Jillian uses affiliate links in this post, meaning she may get a commission for any purchases made using these links. Commissions go towards keeping this site active. For more information, please see her Privacy and Disclosure Policies page. Keep reading for her ideas on what to do in the winter in Gatlinburg, Tennessee!
Winter in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
(What to pack, where to stay, and what to do)
I recently returned from a nice vacation away in the South! A friend and I took a roadtrip from PA to Tennessee for a week. Even though it is also cold in Tennessee (though not as much as PA) there are still plenty of things to do this time of year! It was my first time actually staying in Tennessee, and we picked the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area to explore this trip. My friend and I are both into hiking, so we thought the Smokies would certainly offer that and more. It turned out to be an even better trip than planned! Here is a summary of what I would recommend to do in the Winter based on my experience. I included some travel tips along with where to stay, what to wear/pack, and what to do.
What to pack
Weather this time of year (end of December-beginning of January) can vary from 40-60 degree Fahrenheit. What you pack for clothing would depend not only on the weather forecast, but also what kind of outdoor events you are planning to participate in. As far as clothes go, I used everything from t-shirts and yoga capris or leggings for hiking, to a light winter coat and jeans for evening events. The last few days of our trip were a little rainy as well, so make sure your coat or jacket is waterproof. It also would have to take along a bag or backpack that has a waterproof layer. Do not forget decent boots or hiking sneakers if you plan to hike around!
Where to stay
There are plenty of choices this time of year since it is not a very busy season. We were there for over New Years Eve, and even with the holiday crowd you could tell not everywhere was fully booked. I got a good look at some of the resorts off the main drive (The “Parkway”), which is filled with many resorts and hotels. There are also many Airbnbs including various cabins especially up in the hills. I loved our little cabin in the Seviersville area which we found on Airbnb. If you are more interested in staying in a resort or hotel, I would recommend looking at some of these on booking.com. Booking.com guarantees the best prices for any type of property and no booking fees!
What to do in the Winter in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
First of all, if you go anytime during the Christmas season through November you can experience “Winterfest”. Unlike most places you go, this area is in no hurry to rush through and pack away the Christmas atmosphere! As you drive along the main roads throughout Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge you will notice awesome Christmas light displays, and snowman statues along the sidewalks! Enjoy the extended Christmas feels through February! I really enjoyed ending out my December and 2019 like this!
First of all, I must say I was happy with how easy it was to drive everywhere. Parking garages are plentiful downtown, and only $10 for the entire day! Another way to get around: the trolleys! There is a trolley system that runs around Gatlinburg, and some routes even go to certain attractions in nearby Pigeon Forge. For only $2 you can get a day pass for the trolley! During the Winter some routes are closed, but the longer ones that are open still get you everywhere you could want to go.
There are many shops and places to eat in downtown Gatlinburg between a few tourist attractions. I really liked a group of shops referred to as “the village.” If you are into shopping, you most likely will find it charming and having a lot to offer. We stopped there to look around for a bit and also ate breakfast at an old donut shop called “The Donut Friar.” I highly recommend it!
A main attraction we were really there to see was the Gatlinburg SkyBridge. This attraction takes you up a ski lift to the top of one of the mountains surrounding the town. At the top there is a lodge with a cafe and souvenir shop, and plenty of indoor and outdoor seating to take in the view of the town and surrounding mountains. You can also walk across the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America at 680 feet across! Since it was over the Holidays, the bridge and everything surrounding it was decked out in Christmas lights and decor. It was beautiful to walk at night!
We attended a VIP ticketed event up there for New Year’s Eve, and with not one regret! A very memorable place to ring in a new year! We were able to comfortably have a great view of the fireworks show in the town below. You can visit their website for hours and special events.
Another thing you can check out is the tower pictured above! It is called the Gatlinburg Space Needle. It is a little easier to get up to – we just walked right on the elevator to go up! The admission cost is super affordable, and this also gives a great view of the smokies and surrounding towns. See this deal for a discount!
A truly wonderful experience, and an absolutely must see, was the Aquarium. Ripley’s Aquarium of the smokies provides a highly interactive look at many different forms of sealife. This place can entertain both young and old! We especially enjoyed the shark tunnel and penguin habitat. It is my new favorite aquarium in the world!
Of course you have to at least drive through, if not also get out and hike around Smoky Mountain National Park! The entrance and visitor center is right at the edge of downtown Gatlinburg, so it is really easy to get to. The park takes up much of the territory in the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Seviersville areas, so you might just run into it if you drive around in the mountains enough. One minute we were on a windy back road through the woods from one side of Gatlinburg to the other, and next thing we knew there was another sign for the National Park!
There are plenty of pull-offs and hiking trails no matter what part you visit. If you stick to Newfound Gap Road heading out of the edge of town, you may end up at the higher elevations which provide the best views!
The surrounding towns a littered with plenty of restaurants and general stores, as well as breweries, antique malls, and tourist attractions. There are many shows and events over in Pigeon Forge, and do not forget to stop at Smoky Mountain Knife Works on the way down to Gatlinburg.
Winter in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a pleasant experience. I really enjoyed this part of Tennessee, and hope to be back very soon!
Thanks for reading!
gatlinburg, gatlinburg wintefest, great smoky mountain national park, hiking, hiking in the smoky mountains, pigeon forge, tenneessee things to do, tennessee travel, things to do in gatlinburg, things to do in pigeon forge, where to stay in Gatlinburg