I have been vacationing in the Smoky Mountains since I was a child but I had never been during the holidays. That changed this year. I have no idea why I waited so long to see the Smokies during the most wonderful time of the year. This is the time of the year when Winterfest is happening and the lights are so beautiful.

We went for a couple of days through the week but our itinerary can be adapted to a quick weekend getaway, too. Here’s a short summary of some of our Smoky Mountain fun.

See all of the beautiful lights

This year Pigeon Forge added something new that we had to see. The Winterfest Wonders of Light Walking Trail features a spectacular entrance from either the Old Mill District or The Island. We chose to enter from the Island.

Along the way you will encounter snowmen, Christmas trees and even Santa!

Patriot Park, which is located behind the Old Mill Restaurant, is also lit up with a tribute to veterans. Since Steve is a veteran, we couldn’t miss it. There are lights for all branches of the services but this one was our favorite.

The Island is a great place to visit anytime of the year and it’s even more beautiful during Winterfest. Look at this tree!

The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel offers beautiful views of The Island and the mountains. I saw snow on the mountains for the first time in all of my 50+ years of visiting the Smokies from the wheel.

The centerpiece of The Island is the beautiful fountain. I could spend hours watching the water dance.

We spent most of our time in Pigeon Forge but other Smoky Mountain towns are also decorated beautifully for the Christmas season and Winterfest. I loved seeing the cute snowmen throughout Gatlinburg.

A side note: Dollywood is the gold standard for Christmas lights. We have been to Dollywood before and it is certainly worth the price but we were keeping our itinerary budget-friendly this year. We hope to get a Dollywood Christmas visit on our calendar soon.

Have a great meal anytime

Since we spent most of our time in Pigeon Force, we ate most of our meals there. One was an old favorite. We always visit the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant and Grill while we are in the Smokies. This time we changed it and had breakfast instead of lunch. Look at all this food!

We tried two new places to us on this trip. I have wanted to eat at Puckett’s for a long time. It was worth the wait. There’s barbecue in that macaroni and cheese.

We also stopped by Five Oaks Farm Kitchen. Steve had the open-faced roast beef sandwich and I had the chicken pot pie. They were both great. But that potato salad was really good and was obviously homemade.

Enjoy the great outdoors

We’re over 50 but we still love a good walk in the woods that makes us feel like we are hiking. The Smoky Mountains National Park has miles of great trails for all skill levels. On this trip we opted for convenience. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is located just outside of Gatlinburg and is beautiful any time of the year. This year there was snow on the ground.

Don’t let the name fool you. The winding path has plenty of places were you can stop and take a walk through the woods. We had a lot to do so we stopped at the Ogle Farmstead for a while and did a short walk on the nature trail. It wasn’t strenuous for us at all.

Experience a cheaper stay in the winter

We travel in the “offseason” often. In the Smoky Mountains, we have found some of the cheapest rates in November and January. Do some homework and you could find some great deals. One year we stayed three nights at a Gatlinburg hotel for the price of one night.

This year we chose an old favorite. We have stayed at Maples Motor Inn in Pigeon Forge more times than I can count. We stayed there on our honeymoon!

It’s a no-frills motel that will take you back in time. But it’s always clean and the staff is so courteous. I can’t attest to how they respond to issues because I honestly have never had an issue there.

Create your own Smoky Mountain winter getaway

This was just a snippet of our experience this at Winterfest in the Smoky Mountains. Steve said as we were leaving that every time we visit we have a totally different vacation. We will be sharing more of our Smoky Mountain experiences here in the next few months as we recap some previous trips and visit again.

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