6 Smoky Mountain Winterfest Events You Will Love

Smoky Mountain Winterfest Christmas lights display.

In the Smoky Mountains, winter comes early – and that’s a good thing! The annual Winterfest celebration in the Smokies starts in November, and brings a variety of exciting activities that the whole family will enjoy. Gatlinburg Cabin Rentals has put together a convenient guide to six Smoky Mountain Winterfest events we know that you will love:

1. Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff

Celebrate the start of Smoky Mountain Winterfest with the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff on November 11 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. This event features a variety of delicious chili recipes which guests can sample (and vote on) for just $10. City dignitaries will be on hand to mark the occasion with a ceremonial lighting of over 3 million lights throughout Gatlinburg!

2. Trolley Tour (or Driving Tour) of Lights

Each year, Gatlinburg comes alive with beautiful holiday displays featuring millions of LED lights! Head down to the Gatlinburg Welcome Center from November 12 – January 31 to enjoy a “Trolley Tour of Lights” at 6:30, 7:30, or 8:30 p.m. This tour presents the ideal opportunity to enjoy the displays, as you can sit back and relax to view the lights while hearing fascinating historical stories and folk tales from the tour guide.

Pigeon Forge also has an amazing collection of Christmas lights that you don’t want to miss! To see these lights, you can take the self guided “Driving Tour of Lights”. Free maps with the locations of the holiday lights are available at the Pigeon Forge Trolley Office and the Pigeon Forge Welcome Center.

(See Also: Top 5 Reasons to Choose Cabins in the Smoky Mountains for Christmas)

3. Festival of TreesA Christmas tree with ornaments and glittering lights in the background.

The Festival of Trees is a wonderful holiday tradition with beautifully decorated Christmas trees, a craft area, live entertainment, and pictures with Santa Claus! The event officially begins on the evening of November 24 with a Candy Canes and Cocktails Reception, and then runs from November 25 to November 29. Admission to the event is free, and all donations and purchases benefit the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains.

4. Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show

The Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show is a fantastic opportunity to browse and purchase unique handcrafted gifts produced by members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Visitors will be delighted to find all types of handmade crafts, such as quilts, jewelry, pottery, hand-dipped scented candles, local art, stuffed bears, and much more! The show takes place at the Gatlinburg Convention Center from November 30 to December 6 and admission is free.

5. Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

The annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade is set for December 4 at 7:30 p.m. in downtown Gatlinburg. During this popular mile-long parade, visitors will enjoy lighted floats, huge balloons, equestrian units, marching bands, and even an appearance by Santa Claus himself! It is free to view the parade, so come out early with your family to get a great spot. Also note that bleacher seat tickets can be purchased up until the day of the event for $20 per person.

A cowboy riding a horse with a lasso in his hands.6. Saddle Up

Let your inner cowboy loose to celebrate the American West during the Saddle Up celebration! This fun event takes place from February 17 to 21 at several locations throughout Pigeon Forge, including the LeConte Center, Clabough’s Campground, the Pottery House Café and Grille at Old Mill Square, Stages West, and Mama’s Farmhouse. Saddle Up features a cowboy dance, a chuck wagon cookoff, various seminars and workshops, and much more. In addition, guests can enjoy live entertainment from such performers as Andy Nelson, Baxter Black, Brenn Hill, and Chuck Pyle. Tickets for Saddle Up are available both in advance and on the day of the event.

To start planning your winter getaway, check out our complete selection of Smoky Mountain cabin rentals!