WinterFest in Gatlinburg
Winter Time is the Right Time
Gatlinburg’s winter scene certainly has changed over the years. Occasionally hear phrases were, “they roll up the sidewalks” and “you could fire a cannon down the parkway and not hit a thing” after October’s autumn splash that draws thousands to the area. Many shop owners and even some motels would close their doors until spring when business picked up. Not so anymore! Two things occurred to make the difference.
First, in the early sixties Gatlinburg offered snow skiing at what was called the Gatlinburg Ski Area. In early 1973 an aerial tramway was completed to move visitors from the downtown area to the hillsides of Mt.Harrison where what was once the named the ‘Ski Area’ became in 1975 what is now called Ober Gatlinburg.
Second, the city fathers took a huge leap forward in the early eighties in planning, financing and construction of a new meeting facility, the Gatlinburg Convention Center. At the time small meetings were held at W. L. Mills Auditorium which was renovated and incorporated into the new structure. With over 148,000 square feet of space, the Convention Center offers opportunity for large shows and conventions as well as the ability to host more than one event at a time.
With Ober and the Convention Center paving the way, plus a strong marketing and promotion of the winter season by the city and private concerns, Winterfest celebrations are on tap from November through February. Downtown light displays and seasonal decorations have made the season a virtual welcome center for the increasing number of visitors. Nowadays, nearly every downtown business maintains winter hours to some degree.
Additionally, a couple of holidays have also impacted tourism growth in the winter: (1) the expansion of the wedding industry in the Smokies that centers tremendous attention on Valentine’s Day as well as typically falling near the President’s Day three day weekend, and (2) January’s Monday holiday on Martin Luther King’s birthday that has become a popular weekend for church conferences.
All of these factors have worked in favor of travel and tourism in the Smoky Mountains in the winter season. What follows is a brief list and description of some of the events and activities during the Winterfest period. More detailed information is available with actual dates at Gatlinburg.com.
– This Ober Gatlinburg festival features Bavarian-style food, beverages, music and live entertainment through early November, with daily shows and multiple shows each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Veterans Day Celebration
– The City of Gatlinburg salutes the men and women of America who have served in our Armed Forces in this special ceremony on Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza. The program includes stirring musical tributes, ceremonial words and recognition of Veterans in attendance.
Gatlinburg Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff
– The City kicks off Gatlinburg Winter Magic on the downtown Parkway by turning on over three million lights.
Gatlinburg Winter Magic Lights
– Through the entire winter season nights are alight with dozens of spectacular light displays.
Gatlinburg Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights
– Guided trolley tours of the lighting displays.
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community Thanksgiving Show
– Members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community display their handiwork at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
Gatlinburg’s Festival of Trees
– Dozens upon dozens of ornately decorated Christmas trees await visitors in this winter wonderland at the W. L. Mills Conference Center.
Winter Magic Tunes & Tales
– Through the holiday season, visitors can meet characters and storytellers and enjoy caroling along the Parkway on scheduled Friday and Saturday evenings.
The Nutcracker “Sweet”
– Presented by the Smoky Mountain Dance Theater Company, this holiday classic is presented in Gatlinburg, with performances in the W.L. Mills Auditorium.
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community Holiday Show
– Unique handcrafted gifts made by members of Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community are at the annual holiday show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
Gatlinburg’s 39th Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
– Thousands are on hand for this popular Christmas parade in downtown Gatlinburg, recognized as one of the very best by the International Festival and Events Association.
Christmas on Ice
– Enjoy the spirit of the season as local skaters display their talents on ice to the sounds of holiday music in a two-day performance at Ober Gatlinburg’s ice arena.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show & Ball Drop
– in the center of downtown the Space Needle area comes alive at the stroke of midnight with a fabulous fireworks show.
Tennessee Winter Special Olympics
– Winter sports competitions including ice-skating, snowboarding and snow skiing at Ober Gatlinburg.
MLK Holiday Weekend
– town is buzzing with youth conferences and visitors enjoying a Smoky Mountains getaway.
Valentine’s and Presidents’ Day Holiday Weekend
– Hundreds of couples get married in the Smoky Mountains on Valentine’s Day while others enjoy a late winter three-day getaway.
December 23, 2014 | Share: