And although Winterfest is perhaps best known for its plentiful and colorful lights (more than 15 million this year), it has grown into much more.
For many, especially families, it is a wintertime tradition. Area businesses often put a spin on it with special menus, holiday versions of their shows, and holiday decor. Examples of special events include train rides and cookies with Santa, trolley rides with hot cocoa, streetside storytelling and caroling, outdoor ice skating, and fireworks.
“Our businesses have taken our winter experience to an extraordinary level, making a winter visit to the Smoky Mountains an entirely unique and authentic experience for families who visit throughout the year,” said Mary Hope Maples, director of Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council.
Smoky Mountain Winterfest began in 1989 as a collaborative effort between the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville along with Dollywood and Sevier County. The initial idea of Winterfest was to extend the visitor travel season into November, December, January and February by highlighting the winter beauty of the Smokies, offering festive family events and entertainment along with themed light displays throughout the area.
“The majesty of the Great Smoky Mountains along with 15 million twinkling LED lights provides the perfect winter wonderland setting for our 30th anniversary Smoky Mountain Winterfest Celebration,” Maples said.
All new this year:
• The Incredible Christmas Place features daily activities including cookie decorating, storytelling and ornament making in a delightful new house created for the jolly guy himself at Santa’s Haus.
• Anakeesta Theme Park atop downtown Gatlinburg charms with its Woodland Winter Wonderland complete with a 1,000-foot tunnel of twinkling arctic lights, a life-size snow globe with the natural beauty and backdrop of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a forest of firefly lights along the exhilarating Treetop Skywalk.
• A winter trip to the Smokies wouldn’t be complete without shopping, including premier shopping outlets.
• Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas.
• Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland (to name a few) add to the fun year after year with new light displays, décor, events and experiences for your whole family to enjoy.
“Pair this with our warm hospitality … and winter in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Sevier County is no longer a time for hibernation, but rather a time for family celebration,” Maples said. “We don’t hibernate!”
Smoky Mountain Winterfest continues through Feb. 17.
For more information and a complete list of Winterfest events, visit www.SmokiesFun.com