Unlike other vacation spots in the United States, fun in the Smokies doesn’t stop when the weather gets cold. In fact, there are lots of awesome winter things to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg! We’ve put together this list of the best things to experience when you visit the Smokies in the winter.
1. Experience the Winterfest Lights
Every winter, the Sevier County becomes a winter wonderland with more than 5 million lights brightening the night. Now in its 27th year, Winterfest has become one of the most anticipated celebrations in the Smokies. Wherever you drive in the county, you’re sure to see lots of awesome light arrangements. Businesses get in on the fun, too. You can see amazing arrangements at The Old Mill, The Island, Smoky Mountain Opry, Dixie Stampede, and so many more! The city of Pigeon Forge publishes a Winterfest Driving Tour Map that you can download here that will take you through all the best lights in the city.
2. Have a Winter Adventure at Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg is the ultimate destination for a winter adventure in the Smokies. For many people, winter in the Smokies means one thing: skiing and snowboarding at Ober Gatlinburg. The slopes at Ober tentatively open during the holiday season and continues throughout the winter. There are 10 different ski trails at the park with varying levels of difficulty. Everyone, from beginners to experts, can have a great time.
If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, the folks at Ober also offer lessons from experts in the field. Not up for skiing, but still love the snow? Snow tubing is a great option for everyone – there’s nothing like zipping down their huge hill on an intertube! When you’re done hitting the slopes, you still have so much to do. The Ski Mountain Coaster is open in the winter when the tracks aren’t frozen. You can also head inside to check out the plethora of shops, the food court, or even go ice skating!
3. Take a Winter Hike in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
There is truly something special about hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the winter. Many people probably don’t think hiking in the winter sounds very fun, but there some things in the park you can only see in the winter!
The winter reveals lots of things that are usually hidden. Since the trees are bare in the winter, you can see much farther into the woods while you’re hiking. It gives you the feeling of walking through a wide open space. Also, during the winter, you will have a better chance of viewing wildlife without leaves obscuring the vision.
You’ll also get the chance to see some artifacts you probably missed in the summer and spring. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park has the largest collection of human artifacts out of all the national parks. But, many of these artifacts are hidden by the foliage most of the year.
Not to mention all the amazing things you’ll see on a winter hike, there are other perks to hiking this season. Because so many people are turned away from falling temperatures, you won’t have to navigate the large crowds of summer and spring. The trails are quiet, serene, and offer a better chance at reflection.
If you do decide to tackle a winter hike, make sure you’re prepared. Higher elevations in the park can experience sudden snow storms, icy conditions, and dropping temperatures. Vesna Plakanis from A Walk in the Woods reminds winter hikers to dress in layers that keep you warm and dry and to drink lots of water. Another thing to consider is road closures. Several secondary roads in the park close in the winter, be sure to check out the National Park’s website for a complete list of road closures.Preparation is key, but a properly planned winter hike can be magical!
4. Explore the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is the largest collection of crafters and traditional artists in the United States. On their 8-mile loop in Gatlinburg, TN, you’ll have the opportunity to visit over 100 different businesses focused on specific traditional arts. From soap makers to woodworkers to glass blowers and potters, the only limit to what you’ll find in the community is the time you have to spend there.
The 8-mile loop is open during the winter. And, visiting in the winter is especially fun. With fewer folks in town, you have more space to browse to your heart’s content. All the shops in the community are open for the winter with regular hours. So, you will have all the variety you have in other seasons.
Most folks in the community demo their skills to the public, too. You can get the chance to see pottery being shaped, or glassblowing in all its fiery glory. You’ll get a chance to get connected to a special part of Appalachian culture, all while finding great gifts for the holidays!
Also, here’s a bonus winter adventure in the community. You can actually see Santa year-round at the amazing Santa’s Claus-et. You definitely want to check this shop out in the wintertime.
Be sure to check out this amazing community this winter, and see what all they have to offer.
Looking for the perfect place to pick up Christmas 🎄 gifts in the #Smokies? The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community has something for everyone on your list 😄
Posted by Pigeon Forge Chamber on Thursday, December 14, 2017
5. Take a Guided Tour Through the Smokies
Do you want to explore the Smokies but don’t want to deal with the stress of driving? That stress can be especially high in the winter when dealing with snowy or icy conditions. Well, why not take a guided tour through the Smokies? It takes all the guesswork and stress out of traveling. Worrying about where to stop? Your guide has it covered. Looking for a sight to see off the beaten path? Your guide knows all the spots.
