Winterfest is a Must-Do for Families: Pigeon Forge, TN

Posted on | No Comments

Thinking about planning a getaway this winter? Pigeon Forge, Tennessee offers Winterfest celebrating the Christmas season and wintertime. You’ll find winter-themed shows, holiday lights, amusement rides and so much more! KAG Contributor Kristina Hernandez traveled to Pigeon Forge with her daughters during Winterfest. In this review, she’s sharing the many activities they enjoyed and also many more that are available for Pigeon Forge visitors during Winterfest. 

On half a tank of gas or less, you can be right in the middle of an entire town in the Great Smoky Mountains that is completely head-over-heels for wintertime and the Christmas spirit. You may know Pigeon Forge as a mecca of family-friendly fun during the warmer months but it’s just as much – maybe even more – during Winterfest, which starts in early November and runs straight through February, giving visitors plenty of time to come for a week, a few days, a weekend, or even an action-packed day trip.

Winterfest at Dollywood in Tennessee

**I received a VIP card from the city of Pigeon Forge valued at $1,500 per person during my visit for Winterfest. All opinions and reviews of shows and attractions are mine.

I took my two kids, ages 7 and 4, with me to experience as much of Winterfest as we could manage over 48 hours. Was it worth it? More than I can possibly put into words that capture the essence of what Pigeon Forge has managed to offer during this special time of year.

If you’re looking for a new family tradition during the winter months or just want to spend quality time together, this is the place to go. I’m going to tell you all about holiday light displays, dinner shows, an incredible magic show straight from Las Vegas, one way you can enjoy views of the city from a 200-foot tall Ferris wheel, and how to create memories that will last all year long till you do it again next year!

Find a place to stay in Pigeon Forge, TN. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.


Winterfest in Pigeon Forge is a months-long celebration of all things winter and Christmas. The whole town is decked out in Christmas lights, which extend through the main drag on The Parkway and on the roads that lead to Dollywood. There are displays of fairy tales and Christmas trees and nursery rhymes. There is a super cool tunnel of lights that my kids begged to keep going through. 

Winterfest runs from November 9, 2023 through February 18, 2024. Many of the entertainment venues in Pigeon Forge get on board with Winterfest by offering special Christmas-themed shows, which are perfect for getting everyone in the spirit of the season. In January and February, guests can ride the trolley service around town for $3/ticket per person for the whole day.

Be sure to pick up a Pigeon Forge coupon book either at the Visitor Center or wherever you are staying. There are tons of coupons for all the attractions and many of the restaurants. Also, many of the websites for attractions offer online coupons.

Oh, and apparently having your photos taken in front of a green wall is the thing to do in Pigeon Forge. So be prepared for lots of family photos in front of some interesting backgrounds. You can buy as many or as little of the finished products as you like.

Here Are Some Great Things to do in Pigeon Forge During Winterfest

Wonders of Light Walking Trail

The Winterfest Wonders of Light Walking Trail, a free walk-through light display that has several access points along the river in Pigeon Forge, debuted during the 2022-23 season and it’s so awesome. The trail runs from Pigeon Forge Municipal Parking Lot, which is at 2936 Teaster Lane between the LeConte Center and The Island in Pigeon Forge along the Riverwalk Greenway to Patriot Park, which is about a mile-and-a-half one way. There are more than 40 light displays along the paved path, including light tunnels (my favorite). It’s really neat and such a lovely display of lights.

Riverwalk at Winterfest in Pigeon Forge
Wonder of Lights Walking Trail

Christmas Parades

There are parades in Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Townsend and they are all free. The Gatlinburg Christmas parade is December 1, 2023, the Sevierville Christmas parade is December 2, 2023, and the Townsend Christmas parade is December 3, 2023.


When I was planning this trip, I knew I had to get to Dollywood. I had never been and only heard great things about it. During Winterfest, Dollywood hosts the Smoky Mountain Christmas, which basically means everything – like literally everything, the trees, the buildings, the light posts – are decked out in over five million lights. They have a beautiful live nativity play with captivating music, several shows at the park, a tunnel of sparkling lights that look like they are falling from the trees above, indoor areas where you can play reindeer games and take photos with Santa, and a nightly Christmas parade. I wrote an entire story just on Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas.

Dollywood also recently opened the brand new Wildwood Grove, a whimsical and fun addition to the park. Definitely be sure to visit when you go!

Hatfield & McCoy Christmas Disaster Dinner Show

If you don’t know, the Hatfield and McCoy families were two groups who really hated each other in rural West Virginia in the 1800s. This show, the Hatfield & McCoy Christmas Disaster, is a hilarious take on that feud and is a must-see when you go to Pigeon Forge for lots of reasons.

First, they give you a ton of food – a ton of good food. It’s a dinner theater experience so you get all-you-can-eat soup, rolls, pulled pork, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cole slow, and corn plus a dessert. This was the best meal I had while in Pigeon Forge and my kids loved it as well.

