15 Fun Things to Do in Winter in Tennessee

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Although the winter weather in Tennessee never gets too bone-chilling, they do have their fair share of snow, especially in the eastern Tennessee mountains.
But you shouldn’t let that deter you from exploring all the adventures the great state of Tennessee has to offer! 
There are lots of fun things to do in Tennessee in Winter, and that doesn’t always mean being outside in the cold, either.
With wonderful towns and cities all across the state, amazing state parks and national parks, and an array of lovely  mountain resorts, there’s something for every Tennessee visitor to enjoy. 

Read on for our guide to the best places to visit in Tennessee in Winter, including everything from Christmas events and Winter festivals to snow skiing/snow tubing, museums, breweries, and more.

READ MORE: The 10 Best Tennessee Mountain Towns to Visit

Ice On The Landing during Christmas in Chattanooga TN
Ice On The Landing Skating Rink in Chattanooga TN, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Things to Do in Winter in Tennessee Guide

  1. Christmas Light Displays
  2. The North Pole Limited Train
  3. Holiday Shows
  4. Christmas Tree Farms
  5. Ice Sculptures
  6. Snow Tubing
  7. Snow Skiing
  8. Hiking Trails
  9. Frozen Waterfalls
  10. Winter Ziplining
  11. Tennessee Breweries
  12. Rent a Cabin
  13. Winter Festivals
  14. Antiquing
  15. Museums

READ MORE: 20 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in the Smoky Mountains

EPB’s Holiday Windows in Chattanooga TN-2023
EPB’s Holiday Windows, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

1. Christmas Events in Tennessee

EPB’s Holiday Windows is a long-standing Christmas tradition in Chattanooga, dating back to the World War II era.

Staff start decorating in the summer so the festive window displays are ready to delight guests in December. They’re located right across the street from the Festive Forest, another free Christmas light display.

Don’t miss out on Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights in Lookout Mountain. It’s one of the biggest Winter events in Chattanooga, and one of the best Christmas light displays in Tennessee. 

Now in their 25th year, the Christmas lights at the Cove at Concord Park in Knoxville just keep getting better. The park’s 3/4-mile greenway is festooned with syncopated lights, vendors selling snacks, and visits with Santa. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in Tennessee

Mary & Bret with Santa on North Pole Limited Christmas Train in Chattanooga TN
BRMTG Founders Mary & Bret with Santa on the North Pole Limited 

2. Take a Trip on The North Pole Limited Train

A Chattanooga Christmas tradition since 1999, the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum‘s North Pole Limited train takes its passengers on a magical ride to Santa’s HQ.

While on board the train, guests will enjoy hot cocoa and cookies, storytelling by Santa’s elves, caroling, and gazing out the windows at colorful Christmas light displays.

This 1-hour journey is a delight for all ages, allowing kids to feel as though they’ve boarded the iconic Polar Express.

As if the festive train ride wasn’t enough, jolly ol’ Saint Nick himself might just hop aboard for a visit! 

Trains will run until December 23rd. Check out the TVRM website for ticket info and for more seasonally themed scenic train rides in Tennessee

READ MORE: The 7 Best Train Rides for Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Christmas in the Smokies - Winterfest Celebration Pigeon Forge
Winterfest Celebration courtesy of Pigeon Forge

3. Catch a Holiday Show

World-renowned for its music, glitz, and glamour, Tennessee does not disappoint during the holiday season.

Naturally, Nashville is THE place to be if you want to catch a truly authentic musical experience.

The Grand Ole Opry is hosting its Opry Country Christmas Show on December 17, 2023. Famous country artists like Mandy Barnett and the Gatlin Brothers will belt out everyone’s favorite holiday tunes in the spectacular show. 

Knoxville’s 37th Annual Clayton Holiday Concert is another beloved Tennessee Christmas tradition. This year’s event will have an Olde English Christmas theme, and guests can enjoy music and dancing that celebrate the season. 

At the Pigeon Forge Winterfest, there are all kinds of fun holiday shows with singing, dancing, and even some seasonal comedy to keep spirits merry and bright.

READ MORE: The 5 Best Christmas Towns in Tennessee to Visit

Chattanooga Christmas tree farms
Photo courtesy of Weaver Tree Farms, Inc.

4. Visit One of the Many TN Christmas Tree Farms

If picking out a Christmas tree is on your list of holiday traditions, there are plenty of Christmas tree farms to choose from in the Blue Ridge Mountains of TN and as far east as Nashville! 

With over 40 years in the business, Weaver Tree Farms is a great family-owned option in Chattanooga, offering a very festive experience.

In addition to trees (including the Frasier fir native to the Appalachian Mountains), they also have wreaths, garlands, and a cute little Christmas shop. 

Knoxville’s Bluebird Christmas Tree Farm has choose-and-cut trees as well as pre-cut ones to choose from. They also have a Christmas shop with a toy “Polar Express” train running through it.

