Festivals and festive events happen all year around in the Smoky Mountains area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Hundreds of thousands of people plan their visits according to particular events and seasonal activities. Here’s a calendar of seasonal festivals and festivities to help you know what’s going on when you come to visit.
- Valentine’s Day
February. The Smoky Mountains are a hugely romantic setting, and we see a lot of weddings and honeymoons here. For many people it all begins on Valentine’s Day, with a proposal, often in one of our romantic cabins. This is the real beginning of Spring for many a tender heart.
- Improv Comedy Fest
Early March.The annual Gatlinburg Improv Fest takes place Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre each March. Started in 2011, the multi-show festival draws improv troupes from across the country, as well as strong local talent. The other improv shows in the area call this one the best!
- Winter Carnival of Magic
Early March. A multi-decades long tradition, the Winter Carnival of Magic in Pigeon Forge offers evening shows, competitions and lectures. The Carnival attracts professional magicians from throughout the United States, performing and teaching. This event is great to catch out-of-town talent, and to learn more about the art of magic itself.
- A Mountain Quiltfest
Late March. Pigeon Forge receives 20,000 fans of quilting for some of the greatest quilts you’ll see anywhere. Many categories, and prizes totaling $20,000. Packed into 4-5 days, timed to coincide with Worldwide Quilting Day.
- Festival of Nations at Dollywood
March-April. One of several festivals staged at Dollywood each year, the Festival of Nations brings top talent from around the world for a month with infectious music, exotic costume, heart-racing performances and international dishes.
- Easter Sunrise
April. Nothing marks spring like Easter, and Pigeon Forge is the place where the kids have fun with Easter Bunnies and hidden eggs. Meanwhile in Gatlinburg, hundreds of people take the Aerial Tramway, or drive up, very early in the morning of Easter Sunday, to see the sunrise from Ober Gatlinburg.
- Easter Arts & Crafts Show
April. Arts & Crafts are everywhere in this area, one of the most populous for independent artists. Local artisans have spent too much time indoors through the winter – come spring, they’re eager to show their new wares in this free and always happy event (also great shopping!).
- Spring Trout Tournament
April. The first full weekend of each April marks the Spring Trout Tournament. The tournament happens in spring and fall, with a total of $10,000 in prizes – there’s also a prize for smallest fish caught, as well as plenty of kids categories. Over 10,000 trout are stocked in the abundant waterways of the area, with lots of easy fishing spots.
- Rod Run – Spring
April. Pigeon Forge loves peace and quiet – except when it comes to muscle cars and hot rods! The Rod Run in spring and again in fall is a chance to see some of the best paint jobs, and hear some growling engines, in a weekend party that makes traffic, uh, congested – but never boring!
- Wildflower Pilgrimage
Late April-Early May. The unique biosphere of Great Smoky Mountains National Park nurtures a vast array of plant species, but the ground is mostly in shade during the growing season. In late April, 1,500 species of brilliant wildflower cover the entire forest floor and mountain slopes for a few weeks until the trees leaf out fully overhead. People come from all over the world to see this – it’s a lifetime memory.
- Bloomin BBQ & Bluegrass Festival
May. Just up the road from Pigeon Forge, the fun town of Sevierville holds a downtown street party every year that’s not to be missed. It’s just what it says, with bluegrass all weekend and a massive barbecue cook-off – expert chefs from all over, and drive-you-crazy aromas in the air. There’s a friendly pig character roaming the street who loves to give out hugs to kids, and the whole event is designed to include children in all the fun.
- Wilderness Wildlife Week
May. Every year in May, Pigeon Forge hosts a week of programs known as Wilderness Wildlife Week. Free and open to the public, the event offers hundreds of experts presenting workshops, seminars, children’s educational and fun activities, and guided hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a celebration of the abundant diversity of the area, its wildlife, history and countless natural attractions.
- Dollywood BBQ & Bluegrass Festival
May-June. Dollywood is in top form with its annual Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival. Dolly Parton knows the names in music, and she’s made Dollywood a terrific venue for performers. Dozens of acts mingle with tons and tons (and tons) of barbecued meats, for a good couple of weeks. It’s a party intended to signify that summer is just about to ramp into high gear!
