By Leif Palmer
Since 1989 Gatlinburg Winter Magic™ has been dazzling visitors with beautiful decorations and sparkling light displays during the winter season. These displays line miles of the city's beautiful downtown Parkway and Highway 321 and can be enjoyed by car, by trolley or on foot every night until February 28. Gatlinburg Winter Magic features a custom designed and fabricated display of snowmen, fountains, Christmas icons, forests and furry mountain friends indigenous to the Great Smoky Mountains, such as rabbits, deer, foxes, and squirrels - all made of lights. For those who have a nostalgic streak for the displays of the last 20 years, don't worry - your favorites are still there.
The natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains inspires attention to conservation, and as a result Gatlinburg's winter lights program has been environmentally friendly since 2008, when the city converted to quarter-watt LED bulbs instead of 5-watt incandescent bulbs. This conversion saves nearly 95% of the energy required before the conversion, and lights the displays for all 120 days for the cost of three days of the former incandescent displays. With incandescent bulbs going the way of the dinosaur, Gatlinburg Winter Magic is a wonderful place to get inspiration for converting your own holiday displays at home or in your city.
The best way to enjoy Gatlinburg Winter Magic is by taking a Trolley Ride of Lights on a comfortable, heated Gatlinburg Trolley. You'll cruise through downtown and Highway 321 in style, and nobody but the trolley driver will have to keep their eyes on the road.
Trolleys leave Ripley's Aquarium Trolley Station at 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 p.m. You can reserve tickets online, and be sure to make a reservation if you have a large group. All trolleys are enclosed and heated, and all take the same route through town. Past visitors sing the praises of the trolley tours - expect fun storytelling, sing-alongs and an interactive adventure. If the Trolley Ride of Lights is sold out, pick up a printed self-guided tour map at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center or download the Visit Gatlinburg App.
Of course, no visit to the Great Smoky Mountains is complete without a luxurious cabin rental with sweeping vistas. Volunteer Cabin Rentals has cabins in all types and sizes, from rustic, cozy one-bedroom cabins to chateaus that can hold an entire extended family. All cabins are wonderfully appointed and have awe-inspiring views of our beautiful landscapes. Many also have game rooms, gourmet kitchens, fire pits, Jacuzzis, rocking chairs, wide porches, theater rooms, and more. Enjoying a cup of coffee or cocoa on the front porch of a quiet mountain cabin, accompanied only by bird songs and the occasional deer or other mountain critter, is truly a magical experience that you'll never forget.
Gatlinburg Winter Magic is the perfect anchor for a winter vacation or romantic end-of-year getaway. Rent a cozy cabin with someone you love, or with the whole gang, and plan some fun-filled days exploring Gatlinburg. Whatever activities you do, the real winter magic is relaxing and recharging in the beauty and peace of the Great Smoky Mountains.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in east Tennessee. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.