If you’re near Nashville, Big Sky Farm has all your tree-trimming needs, including pre-cut Christmas trees, choose-and-cut trees, and even live potted trees!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Christmas Tree Farms in Tennessee

Christmas at Gaylord Opryland in Nashville TN
Photo courtesy Gaylord Opryland

5. See Ice Sculptures and More at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel is truly something to behold around the holidays.

Ranking as one of the best things to do in Nashville for Christmas, the Gaylord Opryland extravaganza runs through January 1, 2024. 

Don’t forget to pack your Winter coats, gloves, and mittens, as things can get pretty chilly around here. Massive ice sculptures tower above you and transport you to a magical Winter wonderland. 

There are huge frozen slides to whizz down, and ice tunnels to pass through, giving you a fully frozen experience.

After you’ve had your fill of ice, warm up aboard the Polar Express train and take a trip to Santa’s Village, where  you can see Santa and his elves busy getting ready for Christmas!

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


Outdoor Activities for Tennessee Winter Vacations

Christmas vacations in Tennessee - Snow Tubing Ober Mountain
Snow Tubing on Ober Mountain, photo courtesy of obergatlinburg.com

6. Slide Down TN Snow Tubing Hills

Interested in enjoying snow-filled activities? Snow tubing in Tennessee is a great option because it appeals to all ages and doesn’t require any special skill, like snow skiing and snowboarding.

Ober Mountain Snow Tubing is a great option in Gatlinburg TN, offering 90-minute sessions in which you can take numerous turns sliding down their 350-foot-long, 50-foot drop tubing hill.

Later, take the kids to the Snow Zone, where they can make snow angels and snowmen to their hearts’ content.

In nearby Pigeon Forge, Rowdy Bear’s Smoky Mountain Snowpark offers a massive 500-foot-long snow tubing hill with a 70-foot drop. There are also a bunch of other fun attractions, including the Avalanche Snow Coaster.

Pigeon Forge Snow boasts the area’s only indoor snow tubing hill. Though you won’t have the views of the surrounding mountains, it makes for a great Tennessee Winter day trip if the weather isn’t cooperating!

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

Snow skiing near Asheville NC - Ober Mountain
Photo courtesy of Ober Mountain

7. Snow Skiing at Ober Mountain Gatlinburg

Located just an hour south of Knoxville, Ober Mountain Gatlinburg is the only place to go snow skiing during your winter vacation in Tennessee.

This mountain resort has 10 trails for snow skiing and snowboarding, with two ski lifts. They also have a great equipment rental service, and offer lessons from professional instructors. 

The resort is located right on the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you can just imagine the spectacular mountain views you’ll see from the ski lifts!

Their trails open for snow skiing around mid-December and close in early March, depending on the weather. Be sure to check their official website for exact dates and ticket packages. 

READ MORE: Snow Skiing in Tennessee at Ober Mountain Gatlinburg

things to do in Tennessee in the winter - hiking via Canva

8. Hit the Tennessee Hiking Trails

One of our favorite ways to stay warm during Winter in Tennessee is to hit the hiking trails. Note that this season can bring snow and ice, so be sure to keep a look out for official bulletins for road/trail closures and warnings.

There are endless hiking trails in Tennessee, and in our experience many of the best are in the Cherokee National Forest. In fact, there are 700 miles of trails here that seem almost Narnia-like in the Winter snow.

We love hiking to one of the many Smoky Mountain waterfalls, or walk alongside one of the 7 rivers used for white water rafting in Tennessee

Of course, you can’t go to East Tennessee without spending some time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The absence of foliage in the Smoky Mountains in Winter opens up stunning scenic views that are typically hidden by the leaves during Spring and Summer. 

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

Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee Winter
Photo by Cara Alexander courtesy of Fall Creek Falls State Park

9. Find Frozen Tennessee Waterfalls

It’s almost otherworldly to see the usual force of waterfalls suddenly frozen in time. 

Though we obviously can’t promise ice when you visit Tennessee, there are some places where you might have a good chance of starring in your own frozen fairy tale if the weather lines up just right.

Located just over an hour north of Chattanooga, Fall Creek Falls State Park is home to one of the highest waterfalls in the eastern US (256 feet). When it freezes, the sight is absolutely jaw-dropping!

Less than an hour west of Knoxville, Ozone Falls is another wondrous waterfall that is known to freeze on occasion. And when it does, it’s a spectacular sight.

Part of a 43-acre state natural area, the picturesque Ozone Falls drops 110 feet into a deep, rocky pool at the bottom. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Waterfalls in Tennessee to Visit

Ziplining in Smoky Mountains in Winter TN
Photo courtesy of CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains

10. Take a Winter Ziplining Tour

Whipping through the trees at breakneck speed on a Winter ziplining tour might not be the first thing you think of as a perfect cold weather activity. 

