Before we countdown, the clock strikes midnight and we set our New Year’s resolutions, you must check a few Gatlinburg essentials off your list. Winter in the Smoky Mountains is a special time of year. From tasty treats and holiday spirit everywhere, there is no better place to be your home away from home for the holidays. Countdown the month of December with us before the firework finale rings in the New Year!

#10 – Partake in Tradition

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Gatlinburg's Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade

Wave “hi” to Santa Clause before he sets off around the world, while various floats roll through downtown during Gatlinburg’s Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade. Decked out with more than just “boughs of holly”, you’ll marvel at the all-out commitment to fan-favorite themes and holiday fun. Enjoy a bird’s eye view from Ole Red’s Countrified Christmas Parade Party, where spectators can secure seats and more to watch the parade.

#9 – Get in the Holiday Spirit

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Gatlinburg Welcomes You sign

Between indulging at one of Gatlinburg’s many pancake houses and checking out the one-of-a-kind attractions, enjoy musicians, dancers and storytellers during Winter Magic Tunes and Tales. Costumed to portray characters from various time periods all the way back to the 1800s, the performances run from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

While you explore the town, you’re bound to notice the festive décor coupled with millions of sparkling lights representing the Gatlinburg Winter Magic Celebration. Follow a map of the light display locations or forge your own path to the various stops.

#8 – Change your Thinking

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Impossibilities show

Think of the impossible. Got it? Well, you won’t think it’s impossible for long! Prepare to be amazed at the best magic show in Gatlinburg, Impossibilities. Master Mentalist and Magician Erik Dobell will entertain you with magic, mind reading and mayhem as he astounds everyone in the room. A perfect reprieve from winter adventures, make sure you reserve your tickets to see this irreplicable show.

#7 – Treat Yourself

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split rail eats coffee shop

Stroll down the Parkway as you sip on a must-have winter treat: hot chocolate! Chocolate Monkey, Maddog’s Creamery & Donuts, and Smoky Mountains Creperie will satisfy your hot chocolate fix with delectable treats. Stay a little longer to warm up from the cold mountain air and check out their irresistible desserts.

#6 – Meet New Friends

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Penguins Ripley's Aquarium

A trip to the North Pole may not be in the cards, but that does not mean you cannot meet one of its residents! Get up close and personal with the penguins at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies this winter season. You can interact with the friendly Northerners for an additional cost or opt to view them from behind the glass.

#5 – Make Memories

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Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

Just a short trolley ride from Gatlinburg’s central downtown is the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. With over 13 different “create your own” experiences to choose from – and nearly 100 artisans to discover – there are a variety of crafts to create. Visitors can try their hand at glass blowing, pottery, woodwork, candle making and more. Take your pick and commemorate your Gatlinburg holiday!

#4 – Indulge in a Christmas Feast

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Restaurants open for Christmas

On vacation over the holidays? Experienced a kitchen disaster? No worries! Several Gatlinburg restaurants are open on Christmas Day and ready to serve up all of your Christmas favorites. From a traditional dinner at The Cherokee Grill, Vista Grill or Howard’s Restaurant to Christmas with a twist at Pizzeria of Gatlinburg, Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina and Crawdaddy’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar, you can tailor your own Christmas experience!

#3 – Stay Warm

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Donut Friar

Start your morning – or treat yourself to an afternoon sweet – at The Donut Friar. Pop in for the donuts, of course, but you cannot check out without adding a hot apple cider to the list. An exquisite wintertime treat, their hot apple cider will warm you up from the inside out as you shop at The Village.

#2 – Countdown to the New Year

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Fireworks New Years Eve Downtown Space Needle

Feel like you’re in New York Times Square at the Space Needle’s iconic New Years Eve Fireworks Show and Ball Drop. With live music, food and drinks – not to mention specials offered by many of the local restaurants and businesses - you’ll celebrate in style. Both free and family-friendly, this event is the perfect way to ring in the new year.

#1 – Go out with a bang!

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winter skylift park

3..2..1...Happy New Year! Welcome 2024 with a fireworks extravaganza, directly following the Space Needle’s ball drop. Head to Gatlinburg SkyPark where you can not only view the fireworks display 500 feet above the town, but you also can show off your moves during their silent dance party. Their New Year’s Eve Lights of Wonder celebration is sure to offer a memorable start to your new year!