Crowds on the streets of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Finding the Best Time of Year to Visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Anyone planning a vacation considers the time of year when picking a destination. Wherever you go, there are always different things to do depending on the season. Vacationers who visit during a non-peak season can get a whole new experience in addition to a great bargain.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is no different. Every season brings new and exciting things to see and experience all over town and beyond. You may be asking yourself: “So, what’s the best time to visit Gatlinburg?” We’re going to take a look at activities and events from all times of the year so you can decide the perfect time for your visit to Gatlinburg!

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Springtime In Gatlinburg

The spring is a wonderfully peaceful time to visit Gatlinburg. Crowds are thin and the average temperature is very comfortable. It’s also the time of year when new life begins to emerge in the Smoky Mountains, so it’s the ideal time to view wildflowers in bloom! With over 1,600 flowering plants, it’s easy to understand why Great Smoky Mountains National Park has earned the nickname “Wildflower National Park.” April, May, and June are the best times to view nature in full bloom. The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in April is a fantastic event to plan a visit around.

Visit Dollywood

Springtime is also when Dollywood opens again for another year! The park, located just a short drive north of Gatlinburg in Pigeon Forge, closes after the winter festivities for maintenance and the addition of new attractions. Usually around mid-March, Dollywood once again opens its doors to the public for entertainment and excitement! There are roller coasters, live music, and great places to eat all in one place.

Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Festival

Did you know about Gatlinburg’s decades-long history with arts and crafts? For a true experience of Appalachian arts and crafts, there’s Hands On Gatlinburg at the end of April. Not only can you purchase unique, hand-made items, you also have the opportunity to attend classes and workshops to craft your own creations— and learn more about Gatlinburg’s artistic history in the process! Jewelry making, watercolor painting, basket weaving, and candle making are a few of the courses offered. Just make sure to get your tickets in advance because space is limited.

Gatlinburg in the Summer

Believe it or not, summer in Gatlinburg is a great way to beat the heat! Due to the high terrain, there’s less humidity in the summer than lower elevations in the South. Summer is also the most popular time of year to visit, so you’ll be facing crowds and traffic. It’s important to reserve your hotel room or cabin rental about a year in advance if you’re planning to visit Gatlinburg in the summer.

Whitewater Rafting on the Pigeon River

Summer is the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains. What better way to take in the outdoors than from the Pigeon River in the heart of the mountains? Whitewater rafting is great summer fun in Gatlinburg. You can choose one of two areas on the Pigeon River to book your rafting tour: the Upper and Lower river courses. Upper Pigeon River is for everyone who wants a fast-paced ride. It’s 5 miles of class III and IV rapids that will thrill any adventure seeker. You don’t need any previous rafting experience or even know how to swim, but rafters do need to be at least eight years old and weigh at least seventy pounds.

Your other option is the Lower Pigeon River course, for those who want to enjoy a slower pace and take in the scenery while cruising through class I and II rapids. Like the Upper Pigeon River, rafting or swimming knowledge isn’t required. Rafters on the Lower Pigeon River need to be at least four years of age.

Ziplining through the Woods

Sure, you can always hike through the Smoky Mountains, but what about seeing it from a brand new viewpoint? Book a ziplining tour for a whole new perspective. You’ve probably never seen nature from this angle, and it’s an adventure you won’t forget! Professional guides will escort you through the course, so the only thing you have to worry about is the breathtaking views.

The Fourth Of July in Gatlinburg

For the last 45 years, Gatlinburg has been the first town in the nation to celebrate the Fourth of July with a parade down the parkway in downtown Gatlinburg at 12:01 a.m. Just make sure you arrive early to score a great viewing spot!

Then there’s the annual River Raft Regatta, which is an unmanned floatable object race. Participants get to create their own floating object to race down the river through town. The race ends when all objects have crossed the finish line. All proceeds go to the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation.

Finally, there’s the famous Gatlinburg fireworks display starting at 11 p.m. on the night of the Fourth. The display takes place from the Gatlinburg Space Needle, so it can be seen from anywhere in town. This is one of the best fireworks shows in the country, so don’t miss it!

The Autumn Season in Gatlinburg

Fall is when the Smoky Mountains are alight with the blazing reds, oranges, and yellows of its world-famous fall foliage. As you might expect, the show that nature puts on is very popular and draws visitors from all over America (and even the world). So if you’re in the mood to see the intense fall colors, know that October through November is a busy time of year in Gatlinburg.

Hiking in Gatlinburg in the Fall

Hiking is a great activity during any season in the Smoky Mountains, but there’s just something special about a hike through the woods during autumn— it’s an entirely different place than in the summer. Plus, the cooler temperatures are an added bonus! You can try any of the hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but for a real treat, head to the observation deck at the top of Clingman’s Dome for an autumn view that stretches miles in every direction.

Gatlinburg Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest in Gatlinburg is a month-long celebration from the end of September through October thirty-first held at Ober Gatlinburg, an amusement park and ski resort just a few miles from Gatlinburg. Enjoy German beer, Bavarian food, and lots of fun at this annual fall celebration!

Ripley’s Fright Nights

You can’t visit Gatlinburg in the fall without getting into the Halloween spirit. Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through the month of October, the already spooky Ripley’s Haunted Adventure turns the scary dial up a few notches for its month-long Halloween celebration. Admission is the same price as the regular Ripley’s Haunted Adventure.

Winter In Gatlinburg

With the summer and fall crowds gone, the winter months are an excellent time to visit Gatlinburg. It makes a great off-season getaway, and there’s still no shortage of events and fun!

Skiing at Ober Gatlinburg

When you think of winter fun, skiing and snowboarding come to mind almost instantly. Ober Gatlinburg comes to life when snowfall turns the Great Smoky Mountains into a winter wonderland! Ober Gatlinburg even offers snow tubing, where you get to ride down the mountain on an inner tube! Skiing and snowboarding classes are available as well for inexperienced adventurers.

See the Christmas Parade

Every year in early December, Gatlinburg hosts the annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. It’s a celebration of the beginning of the holiday season where you can see balloons, marching bands, and dancers from local stage shows all in one place! It’s all part of the Gatlinburg Winter Magic festivities.

New Year’s Eve in Gatlinburg

Finally, on December 31, it’s time for a celebration that’s been dubbed “The Best New Year’s Eve Show in the South,” the New Year’s Eve fireworks show from the Gatlinburg Space Needle. The event even includes a ball drop, just like Times Square! What better way to ring in the new year?

Year-Round Fun in Gatlinburg

Every season of the year brings new and exciting activities to Gatlinburg. Each season has something different for every visitor. So to answer the question, “What’s the best time to visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee?” the answer is any time! It all depends on what you love because Gatlinburg has something for everyone. To find out even more about what Gatlinburg has to offer, head to Relax Gatlinburg and start planning your trip today!