11 Awesome Things to do in Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge

Have yourself a picture-perfect Smoky Mountain Christmas vacation in Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Seated next to the entrance of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the Bavarian-inspired ski town of Gatlinburg.


This is THAT place…the picturesque, iconic, warm and fuzzy, old-fashioned Christmas winter wonderland you dreamed of as a child. And I;’ve made a list of all the things you’ll want to do while you’re there. Plus, added in my affiliate links so you can get the best deals ever!


In the Tennessee mountains tradition and folklore runs deep, and so does the Christmas cheer. Whether you like roasting marshmallows by the fire or joining a Food And Wine Trails tour, there is something for everyone. Every mile of this charming mountain town is adorned with festive lights, transforming the region into a winter wonderland.


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A short 10-minute drive will take you to the over-the-top entertainment of Pigeon Forge, giving you the best of two contrasting cities, and a variety of entertainment both in and out of the woods. A Smoky Mountain Christmas is undoubtedly one to remember.


After visiting this destination for the last decade I have finally decided to go with the intention of finding the best lodging and fun that these neighbouring cities have to offer. So sit back, and get ready to print this list, because I am about to save you some footwork.


Behold, 11 Awesome Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for Christmas


Ski, Tube, Ride, Ober Gatlinburg


Smoky Mountain Christmas

Ober Gatlinburg


Can a day of skiing get much more convenient than this? Park or walk from downtown Gatlinburg to the Ober Aerial Tram, a 120 passenger tramway that takes you soaring over the Smoky Mountains to the Ober Ski resort on Mt. Harrison. Long gone are the days of hoping to get up the mountain during the snow season. Adults are $12 children 5-11 are $9.50.


As if the Ober Aerial Tram wasn’t cool enough, get to the top for the real adventure! Whether it’s hitting the slopes, speeding down the tube runs, winding through Mt. Harrison on the Alpine Slide, busting a move on the indoor ice rink, or just taking it easy on the skylift, whatever your winter enthusiasm, Ober has something for everyone.


After you’re all snowed out, check out the wildlife at Ober’s Wildlife Encounter!


Gatlinburg Knows Candy, Pancakes and Christmas


Smoky Mountain Christmas

Sweet treats in Gatlinburg


If you’ve ever been to Gatlinburg during the holidays and using tools like this Gatlinburg vacation finder it can be a piece of cake, then you could agree that they know their candy, pancakes and Christmas! Downtown Gatlinburg is a Bavarian-inspired town with half-timbered architecture and that German charm.


In fact “Ober” means “top” in German. So it is only natural for German traditions to be a part of the city, and this means plenty of candy, pancake houses and Christmas, everywhere you turn! When the snow falls, this miniature Bavaria transforms into a winter wonderland.


So put down your passport this Christmas and visit Germany right here in the United States!




Ripley’s Aquarium in the Smokies


Smoky Mountain Christmas

Ripleys Aquarium in the Smokies


If the small-town shops are not your thing that’s okay, there’s plenty to do in downtown Gatlinburg. I am a personal advocate of Ripley’s Believe it or Not franchise, and this place it like the Land of Ripley’s. The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is AWESOME!


With penguins, a walk through shark tunnel, dinosaurs and even a scuba-diving Santa, this is a WIN for the family. Check out the Ripley’s House of Oddities, Ripley’s Haunted House, and Ripley’s miniature golf courses too!


Moonshine, Whiskey and Wine!


Smoky Mountain Christmas

Ole Smoky Mountain Moonshine


What would a trip to Tennessee be without some moonshine, whiskey and wine? One of my favourite FREE things to do in Gatlinburg is to hit the breweries, distilleries, wineries in town and get free tastings! YUM! My favourite, the Old Smoky Moonshine Distillery, get your tasting on and enjoy live bluegrass music right outside.


It’s an atmosphere you won’t want to miss full of culture and tradition. These bottles of moonshine make AWESOME Christmas gifts too! If you want to dive a little deeper in moonshine history in the Smokies, check out this moonshine walking tour!




Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg


Smoky Mountain Christmas

Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg


I’ll make this short and sweet. If you want the crap scared out of you, make a visit to the Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg. I am no stranger to haunted house attractions. I visit all the big-name events every year including Busch Gardens Howl of Screams and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and NEVER have I had the crap scared out of me… until now.


My recommendation is to go during the week and try to make it through alone. I FREAKIN DARE YOU! Then come back here and tell me all about how you crapped your pants.


Batmobile and Bond


Smoky Mountain Christmas

Batmobile 1989


If you are a movie nerd like me then you are going to flip when you see what’s inside the  With Hollywood Star Cars Museum. Authentic, certified cars from Hollywood classics and blockbusters, this place is great for the family, it’s reasonably priced and you can take pictures of everything! Let your inner nerd child loose here, I’ll let you.


Hiking and History


Smoky Mountain Christmas

The Ogle Cabin, a historic site just a 2 minute drive off the main highway in Gatlinburg.


Fa la la la la, it’s FREE, FREE, FREE! From motor and walking tours to short to moderate hikes, Gatlinburg is base camp for Appalachian history. There is a deep-rooted history in these mountains, history that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Enjoy 25 historic sites on the driving tour and 17 sites on the walking tour!


Now this guide is a commodity and I couldn’t find it anywhere online, but click here and email the Gatlinburg Visitor’s Bureau and they will gladly mail you the brochure complete with maps and history!


Sleep Cozy by the Fire and Get a Creek View at Bearskin Lodge


Bearskin lodge

Smoky Mountain Christmas


After a long day on the slopes, enjoying the sights of the city, or hiking in the Smoky Mountains, nothing is more inviting than a warm fire, jetted tub, and streamside view. Even in the heart of the city, you still feel like you are tucked away in the mountains.


Bearskin Lodge is walking distance from the Ober Aerial Tram and close to dining and shops. I pretty much left my car there until I drove 10 minutes into Pigeon Forge. This is a perfect spot to stay. Enjoy afternoon hot cider and cookies and a continental breakfast every morning.


Winterfest in Pigeon Forge!



Parkway lights in Pigeon Forge during Winterfest


From November to February, Christmas is a serious business in the Smokies and it really shows in pigeon Forge. My favourite el cheapo attraction, the Winterfest Trolley Tour of Lights, just $5! Ride inside this heated trolley for a spectacular view and guided tour of Pigeon Forge’s history and 5 million light spectacular! WOW!




The Inn at Christmas Place


The Inn at Christmas Place

The Inn at Christmas Place


You will never imagine a more spectacular Christmas experience until you stay at the Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge. Not only are the rooms finely appointed with luxury finishings like granite counters and high thread linens, but it is Christmas ALL YEAR in this Swiss mountain palace.


Every detail of this hotel is made from the spirit of Christmas, right down to a schedule of holiday events like Gingerbread House making, live concerts by the fireplace and Santa meet and greets!


Step into your room filled with Christmas decor, enjoy an indoor heated (and yes decorated) pool and hot tub and chow down at the full buffet breakfast served every morning with your room reservation. WOW! There is no place like this. If you are thinking of spending Christmas away from home… this is the place to be.


Dinner Shows, Over the Top Entertainment and Family Fun



Smoky Mountain Opry


You get it all in Pigeon Forge. This place is like Orlando, Florida in the middle of the mountains. My favorite picks,  MagiGuest, Titanic Museum, Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, the TOMB, and the Smoky Mountain Opry. All of these are TOTALLY worth the mula. 


There’s just so much to do in these neighbouring cities for the holiday season. It’s like a trifecta of awesome! Hiking, downtown village-like atmosphere, and big-time Orlando like attractions all in the same vicinity make this destination a unique pick for the family or couples.


MAJOR TIP: If you want to dodge the crowds but still get in on the Christmas fun, hit this destination the week after Thanksgiving. It’s like a ghost town, no lines, no waits, no traffic. LOVE.


Thank you to www.mypigeonforge.com and www.gatlinburg.com for partnering with The Fairytale Traveler to make this destination story possible.


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About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Chief Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. She started traveling the world in 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

8 Comments on this post

  1. I will be visiting there for the first Xmas season with 3 others. Would love to see more of what to do during our stay. Any idea ‘s would be greatly appreciated!!

    Melvin Mitchell / Reply
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  6. We try to come up every year just before Christmas. By the time we get home we are ready for Family,Friends and Celebrating Christ’s Perfect Gift to us ! Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the places to be! We always relax and stay @ Creekside RV Campground that’s family owned !

    Doug & BJ McCormack / Reply

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