There are tons of things to do in Gatlinburg, even during the slow season. This is defined as the time at the beginning of the year—January and February—when the fewest amount of people visit the area. There are many factors at play here, and I’m going to show you—despite all these things preventing people from traveling here in the middle of winter—that it’s still a lovely place to take a couples or family trip.
1. Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg is a wonderful thing to do in Gatlinburg no matter when you’re visiting, but it’s especially great during the winter months. First of all, this is not based on my visitation during this time, but a ski resort in Tennessee is quite a rarity, so it has to be awesome. We visited in June, but there are plenty of activities, including water slides, a fairly new mountain coaster, a fun outdoor maze, and the iconic indoor skating rink which my son proved to be a natural—me, not so much.
Keep in Mind
Despite the fact that we’ve never been here in the winter, we’ve witnessed just how long the lines are to get on the tram. Last January, we saw all the people lined up for the chance to go tubing, skiing, and chairlift riding—it stretched out and around the Ober Gatlinburg Tramway Mall. Because of this, plan on getting a head start and get in line before it opens so you can get right in on the winter wonderland over Gatlinburg!
Hiking is a wonderful activity everyone should engage in when visiting the Smoky Mountains. There are many opportunities to get views that you can’t see when the trees are full and green. If you’re not afraid of a little cold weather, dress warmly and experience the beauty of some snow-capped peaks in this national park
Keep in Mind
Sometimes the weather can close the roads in the park, so I wouldn’t make hard plans to do a hike before you leave. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Also, popular tourist treks, including Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Clingmans Dome Road, are closed during this time, due to the treacherous nature of the scaling of the roads and frozen tree limbs that can fall and are an obvious danger.
3. Easier Shopping
I don’t have to tell you that it’s much easier to do shopping, and that’s one thing to do in Gatlinburg during the slow season you can enjoy a little more. This probably means you have more time to visit more places as well, and I highly recommend a drive out to The Arts and Crafts Community to find many original hand-crafted items. It’s a great alternative if you get tired of walking the Parkway downtown.
Keep in Mind
If you’re used to going shopping late in the day in the summertime, just know that many of these shops you visit close a bit earlier because of a decrease in tourist traffic. Make sure you take note of their winter hours before you go, or go earlier and see their listing of new hours that are normally posted in plain sight.
4. Stop in Shops for Hot Drinks
Just like summer is great for ice cold drinks, the winter might be even better because there’s nothing quite like a decadent hot chocolate or that perfect blend of hot coffee. The best shops to find a good hot drink are Coffee and Company, Burg Coffees, The Donut Friar, and The Village Cafe and Creamery. I’ve been to them all and raved about them in my blog more than once, so I highly recommend you duck inside these shops and get yourself warm. You’ll then be able to endure more of the cold from walking around town.
Keep in Mind
Don’t be surprised if you have to wait, depending on when you go. Usually, I’m pretty safe getting my favorite drink right when they open, but sometimes other people have that same plan. Be patient; it’s definitely worth the wait to get a high quality warm beverage of choice.
5. Book a Cabin in the Mountains
I’m certainly not going to argue with you if you’re ideal vacation involves none of the various things to do in Gatlinburg. If all you want to do is sit around your cabin in your pajamas all day, play games, and daydream while staring at the wonderful views from your Smoky Mountain cabin, or cuddle up with that special someone by the fireplace while watching your favorite flicks, then by all means do it! This is exactly what vacations are meant for anyway—relaxation and stress-free bliss!
Keep in Mind
Once again, the weather sometimes has other ideas. Make sure you’re prepared for navigating treacherous mountain roads if you have a cabin in a high elevation. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to check with the cabin owners or rental company before booking. That way you can decide how much fun you really want by driving to your cabin in the unpredictable nature of winter.
That sums up my list of the best things to do in Gatlinburg during the slow season. I hope you enjoyed reading, and I’ll be sure to keep giving you these little tidbits of information to help you decide on what you can expect and plan for when vacationing in this lovely little tourist paradise!