The month of December is a special time for many people. There is Christmas and New Year’s to look forward to, hot chocolate to drink while it snows outside, and time to spend with your close friends and loved ones. But sometimes you just want to escape from the daily grind and take a vacation somewhere instead. If you are looking for an ideal spot to visit during the holiday season but do not want to deal with tons of tourists and heavy crowds, you will find that the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee fits the bill. Located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, this quiet snow-covered town has lots to see and things to do in Gatlinburg in December.
You can’t beat the Christmas shopping that is available in Gatlinburg, as you will be able to find many specialty items for gifts that are not available anywhere else. The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is an 8-mile loop where you will find shops that feature the handcrafted work of over 120 artists. You can buy homemade quilts, candles, pottery, baskets, stained glass, dolls, wood carvings, jewelry, paintings, and more. And if you would rather do your shopping all in one place instead of walking the 8 miles to find that perfect gift, you can go to downtown Gatlinburg and attend the Great Smoky Christmas Arts and Crafts show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center, where all the artisans and their crafts are gathered at one location.
The Gatlinburg Trolley Ride of Lights
Gatlinburg is famous for having some of the best Christmas light displays in the southeast region. Not only are there the characteristic holiday scenes of Santa and his reindeer, there are also animals that are native to the Smokey Mountains such as squirrels, bears, foxes, and rabbits which are depicted in the winter wonderland of lights. And the best way to experience the magic of the lights is to hop aboard a trolley that will take you on a full tour to see it all. The trolleys are enclosed and even heated so you won’t be cold while embarking on the memorable journey throughout the downtown Gatlinburg area. A tradition that has been going on for 23 years, this is one of the things to do in Gatlinburg in December that cannot be missed!
Winter snow activities at Ober Gatlinburg
The month of December marks the beginning of the winter sports season in Ober Gatlinburg. Skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts can begin to hit the slopes in the middle of the month. Snow tubing and ice skating are also very popular. In addition, you can take a ride down the Alpine Slide which winds its way through Mt. Harrison. You can also take the Ober Aerial Tram for a 2.1 mile ride to the top of Mt. Harrison to get a scenic view of the city covered in snow. Kids can enjoy the Cubbies Snow Zone where they can build a snow man, make snow angels, and play in the snow. And, those who enjoy the thrill of roller coasters will especially love the Ober Ski Mountain Coaster, as it is known for its numerous twists and turns to keep the excitement alive!
Smoky Mountains Tunes and Tales
Every Friday and Saturday evening in December, the Downtown Parkway in Gatlinburg is lined with several performers who sing traditional Christmas carols to entertain everyone and spread the Christmas spirit. Sometimes Santa Claus and his elves will even show up, along with Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! But singing is not the only thing to be enjoyed during Tunes and Tales, as there are also storytellers who relay stories of Gatlinburg’s past. The whole event is staged against a backdrop of millions of lights, helping to create a magical experience for you that is unlike any other.
Gatlinburg New Year’s Ball Drop
If you find yourself spending New Year’s Eve in Gatlinburg, a great way to celebrate the night is to attend the Gatlinburg New Year’s Ball Drop. Hosted in downtown where the Gatlinburg Space Needle is located, this free party begins at 11 p.m. with plenty of live entertainment. After the lighted ball has made its way down and the clock has struck the midnight hour, the Space Needle will light up with a fireworks display to help ring in the new year. Many past partygoers have said that this is one fireworks show they will never forget!
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Those who want to get out of the cold winter weather in Gatlinburg will find that they can go to the Ripley’s Aquarium to have some fun and learn something new along the way. You can come face to face with penguins as you watch them eat, swim, and play. Or you can take a walk through the shark tunnel to view giant sharks, giant stingrays, sawfish, snappers, squirrelfish, tarpons, and a green sea turtle up close. And, there is even a scuba-diving Santa Claus to see during the winter holiday season! There is so much to explore at the aquarium that you just might need to come back more than once during your Gatlinburg stay to be able to do it all!