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From shimmering snowflakes to twinkling holiday lights, winter is always glittering in Gatlinburg. Few other places capture the magic of the season quite like this charming Southern town. While Gatlinburg always reminds us that the holiday season is a time for fun, tradition, and making memories together, it’s also a time to extend a helping hand to those in need. Gatlinburg’s annual Festival of Trees brings all these elements under one roof for an enchanting experience for a great cause.

Beginning Wednesday, November 22, and running through Saturday, November 26, the W.L. Mills Conference Center transforms into a holiday wonderland filled with fun activities for the whole family. You can celebrate the start of the season and enjoy a magical stroll through a labyrinth of Christmas trees and wreaths, all decorated to the nines. Children can enjoy making Christmas crafts and even pay a visit to Jolly Old St. Nick himself.

This year’s event is presented by Hospitality Solutions Inc., and proceeds benefit two worthy causes: The Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains and the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation Scholarship Fund.

Read on for all the dazzling details, including everything you need to know before you go!

Celebrating 50 Years of Festive Tradition

“This is their 50th anniversary, which is a huge milestone,” says Chelsea Trott, Public Relations and Communications Manager for the Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau. Back in 1973, the Festival of Trees began as a way for the Gatlinburg Garden Club to bring the community together to share in the festivities of the holidays. Today, this spirit lives on, as visitors can enjoy a delightful display of holiday cheer while supporting the community. “The event is the state’s longest-running festival of this nature,” Chelsea says.

A beautifully decorated Christmas tree, adorned with a red and white theme, stands in the foreground with the forest of Christmas trees in the background at Gatlinburg's Festival of Trees
This year’s Festival of Trees commemorates half a century of celebrating the season as a community while supporting local youth.

The festival extends glad tidings beyond the event, with proceeds benefiting two distinguished causes. Last year’s event raised $90,000 for the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains. This year, event organizers are hoping to raise $100,000. “It’s so special as this really rings in the goodwill of the season and brings the community together to not only enjoy the holiday season but have an impact, as well,” adds Chelsea.

A few of the Christmas tree forest shows rows of uniquely decorated Christmas trees all lit up.

Each tree is sponsored by a local business or organization and is uniquely decorated. Together, the trees create an enchanting forest of holiday delight.

The Enchanting Christmas Tree Forest

Entering the festival, you are greeted by a forest of beautifully decorated holiday trees and wreaths, each with a unique theme. Trees are either decorated by professional decorators or donated and sponsored by local businesses.

If you like the idea of a professional taking care of your tree decor this year, head to the festival ready to shop. In fact, many locals visit the event and buy a tree to take home and enjoy after the event. Every tree purchased benefits the causes. In addition to the exquisite decorations, many trees have been known to include enticing ornaments to draw buyers, including home decor items, coffee mugs, and even gift cards. As you make your way through the Christmas tree forest, you can take your time and enjoy each tree as you keep an eye out for surprise goodies!

A close up shot of a Christmas tree with a home decor sign that reads, "The mountains are calling and I must go." with more Christmas trees in the background.
The trees are professionally decorated, each with a unique theme. Festival visitors can purchase the trees to support the cause and take home a piece of the magical forest!
A whimsical stuffed skunk toy hangs on a beautifully decorated Christmas tree with a white and black theme.
You never know what — or who — you might find on one of the dozens of uniquely decorated Christmas trees at the Festival of Trees!

A Festival of Family Fun with a Great Cause

Be sure to bring the whole family to the Festival of Trees; there is something for everyone to enjoy. As a family-friendly event, not only will the Gatlinburg Convention Center be decked out in beautiful Christmas trees and holiday decor, but there will also be a children’s craft and play area and photos with Santa Claus. See a full schedule of events below to plan your visit.

While the trees take center stage at the festival, the real stars are the beneficiaries. The Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains serves more than 1,600 youth across Sevier County, providing character-building programs and a safe place to grow outside of school and home. The Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation provides scholarships to local youth, promotes bear safety, and community enrichment.

Several beautifully decorated Christmas trees are lined in a row atop white blankets to portray a holiday winter wonderland.
The Festival of Trees benefits The Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains and the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce. The beautifully decorated trees can be purchased to benefit the causes.

Know Before You Go

  • The Festival of Trees is held at the W.L. Mills Conference Center at stoplight #8, Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
  • The Festival is from Wednesday, November 22, through Sunday, November 26.
  • Festival hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Pictures with Santa Claus are available Friday and Saturday only, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • Admission is free, and parking is located at the city parking lot on Reagan Drive.
  • Donations are appreciated and benefit the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains.

This article is sponsored by The Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau. All photography provided.

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About the Author
Katie Leigh Matthews