- Synchronous Fireflies
Early June. Every year a miracle of nature happens, as fireflies gather in a few areas in the Smoky Mountains in their thousands and light up their trailing glows in the dark – but they do it all together, in synchronized time. Science can’t explain it. Southeast Asia is the only other place in the world where this happens. Tickets to watch this in the National Park sell out daily in 10 minutes!
- Tunes & Tales – Summer
Mid-June to Early August. Take a stroll around Gatlinburg during summer and you’re likely to run into little groups of musicians playing bluegrass tunes, as well as characters dressed in period costume, and storytellers gathering a small crowd to lend an ear. It’s Tunes & Tales, a Gatlinburg thing – immensely popular. Don’t be surprised to see Zeno the bear giving out hugs too.
- Dollywood – Great American Summer
Mid-June to Early August. Dollywood brings in a host of talent for numerous shows for its Great American Summer program. During this time special shows and events for kids are staged, and the park hours are extended to night time, and selected rides are open in the dark – a great thrill in itself, and especially with the huge fireworks show every night.
- Free Trolleys
Mid-June to Mid-August. Take the Gatlinburg trolley for free along Parkway to 40 stops during summer. Specially painted trolleys take you on a micro-crawl of the area, a great way to shop and see the things you might have missed.
- Fourth of July Parade – First in the Nation
July 4th (at 12:01 am!). Every year for 4 decades, Gatlinburg wakes up the country early with its annual “First Fourth of July Parade in the Nation”. At midnight on the 3rd, 100 floats and entries of all kinds set off down Parkway, led by a crack military band. As many as 100,000 people make it in for the event. The daytime spills over to Pigeon Forge for its own parade and celebrations. Huge fireworks displays are staged in both towns, with lots of family fun events everywhere.
- Craftsmen’s Fair – Summer
July. Arts and Crafts are big in Gatlinburg – see for yourself at the Craftsmen’s Fair, which happens twice each year, in July for 10 days and again in October. You can browse around 200 booths of unique artisan presentations – a vast display for buying or window shopping. It’s a super friendly occasion to mingle, watch demonstrations, listen to bluegrass, and even commission custom works from artists.
- Songwriters Festival
August. This great festival started in 2012 and grows in popularity each year. Musicians and songwriters from across the country combine with lots of great local talent in a 4-day festival with multiple free concerts. There are workshops for the aspiring songwriter and on all aspects of working in the music business. Hear the stories behind the hit songs, told by the people who wrote them.
- Military & Relic Show
Late August. Pigeon Forge holds its patriotic Heroes Week with a variety of shows at multiple venues, leading up to the weekend Smoky Mountain Military and Relic Show, honoring military history and veterans of the United States from the Civil War to the present day. Displays of weaponry, uniforms and artifacts mix with stories and presentations by celebrated speakers. The week culminates in the Freedom Parade, a military parade honoring veterans.
- Shades of the Past Hot Rod Roundup
Early September. It’s a muscle car weekend at Dollywood’s Splash Country, with street rods and cruisers from across the country gathering in a sprawling vendor/swap meet and show-off time. Competitions and prizes guarantee some of the most beautiful cars from the past, growling and ready to race. Family fun, alcohol-free, indoor restrooms. Free & paid parking, or take the trolley from Pigeon Forge.
- Rod Run – Fall
Mid-September. Closely timed with Hot Rod Roundup, Pigeon Forge again shows what a strip is for, with drive-bys from muscle and custom cars in a day and night weekend party that stays in cruising mode in celebration of America’s legendary automobiles.
- Harvest Festival
Mid-September to October. A multitude of events bursts out across the whole area with a festive air. Every place is suddenly decked with straw, scarecrows and pumpkins. Arts and crafts appear on display again. There are hay rides, live entertainment, food, hot cider – and the air is filled with music.
- Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival
Mid-September. This high-talent festival is a well kept secret about 25 miles from Gatlinburg. Top national performers entertain a 3,000-strong crowd in a super, super-friendly venue with lots of food and constant music focused on bluegrass, with some rocking country too. Dumplin Farm has 170 RV parking sites and some tent camping – it’s a festival village, usually booked months in advance. Many guests bring instruments, there are great jams. Day-trippers welcome, tickets at the gate.
- Trout Tournament – Fall
Late September. The counterpart to the April event (see above), the Trout Tournament in fall is a perfect way to witness the changing seasons, as the fish are again stocked for contests in multiple categories with prizes. It’s the largest trout tournament in the Smoky Mountains, and highly regarded as one of the best organized fishing tournaments anywhere.
- Fall Colors in the Smokies
October. To many people, this is THE event of the year, a very busy time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park as people come to witness the astonishing color changes produced by 100 different species of tree, across several thousand feet of elevation change. The colors begin in late September on the mountaintops and roll down slope over several weeks, lasting into early November. Park rangers predict the peak-color dates for different areas.
- Craftsmen’s Fair – Fall
October. The Fall Craftsmen’s Fair, held in Gatlinburg’s huge Convention Center each year, lasts 18 days and presents a huge assortment of unique art and craft, with around 200 booths selected for their uniqueness and quality, and representing every medium you could think of (and then some). Attracting jury-approved artisans from across the country, who join the area’s own huge community of artists, this is one of the Southeast’s “Most Popular Events”.
- Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg
October. It’s the first big party of the changing season, and Ober Gatlinburg spends over a month making sure it’s done right. Usually starting at the end of September and lasting into the beginning of November, the ski resort offers special Biers along with traditional German foods, music and dancing.
- Winterfest / Winter Magic
November-February. Winter means another season to celebrate and have fun! Watch the lights come on in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville – each town one day after the other, and each with literally millions of Christmas lights. Dollywood joins in too, with a few million more, and these are synced to music! The festivities season has begun, with multiple events all through winter.
- Trolley Tour of Lights
November-February. The Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge trolley systems run special evening tours of the millions of Christmas lights blazing throughout both towns. Warm, with large clear windows to gaze through, and conducted by guides with lots of knowledge of the special places along the route, the trolley is a relaxing way to see the best displays of the fantastic lights of the two towns.
- Tunes & Tales – Winter
Thanksgiving-Christmas. Take a stroll along downtown Parkway in Gatlinburg on a Friday or Saturday evening during this time and fall in with some strolling carolers, stop and listen to a storyteller, or watch the various characters dressed in Dickens-style Christmas garb. It’s Tunes & Tales, the popular summer event dressed up warm for the Christmas celebrations.
- Ski Season at Ober Gatlinburg
Thanksgiving-Easter. Winter means only snow to the people at Gatlinburg’s ski resort, and it can’t come soon enough. With some formidable snow-making equipment to assist Mother Nature, Ober Gatlinburg can run a pretty lengthy season – starting and ending with the fun and no-skills-required Snow Tubing!
- Thanksgiving & Christmas Craft Shows
Late November – Early December. The artisans of Gatlinburg and the area convene for the last week in November and the first week in December with two crafts shows held back to back. The Thanksgiving-themed show offers gifts perfect for home and family with that lingering touch of harvest festival. Clearing the decks for the second show, here come the unique Christmas items and gifts. It’s a shopper’s paradise with high quality and memorable gifts, including for yourself.
- Christmas in the Smokies Bluegrass Festival
Mid-December. Awarded and chart-topping bluegrass performers Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road call Pigeon Forge home for the 4-day Christmas festival they headline every year. Gathering a dozen or so other highly accomplished performers for the festival each year, they offer us several shows of high-energy music through the days and evenings, with outstanding jams and a tidal wave of great music – the perfect party feel for the time of year.
- Spring Fling
January-March. They may call it a spring thing, but up at Ober Gatlinburg, January is deep in winter, deep in snow, and getting better every day. It’s time to enjoy some advanced moves from snowboarders and skiers along boxes, pipes and rails in the Freestyle sessions. Several events through this season.