Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, Gatlinburg is a gem in the mid-South. Surrounded by the picturesque views of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort, the town is also known for holding several annual festivities and celebrations.
The beloved Gatlinburg events tend to take inspiration from the seasons, from the family-friendly live concert series in summer to the enchanting festive light shows of winter. Most of all, every event highlights the town’s enduring community spirit.
We’ve compiled a list of the main ones to help you decide when to visit and what to attend!
Events in Gatlinburg
Monthly Events in Gatlinburg, TN
The Tennessee Special Olympics Winter Games usually take place in January at several venues across Gatlinburg, including Ober Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Convention Center, and Rocky Top Sports World.
In 2019, the games were held on the last weekend in January, but have since been canceled due to COVID-19.
There are four sports included in the competition: skiing, snowboarding, speed skating, and basketball skills. Plus, the event includes an opening ceremony, group dinners, and dancing.
Typically, more than 150 local athletes compete in the games, and they are grouped into different categories based on age and ability.
Held on February 16, Paint the Mountains Pink takes place at Ober Gatlinburg to raise awareness for breast cancer. Ober Gatlinburg has partnered with the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation and LeConte Medical Center to hold the event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The original plan for the event was to dye the snow pink. But due to a lack of resources, the event instead features pink smoke blasted by the Ober ski instructors as they ski down the slopes.
Tickets cost $20, with all of the proceeds going towards patients and families of LeConte Medical Center. Admission includes an aerial tramway ride to and from the park, free parking, free hot chocolate, special pink toffee, and educational information about the cancer services at LeConte.
Typically taking place in early March, the annual Gatlinburg Improv Fest has been running since 2011. Including multiple shows and a line-up of talented comedians from across the country, the event is held in the Sweet Fanny Adams Theater.
Both local Tennessee comedians and those from states like Atlanta, Orlando, Cincinnati, Columbia, and South Carolina perform in improv troupes across the two-day festival. There have also been performers in the past from Canada.
Shows often begin at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday, and 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday.
A whole week in March is dedicated to honoring the Irish heritage in Gatlinburg via vibrant St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The entire town joins in on the festivities, with several businesses donning shamrock-green colors, Irish flags, and other cultural decorations.
Celtic music is typically featured heavily during the celebrations, which in the past have been held from March 12 to 19. Festival-goers also have the chance to sample authentic Irish cuisine and beverages.
Say goodbye to the harsh winter weather with the annual Spring Fling event, which usually takes place at the beginning of March. In 2022, the event was held on March 6, running from 7:00 a.m. to after 5:30 p.m. Times and dates may change due to unforeseen weather.
The Spring Fling is usually held at Ober Gatlinburg, the amusement park and ski area famous across the Smoky Mountains.
The event features several winter sports races and competitions, including Giant Slalom, Pond Skimming, and uphill skiing. Competitors can register on the day for $20, and there is also early registration online. The events are free for spectators to view.
After a day of fun and competition, the awards for the winners and standout players of the day are given out in the loft lounge.
Usually held in either March or April, the Great Smoky Easter Arts & Crafts Show is run by the talented artisans of the local community. The event takes place in the Gatlinburg Convention Center each year, is run over four days, and is free to enter.
The Show features handcrafted gifts and products that are produced by official members of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. The Show also includes free demonstrations, where visitors can learn about the process of making arts and crafts.
The Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament runs every April at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. In 2022, the tournament was held on Saturday April 2 and Sunday April 3, with the competition beginning 30 minutes before sunrise.
Open to both adults and children, the tournament consists of several categories suitable for participants of every level, making it the largest trout tournament in the Smoky Mountains. More than 10,000 trout are stocked in the local streams, and more than $10,000 in cash and prizes are up for grabs..
The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is the epitome of springtime celebrations. Held annually, the 2022 Pilgrimage took place from April 26 to April 30. In 2023, it will be held between April 26 and April 29.
The Pilgrimage has been running for more than 70 years and its mission remains: to bring people together through a common interest in natural history, biology, ecology, conservation, and land management.
The event takes place in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other venues across Gatlinburg, where participants are taken on guided walks. It is funded by donations and registration fees—to get involved, please visit the official website.
Kicking off in May, Gatlinburg’s SkyLift Park plays host to the summer concert series known as Music on the Mountain. The concerts are held on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from around May 25, running from 6 p.m. through 9 p.m. Attendance at the concerts is included in the ticket price of SkyLift Park.