Secondly, the show is funny, like really funny. They use all kinds of redneck jokes that had the audience laughing out loud the whole time. And the clever ways they engage kids was appreciated. It’s a show you can bring the whole family to and they will all love it.

Thirdly, the show is a top-notch performance of music and acting and dancing on a truly believable stage that opens up to reveal a diving pool. Like a diving pool in the stage where the actors did flips and tricks. Looking around, I wasn’t the only audience member impressed.

At the end of this show, you’ll leave feeling full and happy. Total time you’re in the theater is a little over two-and-a-half hours. Tickets can be bought online.

Dinner show

The Island at Pigeon Forge

If you have ever seen photos of the iconic Ferris wheel in Pigeon Forge, this is where it is, on the Island at Pigeon Forge. Truly, you do not even need to leave the Island to have a great time. During Winterfest, the Island transforms into a winter wonderland, with 40,000 ornaments, more than 5,000 feet of garland, and a sparkling half a million lights. There are three Christmas trees – one you can even walk through – at the Island and familiar Christmas music plays everywhere. If you’re lucky, you can greet Santa and Mrs. Claus in their new workshop.

The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at the Island was our favorite thing to do. We went on once during the day and another spin at night. Even though it was rainy during our visit, we could still make out the mountains and at night, the whole Island was lit up and you could see everything from a bird’s eye view.

There are several great restaurants on-site plus dozens of other games for both adults and kids. There is shopping, the St. Somewhere Spa, the Fudgery (get the chocolate fudge), and of course, the Margaritaville Island Hotel where grabbing a signature margarita should definitely be on your list. It’s fun to just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere during Winterfest because it’s so festive and bright. You can park for free on-site and take a trolley into the main part of the Island if you don’t want to walk. 

Read my full review of The Island at Pigeon Forge.

New Thrills & Christmas Attractions in Pigeon Forge

Two new thrill rides have been introduced in Pigeon Forge. The Mountain Monster is a 200-foot-tall drop tower featuring three exciting rides and is located at the Tower Shops at the Mountain Mile.  And at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud & Adventure, the Flying Ox offers adventurers a zipline excursion that follows a roller coaster track.

Mountain Monster
Mountain Monster. Photo courtesy of Tower Shops at Mountain Mile.

Also, Santa’s Haus is a new 2,000-square-foot facility at The Incredible Christmas Place at 2470 Parkway in Pigeon Forge. Children and adults will enjoy various holiday activities like cookie decorating, writing letters to Santa, and an elf academy. This is a year-round attraction, but it is of special interest during Christmas.

The Titanic Museum

I wasn’t sold on this museum because it’s a sad story and I don’t like to do sad things when I’m with my kids having fun. However, even though I knew how the story ends, I was wowed by this museum, by the details that went into making this an educational and dare I say, fun, experience.  It’s hard to miss the Titanic Museum as it looks exactly like the real Titanic, complete with the iceberg and water, and is a huge boat off of the main street running through Pigeon Forge. Everyone gets an audio necklace and a boarding pass with a true story of one of the passengers on the fateful voyage and then it’s off to the museum. Some parts of the museum are decorated with Christmas trees and wreaths throughout as part of Winterfest. And guests are able to decorate a small ornament at the end and add it to a Christmas tree in the room or keep it for your tree at home.  

My seven-year-old listened to almost all the stories on her audio while my four-year-old gave up less than halfway through – but both of them really liked the exhibits, especially the kids area near the end where they can try to steer the Titanic away from the iceberg. A super cool thing at this museum is that it holds the largest replica of the Titanic ever completed with LEGO bricks. And who made it? A 10-year-old autistic boy from Iceland. It is stunning to see in person and learning his story made it even more incredible.

Set aside about 90 minutes to visit the museum. Read our full review of the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge.

Definitely get tickets online because this is a popular attraction. You can buy discounted tickets through different combo options with other attractions as well and homeschool families also get a discount on tickets.


This building was one the first places we drove by when we got to Pigeon Forge and my kids asked if we could go see the “upside down” place for a day. Wonderworks was not on my original list of things to do for my visit but I am sure glad we made time for it. The place is full of educational entertainment that the kids – and adults- will not be able to get enough of. There is a laser tag arena, an indoor glow-in-the-dark ropes course (wear closed-toe shoes), flight simulators, an indoor roller coaster simulator, an astronaut training ride, climbing walls, and over 120 exhibits where your family will probably lose track of time.

While Wonderworks does not have any specific Winterfest program, I absolutely recommend it if you visit Pigeon Forge, especially during the winter months when the weather can be rainy or cold. It’s a great indoor entertainment option.  While there are plenty of things to do with the smaller kids, I think that older kids will love it even more since they are tall enough to go on most of the rides. For the rides, most of them require kids to be at least 42” tall. Rope climbing requires the person to weigh at least 40 pounds.

Read the entire review of Wonderworks.

Allow at least two hours at Wonderworks to really do everything.

What activity or show would your family enjoy the most?

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

Sign up for our email newsletter.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments