Independence Day is such a special occasion that it deserves more than one day of celebration, and for over 40 years the town of Gatlinburg has been treating residents and visitors to a Fourth of July event that kicks off at the stroke of midnight on the night of the 3rd. The First Independence Day Parade in the nation is just the beginning of a full slate of events allowing everyone to come together and honor the founding of this great country.
Gatlinburg’s 4th of July Midnight Parade
Once the clock strikes midnight and it is officially Independence Day, the festivities begin in downtown Gatlinburg. The parade floats will depart at 12:01 AM from Baskins Creek Bypass on East Parkway. From there, the parade route turns south onto Parkway and traverses downtown Gatlinburg for approximately one mile. It eventually concludes at traffic light #10 at Ski Mountain Road.
The parade has been named by National Geographic Traveler magazine as a “Top Ten parade to see in the US.” It is one of the most popular events of the year in the Smoky Mountains region, so we recommend that you stake out your spot earlier in the evening of July 3 to get a great view of the parade festivities.
Gatlinburg River Raft Regatta
After you have had a chance to rest it’s time to get ready for the annual River Raft Regatta in Gatlinburg. Don’t worry, you don’t need to learn how to sail to participate in this regatta, because it’s a race of unmanned floatable watercraft that speed down the Little Pigeon River.
The race kicks off at 12:00 PM on July 4, but participants can register their watercraft beginning at 10:00 AM. It starts at the Christ in the Smokies bridge and winds down to the finish line at Ripley’s Aquarium. Even if you aren’t able to build a floatable, you can still participate in the fun by renting a rubber duck to send down the river for just a $1.00 donation to the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation (or you can bring your own for free).
Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival
If you’re staying in Pigeon Forge there will be plenty of Independence Day-themed fun for you to enjoy as well. Every year on July 4 the Patriot Festival takes place at Patriot Park (186 Old Mill Ave.). It features live entertainment, food vendors, and the Kid’s Karnival throughout the day, all leading into a headlining musical performance as the sun starts to set.
No Fourth of July celebration is complete without a rousing fireworks display, and here in the Smoky Mountains we have two great ones to choose from. In Pigeon Forge, the fireworks cap off the Patriot Festival beginning at 9:45 PM and conclude the evening in spectacular fashion.
Fireworks also light up the night sky over the heart of downtown Gatlinburg at 10:00 PM on July 4. While there are excellent viewing areas throughout downtown, the best spots tend to be near traffic lights #3 and #5. You won’t have time to catch both fireworks shows, so pick which one works best for your schedule, relax with your family, and enjoy the celebration.
For more information about these fantastic events, check out the official websites for the town of Gatlinburg and the town of Pigeon Forge. You can also read some of the write-ups we’ve done in the past on the Fourth of July Midnight Parade and other Independence Day festivities in the area.