Among the stars to grace the stage on top of Crockett Mountain at the park include Richard Bennett, the Tony Rice Unit, and Grammy-nominated musician Shawn Lane, who has played in the band Blue Highway.
Tickets start at $32 for adults, which includes general admission entry to the concert and unlimited access to SkyLift Park. Alternatively, visitors can choose to purchase a SkyLift Park and Ripley’s Believe It or Not combo ticket, which also provides entry to the concert series.
Early in June every year, a stunning natural phenomenon takes place: a display of synchronous fireflies at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains, a short distance from Gatlinburg. The official dates change every year, and are announced in late April.
Elkmont is one of the only places in the country where you can witness synchronous fireflies.Those who’d like to see the fireflies can park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and then ride the trolley to Elkmont, for which a parking pass is required.
Due to the popularity of the event, parking spaces are awarded through a lottery system which runs from late April to early May. Those who are drawn will have the opportunity to pay $24 for a parking pass.
Gatlinburg’s Fourth of July festivities begin at exactly midnight on July 4. Considered one of the Top Ten Parades to See in the U.S. by National Geographic Traveler, the parade has been running for more than 40 years and attracts crowds of around 80,000 spectators.
The parade features floats that pay tribute to military veterans and other military heroes and attendance is free. There are lots of locations around Gatlinburg where you can watch the parade and obtain a good view, including around traffic lights #3 and #5.
The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair runs twice a year: in July and October.
The 2022 dates are July 8-17 and October 13-30, though these change slightly every year, with festivities running from 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. The event has been held for nearly 50 years and has been voted as one of the Southeast’s most popular festivals.
Taking place in the Gatlinburg Convention Center downtown, the fair attracts craftsmen vendors from right across the country who sell handmade products of the highest quality. Among the items for sale include hand-crafted pottery, copper art, candy, and molded leather.
The July fair hosts a free Kid’s Corner, where children can participate in DIY crafts to take home with them. The fair also features daily music shows with performances of gospel, bluegrass and contemporary country tunes.
Admission is $10 for adults and children under 17 can enter for free when accompanying an adult. There are also multi-day passes available.
Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales takes place for the duration of July in Gatlinburg, from the 1st to the 31st. Entertaining visitors and locals for the entire month, Tunes and Tales is a street performance festival with shows running from 6 p.m. through 10 p.m. every day.
The performances feature musicians, dancers, and storytellers who regale spectators with tales that date back to earlier eras. A fun event for all ages, Tunes and Tales allows visitors to learn about the history of the area while being treated to show-stopping acts by talented artists.
Wondering if the legendary Bigfoot really is out there lurking in the wilderness? The Smoky Mountain Bigfoot Conference, held on July 23, aims to uncover the truth.
The conference is hosted at the Gatlinburg Convention Center and is open to the public, with tickets, both reserved seating and general admission, on sale for $25.
The conference is an all-day affair, from 9 a.m. through 7 p.m., and features several expert speakers who present the latest findings on the continued investigation into the existence of Bigfoot. Anthropologists, researchers, documentary filmmakers, and university professors are among those who make presentations throughout the day.
The Smoky Mountain Fan Fest is Tennessee’s answer to Comic-Con.
Featuring appearances from notable celebrities, the event allows fans chances to meet their heroes, take once-in-a-lifetime photos, and hear behind-the-scenes titbits about the making of their favorite movies and TV shows.
The Fan Fest is held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in July. In 2022, the event will take place across two days: July 30 and July 31, with tickets ranging from $14 to $574.99 for the ultimate VIP experience.
The celebrities who will be making an appearance in 2022 include Tom Arnold, Jackson Scott, Todd Haberkorn, John Wesley Shipp, and Michelle Harrison.
The Gatlinburg Square and Round Dance Convention is held annually in August at the W.L. Mills Conference Center, from August 4 through August 6 in 2022. In addition to lots of dancing, there are vendors, food, and fun to be had for all ages.
There are six dancing halls that are run as part of the event, including the live band hall, the mainstream hall, the plus hall, the advanced hall, the rounds hall, and the lines hall.
There are also singles activities, plus a fashion show, a sewing clinic, a used clothing sale, and an afterparty. Weekend tickets start at $30 per person.
The Gatlinburg Songwriters Festival honors Tennessee’s proud place as a pillar of country music.
Held over three days, from August 18 to 21 in 2022, the festival highlights acclaimed songwriting talent through shows performed in venues across the city. SkyLift Park, Shine Shack, and the Historic Gatlinburg Inn are just some of the locations where you can catch a performance during the festival.
