A Thanksgiving Getaway to Gatlinburg

November 16, 2021

Thanksgiving is America’s favorite and most celebrated holiday, marking the beginning of the festive season and the beautiful transformation of fall to winter. Traditionally, it’s a time of overindulging in festive feasts, hanging out in holiday-themed pajamas, watching Thanksgiving parades and football games, and treasuring the company of family, friends, and loved ones.

A Thanksgiving getaway to Gatlinburg promises all this, and more! Add a cozy mountain cabin, crackling fireplace, bubbling hot tub, uninterrupted views of the Smokies, and family-friendly attractions and events to your Thanksgiving tradition and we’re sure you’ll start a new tradition of your own.

Smoky Mountain Winterfest Driving Tour of Lights

The Smoky Mountain Winterfest Driving Tour or Trolley Ride of Lights begins at the north end of the Parkway in Pigeon Forge with over 5 million lights on display. The Blue Ridge Parkway comes alive with fun fairytale characters, colorfully lit trees, light poles and bridges draped with snowflakes and icicles, dancing fountains and homes aglow with festive cheer. A wonderful way to experience the festive lights of the Smoky Mountains.

Anakeesta Enchanted Winter

Take a journey to the top of Anakeesta Mountain on the Ridge Rambler or Chondola and arrive in an enchanted winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights and endless immersive experiences. Walk through the magical Vista Gardens, Arctic Alley of Lights, and Hot Chocolate Trail, watch the sunset around a fire pit and soak up spectacular views from the AnaVista Tower, the highest viewpoint in Gatlinburg. Santa will make a special sleigh ride with his elves over Thanksgiving weekend for the perfect photo opportunity with Santa in the Smokies.


Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show and Park

Paula Deen is the “First Lady of Southern Cooking” and offers one of the most unique dining experiences in the Smoky Mountains with southern-inspired family-style dining overlooking The Island Show Fountains in downtown Gatlinburg. If you’re happy to queue, their Thanksgiving buffet is amazing!

Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show is an exciting, interactive, and action-packed show with speed climbing, logging stunts, axe throwing and heart-racing action as two world-class lumberjack families fight out their long-standing feud, with a little help from the audience. After the show, visit the lumberjack-themed Adventure Park with awesome attractions including an extreme zip line rollercoaster, a jump tower, and an aerial playground with a multi-level ropes course for the little lumberjacks in the family.



Dollywood is closed on Thanksgiving Day but open for the rest of the holiday weekend for hours of family fun at the award-winning theme park, world-famous dinner shows, and America’s Best Christmas Event, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas. This heartwarming holiday show is a wonderful way to experience the start of the festive season and get in the groove for Christmas over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Lights over Gatlinburg

Lights Over Gatlinburg

The Lights Over Gatlinburg celebration at the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is one of the most popular holiday events in the Smokies. The SkyLift and SkyDeck are decorated with thousands of holiday lights with a 300-foot tunnel of lights, musical light displays, a massive magical Christmas tree, and a firepit to warm up with warm cocoa or a sneaky spiked hot drink.

Titanic Christmas & Winter Celebration

The Titanic Christmas & Winter Celebration in Pigeon Forge celebrates its opening weekend on Thanksgiving with glittering lights, holiday festivities, unique Christmas gifts on sale, and the Titanic’s Lady of Joy sharing the spirit of the holiday season and listening to the excited Christmas wishes of little ones. The Titanic in Pigeon Forge is the world’s largest Titanic museum attraction, even more, impressive when adorned with holiday lights.


Polar Express Train Ride

A ride aboard the magical Polar Express is every child’s dream, made possible on your Thanksgiving family vacation in Gatlinburg. Climb aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Polar Express in nearby Bryson City for a journey through the Smoky Mountain wilderness to visit Santa in the North Pole. Warm cocoa and cookies, classic holiday tales, and all the magic of the festive season ahead.

