January in the Smokies is the time for winter sports, both on the slopes and along the trails, as well as wildlife adventures, indoor attractions – and extra time in the hot tub, courtesy of shoulder-season cabin specials, for that winter getaway in the mountains.
The Winterfest and Winter Magic festivities and lights will continue all through January in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, and the towns are bustling as ever through the winter activities.
Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are fading into the past, but many of the seasonal shows are still in force for a time. Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland stays operating through January 7, and Dollywood’s winter season continues through January 6, when the theme park closes down until March.
At Beyond The Lens, the FlyRide immersive big screen adventure of Polar Express Journey continues exploring the route to the North Pole, through January 7, a great way to stay indoors AND have an outdoor adventure. Meanwhile the Old Mill District will stay dressed in its Christmas finery presenting its Old Mill Christmas special attractions through January 8 – looking very scenic over there, as ever a great seasonal place for a selfie.
Meanwhile events start popping up in January, one of the most popular of which is the annual Wilderness Wildlife Week. This assembly of classes, bus tours and hikes offers expert guidance on the animal and plant life of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with classes ranging from fishing to flowers, photography, gemstones, crafts and fascinating history.
The event is free and open to the public. Registration opens on January 8, 2024, and the event takes place January 22-25.
Let it Snow
January means skiing up on the slopes of Ober Mountain, and as many as 8 trails can be open by this time of year – check the Slope Report. Ober Mountain is a ski resort that appeals to all ages and skill levels, with a Snow Zone for the young kids to explore the white stuff, and the no-skills snow tubing slope that everyone can have fun with. Access to the mountain is by road and also by the famous Aerial Tramway.
There’s also an indoor mall on the mountain, complete with restaurant, shops and snacks, and a huge ice-skating rink that stays open year-round in the climate controlled environment. If you’re not handy on the blades, the ice bumper cars offer another way to glide across the ice, and this time run into someone on purpose.
For many people, the best way to enjoy the mountains is to hike through them, along some of the national park’s 800 miles of trail. Crowds are diminished in winter, and visibility changes with no leaves on the trees, thinning out the dense forests to offer new vistas. It’s a great time to spot wildlife, and to enjoy the serenity of nature. Winter in the park is not too bad: cold enough to freeze waterfalls, but not the bitter cold of the northern climes. See our guide to Winter Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for some tips on where and how to go.
At the end of an exciting day on the slopes, or anywhere else in the area, come home to the cabin and soak in the hot tub for a while. Let the kids play on the numerous electronic games in each cabin while the grown-ups fix dinner in the full kitchen. Welcome home, to the best accommodations in the Smokies, in that luxury vacation cabin living. And when it’s cold outside, it’s cozy indoors, snuggling in front of the fireplace – mark down January as a prime romantic getaway month also.
January is a shoulder month, that magical time between big holidays and seasons, where you can expect to find some discounts on prices for cabin rentals. Always check our Specials page to see the deals being offered, and take advantage of the January pause to sneak in a getaway trip at low cost.