Guide services can help connect you with anything you need to have a great vacation, from securing lodging and restaurant reservations to securing tickets to the best attractions. If you’re looking for an amazing guide service to take you and your family through the Smokies, be sure to check out the following chamber members:
With sightseeing tours like ‘Historical Cades Cove’ and ‘The Complete GSMNP Mountain Tour’, Rocky Top Tours makes it easy for people who don’t like driving in the mountains to explore them. Also check out their super-popular tour: ‘Dolly’s Rags to Riches.’
Whether you have a small group, a family trip, a student getaway, or anything else, Smoky Mountain Tour Connection has you covered. They offer a wide range of services, including guided auto tours, motor coach packages, and more.
Vickie is here to save you money. Your Ticket to Travel takes the stress out of planning your vacation. Vickie works with you to help secure tickets, travel arrangements, and lodging, all while scoring sweet amenities you wouldn’t have access to otherwise. The best part? Her services are completely free to you, she gets paid by travel companies via the bookings she makes!
6. Visit an Amazing Museum Attraction
Visiting one of the many amazing museum attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg is a great way to burn some time during the winter. All of the museums in the Smokies pride themselves on offering one-of-a-kind, interactive exhibits. With so many different options to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Be sure to check out our blog, 7 Best Museums in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, for a full list of the best museums in the Smokies.
7. Experience an Indoor Adventure at TopJump Trampoline Park
TopJump Trampoline Park is an amazing indoor adventure destination that offers a wide range of extreme experiences for all ages! Their facility has gigantic trampoline area for open jump, as well as dodgeball and basketball courses, a ninja warrior course, a battle beam gladiator pit, and a huge kids zone that includes kid-friendly trampolines and a humongous ball pit!
The park is also home to one of the most unique indoor experiences in the Smokies: Clip ‘n Climb. The largest Clip ‘n Climb Center in the United States, this amazing TopJump attraction takes climbing to new heights. With Clip ‘n Climb, anyone over the age of 4 can simply clip onto one of the many unique climbing walls and start their climb on their own time. Each element has a unique challenge, and it’s fun for the entire family!
8. Take a Scenic Drive Through Cades Cove in the Winter
Anyone who has driven through Cades Cove knows that is one of the most beautiful parts of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But, in the winter, there is a special beauty to Cades Cove that you won’t find any other time of the year.
One of the most popular things to do is to take a winter drive. Cades Cove is situated on an 11-mile one-way loop road that gives you the chance to sightsee at a leisurely pace. Along the way, there are plenty of pull-offs if you want to stop and take in the scenery.
You’ll definitely want to take your time. With the bare trees of winter, you have a much greater chance of seeing some of the wildlife that calls the cove home. Some of the animals you could potentially see include black bears, white-tail deer, coyotes, turkeys, and more!
One of the coolest things about Cades Cove at any time of the year is the history. Cades Cove has a plethora of historic sites from the early European settlers to the area as well as evidence of the original hunters of the cove: the Cherokee. Some of the many historical sites include three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and several other restored buildings. You can grab a self-guiding tour booklet at the start of the cove that discusses the history of the area.
Like we indicated earlier in our list, winter hiking is an awesome activity. And, Cades Cove has no shortage of fun winter hikes. Two hikes of particular interest are Abrams Falls and the Middle Prong Trail. Abrams Falls is a five-mile, moderately strenuous hike that culminates with the titular waterfall.
Although Abrams Falls is only 20 feet tall, the massive volume of water that rushes over makes up for it! The Middle Prong Trail is considered one of the best waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains. You’ll pass by three major waterfalls, several smaller falls, cataracts, and cascades. Winter is the only time when you’ll have a chance to see beautiful frozen waterfalls while hiking the Middle Prong Trail.
9. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Crave Golf Club
Crave Golf Club is the newest mini-golf spot to hit Pigeon Forge. This amazing sweets-themed entertainment destination offers amazing decor, three 18-hole mini-golf courses (one of which is inside), as well as mini-bowling, a milkshake bar, and more candy than you can imagine! The awesome courses have detailed decorations that make you feel like you’ve stepped into an actual candy forest.
Each hole has a spinner you can use to switch up your game. Spin the spinner before you take your shot and challenge yourself with dares like ‘shoot on one foot’ or ‘shoot with your non-dominate hand’; it changes up the game and transforms mini-golf into a completely new experience! You definitely want to add Crave Golf Club to your wintertime Smoky Mountain adventure.
Got a sweet tooth this Sunday? Crave Golf Club has a unique mini-golf experience with a candy theme that's perfect for all ages 🍬🍭🏌
Posted by Pigeon Forge Chamber on Sunday, October 29, 2017
10. Test Your Mind at Kryptology Escape Rooms
Kryptology Escape Rooms is a fun, challenging way to spend time with your family during the winter. When you take on the challenge at Kryptology, it’s like stepping into a real-life video game. You’re given 60 minutes to find clues, answer riddles, and solve puzzles while trying to discover how to escape the room you’re placed in. Each room has a different immersive theme, like “The Orphanage” or “Vanished in Roswell”.
Even though the rooms and challenges are very exciting, every room is family friendly and safe for younger children. You should plan on spending a total of about 90 minutes with Kryptology from start to finish. If you’re looking for something to do in the winter that can bring groups together, you have to check out Kryptology Escape Rooms!
Check out this video for one of our escape rooms opening later this month. Like our page to be the first to know when we start taking reservations.
Posted by Kryptology Escape Rooms on Sunday, October 2, 2016
11. Learn to Fly at Flyaway Indoor Skydiving
Everyone has wanted to fly at some point in their life. But, not many of us are willing to ‘take the dive,’ so to speak, and try out full-blown skydiving. Flyaway Indoor Skydiving offers the experience of flying without the fear of jumping from a plane or falling from the sky.
Flyaway is home to America’s first vertical wind tunnel. When you jump in, you’ll find yourself floating in no time. The powerful wind tunnel simulates the skydiving experience and gives you the chance to try out all the tricks anyone who was actually skydiving could pull off.
Safety is a paramount concern for the attraction. Every time you fly, you’re accompanied by trained professionals. You can choose to do a single flight session, or participate in a personalized coaching program. Either way, it’s a thrilling winter adventure.
12. Channel Your Inner-Ninja at a Sevier Air
Have you ever dreamed of being on American Ninja Warrior? Are you looking for the ultimate indoor adventure? Then you need to visit Sevier Air Trampoline and Ninja Warrior Park this winter! Sevier Air is an ultimate indoor adventure any time of year. With 35,000 square feet, this facility offers lots of fun family-friendly activities.
Beat your friends in a dunk contest, play some trampoline dodgeball, or race your friend on their climbing wall. The centerpiece of the facility is the ninja warrior park, which actual competitors on American Ninja Warrior use to train. They even have a ninja warrior park designed especially for children, so your kids can challenge themselves too! This is a must-check-out winter activity for anyone looking for excitement in the winter!
13. Adventure in the Trees at Anakeesta
Anakeesta is an amazing new attraction in Gatlinburg that offers a unique mountain experience for all ages. Located at the top of a mountain, you take a scenic 14-minute ride from Downtown Gatlinburg to the summit. To get there, you can either ride on the Chondola’s quad chair or an enclosed 6 person gondola cabin.
When you arrive at the summit, you’ll be greeted by Firefly Village, a whimsical treehouse-themed village. There you’ll find local crafts alongside dining and retail options.
If you’re looking for adventure, Anakeesta is right for you. You can race your friends or family on their dual racing ziplines, or explore their canopy tree walk. The tree walk consists of 16 hanging bridges more than 40-60 feet in the air. A special bonus for wintertime visitors: they light the bridges for a magical holiday experience 🎄.
You’ll find plenty of other fun things to do on the mountain, including a memorial forest walk, breathtaking views, and one of the most unique playgrounds in the Smokies.
