There’s something about the still of winter that brings the mountains alive. The Great Smoky Mountains around Gatlinburg, Tennessee are no exception. After the final leaves have faded and fallen, and the roar of waterfalls subsides into silence under the ice, the mountains feel just as vibrant and thrilling as they did on the warmest summer day. And when the snow falls, well, that’s just magical. Get ready to experience Gatlinburg in winter – you’re going to love these cold-weather ideas.
Winter Sports: Of course, we have to start the list with snow sports! The smooth slopes of the Smoky Mountains are ideal for snow skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and just about anything else you can do that involves gravity and frozen precipitation. Take an aerial tramway ride up to Ober Gatlinburg, which transforms from a summer playground to a winter wonderland when the seasons change. You don’t have to be a skiing expert to have fun here: book ahead for a 90-minute session of snow-tubing, and tackle the slopes with an inner-tube (plus an escalator to get you back up the hill).
Celebrate the Holidays: If you’re visiting Gatlinburg during the holiday season, you’re in for a real treat. Gatlinburg Winter Magic, a Christmas light extravaganza, returns this year with updated displays, including brilliant new LED lights. To experience the lights in comfort, the Gatlinburg Trolley transforms into the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights, carrying riders past the fanciful displays of Christmas lights throughout the downtown area. Tickets are just $5 (children under three ride for free) and the show runs well past Christmas, with nightly rides November 9th, 2016 through January 31st, 2017.
In addition to the Christmas lights, enjoy shopping opportunities with the Festival of Trees (Nov. 22 – Nov. 27, 2016), featuring handmade decorations amongst beautifully decorated trees, and the Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show (Nov. 28 – Dec. 4, 2016), which gathers the diverse talents of the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
When it’s time for New Year’s Eve, Gatlinburg takes the party to the town’s Space Needle, where the ball drops at midnight, Times-Square style. A spectacular fireworks display immediately follows the turning of the year.
Take in the View: The Smoky Mountains are just as beautiful capped in snow as they are crowned with green, so don’t miss the opportunity to get a view from the top with one of Gatlinburg’s scenic chair lifts. The Gatlinburg Skylift, which departs from downtown, takes you up 1,800 feet to a lookout on Crockett Mountain. Essentially the sort of chair-lift you’d ride up a ski-slope, the Skylift gives you a very open-air perspective on things. If dangling your feet over a mountainside isn’t your style, consider the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, which gives you a more enclosed trip up the mountainside in a cable car.
You can also bundle up and go hiking! Visit My Smokies offers good advice on prepping for winter hikes, including what to wear and what to pack, along with some favorite hiking trails. If you don’t want to get out of the car, take a scenic drive on one of the National Park roads. Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, and Cades Cove Loop can offer beautiful winter views – just check the Smoky Mountain road closure list before heading out on your drive.
Museums and More: Gatlinburg’s museum scene is strong and geared towards families, with crowd-pleasing subjects like famous cars of Hollywood. There’s also the acclaimed Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, which brings the sea to the mountains with interactive marine life exhibits. After you’ve taken in some museums, move on to family fun like black-light mini-golf, laser tag, arcades, and 4-D theater experiences. Check out our blog post on family-friendly attractions in Gatlinburg for details.
Relax and Reconnect: It’s great to stay busy with all the fun Gatlinburg has to offer, but don’t miss out on the special opportunity a chilly mountain day can give you to sit back, relax, and enjoy a little family time. Take along some board games, the fixings for hot cocoa, and set aside some time to soak up the cozy serenity of mountain-time.
For a convenient and comfortable place to call home during your Gatlinburg vacation, click the Destinations tab to explore Gatlinburg Town Square By Exploria Resorts.