Whether it be hiking, scenic drives, attractions, or festivals, you don’t want to miss this Smoky Mountains Vacation Guide because we’ve put together a great list of our favorite Smoky Mountain Attractions for every season.
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Fall
In addition to the beautiful Fall Foliage in the Smokies, these attractions are some of our favorites to visit during the Autumn season.
This event has quickly become a new family favorite for a fall visit to the Smoky Mountain theme park. The newly expanded section of Dollywood brings the sights and sounds of the fall festival season to the park. There are artistically sculptured jack-o-lanterns, illuminated pumpkin walkways, and pumpkin-themed food and entertainment. Dollywood’s harvest festival also occurs during this time making a fall visit to Dollywood an all day affair. (Get Dollywood Discount Tickets here)
Visit the Gatlinburg Convention center for the Fall Craftsmen’s Fair to get a truly unique souvenir from one of the area’s many talented craftsmen and women.
This is such a fun event in Gatlinburg during the fall. It’s a great excuse to enjoy a ride on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway up to the area’s Ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg. Ober is transformed into a simulated Munich, Germany during Oktoberfest complete with bratwurst and of course, great beer! In addition to great beer and German food, Ober’s Oktoberfest has crafts and rides for the kids. The ice-skating rink and mountain coaster are open as well. Fun will be had by all ages at this October event in the Smokies.
If you are looking to try something a little harder than the great German Beer at Oktoberfest, check out the new Grains and Grits Festival hosted by local whiskey and moonshine distilleries in Townsend, TN. This over 21 only foodie and craft spirits festival kicks off in early November.
Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Is there a more iconic way to enjoy the Smoky Mountains than from a rail car? We think not! The Great Smoky Mountain railroad offers a chance to step back in time and enjoy the fall foliage from the comfort of the train as you whisk through the mountains on steam locomotive. The journey will take you through the Carolina Mountains which make up more than 50% of the Great Smoky Mountains and borders the western edge of North Carolina. For a truly special treat consider booking the PEANUTS™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express or the Polar Express Train Ride for Christmas.
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Winter
Winter is a special time in the Smoky Mountains. From late fall until after the first of the year, Winterfest is underway and the sights and smells of the Christmas season are in full force. There are more than 10 million twinkling lights throughout the Smoky Mountain area in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. Dollywood alone has more than 5 million Christmas lights thanks to its newly expanded Glacier Ridge. Snowfall in the lower levels of the Smoky Mountains is minimal with low accumulation about five times per year. Higher elevations and several of the more shaded and narrow roadways do become snowy and icy and will be closed. Check the National Park Page for road conditions and closures.
As we mentioned, Dollywood recently added the largest expansion to date with the addition of Glacier Ridge which houses a brand new 50-foot lighted Christmas tree and brings the simulation of the northern lights to the mountains of Tennessee. This new addition brings the total Christmas lights in Dollywood to over 5 million. In addition to more lights, there are award-winning shows, a daily Christmas Parade, special food, and many of the theme park rides are in operation. (Buy specially discounted tickets to Dollywood here)
Tennessee’s only ski resort shines its brightest during the winter months, but don’t think skiing is the only winter time activity to enjoy. In addition to the 10 slopes for skiing, Ober offers snowboarding, tubing, and an indoor ice skating rink. Instruction is also available.
Usher in the New Year with a celebration at The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN. Enjoy a late dinner followed by music, attractions, and a midnight countdown and firework show. While you are there, take a spin on the Smoky Mountain Wheel for a truly unique perspective.
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Spring
As you can imagine, the spring is a great time for visiting the Smoky Mountains. The air is fresh and fragrant with the smell of freshly blooming wildflowers, the streams and rivers are bursting forth, and the wildlife and singing birds begin to emerge adding to the magical feeling in the air.
Here are a few of our favorite Springtime attractions to see in the Smoky Mountains.
Occurs in the Spring bringing together food, shows, music, and artists from nations all over the world in this one of a kind annual event. (Get Dollywood Discounted Tickets Here)
Every April and May on Friday and Saturday evening, local musicians and artisans take to the downtown streets to share their craft with visitors. Step back in time with this Smoky Mountain cultural treat.
Every spring more than 10,000 trout are released into the 20 miles of streams surrounding the Smoky Mountains for a 2 day tournament complete with cash prizes. Bring the kids because there is even a separate youth tournament.
Gatlinburg Wine Weekend
Do I really need to say anything else? Enjoy this adult oriented weekend with tours of the local wineries on Friday followed by a Saturday evening of food pairing and wine tasting at several booths located at the historic Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Tickets include a free souvenir wine glass to take home.
Bring the kids for this week long nature event in May specially designed to encourage and peak the interest of your budding naturalist. Based at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge, your family will enjoy guided hikes and educational activities all week.
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Summer
Summer is, of course, one of the best times to visit the Smoky Mountains as all activities both indoor and out will be in full operation. The temperatures do heat up and humidity is high in the lower elevations, but that’s all the more reason to head for the hills of northeast Tennessee and reach those higher elevations and cooler temperatures. Here are a few ideas for how to best spend your summer in the Smoky Mountains.
Definitely the places to be in the summer. (Maybe Splash Country more so)
Gatlinburg is home to several regional rivers including the Pigeon River offering class III and class IV rapids for those looking to get a little wet on their visit to the Smoky Mountains. Never been on a whitewater rafting expedition before? No problem! There are several outfitters in the area who are more than willing to assist you and your family. Pigeon River rafting is perfect for all skill levels. The upper Pigeon River is for the more experienced, but the lower Pigeon River provides a more relaxed and unique way to see the beautiful smoky mountains.
A new and more unique way to explore them there hills, is on a smoky mountain Alpine coaster. Don’t underestimate these a “hillbilly” mountain coasters! These downhill gravity driven bobsleds are not as tame as you may think. They can be quite exhilarating as you speed down the mountain on a railway bobbing and weaving in between the trees and shrubs.
This is a really fun way to explore the Smoky Mountains in the summer. It is an excellent way to explore Cades Cove in the summer because the park closes it to motor traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 am.
This is a brand new way to cool off and have some fun in the summer in Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is now home to the only indoor snow tubing facility in the United States. With temperatures constantly between 60-70 degrees all year and REAL SNOW to tube down, this one you have to try out!
There are so many outdoor Summer adventures to be had in the Smoky Mountains. Check out these Smoky Mountain Outdoor Adventures that should definitely be on your bucket list.