Christmas in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge: Top 7 Holiday Activities

Beautiful Christmas lights in Gatlinburg.

They say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and it’s certainly true in the Smoky Mountains! Throughout the entire month of December (and even in November), the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN come to life with a variety of wonderful holiday activities and attractions. To help you make the most of your next vacation, Hearthside Cabin Rentals has put together a guide to seven of the best ways to celebrate Christmas in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

1. Tours of the Beautiful Christmas LightsChristmas lights depicting The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge.

If you think that your neighbors put their Christmas lights up early, just wait until you visit the Smokies! Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge officially ring in the holiday season in early November when they flip the switch on their millions of gorgeous Christmas lights. These lovely LED displays depict traditional holiday scenes along with Smoky Mountain wildlife and local landmarks, like The Old Mill. The city of Gatlinburg even offers $5 trolley rides that will take you past all of the light displays in the downtown area. While Pigeon Forge does not have a trolley tour of lights, the city does provide free maps detailing the locations of all the displays at the Pigeon Forge Trolley Office and the Pigeon Forge Welcome Center.

2. Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

On December 1st, Gatlinburg will host its annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. This beloved event will feature gorgeous floats, enormous balloons, marching bands, horses, and appearances from popular holiday characters. The parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Traffic Light 1A on the East Parkway and proceed down the main Parkway until Traffic Light 10. We recommend arriving early because the parade is expected to attract more than 60,000 spectators! It’s easy to see why the Fantasy of Lights Parade is one of the highlights of Christmas in Gatlinburg.

Wintertime photo of The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge.3. Breakfast with Santa at The Old Mill

Before heading out on his mission to deliver gifts to children all around the world, Santa Claus likes to gear up for the season with a tasty meal in Pigeon Forge! In early December, Jolly Old St. Nick will appear at The Old Mill Pottery House Cafe & Grille to eat breakfast or brunch with visiting families. Space is limited at this popular event and reservations are required. For more details, check out The Old Mill Events Calendar.

4. Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival

Some of the best bluegrass bands in the South will be in Pigeon Forge this December to participate in the Christmas in the Smokies Music Festival. For four days, the Smoky Mountain Convention Center will host world-class pickin’ and grinnin’ that is sure to delight the bluegrass fans in your family. Guests can expect to see a great mix of touring groups and local bands.

5. Wonderful Christmas ShowsChristmas decorations at the Smoky Mountain Opry in Pigeon Forge.

Beginning in November, virtually all of the theaters in Pigeon Forge host special Christmas shows that are guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit. These amazing performances typically blend highlights of the year-round show with a heaping helping of yuletide cheer. Featuring beautiful holiday decorations and all of your favorite Christmas songs, these shows are fun for guests of all ages. Here are some of the most popular Christmas shows in town:

Guests at Hearthside Cabin Rentals will receive one free adult admission to all of these amazing shows with our Freedom Fun Pass!

6. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival

No holiday trip to the Smokies is complete without a visit to Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival! Running from early November through the end of the year, the Christmas Festival is one of the theme park’s most treasured traditions. During this magical event, the park is decorated with four million twinkling Christmas lights and hosts a nightly Parade of Many Colors. Young guests at the park will love meeting Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and all of Rudolph’s friends from the classic TV special. The Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival is also famous for its wonderful shows, which include an adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life and a Nativity story.

The living room of the Can't Bear to Leave cabin in Pigeon Forge.7. Celebrating Christmas at Your Cabin

A cabin rental is the perfect home away from home for anyone celebrating Christmas in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Our cabins come in a variety of sizes so you can choose between an intimate holiday getaway with your immediate family or a huge Christmas celebration with the whole clan. All of our properties feature fully equipped kitchens, which makes it easy to whip up a tasty holiday meal. Some of our cabins even come furnished with spectacular Christmas decorations! To start planning your getaway, browse our selection of cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.