Take down the Halloween decorations and break out the tree and the lights, because it’s officially the most wonderful time of the year! It does not take much to get me excited for the tinsel, Christmas music, beautiful lights, and those giant blow-up Christmas characters that hold a love-hate relationship in all our hearts. Sometimes, however, other people in our families are not as easily prodded into the holiday spirit. How to fix this? Well, playing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on repeat and pulling out all the decorations really just isn’t enough for these Grinches.
There’s a magical place with millions of lights and an overflow of holiday cheer that is sure to get everyone in the spirit – Pigeon Forge in the beautiful Smoky Mountains! The sparkling lights set against the dark silhouettes of the surrounding mountains underneath cloudless starry skies is sure to propel any Scrooge into joy and anticipation for this special time.
Meanwhile, it is the one place I feel indulges my deep love for the season of giving and Santa. Spending time in a relaxing Pigeon Forge cabin in the mountains while absorbing some real quality time together is reason enough to visit Pigeon Forge any time of year. But mix it in between magical days of parades and lights makes it the absolute best way to bring in the 2017 holiday season!
1. An Avalanche of Christmas Lights during the 2017 Winterfest Kickoff
Like a Christmas wave hurling from the North, Winterfest Kick-Off begins Monday, November 6 in Sevierville before overtaking Pigeon Forge on November 7! From 3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., travel the 25-mile stretch in Sevierville, Tennessee, to witness the 28th Annual Winterfest season begin. It lasts all the way through February, so there is plenty of time to explore downtown Pigeon Forge and experience the magic of the 2017 holiday season. Let the kids roll down their windows as they gawk and point at the 15 million lights along the ride!
The fun continues down to Pigeon Forge on Tuesday (November 7) for a full day of tinsel, sweet treats, and tons of shopping! As dusk gives into nighttime, start your Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights at the north end of the Parkway. Five million more lights glow in the cool evening as they form all your favorite North Pole characters, Smoky Mountain figures, and American patriotic commemorations. My favorite day of this kickoff is the grand finale in Gatlinburg!
Head to downtown Gatlinburg in the early afternoon for the annual Winter Magic Chili Cookoff at 5 p.m. If you simply want to wander through the street event, it’s free, but I definitely suggest getting a $10 ticket for sampling all that chili you will be smelling as you walk around. There are some really awesome booth decorations, too, because there’s not only a People’s Choice Award for the chili competition, but also Best Booth Presentation. Be sure to pick up a commemorative t-shirt before walking around the city – or heading over to Pigeon Forge, both dazzling with over 3 million Christmas lights and winter displays!
2. A Whole New Level of Christmas Cheer at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge
Seriously. I have never seen anything like it. Even if you have already visited Dollywood during Smoky Mountain Christmas, Dolly Parton finds a way to up the candy cane stakes every year, it seems like! Tickets to Dollywood are never more worth it than this time of year, from The Parade of Many Colors to the live musical shows like It’s A Wonderful Life, the memories and pictures are worth keeping for a lifetime. The kids will love meeting Rudolph and all his North Pole friends, and the adults will love the endless supply of tasty holiday treats.
The Smoky Mountain Christmas officially begins November 4 and runs all the way to January 1. Across the 150-acre park, you will witness over 4 million lights, more than a dozen musical and theatrical shows, and Christmas come to life in a way you have never seen before! Pigeon Forge’s Dollywood will truly become a magical place during the 2017 holiday season!
3. 2017 Holiday Fun at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Yes, while Rudolph and Frosty are hoggin’ all the Christmas limelight, my favorite winter cutie that hails from the icy, snow-covered lands is not fictional. I absolutely love penguins! You may argue that they are not technically included in the Christmas festivities, but I have seen (and unfortunately worn) plenty of Christmas sweaters with these adorable creatures sewn onto them to prove otherwise. Plus, it’s a little surprise for the kids who may need a break from the literal millions of Christmas lights!
Visit Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg for a special encounter with these delightful flightless birds! For just $39.99, you’ll hear from an animal expert, get a souvenir photo with a penguin, and you will GET TO PET A PENGUIN. Your kids might be too cool for Santa, but I would argue that petting a penguin will be the coolest thing they do this year. He may not have a scarf or Santa hat on as depicted on the Christmas sweaters and holiday cards, but the penguin is a very important winter personality!
4. Outdoor Winter Fun at Ober Gatlinburg
While the lights and parades are magical and fun at night, what wintry attractions are perfect for day trips? Snow tubing in Ober Gatlinburg! The whole family will love flying down the giant hill of snow and hopping on the “Magic Carpet” to ride back to the top. Repeat this ride as many times as you like during your 90-minute session with kids 3 and up! Race each other in different icy lanes, and watch out, the little ones tend to beat everyone!
Snag your tickets at the ticket booth on the mountain, or buy them online. However, the holiday season tends to sell out of tickets more often, so I suggest picking yours up ahead of time on their website. Ober Gatlinburg also offers snowboarding and skiing for you more snow-experienced travelers! I’m from the South, so snow sports were never something I got into… but tubing is great – just plop down and fly!
5. 42 years of parading!
If you are staying in a Pigeon Forge cabin during the week of December 1, don’t miss out on the award-winning Fantasy of Lights Parade in Gatlinburg! About 60,000 people gather on the streets of this magical mountain town to watch giant balloons, marching bands, extravagant floats, and beautiful horses usher in the most enchanting month of the year.
Bring the family, the WHOLE family, to stay in a big, amenity-packed Pigeon Forge cabin to share in all the holiday festivities while spending much-needed quality time together. Let your heart be indulged by Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg’s healthy obsession with Christmastime and relax in the most serene setting among the Great Smoky Mountains. If you were not into the spirit of Christmas before you came to stay in the Smokies, you are sure to leave with a full heart and an excited anticipation!