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winter in the Smoky Mountains

8 Fun Ways to Celebrate Smoky Mountain Winterfest

Winter is one of our favorite seasons! Why? It is the one time of year that combines two of our favorite things: Christmas and the Smoky Mountains! There are so many great Smoky Mountain Winterfest 2023 events, it can be hard to keep track of everything going on. Below is a list of a few events that we are most looking forward to celebrating this year.

1. Gatlinburg’s Chili Cookoff

bowls of chiliTo kick off Winterfest in Gatlinburg, the city is holding its popular Chili Cookoff! The Chili Cookoff takes place on Thursday, November 9th from 5 to 8 p.m. in downtown Gatlinburg. During this annual event, local restaurants offer unique, homemade chili samples, and you’ll get to vote on which chili you like the best! There will also be live entertainment by On The Border, The Ultimate Eagles Tribute Band starting at 6 p.m. The event will take place in the Shade Tree Parking Lot in front of the at 120 Airport Road. General admission tickets are $20 dollar per person and will be sold at the event. However, you can also buy tickets in advance.


2. Sevierville Winterfest

Though Sevierville does not hold a kick-off event for Winterfest, the lights will shine bright beginning on November 10th!  Bring all of your family and friends to Sevierville to take in the millions of twinkling lights and get into the holiday spirit! Sevierville is once again teaming up with Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg to present more than 15 million lights in a 25-mile stretch of road. During this time of year, visitors can enjoy Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at Soaky Mountain Waterpark and Skyland’s Festival of Lights at the Ranch at SkyLand Ranch.

3. Pigeon Forge Winterfest

Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest begins on November 9th when over 5 million holiday lights are turned on and will illuminate the area throughout the winter season. The stunning lights will remain on until February 18. Be sure to take part in the Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights along the Pigeon Forge Parkway! A drive down the Parkway will allow you to see the 12 Days of Christmas in lights and more beautiful Christmas displays.

4. Christmas Fun at The Island

The Island in Pigeon Forge at WinterfestThe Island in Pigeon Forge is home to some of the very best holiday decorations in the Smokies! This popular shopping and entertainment complex is filled with Christmas cheer, featuring millions of lights, 40,000 ornaments, over a mile of garland, and three spectacular Christmas trees. At 40 feet tall, The Island’s LED Christmas trees are truly something to behold. Watch as The Island’s multi-million dollar fountain is choreographed with the three trees for an unforgettable show! The Island is also one of the best places to go Christmas shopping in Pigeon Forge, so be sure to bring your Christmas list! Winterfest at The Island begins Nov. 18 and runs through Jan. 5.

5. Smoky Mountain Winterfest’s Festival of Trees

It is hard to have a holiday celebration without a Christmas tree or two. Help get your family into the seasonal spirit by taking them out to this year’s Festival of Trees event at the W.L. Mills Conference Center. Running from November 22 – 26, this Smoky Mountain Winterfest tradition showcases hundreds of festive trees, each with its own theme. All proceeds from this event benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains and the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation. The festival will also feature a children’s craft and play area, live entertainment, and photos with Santa Claus. Enjoy your time looking through all the beautiful wreaths and trees and find the perfect one to take back home with you!

6. Fantasy of Lights Christmas ParadeA marching band at the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade in Gatlinburg.

The Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade is one of the most popular Gatlinburg parades throughout the year. More than 60,000 people gather each year to see the award-winning parade! With over 100 entries, a dozen marching bands from across the region, and larger-than-life balloons, there is a ton of fun just waiting to be had at this winter event. The festivities from the evening will be broadcasted on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on local television stations in over 100 markets throughout the country.

The parade is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. on December 1. The parade route will run from Baskins Creek Bypass to Traffic Light #10 on the Parkway. Be sure to get the best view of the parade and all the excitement!

7. Enchanted Christmas at Anakeesta

Enchanted Christmas at Anakeesta kicks off on Nov. 10. Visitors will be able to enjoy seasonal decor and twinkling lights throughout the 70-acre park. Stroll through Firefly Village and the Vista Gardens to take in the stunning scenery, climb to the top of the AnaVista Tower for snow-capped mountain views, or grab a cup of hot chocolate and relax by the fire. Firefly Village, Black Bear Village, Stone Village, and Arctic Alley all have something special to offer guests, including tens of thousands of winter lights programmed to festive soundtracks and a “Classic Christmas” Tree Farm. Santa also lands his sleigh on Anakeesta mountain for a delicious breakfast on select dates in November and December.

Showstreet Theater during Christmas at Dollywood8. Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood

As part of the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival at Dollywood, visitors can enjoy over 6 million twinkling lights, gorgeous holiday decorations, heart-warming holiday shows, and even a visit with Santa Claus himself! The festival is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit with Christmas trees, Christmas music, Christmas food, and more. Be sure to hang out late for the incredible Christmas drone show that makes the perfect ending to your day at Dollywood! Smoky Mountain Christmas at Dollywood begins November 4th and runs through January 6th.

If you would like more information on these or any other upcoming things to do during the Smoky Mountain Winterfest 2023 season, be sure to check out all of our Smoky Mountain events!