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The Smoky Mountains are a beautiful place to visit—or live—anytime of the year, but no season holds a candle to wintertime in the Smokies. In fact, a Smoky Mountain Christmas may be just the Christmas you’ve been dreaming about. If you’re considering a trip away from home this winter, you’ll want to add Sevier County, Tennessee, to your list of potential places to visit. We can promise there is no Christmas quite like a Smoky Mountain Christmas, and we think you’ll find these mountains warm and welcoming. Here are a few reasons we love Christmas in the Smokies:
There’s so much to say about Dollywood at Christmas time, and while we could write a book about all of the wonderful food, Christmas lights, shows, music, and kids’ activities, we’d probably never do justice to the entire Dollywood Christmas experience. If you’ve never splurged and come to Dollywood during Christmastime, it’s time you do it. Bring the kids, bring the extended family, or just make it a great date for you and the one you love. You’re going to have a blast, and we can also promise that you’ll remember what it’s like to be a kid again.
As far as children go, not only will the kiddos have the opportunity to ride the Polar Express at Dollywood during the Christmas season, they can meet their favorite characters from the old Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Christmas specials, and may just find Santa’s helpers here and there in the beautifully lighted streets of the park.
Of course, there are rides to ride, as there are year-round, but Dollywood is a different experience in the cold, crisp air of winter in the Smokies, and nothing comes close to the feeling of walking down the paths with light-strewn trees that illuminate no matter how dark. Christmas music, is everywhere of course, from the village streets to the numerous shows and productions available inside the gates of Dollywood, and there’s always something warm to sip, or the aroma of fresh-baked bread wafting out of the shop windows as you pass.
Winterfest was Sevier County’s answer to the “off season. “ When crowds died down, workers were let go, and things got cold and still in Sevier County years ago. It’s no longer a problem thanks to Winterfest. You see, one of the most beautiful times of year in the Smokey Mountains is Winter, and it only makes sense to celebrate it here with the people who make the tourism industry possible—those folks who travel for miles to visit with us and enjoy all we have to offer. Thus, Winterfest was born.
Every year, each of the three major cities in Sevier County (being Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge), light their streets with gorgeous displays and welcome guests in with brightened lights and the undeniable feel of Christmas in the Smokies. Even better, there’s a Winterfest kick-off in each city to celebrate the coming of Christmas in the mountains. Back-to-back-to-back, each city hosts a festival that includes games, activities, tree lightings, and lots of food and fellowship. This year, Sevierville’s Winterfest kick-off will be November 9, Pigeon Forge will have their kick-off on November 10, and Gatlinburg will enjoy their kick-off on November 12. Bundle up and come out to enjoy the events. Bring the kiddos, it’s very family-friendly.
Christmas Shows Galore
From the Lumber Jack Adventures and Dixie Stamped to the a half-dozen theatres within the gates of Dollywood, to Country Tonite, to the Hatfields and McCoys and Smokey Mountain Opry, and more, there are some amazing Christmas shows in Sevier County. Whether you’re looking for a great dinner theatre, or want to enjoy a show after a day spent hiking or zip-lining, there’s something for you in Sevier County. Like to laugh? Try the family-friendly Comedy Barn for good, clean comedy everyone in your party can enjoy. Love a good mystery? Try the Murder Mystery Theatre in Pigeon Forge (oh, just a warning—The Murder Mystery Theatre is um, PG-13 in nature, so you may want to splurge for a sitter if you have little bitty kiddos in your party). Love great music and exceptional dance numbers? Country Tonite is the place to be—and their Christmas shows are nothing short of spectacular.
There are also some wonderful free options when it comes to shows in Sevier County. Ol’ Smokey Moonshine generally has some great bluegrass pickers available in the evenings at their locations in Pigeon Forge on The Island and in the Ol’ Smokey Moonshine Holler in Gatlinburg—get there early as these performances are very popular and the venues tend to fill up quickly. (While you’re there, go ahead and sample some shine to warm yourself up a bit, but bring your ID because you’ll need it.) You’ll also want to enjoy Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales, a project that encompasses performers that walk the streets of Gatlinburg (and—yea!– it’s rumored that they will also be added to the Island at Pigeon Forge this year), singing, telling tall tales, and offering up a number of other talents for the benefits of our visitors. Lots of fun, and very inviting, Tunes and Tales is a Sevier County tradition. Bring your camera: you’ll want to snap a few selfies with our great performers and your friends and family as you enjoy the experience.
If you love amazing food, and associate –as so many of us do—any great Smoky Mountain Christmas will great food and drink, you’ll be glad to know, Sevier County’s restaurants and specialty stores have more than enough to offer. Sample the local fare. You may be surprised at the array of offerings and price ranges that will certainly fit most tastes and budgets.
Whether you choose to check out Paula Deen’s Kitchen on the Island—I highly recommend the hoecakes—or settle in next to the fire at the Chop House with a bowl of steaming chili and a glass of great wine, you’ll find something that warms your heart and your tummy among out best food vendors. Don’t forget dessert: You’ll want to at least sample Dixie Stampede’s apple fritters or the baklava at the local Gondolier, and you may want to take a few of Gigi’s cupcakes back to your crew to score some major brownie points.
Try the best of Germany at Pomme Frite’s, enjoy wonderful, creamy vegetable soup at the Dixie Stampede, grab a loaf or two of the Grist Mill’s famous cinnamon bread while you’re visiting Dollywood, or enjoy a steak at the Pottery House Grill. By the way, as long as you’re at the Pottery House, go around the corner to the Old Mill’s Ice Cream shoppe, and try the Elvis Ice Cream (peanut butter and banana as you might have guessed, and simply to die for).
No matter what your appetite dictates, you’ll find something to please your pallet in Sevier County, and you’re not likely to ever run out of options.
Appalachian Southern Charm
Of course, those of us who are locals know that the absolute best thing about Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and all of the surrounding communities– large and small—is the people who live here. By and large, we are unrivaled for true hospitality and unparalleled Southern Charm, with friendly smiles, willingness to help our friends and neighbors– especially during the holiday season– and the knowledge and ability to help you have the time of your life in these here hills.
Stop by any shop, restaurant, inn, or visitor’s center, and you’ll see what I mean about the hospitality here. We love company and visitors, and we want you to feel completely at home during your stay. You’re the reason Sevier County is successful, and we appreciate you. Sevier County is all about a big, Christmas welcome, and we hope you’ll spend at least part of the holidays with us in this, your home away from home.
If you’ve been to the Great Smoky Mountains in Christmases past, we’re curious. What’s your favorite Smoky Mountain Christmas memory? Does your family hold time-honored traditions that were crafted here in our mountains? Tell us all about them! Of course, if you’re considering a trip to the Smokies this Christmas season, remember, Smoky Mountain Things to Do is ultimate resource for information about things to do—and eat—in the Smoky Mountains!
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