Explore America's Campgrounds
Gatlinburg keeps busy in December. The weather outside may be frightful, but Gatlinburg provides entertaining shelter in all sorts of places: art galleries, studios, theaters, comedy shows and top-notch restaurants among them. Beyond these attractions, the town boasts a full schedule of December events and attractions for active folks that celebrate the season in typical regional style.
Tennessee's one and only snow resort, Ober Gatlinburg, invites Gatlinburg's wintertime visitors to ski, snowboard and ice-skate across the Smoky Mountains. A huge aerial tramway connects the resort to downtown Gatlinburg, dropping its passengers at the 8-run combination of natural and man-made snow. The Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort will also host "Kidz Day" in mid-December, where children 11 years and younger can free lift tickets and rentals. There's also a snow tubing park, indoor ice-skating rink and a cozy restaurant with grand mountain views.
Join the Parade
Usually held during the first week of December, Gatlinburg officially kicks off the season with its annual Fantasy Of Lights Christmas Parade. In its 38th year in 2013, the parade clangs and twinkles its way through downtown Gatlinburg to the delight of an average of more than 80,000 spectators, flooding the town's streets with marching bands, dancers and mega-balloons for about an hour and a half. Keep warm by walking the route with the revelers -- and join the dancing afterward at any of the downtown dance floors.
The City of Gatlinburg puts on "Winter Magic Tunes & Tales" from late November through December 21st. During the course of the event, visitors meet up with groups of Dickensian holidaymakers and storytellers to carol their way around a festively decorated downtown. Take the opportunity to walk the town, or just pound the Christmas-lit streets with your running shoes and wave at the singers as you jet by.
The Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show descends annually upon the Gatlinburg Convention Center during the first week of December. The show features hundreds of booths where local craftspeople sell and demonstrate their handmade trinkets and gadgets. Expect everything from candlemaking, broom-weaving, silver smithing and scrimshaw to leatherwork and stained glass. After you've worked up an appetite walking around the enormous building, grab a healthy homemade snack in the culinary area: there are always fresh options on offer.
Annette O'Neil is an air sports athlete, digital nomad, full-time traveler and yogini. A writer for more than a decade, O'Neil has written copy, content and editorial articles for hundreds of clients and publications, including Blue Skies Magazine and Whole Life Times.