Scenic Helicopter Tours

There’s nothing that will leave you more thankful than a scenic helicopter tour over the Smoky Mountains. Explore the peaks of Tennessee’s highest mountains, spot Gatlinburg’s iconic landmarks and attractions from the sky, and soak up majestic views of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Book a tour or private charter for the whole family, or a specialty sweetheart package for a romantic Thanksgiving with your beau.


Thanksgiving Arts & Craft Show

Learn about local crafts and shop to your heart’s content for unique gifts and handmade souvenirs at the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community, the nation’s largest organization of independent artisans. Take a self-guided tour of the 8-mile loop or park and ride the Yellow Trolley route with charming galleries and eateries. This creative community includes over 100 artists and local mountain craftsmen selling local crafts ranging from traditional art, leatherworks, and pottery to one-of-kind hand-crafted jewelry, candles, and authentic Gatlinburg souvenirs.

The Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community hosts their annual Thanksgiving Arts & Craft Show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center from November 23rd through 28th for arts and craft lovers and a unique shopping experience in the Smokies.

Black Friday Shopping

Whether you’re searching for unique treasures and trinkets for Christmas gifts or planning a Black Friday shopping spree in the Smokies, Gatlinburg is a destination where you’ll find both. Find awesome Black Friday deals at the Tanger Outlets in Sevierville or shop the unique retail shops and local boutiques at The Island in Pigeon Forge. Be sure to end your day with a ride on the holiday-adorned Great Smoky Mountain Wheel to enjoy the holiday ambiance of Winterfest from the skies.


Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner

There’s no shortage of fantastic restaurants in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville to enjoy a hearty traditional Thanksgiving dinner or buffet. From farmhouse grills and fondue to crab houses, casual breweries, and pizzerias, it’s easy to please every palate. Be sure to make reservations in advance! If you prefer to stick to Grandma’s favorite recipes, a Smoky Mountain cabin is the ultimate destination to savor home-cooked meals, watch the Thanksgiving football games and parades with friends and family and create memories you’ll be thankful for, forever.

Scenic Drives & Wildlife Viewing

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the US and attracts over 12 million visitors each year. Although November is the quieter season, be prepared for crowds and potential traffic delays over the Thanksgiving weekend.

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5-mile loop inside the park with scenic and moderately easy hiking trails to Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls, the only waterfall in the park you can walk behind! For a slightly longer scenic drive, head to Cades Cove. Cades Cove is the crown jewel of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and one of the best places near Gatlinburg to view beautiful wildlife, and a whole lot of turkeys for Turkey season! You can drive, walk or bike the Cades Cove Loop Road, picnic on a quiet spot along the creek, hike to Abrams Falls and find ample opportunities for wildlife photography.


Newfound Gap Road & Blue Ridge Parkway

A Thanksgiving weekend in Gatlinburg would not be complete without exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. Begin your journey at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and travel south along Newfound Gap Road from Gatlinburg to Cherokee.

This is one of the most scenic drives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with top attractions including Chimney Tops, the Alum Cave Trail, Newfound Gap observation deck, Clingmans Dome (the highest point in Great Smoky Mountain National Park), Mingus Mill, and Mountain Farm Museum. If the playlist is good and the kids aren’t bickering,  continue along the Blue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee to explore the attractions of Asheville.


Rent a Cozy Smoky Mountain Cabin

Renting a cabin in the Smokies is the start to planning your Thanksgiving vacation in Gatlinburg. Our Xplorie partners offer the best selection of Smoky Mountain cabins with spacious cabins large enough to bring the whole family (pets too!) or tiny cabins for a romantic Smoky Mountain getaway.

Your Thanksgiving in Gatlinburg is enhanced with luxury amenities from indoor pools and hot tubs with mountain views, to games rooms and home theaters for movie nights and popcorn, and complimentary family-friendly Thanksgiving activities for each day of your stay.

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