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Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.


5 Things To Do During The “Off-Season” In The Smokies

By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on January 5, 2016

If you'll notice, we put “off-season” in quotation marks in the title of this blog post. That's because things have changed around here in the Great Smoky Mountains over the past 25 years. It used to be that once January 1 rolled around, most businesses – especially the hotels and attractions – would close their doors and remain out of commission until spring came.

But over the past couple of decades, the Smokies area has become so popular year 'round (thanks in large part to Winterfest) that what used to be an outright off-season is nothing more now than a slight seasonal dip in visitation. Thus, the quotation marks suggest that it's really more an off-season in name only these days.

So if you happen to be visiting the Smokies in the next couple of months, is there still anything going on that you can do? Of course! Here are a few ideas for places to explore and enjoy:

• Great Smoky Mountains National Park

While we wouldn't recommend hiking to a mountaintop this time of year, there are still sites within the park that are easily accessible and starkly beautiful in their own right in the dead of winter. For example, you can drive the 11-mile Cades Cove loop and make stops to see many of the preserved churches and homesteads located along the way, or you can see similar sights touring the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which starts and ends in downtown Gatlinburg. The 5.5-mile route is scenic and easily manageable within the scope of a morning or afternoon.

Of course, during winter, weather conditions can always affect road closures in the national park, so if you're not sure, visit and check for the latest conditions and road-access status.

• Ober Gatlinburg

This is one of the few places in the Smokies that was designed specifically for winter fun. Although the attraction is open all year long, it really starts hopping in winter, especially when it snows or when it's at least cold enough for this Gatlinburg ski resort to manufacture their own snow high atop Mt. Harrison, overlooking downtown. They're getting a late start on the season this year because we've had unseasonably warm weather lately, but now that the temps are settling into their norms, look for all their usual attractions to come back online, including as many as 10 ski trails, a 10-lane snow-tubing course and an indoor ice skating rink. You can visit to check out the latest slope conditions.

• Music Theaters

Time was when there were no music theaters open between January 1 and mid-March. That's not the case any more. While some theaters do go dark for a couple of months or so after the first of the year, many are still going strong to keep Smokies visitors entertained during the early-year lull. Most of the venues that are open are operating on limited schedules during this time, but those continuing to raise their curtains this month include the Iris Theater, the Comedy Barn, Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show and Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction.

• Other Attractions

Fortunately, many non-theater attractions are open year 'round, so whether you're interested in seeing Ripley's Aquarium or WonderWorks or the Titanic Museum Attraction, you shouldn't have any trouble getting tickets. Plus, because visitation is a little lower this time of year, you'll enjoy not waiting in long lines or fighting heavy traffic.

Because our Pigeon Forge zip line attraction is an outdoor experience, we do take a brief hiatus for the cold weather here at Smoky Mountain Ziplines, but we'll be back in March, and we're already looking forward to seeing our guests again!

• Shops

The Smokies' outlet malls, craft studios and specialty shops are also generally open this time of year. Christmas may be over, but going to the stores now means you can often rack up on post-holiday discounts and marked-down merchandise.


This content posted by Smoky Mountain Ziplines. Visit our home page, for more information on zipline adventures in the Smoky Mountains.

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