Get a sneak peak of Anakeesta an exciting new adventure park in #Gatlinburg! Be sure to join us Sept. 12 at 11 am for a livestream of their ribbon cutting ✂
Posted by Pigeon Forge Chamber on Friday, August 18, 2017
14. See a Christmas Show at a Smoky Mountain Theater
Despite popular belief, shows don’t stop in the Smokies when the cold weather arrives. In fact, the holiday season is when many shows kick into the Christmas spirit. Many theaters in the Smokies host special Christmas shows to commemorate the season. All of them feature amazing music, many have an appearance by Santa, and all are full of Christmas cheer. Don’t wait too long to book, though, as many Christmas shows end their run at New Years.
15. Warm Up With Some Moonshine and Wine
The Great Smoky Mountains is famous for its moonshine. Folks in these mountains have been producing moonshine and whiskey since before the birth of the United States. That tradition continues today with our many distilleries and wineries.
Now, when the weather is cold outside, there’s nothing like a sip of some ‘shine to warm you up. The distilleries you can visit in Pigeon Forge offer 100% free samples of their products. So, if you’re wanting to try a flavor, or are even trying moonshine for the first time, be sure to give some of these distilleries and wineries a visit.
16. Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
Whenever you visit The Island in Pigeon Forge, riding the iconic Great Smoky Mountain Wheel is a must. Riding the wheel is fun any time of year. But, when you ride in the winter, you have the chance to see the beautiful mountains blanketed with snow.
There’s nothing like experiencing a bird’s eye view of Pigeon Forge during a winter snow shower. If you’re worried about the cold, don’t stress. Each pod that you ride in on the wheel is climate controlled, meaning you can have a comfortable ride any time of year!
17. Paint Your Masterpiece at Art Studio of the Smokies
Was your outdoor adventure snowed out, or are you maybe looking for a little something different for date night? Checking out Art Studio of the Smokies is one of the best winter things to do in our area.
They offer painting parties for couples, families, and groups on an on-demand basis where you have the chance to make your own art! Camille, the owner of the studio, also offers art lessons as well as digital art classes in their state-of-the-art graphic design lab. There are hundreds of reviews from happy customers who visited the studio. Whether or not you consider yourself an artist, you’ll walk out of the studio impressed with what you’ve created.
Trying to find a uniqe activity for your artisitc kids? You have to check out the summer classes offered by Art Studio of the Smokies. The studio has hands-on instruction plus a state-of-the-art computer lab! Learn more here: http://bit.ly/25EV2gy
Posted by Pigeon Forge Chamber on Monday, July 25, 2016
18. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Rain or shine, snow or sun, there’s never a bad time to visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies! This immersive facility is regularly recognized as one of the top aquairums in the United States. And, in 2017, it was named by USA Today as the best place aquarium in the United States!
There are so many exhibits to explore and animals to see, that you could spend the entire day at Ripley’s and still have more to do. In addition to their exhibits, the aquairum regularly hosts special events, such as divers heading into the shark tank to feed the fish. Once you’re done checking out the fish, the kids can enjoy the aquarium’s new gigantic indoor playground! If you’re looking to escape the cold and still have an adventure, Ripley’s is the place to go.
19. Have a Wintertime Shopping Spree
With holiday deals, after-Christmas sales, and winter offerings, winter is a perfect time of year to go on a shopping spree. It can get you out of the cold and offer a fun respite from outside. Also, just like hiking in the winter, you will be dealing with smaller crowds. That makes for a calmer shopping experience. There are lots of places in the Smokies where you can find lots of shops concentrated in one area, like Tanger Outlets or The Island. With many shops grouped in one area, you don’t have spend long in the cold before heading to your next shop!
20. Relax by the Fire in Your Cabin
Maybe you’re not looking for an indoor adventure. Instead, you might be looking for a nice relaxing evening by the fire. Spending a few days in a Smoky Mountain cabin can help you disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect to nature. It’s no wonder why renting a cabin is one of the top winter things to do in the Smokies. The breathtaking views are even more beautiful when the trees are blanketed with snow and icicles shine in the sun. Relaxing with your family by the fire is an awesome way to spend your Smoky Mountain vacation. If you’re looking for an awesome cabin for your winter getaway, be sure to check out our cabins section of our website.
There you have it, 15 winter things to do in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville. Even when it’s cold outside, you can still have an amazing vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains!