10 Fun Things to Do During Winter in Gatlinburg TN

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If you dream of a European snow skiing trip, but prefer to avoid the hassles of international travel, we recommend the charming Winter wonderland of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Gatlinburg combines the look and feel of the Bavarian Alps with loads of Southern hospitality, moonshine, and bluegrass music.

As a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a top Tennessee travel destination, and Winter has as much to offer visitors as any other season.

Skiing, snowboarding, hiking in the snow-capped hills, and exploring the mountain town’s lively Main Street are among the myriad Winter activities in Gatlinburg.

Read on for our in-depth guide to fun things to do during Winter in Gatlinburg TN, including festivals, snow sports, moonshine distilleries, New Years festivities, and more!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg TN

Are you planning a trip during winter in Gatlinburg TN?

If you need recommendations for things to do in Gatlinburg in winter, check out our tips for some of the top hotels, guided tours, and more!

Top Places to Stay in Gatlinburg TN

  1. Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg (excellent location with on-site restaurant & spa)
  2. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott (downtown hotel with good breakfast included)
  3. Greystone Lodge on the River(excellent location with good breakfast included)
  4. Gatlinburg Mountain Inn(4-star hotel with fridge)

Popular tours and activities near Gatlinburg TN:

  1. Gatlinburg: Ghosts of the Smokies Haunted Walking Tour (1-hour guided walking tour)
  2. Gatlinburg: Impossibilities Magic and Mind-Reading Show (80 minutes of family fun!)

  3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour (download app)

Need a car rental for your Gatlinburg trip? Find the best rental car options here!

Winter in Gatlinburg TN Guide

  1. Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas
  2. Cross Country Skiing on Clingmans Dome Road
  3. Gatlinburg SkyPark New Year’s Eve Lights of Wonder
  4. Gatlinburg Space Needle New Year’s Eve Fireworks & Ball
  5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  6. Main Street Gatlinburg
  7. Ober Mountain Gatlinburg Snow Fun
  8. Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery
  9. Sample Gatlinburg Restaurants
  10. The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

READ MORE: 15 Fun Things to Do in Winter in Tennessee

Christmas in Gatlinburg TN - Anakeesta Christmas
Firefly Village at Christmas, photo courtesy of Anakeesta

1. Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas

If you’re looking for Winter magic, Anakeesta’s Enchanted Christmas is one of our favorite things to do in Gatlinburg TN in December.

Once the sun goes down, the Anakeesta Mountain theme park comes to life with twinkling Christmas lights perched 600 feet above downtown Gatlinburg.

Guests can share hot cocoa or a wintery cocktail around a crackling fire, stroll festive villages decked with lights and Christmas decor, or visit Black Bear Village for seasonal music and shopping.

Even the iconic TreeTop Skywalk attraction gets into the holiday spirit, with a top-of-the-forest Christmas experience Tarzan would love!

READ MORE: Christmas in Chattanooga TN: 10 Festive Events Worth Attending

Cross Country Skiing during Winter in Gatlinburg TN
Cross Country Skiing during Winter in Gatlinburg TN

2. Cross Country Skiing on Clingmans Dome Road

During our Fall visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we were awed by the beauty of Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park.

Our guide explained that the road to Clingmans Dome is also a popular place for cross-country skiing in Winter.

From December 1 to the end of March, the scenic 7-mile road to Clingmans Dome is closed to motorized vehicles. So cross-country skiers can revel in stunning vistas and native wildlife in a quiet world blanketed with snow.

The 6,643-foot elevation of Clingmans Dome ensures the deepest snow in the area for cross-country skiing enthusiasts. And since there’s no access fee, it’s a great way to explore the national park for free!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in Tennessee

Christmas in Gatlinburg Tennessee
Tunnel of Light on the SkyBridge, photo courtesy Gatlinburg SkyPark

3. Gatlinburg SkyPark New Year’s Eve Lights of Wonder

New Year’s Eve Lights of Wonder at Gatlinburg SkyPark is one of the most entertaining Winter attractions in Gatlinburg, with fireworks, disco music, and a mountaintop dance floor!

It’s an incredibly memorable way to ring in the New Year, with stunning views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains.

The SkyPark’s gorgeous bridge is 500 feet above downtown Gatlinburg, and approximately 100 feet above the site where their fireworks display is launched.

Their scenic SkyDeck will be transformed into a massive dance floor for the Ear Jams Silent Disco, a unique headphone experience that promises to be the best dance party in Gatlinburg.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Smoky Mountains Hotels to Visit in NC & TN

Gatlinburg Space Needle New Year’s Eve Fireworks and Ball
Photo courtesy Visit Gatlinburg

4. Gatlinburg Space Needle New Year’s Eve Fireworks & Ball

The iconic Gatlinburg Space Needle is 407 feet tall and visible from almost everywhere in the mountain town. So it’s a fantastic place for the annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks Show.

Since 1987, locals and visitors alike have gathered at the base of the Space Needle to watch the ball drop at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.

There are also incredible fireworks, rhythmic LED lights, and music to accompany the celebration.

The 2023 Gatlinburg New Year’s Eve Celebration begins at 10PM on December 31, and is free to the public. But you’ll definitely want to get there early for the best parking spots and viewing access.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Bristol TN/VA

Winter in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Winter in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in Winter is truly magical, with snow, expansive scenic vistas, and hiking trails that rank among the best Winter activities in Gatlinburg.

