular
- Festive live shows
- Christmas Parade of Many Colors
- 50-ft video motion Christmas tree
- Visits with Santa and Rudolph
- Family craft-making experiences
2. Christmas at Biltmore
There is something spectacular about visiting Biltmore, America’s largest home, at Christmastime. Located outside of Asheville, NC, the entire Biltmore estate becomes a magnificent wonderland of Christmas splendor.
A visit to this sprawling estate is a must for your Smoky Mountain Christmas experience. Taking a step back in time, you’ll experience holiday opulence never seen before in this 250-room mansion.
With over 100 Christmas trees with 10,000 ornaments and 100,000 holiday lights, touring the Biltmore is beautiful day or night. Be sure to visit the majestic Christmas tree on the main lawn with camera in hand!
3. Snow at Ober Gatlinburg
While you can often experience snow in the Smokies, Ober Gatlinburg is one of the few places you can ski on it! Even when snow isn’t in the forecast, Ober Gatlinburg can actually make it, allowing visitors to enjoy festive winter activities on its slopes during the holidays.
Located in the heart of Gatlinburg, visitors can ski, snowboard, snow tube, and go ice skating. A ride on the aerial tramway is also an excellent choice, allowing for wonderful mountain views.
4. Christmas Cider at Carver’s Apple Orchard
You’ll encounter a hidden gem when you visit the quieter side of the Smokies in Cosby, TN–Carver’s Apple Orchard. Here you can experience the Smoky Mountains’ simple country pleasures at this family-run farm serving the community since the 1940s.
With the Christmas cider season upon us, Carver’s Apple Orchard is the perfect place to get some freshly made Smoky Mountain apple cider, straight from the source! Be sure to grab some locally grown apples and other produce, as well as apple jam or homemade apple pie for Christmas dinner.
If you’re hungry for some tasty Southern comfort food, eat at Carver’s Applehouse Restaurant while you’re there. You’ll get some impressive views of the orchard’s rolling hills too.
5. Outdoor Christmas at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you’re needing a break from the twinkling lights and bevy of festivities, exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park should be at the top of your list. As America’s most-visited national park, there is something for everyone to explore.
Especially beautiful when snow covers the mountains, visitors will love the vast wilderness, plethora of hiking trails, and animal sightings. It’s easy to reflect on the peace and serenity of the holiday season with the solitude you can find in the park.
While you could spend days in the national park, I recommend visiting Clingman’s Dome, the highest peak in Tennessee, which is easily accessed by car. Another favorite, especially for animal sightings and history, is a morning drive along Cades Cove.
6. A Bryson City Christmas
For a real small town Christmas feel in the Smokies, be sure to check out Bryson City, NC. Here, you’ll experience several must-see events for your Christmas in the Smoky Mountains visit:
- Visit the Old Appalachian Toymaker – see wooden toys made the old-fashioned way and hear holiday stories told by the old toymaker at Bryson City’s Storytelling Center
- Ride the Polar Express Train – take a mountain ride on an authentic train and see Santa while experiencing the magic of The Polar Express story
- See the town Christmas tree – wander through downtown Bryson City for some charming shopping and dining, as well as its photo-worthy town Christmas tree
7. Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies
You can’t visit the Smoky Mountains without hearing the twang of a banjo and experiencing the culture of authentic local bluegrass music. As the holidays near, the Bluegrass Christmas in the Smokies music festival allows visitors to enjoy live holiday music, Smoky Mountains-style.
For over a decade, this holiday music festival has delighted hundreds of fans each year with a full lineup of talented Bluegrass bands. Located in the heart of Pigeon Forge, TN, festival-goers can also enjoy an extravaganza of shops and restaurants nearby.
8. Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland
Looking for some fantastic Christmas light displays? You’ll want to check out Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland in Sevierville, TN.
This popular holiday tradition allows visitors to drive through hundreds of thousands of twinkling Christmas lights crafted in a multitude of festive scenes, all synchronized to music. You can experience these wondrous lights without leaving your car!
The festivities continue by exploring Santa’s Village on foot. Here you can enjoy deep-fried s’mores and other treats, make fun crafts, ride ponies, and visit Santa.
9. Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries
The historic town of Dillsboro, NC completely transforms into a winter wonderland each December with Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries. Make a trip out to this community celebration and experience a picturesque town covered in 2,500 candle luminaries along its streets and shops.
Shops open late for some charming Christmas shopping, and Santa makes an appearance too. Visitors can enjoy warm cocoa and holiday treats as they wander the town while listening to live music and carolers.
Dillsboro Lights & Luminaries provides a restful reprieve for your Smoky Mountain Christmas visit, full of nostalgia that will remind you of Christmases past. Be sure to stay for a horse and buggy ride to see all the lights and festive ambience!
10. Great Smoky Holiday Arts & Crafts Festival
The Smoky Mountains have a rich history as a destination for local artisans and craftspeople. If you’re looking for the chance to do some Christmas shopping for unique, handmade gifts, you’ve come to the right place.
You’ll have no better opportunity to find handcrafted holiday gifts than the Great Smoky Holiday Arts & Crafts Festival in Gatlinburg, TN. Here you can find special gifts made with centuries-old techniques from local artisans.
You can get something for everyone here that will make a great Christmas in the Smoky Mountains souvenir sure to warm the heart.
Did we miss any of your favorite things to do in the Smoky Mountains at Christmas?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more to the list!