Halloween in the Smokies
The Smoky Mountains as a Halloween destination?
That's not the question, the question is why you never considered it before? So much of the history of Halloween is rooted in the same heritage that came to Appalachia in the first place several hundred years ago. Fear of witches, demons, ghosts and all other strange manner of creature carried over here from the American cradles of civilization on the East Coast and fed more on it within the incredible DEPTH of hidden areas and dark places here in the mountains. Why do you think carved pumpkins and corn husks and scarecrows and so many other harvest items are typically found throughout the country as Halloween decorations? The Smokies are unquestionably gorgeous, and more so during this time of year because of the colors, but you have to admit - in the right light (or lack of), the woods around here look pretty haunting, don't they?
As for the epic fantasy night itself, Halloween is handled a little bit unusual in Sevier County. We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly destination at all times of the year, and Halloween's been shifting from a strictly kids' affair into something adults get back into as well - but our country having a large foundation in Christianity and the more destructive parts of Halloween still being present in our memory (admit it, you remember dressing up as Michael Myers and throwing toilet paper over your neighbors' houses), the official approach to celebrating Halloween in a way that cuts down on what it doesn't need is to have a number of official Halloween fun events in town.
And not all of them are on October 31st.
Thus, in this article, we'd like to share with you the events going on this Halloween where groups bringing kids to the Smokies may plan for some modern and classic candy-and-spooks fun in our area. Take a look:
Dollywood's Harvest Festival and Great Pumpkin LumiNights *
September 29th - October 28th
Well, this was a big surprise! Dollywood traditionally holds a Harvest Festival season for the month of October every year - that doesn't shock anyone for anything other than how good it is to experience, but they hadn't done something specifically Halloween-themed in QUITE some time. With the Pumpkin LumiNights, there will be thousands of pumpkins carved and lit around the Timber Canyon part of the park, adding, even more, decoration and "season" to the season. Their Harvest Festival and Southern Gospel shows are worth the price of admission, too.
Ripley's Fright Nights in Gatlinburg *
September 30th - October 31st
October is also the month that one of Gatlinburg's best-known scare-houses celebrates the occasion with some specially themed horror in store for guests. This year's theme is "Contagion" and as the Gatlinburg website puts it: "Dr. Grimsby has gone on a mad spree infecting everyone in the house with a contagion that is turning them into undead, zombie-like monsters that can’t be stopped!" Best get your vaccinations in order before visiting.
Spooktacular Halloween *
This is the city of Pigeon Forge's municipal Halloween celebration at the Pigeon Forge Community Center. Typically the entire Community Center gets redirected for the occasion and leads families through a small "haunted" area of sorts to the redecorated gym where there are tables and groups giving out candy, playing music and more. Outside there is a hayride to and through the adjacent walking part.
Halloween At The Island *
A full-blown Halloween party can be found at The Island in downtown Pigeon Forge! This is the 5th annual "Halloween At The Island" and it is a veritable Halloween carnival where, on top of the expected decorations and onsite amusements, there will be circus performers, aerialists, acrobats, stilt walkers and a lot of others that will guarantee you've not seen anything like this in the Smokies during Halloween.
Gatlinburg's Trick or Treat Kick Off Karnival *
And downtown Gatlinburg capitalizes the October 31st Halloween celebration in town with the Trick or Treat Kick-Off Karnival from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM featuring "contests, costumed characters, candy and a pumpkin contest plus trick or treat safety from the Gatlinburg Police Department and fire safety from the Gatlinburg Fire Department" as their website states. Then, after 5:00 PM until roughly 8:00 PM or so, the sidewalks of Gatlinburg will fill with costumed families as most shops will offer candy for proper trick or treating.
The other fun thing to note about Halloween in the Smokies is that many churches and other establishments will also have their own smaller Halloween and Harvest Festival activities that only get advertised locally, not on the main city websites. Many churches will have trunk-or-treats and similar parties close to or around that period. The best way to get to know about them is just to come to the Smokies.
We hope to see you and your little trick or treaters this Halloween!