Changing leaves, pumpkin patches, scary costumes — oh my! Yep, fall is here, so get your calendar ready for awesome autumn events. From fun-filled festivals and creepy haunted mansions to handcrafted gifts and Thanksgiving fireworks, the Smoky Mountains is a great place to celebrate this fun season. Not only can you attend various fall events, but you can also enjoy the bewitching beauty of the colorful fall foliage over the local mountain range — a truly marvelous sight. Hop aboard the trolley in Pigeon Forge or get in your car and get ready to experience the magic of fall in the mountains!
OktOBERfest |September 22 – October 29
Rooted in the world-renowned traditions of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, the annual OktOBERfest (8 years running this 2017) at Ober Gatlinburg, an amusement park and ski area, is a lively indoor/outdoor festival with great entertainment, scrumptious food, and even better beer! It’s one of our favorite fall events!
Watch the Bavarian Fun Makers Oompah Band perform traditional music and yodels of Bavaria while dressed in authentic lederhosen. Shows are at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Sunday with a bonus 3:00 p.m. performance on Tuesdays and additional 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. shows Friday through Sunday — be sure to arrive 30 minutes early to get a good seat.
Singing along sure does work up an appetite, so stay energized with German-inspired festival food: schnitzel, strudel, sauerkraut, pretzels, bratwurst, and more! If Bavarian-derived recipes don’t suit your child’s taste, fear not — other (non-German) food is available at the event.
What better to go with German food than German beer?! Grab a beer card (eight 7oz cups or four 16oz cups for $20) or a beer boot (24oz for $14.95 with refills for $7) and visit the Outdoor Bier Garten — open from noon to 6:00 p.m. daily and noon to 7:00 p.m. on Saturdays — to sample assorted beers (sampling below — pun intended).
Dollywood Harvest Festival | September 29 – October 28
Complete with live music, talented artisans, and a spooky light show, the Dollywood Harvest Festival in Pigeon Forge has something for everyone! Attend one — or one hundred! — of the 500+ free concerts (with Dollywood admission) at the Southern Gospel Jubilee, which brings together well-known and up-and-coming artists in the gospel industry. With various locations throughout the park, everyone has a chance to tap to the gospel beat.
As you continue to walk through the theme park, you’ll find artisans of all kinds showcasing their mesmerizing skills. Each booth presents a unique traditional craft for visitors to view, such as handmade historic games, chainsaw carvings, corn husk creations, glass jewelry, Native American pottery, loom weaving, and fiddle making — just to name a few. As another harvest treat this year, the Great Pumpkin LumiNights will make its debut with pumpkin-themed yummies, glow-in-the-dark face painting, fun games, and more! With thousands of jack-o-lanterns to light the way through Timber Canyon, family fun is inevitable. Plus, you can visit the Volunteer Supply Company from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily to watch the master carvers create pumpkin masterpieces!
Great Smoky Mountain Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Show | November 21 – November 26
An annual event in downtown Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountain Thanksgiving Arts and Crafts Show exhibits beautiful handcrafted items made by the Great Smoky Mountain Arts and Crafts Community —the largest assemblage of independent craftsmen and artists in the nation. Using centuries-old techniques and a whole lot of heart, these artisans treat every piece with delicacy, care, and affection. Just seeing these works of art (some are listed below) in person is a true pleasure!
Moreover, anything handmade is always unique, so every artwork you purchase will never have a twin — it will forever be the only one of its kind. The Gatlinburg Convention Center plays host to this delightful show Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. What’s more, admission is FREE! It’s one of those can’t miss fall events that exemplifies what the Smoky Mountains is all about.
Thanksgiving Fireworks | November 23
Every year at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, there is a free fireworks display on Thanksgiving Day — that’s right, Turkey Day ends with a bang! Though, there is more rhyme to reason than it seems. The fireworks are actually meant as a tribute to the lives lost on the RMS Titanic more than 100 years ago, as a symbol of hope and peace. As if fireworks weren’t special enough, powdered snow will also appear from the bows of the ship, reflecting the colorfully lit evening sky. Even better, Santa Claus is known to appear during the festivities, so the kids will be more than excited to get out on Thanksgiving Day! Lasting about 30 minutes, the fireworks begin at 7:00 p.m., so make sure to get there early for a good parking space.
Autumn Honorable Mentions