But with most of the foliage gone and a chance of snow or ice clinging to bare branches and evergreens, imagine the amazing scenery you’ll get to appreciate from high in the treetops!

Climb Works Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg is next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you can imagine the amazing views that will unfold. 

Navitat is a great place for your Knoxville ziplining needs, while Legacy Mountain Ziplines offers Winter ziplining tours in Pigeon Forge. 

READ MORE: 10 Best Caverns and Underground Caves in Tennessee


Indoor Activities for Winters in Tennessee

winter vacation in Tennessee - visit Breweries
Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Brewing Company

11. Warm Up in Tennessee Breweries

Though hot chocolate or mulled wine might seem like obvious choices for Winter beverages, we love a cold beer at any time of year.

The beer may be cold, but Tennessee breweries are warm and offer a perfect reward after a long day of hiking.

Nashville is home to the Black Abbey Brewery and its array of festive ales, including the Krampus Nacht Bock. 

If you fancy a brew in Gatlinburg, check out Gatlinburg Brewing Company‘s Snow Shot, a white IPA. In Knoxville, Balter Beerworks has a seasonal beer menu for Winter guests to enjoy. 

The Chattanooga Brewing Company also has several seasonal beers available, including the Winter Warmer and the Hot Chocolate Habanero Stout, both of which should help warm your spirit!

READ MORE: 30 Fun Facts About Appalachian Scots-Irish History & Culture

Winter Tennesse Cabin

12. Cozy Up By the Fireside in a TN Cabin

Just the thought of a log cabin in the mountains, with roaring fireplaces, cozy blankets, and hot beverages is enough to warm your toes. But this thought can easily become a reality in East Tennessee. 

There are plenty of places where you can rent a cabin for a night, or a longer romantic getaway where you can shut out the cold and hibernate with your significant other. 

They’re often equipped with all the modern conveniences you’re used to at home, so you can live your dream mountain life for a few days in comfort. 

Check out Vrbo or Booking.com for all the best Tennessee mountain cabins for rent!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Romantic Getaways in Tennessee

places to visit in Tennessee in winter - Dollywoood
Winter Music Series, photo courtesy of Dollywood

13. Attend a Tennessee Festival

Visiting a festival over the dark Winter months is a great way to lift your spirits and rise above any seasonal blues, and Tennessee has an array of festivals going on all year-round!

Nashville will kick off 2024 with two shows, the Commemoration of the Battle of New Orleans and the Nashville Boat Show.

In mid-December, Gatlinburg proudly presents the Winter Magic Tunes and Tales, a fun festival filled with street performers, dancers, and storytellers. 

The Winter Music Series at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge is the ultimate Winter musical gathering, with shows running through December and January.

Check their website for updates about upcoming featured artists. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Fairs in Tennessee to Visit

things to do in Tennessee in November - antiquing
Photo courtesy of The Refindery On Mccallie

14. Go Antiquing

If you’re looking for shelter from the wind and cold, antique stores can fill you with joy and nostalgia… and possibly a steal of a deal!

Visiting antique shops during the holidays can be especially heartwarming, because they’re filled with Christmas decorations from times gone by. 

There are some special places to go antiquing all over the state, including Antique Archaeology in Nashville (which is housed in an old car factory).

The Refindery on McCallie in Chattanooga is the place to go for vintage vinyl collectors, while American Sideshow in Gatlinburg is famed for its eclectic collection of oddities and curiosities. 

READ MORE: The 40 Best Camping Gifts and Hiking Gifts

Guitar Exhibit at Songbirds Guitar & Pop Culture Museum in Chattanooga TN
Songbirds Guitar & Pop Culture Museum, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

15. Wander Around Top-Notch Museums

For quality indoor time on a cold Winter’s day, you can’t beat a visit to a Tennessee museum. They’re fun and educational for the whole family, and there’s a museum in Tennessee to meet everyone’s needs and interests.

If it’s the kids you are looking to entertain, check out Knoxville’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) museum, Muse.

Chattanooga’s Creative Discovery Museum has a Winter Playground program, which includes a camp and a New Years event. The town is also home to the Songbirds Guitar & Pop Culture Museum, which boasts an amazing collection.

There are all kinds of events happening during Winter at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville, including craft workshops and an exhibit called “Building a Bright Future: Black Communities & Rosenwald Schools in Tennessee,” which runs through January. –by Emma Gallagher

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!

Born in Britain, writer/photographer Emma Gallagher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC on a permaculture homestead with her husband, Jonathon. While traveling the world for 13 years, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region when she lived at an artist retreat in Burnsville NC before moving to Brevard. Today Emma lives near Stone Mountain State Park and Doughton Park volunteers at the Surry County Fiddlers Convention, and cares for the gardens at the Reeves Downtown School of Music in Elkin. She's also a volunteer for the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which maintains segment 6 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.