Aspiring songwriters will also have a chance to network with other like-minded people, practice and perfect their craft, get advice from professionals, and meet industry leaders.
Monsters on the Mountain is a three-day rock experience held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center. In 2022, the festival will be held from August 19 through August 21 and will feature an impressive line-up, including artists such as Tom Keifer, Quiet Riot, Night Ranger, Brother Cane, and Kip Winger.
There are single-day tickets available from $155, and three-day passes available for $349. Along with live performances, the festival also includes rare photo opportunities with the artists, a rock ‘n roll vendor market, and a rock ‘n roll art gallery.
The Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival takes place every year to welcome fall to Gatlinburg. The event begins in the middle of September and carries on through late November, just before winter.
During the festival, the city is filled with seasonal decorations in signature colors like red and burnt orange, creating a rich autumn atmosphere.
Among the famous displays of the festival are life-size three-dimensional scarecrow people. The community actually competes for Best Harvest Decorations, which visitors can vote for while visiting town.
Several of the events that operate in the region during fall, including Oktoberfest, the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, and the Smoky Mountains Woodcarving Festival, take place as part of the Harvest Festival.
In Gatlinburg, Oktoberfest celebrations actually begin in September! The festivities take place at Ober Gatlinburg and last for around a month. In 2022, the Oktoberfest dates are September 23 through October 30.
The traditional German celebration features Bavarian music, food, fun, and of course, beer. On the Bavarian-inspired menu are delicacies like schnitzel, salted pretzels, strudel, bratwurst, turkey legs, and sauerkraut, while an outdoor bier garten is open to those over 21 years of age.
The nearly month-long festivities also include an outdoor vendor market where you can pick up German souvenirs and gifts to the tunes of the Smoky Mountain Oompah Band. The band dresses in authentic lederhosen clothing while performing folk dances, sing-a-longs, and yodels.
Another unmissable Gatlinburg event for music fans is the Smokys Monster Mash Monster Splash. Held at the downtown Ripley’s Aquarium, the festival hosts tropical rock musicians playing for four days in late October. The event will be held on October 28 through October 31 in 2022.
Winter is a truly enchanting time in Gatlinburg, and it all begins with the Winter Magic Kickoff in November. The festival will take place at the Anakeesta Plaza on November 10 in 2022, starting at 5 p.m. and continuing until 8 p.m.
To celebrate the coming of winter, the celebration will play host to live music, which festival-goers can enjoy for free as part of the festivities.
In the past, a chili cookoff has been held in conjunction with the festival, allowing local vendors to show off their best recipes. A panel of judges make the final decision as to which local business has pulled off the best chili, the best dessert, and the best booth decorations.
The best way to enjoy winter in Gatlinburg is to admire the festive lights and decorations that illuminate the city during the season. The whole city is decked out in Christmas ornaments and wintry beautifications, and you can witness them all at your own pace with a self-guided tour.
The lights remain up in the city from early November to the end of February, so there’s plenty of time to take the tour. This is a free family-friendly night-time activity that you can do from the comfort of your own car.
On November 11, Gatlinburg pays homage to United States military service members and veterans with Veterans Day. The celebration runs from 11 a.m. through 12 p.m. and is free for the public to enter.
The location of the ceremony tends to vary from year to year, but in 2022 it will be held at the Rocky Top Sports World. The event typically features a performance from the Gatlinburg-Pittman High School Band and a celebrity guest who will perform the National Anthem.
There are also special presentations throughout the ceremony from various groups paying tribute to the heroism of the military. Other highlights include speeches by revered veterans and a Quilt of Valor presentation.
Gatlinburg welcomes the start of the festive season with its signature Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, held on December 2 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The parade begins at Baskins Creek Bypass and East Parkway before continuing downtown and ending at traffic light #10.
The parade features an entrancing line-up of community-decorated floats, balloons, and high school marching bands. Spectators arrive from all over the city to watch the Tree Lighting Ceremony in particular—where city officials light the Gatlinburg Christmas Tree on the Parkway Plaza at traffic light #3.
Gatlinburg ends the year on a high and welcomes the new year with a bang under the city’s famous Space Needle. The event has been running every year since 1987 and is one of the most celebrated organized New Year’s Eve events in the country.
Many restaurants and businesses in town offer specials to ring in the New Year, while the festivities include live music from 10 p.m. A countdown, ball drop and fireworks display herald the strike of midnight and the coming of the New Year.