Winter waterfalls are always enchanting, with roaring cascades and crystallized ice formations. Four of our favorite Tennessee waterfalls to visit in the park include Cataract Falls, Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls, and The Sinks.

My wife Heather loves Cades Cove, especially when the verdant valley is transformed into snowy landscapes. Cades Cove has plenty of great hiking trails, or you can drive the 11-mile loop road to view historic buildings and TN wildlife.

Before embarking on a Winter adventure in the Smokies, be sure to check weather reports and road conditions. The park’s Visitors Centers are only open on weekends at this time of year, so plan accordingly!

READ MORE: The 15 Best Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ripley's Believe it or not Gatlinburg
Ripley’s Believe It or Not on Gatlinburg’s Main Street

6. Main Street Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg TN is beloved for its many family-friendly mountaintop attractions. But there are also plenty of fun things to do down on Main Street on a cold Winter day.

With its myriad restaurants, shops, pop culture museums (including Ripley’s Believe It or Not), and breweries, we could happily spend 2-3 days exploring this 2.5-mile thoroughfare. 

The town of Gatlinburg TN is eminently walkable. But if the Winter chill is too cold, you can also hop on the free Gatlinburg Trolley to explore all the Main Street offerings.

Like any small resort town, parking in Gatlinburg is at a premium. While you may occasionally be able to find street parking, the plentiful paid parking lots ($20 per day) are usually the easiest option.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Tennessee Mountain Towns to Visit

Christmas vacations in Tennessee - Snow Tubing Ober Mountain
Snow Tubing on Ober Mountain, photo courtesy of Ober Gatlinburg

7. Snowy Fun at Ober Mountain Gatlinburg 

The only ski resort in the state of Tennessee, Ober Mountain Gatlinburg offers a Tennessee Winter vacation for anyone interested in skiing, snowboarding, and/or snow tubing.

And the thrills aren’t just on the slopes! Ober’s Tennessee Flyer Mountain Coaster (located near the snow tubing park) gives riders many of the same thrills as zipping down the slopes on skis or snowboards. 

They also have plenty of cozy après ski activities, ice skating, and ice bumper cars, so Ober Gatlinburg is arguably the best place for Winter in the Smoky Mountains.

A 4-season mountain resort, Ober Mountain has delicious dining options aplenty. Enjoy a hot latte at the Ski Mountain Grind Haus, or try a gourmet hot dog from Daddy’s Dogs (a longtime Nashville favorite).

READ MORE: Winter at Ober Gatlinburg, the Best Place for Snow Skiing in Tennessee

Live Music at Ole Smoky, Gatlinburg TN

8. Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery

For cozy Winter beverages, visit Downtown Gatlinburg’s Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, one of the most visited distilleries in the world.

They’ve transformed what used to be an illegal craft into a celebration of Appalachian culture, where you can learn the history of bootlegging and taste high-quality ‘shine.

We loved our recent private distillery tour and tasting, as well as browsing their gift shop. Take home seasonal flavors like Shine Nog or Peppermint Cream to create recipes such as “Hot Java Nog” or a “Peppermint Early Riser.”

Warming up with a taste of moonshine while listening to a live band jamming at Ole Smoky is a relaxing way to end an active day of fun during Winter in Gatlinburg.

READ MORE: Visiting the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol TN/VA

The Sun Diner, Gatlinburg TN

9. Sample Gatlinburg Restaurants

One of our favorite parts of our recent visit was a chance to sample some fantastic Gatlinburg TN restaurants, where fried chicken, BBQ, cornbread, and pecan pie are all par for the course.

Cold days and hearty breakfasts go hand-in-hand, so check out Crockett’s Breakfast Camp for a hardy meal, or the Donut Friar for a great cup of coffee and a freshly made donut!

The Baja Fish Tacos, Sweet Grilled Mexican Street Corn, and refreshing margaritas and mojitos at Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina made it one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

For a fantastic dinner, try the Park Grill, which is located just a stone’s throw from the entrance to the National Park. Their Fresh Rainbow Trout and massive salad bar attract locals and tourists alike.

READ MORE: The 7 Best Restaurants in Bristol TN/VA to Visit

Arts and Crafts Loop Gatlinburg

10. The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

For post-holiday shopping, head to the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, an 8-mile loop featuring 90+ artists, craftsmen, and restaurants

There are woodcrafts, basket makers, leatherwork, pottery, and hands-on workshops to explore. One of our favorite shops was Smoky Mountain Dulcimers, which sells handcrafted instruments, books, CDs, DVDs, and free banjo lessons!

The Jim Gray Gallery, located in a 125-year-old church building, highlights the artist’s lifelong devotion to the Great Smoky Mountains via watercolors, oils, sketches, and sculptures.

One of our favorites places to eat in Gatlinburg was Split Rail Eats, which specializes in signature tater bowls, sandwiches, ice cream, and boozy milkshakes.

From beginning to end, the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community offers myriad ways to make your Gatlinburg, Tennessee Winter vacation a memorable one. –by Heather Taylor & Jon Weaver; lead image via Canva





Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The universities brought Jon and Heather to Harrisonburg Virginia in the 1980s and the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley has kept them there to this day. Heather has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education and 10 years of experience as an editor and technical writer for online training sites. After college, Jon worked several years at a weekly newspaper before joining his family business which he ran until retirement. Jon and Heather enjoy traveling and sharing their stories with others. Locally, they love exploring the towns and mountains of the Blue Ridge near their hometown of Harrisonburg VA.