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A Smoky Mountain Winter

Cider, snowflakes and more in a national treasure



During Winterfest (which runs through Feb. 26 this year), Pigeon Forge Parwkway (U.S. 441) glitters with snowy lights. Photo courtesy Pigeon Forge CVB

 

Winter in the Smokies: the idea conjures up images of snow-covered cottages, smoke curling from chimneys – a veritable Christmas card scene. Colored lights sparkled; silver snowflakes glittered; Christmas carols floated on the chilly air … but Santa would have needed wheels rather than runners when I visited the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee last November.

 

Approximately 70 million people visited national parks last year – 10 million of those visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Covering more than 800 square miles of North Carolina and Tennessee, the park is known for stunning scenery and the characteristic blue haze that gave the mountains their name. Oh, and its biodiversity: with possibly as many as 100,000 kinds of living organisms, the park encompasses the largest collection of undisturbed old-growth trees east of the Mississippi, and animals abound, including more species of salamanders than any other place in the world.

The symbols of the park and its most iconic residents are the black bears. In the fall they participate in what is known as the “shuffle.” At this time, the bears feed almost non-stop, stocking up for hibernation, gaining from three to five pounds a day. (More like the “stuff-full!”)

With 150 trails in the park covering 800 miles (including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail) and 384 miles of mountain roads – there’s plenty of territory to travel.

The park has 10 campgrounds and more than 100 back-country sites, but the only lodging within its borders is LeConte Lodge – and that’s strictly for the sturdy, as it can only be reached by hiking at least five miles. There are no restaurants in the park either, although basic groceries are available. Not to worry: most visitors stay in nearby towns, and there are plenty of accommodations and eateries there.

Don’t count on snow for Christmas, but when it happens, photographers grab their cameras.


The Three Ss: Suppin’, Sleepin’ and Shoppin’ Enterprises catering to these fundamental needs stretch from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge to Sevierville, and it’s hard to tell where one town ends and the next begins. You’ll find high-end galleries and some gourmet restaurants, but the best choices in the area are home-cooked or home-created.

The level of crafts and folk arts you’ll find here is unparalleled. You’ll discover artists preserving traditional crafts – people such as Pastor Jimmy Morrow, a snake-handling Pentecostal preacher, who creates folk dolls, makes kudzu baskets, paints in primitive folk style and tells amazing stories in a dialect that has almost disappeared from the country. I met him in Cosby at Maria Holloway’s Country Home Quilts.

Maria’s shop is a rainbow of fabrics but the highlight is a bed piled high with quilts; most are machine-pieced but hand-quilted by a select group of women who meet Maria’s high standards and have nigh-infinite patience. Among the beauties on the bed were a Postage Stamp quilt with more than 8,000 one-inch pieces, and a stunning Cathedral Window quilt that took more than 2,000 hours to complete.

Black bears do live in the mountains, but they aren’t alone. Hundreds of trolls can be found high on Rocky Top Trail at Five Arts Studios, where the Arensbak family creates figures with roots in Danish folklore. Ranging in height from 5 inches to 5 feet, these friendly forest folk are made primarily from natural materials found in the mountains.

Not far from Five Arts is the Carver Orchards with its 40,000 apple trees. Through the season, the market there will have 126 varieties of apples for sale. Do visit the Carver Applehouse Restaurant for home cooking accompanied by apple fritters and apple cider.

Chicken and dumplings like you wish grandma could have made are a warm treat on a cold day at Carver’s Applehouse Restaurant.


Another popular spot is the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant in Sevierville. Like Carver’s, you’ll find apple-inclusive favorites but lots of other good things, as well. For baked specialties, stop at the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge. Try their biscuits and other delicious treats made from grains stone-ground in the 130-year-old mill next door. Prepare to stand in line at all three restaurants, a testimony to tastiness.

All sorts of accommodations are available – from the swanky Blackberry Farm (Walland) to very affordable motels. For bed and breakfast fans, the Buckhorn Inn (Gatlinburg) also offers gourmet dinners. For aerie elegance, check out Gracehill B&B (Townsend) – spectacular view. Also near Townsend, Richmont Inn B&B offers a great view, as well as an homage to Sequoyah and the Cherokees who once called this area home.

Traveling families will enjoy Wilderness at the Smokies Hotel and Waterpark Resort in Sevierville. Between the waterparks (indoors and outdoors) and the mega-arcade, it may be hard to get the kids out of the hotel.

Hologram ghosts haunt Scrooge in Dollywood’s musical adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”

 

There are, however, more attractions in the area than you can shake a stick at. Top of my list is Gatlinburg’s Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, rated in the world’s top five aquariums. This isn’t Colorado, but you’ll find skiing, snow tubing and ice-skating at Ober Gatlinburg. For grown-ups, there are wine tastings at Sugarland Cellars and moonshine tastings at Old Smoky Moonshine in Gatlinburg, with more at Old Smoky and Old Forge Distillery in Pigeon Forge.

Introduce yourself to Dolly Parton’s statue in Sevierville, then head for Pigeon Forge for her magnum opus, Dollywood. The big seasonal special, “Smoky Mountain Christmas,” runs through Jan. 3. Four million lights trim the buildings and trees, and a variety of shows feature holiday themes. Don’t miss the musical adaptation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with holographic sprits including Dolly as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Her brand-new hotel, DreamMore Resort, is nearby – be sure to ask about special packages including theme park tickets.

For a cool Christmas drive-thru, visit Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland north of Sevierville. Hundreds of thousands of lights dance and twinkle to music, from pop songs and carols to the “Hallelujah Chorus.” In addition, there are a number of theaters in the region – much like you’d find in Branson.

