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aerial view of gatlinburg at night

Top 7 Reasons to Spend Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg

DATE : November 7, 2023

Gatlinburg is one of Teneessee’s most popular vacation destinations for a reason! Nestled against the Great Smoky Mountains, this quaint city has a gorgeous backdrop of hills, trees, and other natural wonders. Take a look at just a few reasons why you’ll love spending Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg.

1. Things to Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

view from clingmans dome of the smoky mountainsIt's impossible to visit Gatlinburg and not experience the Smokies. This park is a national treasure where you can soak in majestic mountain views, and look out for wildlife. There are plenty of activities in The Great Smoky Mountains to enjoy during your trip, such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, and fishing. You can walk to the top of Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park, or hike the Elkmont or Greenbrier areas. Learn more about Appalachian history by visiting Cades Cove and the many historic sites located there. You can even take in the sights from your vehicle by taking a scenic drive! Places like the Foothills Parkway and the Roaring Fork Motor Trail are popular areas to explore. 

2. The Festival of Trees

Although it may be Thanksgiving, the December holidays aren't that far away. For that reason, Gatlinburg kicks off the holiday season early with its annual Winterfest celebrations and the Festival of Trees in late November. Located at the W.L. Mills Conference Center, dozens of uniquely decorated trees delight adults and children alike and will put you right in the holiday spirit. You can also participate in silent auctions and take photos with Santa! Admission is free, and donations to the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains are greatly appreciated.

3. Winterfest Driving Tour 

winterfest light displayAnother great reason to spend Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg is the impressive display of holiday lights! We suggest taking a trolley ride for a unique experience, or you can also enjoy the tour in your own vehicle with the Christmas music turned up! Winterfest in Gatlinburg is not only a highlight of the holiday season but of the entire year. Places like Anakeesta, Dollywood, and the Gatlinburg Space Needle are also known for their special events and fantastic views of Christmas lights! 

4. Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Show

The locals in Gatlinburg pride themselves on their craftsmanship, so don't miss the Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Show while spending Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg! This gathering is a reflection of everyone's historic roots in Tennessee. You may even be able to watch the craftsmen create their treasures right in front of your eyes. This show goes on during the entire week of Thanksgiving, and admission is free, so you don't have to miss a thing.

5. Possible Snow 

Gatlinburg also has the added excitement of possible snow along the foothills. By late fall, major snow hasn't fallen in most areas; however, you can find snow at popular attractions such as Ober Mountain. Snow tubing is a popular choice for kids and skiing for adults. If you're lucky, you can have some snow fun and see the local fall tree colors simultaneously. Gatlinburg is unique with its seasons!

6. Small Business Exploration

You can start your holiday shopping during the Thanksgiving weekend and support Gatlinburg's small businesses. Many of these businesses offer one-of-a-kind gifts you won't find anywhere else. You’ll find so many fun shops along the Parkway in Gatlinburg, including The Village Shops, Mountain Mall, and Baskins Square. 

7. An Unorthodox Thanksgiving Meal

the peddler in gatlinburgTurkey and all of the fixings are the standard Thanksgiving fare, but in Gatlinburg, you can rethink this tradition. Many Smoky Mountain restaurants are open during this holiday to serve you. While some do have a traditional Thanksgiving menu available, you have the opportunity to indulge in something a little different! You could indulge in a fondue meal at The Melting Pot or try some famous Smoky Mountain barbeque, such as smoked pork or chicken coated in thick, spicy, and sweet sauces. 

We hope you’ll consider spending Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg now that you’ve read this blog! Staying at our downtown Gatlinburg hotel allows you to be close to all of the fun attractions and restaurants the area has to offer. Plus, our amenities are top-notch, from private balconies to fire pits. Browse our hotel rooms and see for yourself how we stand out!