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Heading to Dollywood near the Christmas season? You may be wondering – when does Dollywood decorate for Christmas? We’re here to answer with this easy guide.

We’ll also share some of the pictures we’ve taken during this annual event!

the 50 foot animated tree at Dollywood

Almost every year our family heads to the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN to view the amazing holiday display and enjoy our favorite rides.

Today, we’re here to share with you everything you need to know about the Smoky Mountain Christmas event to have the most amazing holiday season experience the whole family will enjoy!

When Does Dollywood Decorate for Christmas?

Every year, the park closes at the end of October after the Great Pumpkin Luminights (sorry, you can’t visit the park for Halloween, but you can do a lot in Gatlinburg!) and reopens a few days into November for the Christmas season. The event lasts until very early January, usually ending around New Year’s or a couple of days after.

Check out the complete operating calendar here at the Dollywood website.

During this several day closure, the park is transformed into a winter wonderland. Millions of lights, a nightly fireworks display, heartwarming holiday shows, and a 50-foot animated tree are just some of the amazing things you can find at the Smoky Mountain Christmas event.

Dollywood's Mystery Mine decorated for the holidays

How long do the Christmas decorations stay up at Dollywood?

Every year the park reopens in early November, usually always around the fourth or fifth day of the month and the Christmas decorations are up through at least New Year’s.

Some years they stay open a day or two past New Year’s if those days are a weekend, but usually never past January 3rd, so if you want to see the Christmas lights you have about a two month window.

The entrance to Wildwood Grove decorated for Christmas

What can you expect at the Smoky Mountain Christmas event?

Wow, there is so much to do and see at this Appalachian Christmas event! Let’s start with the big ones:

5 Million Lights

During those few days of closure, the park undergoes a drastic transformation from the Harvest Festival with all of its pumpkin luminaries into a true winter wonderland for its Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival. Every area of the park is covered in holiday lights. This alone is worth a trip to the park, and is, of course, included in admission to the park.

Heartwarming Holiday Shows

Dollywood is big on entertainment, and you can find great holiday shows running all day. Even if you’re not into rides, come for the shows because a lot of people make a couple of days just out of the shows and Christmas lights. You can find holiday favorites such as “Twas the Night Before Christmas” or listen to your favorite classic songs like O Holy Night, a favorite Christmas carol of mine.

Merry & Bright Holiday Fireworks Show

Our last trip was the first time we stayed until close at Christmas to see the fireworks display, and it was so worth it! We went up near the front of the park and saw the show, and even Santa Claus was there on the upper floor of the Dollywood Emporium!

50-foot Animated Tree

Our boys adore this light show that features the story of a Black Bear and his cousin the Polar Bear and how they get to spend a magical Christmas together. At the end, be ready for some “snow” in the area made up of bubbles!

Holiday Food

This changes a bit every year as Dollywood now has a food truck park in addition to their traditional restaurants such as Aunt Granny’s. You can always get hot chocolate and other sweet treats at this time of year (and don’t forget to grab some hot cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill or Spotlight Bakery!).

Glacier Ridge

This special area of the park covers Wilderness Pass and Timber Canyon and helps to tell the story of how the Smokies iced over so that Polar Bear can visit his cousin Black Bear. It’s truly beautiful.

Animated tree at Dollywood at night

How to get the most out of your visit to the park during Christmas

1. Get there early and get a map as soon as you can. The park gets pretty crowded, especially on weekends, so you’ll want to plan your route.

2. Make sure to see the nightly fireworks display! It’s included with admission to the park and is an amazing show set to holiday music.

3. Check the showtimes and make sure to catch at least one holiday performance. We’re especially partial to the Appalachian Christmas Carols, which you can find at the chapel. Trust us, it’s worth seeing!

4. Make sure to go on some rides! Even though it may be cold outside, some of the best rides in the park are open during Smoky Mountain Christmas. Our favorites are the Dragonflier (guests only have to be 39″ to ride this one!), the Blazing Fury, and the Wild Eagle.

5. Take your time walking around to see all of the lights. It’s truly a magical experience.

Insider Tip: Download the Dollywood App while you’re there so you can see updated ride wait times that will help you decide which rides to do first!

Watching the animated tree with special wands given out by the park!

What rides are open and which ones are closed during Smoky Mountain Christmas?

Well, you’re in luck because most all of them are open all the time during the Great Smoky Mountains Christmas event! We’ve even gone right up until closing the night before Christmas Eve and even after Christmas before the New Year and always rode all of our favorites. The park is closed on Christmas Day, so keep that in mind when planning your vacation.

The only time rides close is when the temperature drops too low, which usually only happens at night. In Tennessee you never really know what the weather is going to be like around Christmas. We’ve had several 70 degree Christmas Days and every once in a blue moon we get a white Christmas.

Most of the time, though, the daytime temps hover between 40-60 so rides are usually always open during the day, and also at night unless it gets too cold.

You can read more about Dollywood rides and Christmas here.

Of course, Dollywood’s Splash Country, the neighboring water park, is closed during this time. It’s cold! That park is only open when it’s warm enough to swim in this part of the country, which is mid-May through Labor Day.

If you’d really like to do more with your stay, be sure to check out the Dollywood Dreammore Resort – they decorate for Christmas, too! Our kids especially love the room with the bunk beds.

Insider Tip: If you are thinking about becoming a Dollywood season pass holder, this is the best time of the year to do it because you can buy the pass for the next calendar year AND enjoy the Christmas fun. We usually buy ours when they go on sale in early November.

I hope you’ll make a trip out to Dollywood one Christmas soon for the best Christmas ever! Start some new family traditions with the joy of a traditional Smoky Mountain Christmas.

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