So why not just go to Branson? There are many subtle, small distinctions, but the biggest difference is those gorgeous Smoky Mountains. I loved the area so much, I went back in February. No Christmas lights – but this time I found snow. And I found that – no matter what the season – this Smoky Mountain region is wonderful.


► Helpful links 

mypigeonforge.com

tnvacation.com

 

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Calendar

December 2018

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Grab your family and friends for an incredible performance and reimagining of the classic holiday story! Follow Carlos on his hip hop journey to self-discovery through magical lands filled with...

Cost: $20 presale; $25 at the door

Where:
OCCC
7777 S May
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
View map »


Sponsor: RACE Dance Company
Telephone: 405.410.4978
Contact Name: Hui Poos
Website »

More information

Grab your family and friends for an incredible performance and reimagining of the classic holiday story! Follow Carlos on his hip hop journey to self-discovery through magical lands filled with...

Cost: $20 presale; $25 at the door

Where:
OCCC
7777 S May
Oklahoma City, OK  73159
View map »


Sponsor: RACE Dance Company
Telephone: 405.410.4978
Contact Name: Hui Poos
Website »

More information

Elsa and Anna host this holiday spectacular full of Christmas magic - with a drop-in visit from the big man himself: Santa Claus! Featuring high-quality professional performers from Project...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Station at Central Park
700 S Broadway Avenue
Moore , OK  73160
View map »


Sponsor: Project Princess
Telephone: 405.777.2411
Contact Name: Brooke Ashely
Website »

More information

You’re invited to hear Sandi Patty in a free concert for the whole family in the Crossings OKC Sanctuary. Sandi, her family and the Voices of Crossings Choir and Orchestra will share the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crossings Community Church - OKC Campus
14600 North Portland
Oklahoma City, OK  73134
View map »


Sponsor: Crossings Community Church
Telephone: 405.302.1258
Contact Name: Lori Bunyar
Website »

More information

The American Spirit Dance Company Presents Home for the Holidays Thursday, December 6, 8:00 PM, Kirkpatrick Theatre Friday, December 7, 8:00 PM, Kirkpatrick Theatre Saturday, December 8,...

Cost: $18.85 - $29.85

Where:
Oklahoma City University
2501 N. Blackwelder
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: The American Spirit Dance Company
Telephone: 405.208.4955
Contact Name: Ryan Barrett
Website »

More information

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The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

Upcoming Casting Calls in Oklahoma City Location: Provided via email Send headshots, measurements, resume and preferred audition time to casting@princessparty.com We are seeking actors who...

Cost: Free

Where:
Provided via email
Provided via email
Oklahoma City, OK  73112
View map »


Sponsor: The Princess Party Co.
Telephone: 616.426.6108
Contact Name: Skyler
Website »

More information

Show More...
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Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

Andy Alligator's is hosting a parents night out: Kids will enjoy supervised fun, food and games while parents have a night out on the town to finish up last-minute shopping without the kids....

Cost: $19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Telephone: 405.321.7275
Website »

More information

Come enjoy live, local comedy in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the 2nd Saturday of every month also has a family -friendly show...

Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

With the original Die Hard quickly becoming one of the most popular Christmas films around, we knew that everybody around town would be showing it. So we figured you know what's better than Die...

Cost: $7.50 - $9.50

Where:
Rodeo Cinema
2221 Exchange Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: VHSANDCHILL
Telephone: 405.503.0050
Contact Name: Sean Peel
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Presented By OKC Ballet, with the OKC Philharmonic Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and Artistic Director Robert Mills’ delightful staging of The Nutcracker will fill your heart...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Ballet
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Don’t miss this timely exhibition charting the development of contemporary Indigenous art from the US and Canada. Presenting over 80 artworks including paintings, photography, video,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way
Bentonville, AR  72712
View map »


Telephone: 479.418.5700
Website »

More information

A pop-up shop village & Christmas tree lot in Midtown, OKC for the Holiday season. Shops rotate weekly!

Cost: Free

Where:
Holiday Pop-Up Shops
399 NW 10th St
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.514.5205
Contact Name: Cleo Rajon
Website »

More information

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is proud to host an exhibition by members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA).   The Traditional Cowboy Arts Association...

Cost: 12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni Shrum
Website »

More information

Come enjoy live, local comedy in Oklahoma City's Plaza District. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m., and the 2nd Saturday of every month also has a family -friendly show...

Cost: $5 - $15

Where:
OKC Improv
1757 N.W. 16th St.
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Improv
Telephone: 405.456.9858
Contact Name: Kate McLain-Snipes
Website »

More information

With the original Die Hard quickly becoming one of the most popular Christmas films around, we knew that everybody around town would be showing it. So we figured you know what's better than Die...

Cost: $7.50 - $9.50

Where:
Rodeo Cinema
2221 Exchange Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73108
View map »


Sponsor: VHSANDCHILL
Telephone: 405.503.0050
Contact Name: Sean Peel
Website »

More information

Presented By OKC Ballet, with the OKC Philharmonic Tchaikovsky’s familiar score and Artistic Director Robert Mills’ delightful staging of The Nutcracker will fill your heart...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Ballet
Website »

More information

A Comedy by Michael Hollinger No menu necessary at the world's greatest restaurant, the Café du Grand Boeuf in Paris. Why? "Because we have everything," headwaiter...

Cost: $5 to $25

Where:
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main
Oklahoma City, OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Carpenter Square Theatre
Telephone: 405.232.6500
Contact Name: Rhonda M. Clark
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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