In all honesty, it can be said that there is not a bad or wrong time to visit the Smokies. You can find a long list of indoor and outdoor activities at any time of year, and just paying a visit to a woodland cabin and enjoying a crackling fire may be all you need for the best experience. Yet, if you are eager to see and do the many things available in the region, it might be wise to book your visit in what might be called the “off-season.”
The Off-Season in the Smokies
As a year-round destination, the Smokies don’t have an official off-season, but do have times of peak travel and quieter, less busy times. Once the winter holidays have come and gone and true winter settles over the mountains, the region seems to quiet down a bit. While you won’t be able to enjoy the amazingly verdant rolling hills, or the saturated hues of autumn, there is still an amazing amount of natural beauty during the winter season in the Smokies.
Keep in mind that even during the wintery off-season there will be times when visitation spikes and peaks again. Holidays like Valentine’s Day or any winter breaks from school may lead to a revival of heavier visitation, and many weekends remain quite busy all year.
Technically, the lowest level of visitation comes from later January and throughout February, and that would be a great time to go ahead and book your stay. You’ll find vacancies in the different cabins or cottages as well as the resorts and hotels, along with all of the B&Bs or even home rentals.
Is It Worth an Off-Season Visit?
Naturally, you will want to know if you can still experience the major attractions if it is the off season, and the answer is a resounding “yes.” The larger towns like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have all of the usual activities and options (with the exception of Dollywood, which shuts down for January and February). Some stores or restaurants may shorten their hours, but still remain active, and the different stage shows may limit their numbers of performances, but still do their popular shows.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains open, though some roads and trails have to shut down due to inclement weather. Yet, you can enjoy an amazingly unrestricted, peaceful and stress-free drive through Cades Cove or wonderful Newfound Gap, and if you hit the trails, you’ll find frozen waterfalls and wonderfully peaceful conditions.
And, on the Peaceful Side of the Smokies, in towns like Maryville, Townsend and Alcoa, the winter is a wonderful time to visit. You can enjoy special events like the Winter Heritage Festival in late January in Townsend, and many of the breweries, distilleries and antique shops are the perfect indoor remedy for for cold weather (including this Tennessee Winter Beer Fest on February 16th).
Benefits of Off-Season Visits
If you need any further reasons to consider the Smokies as an ideal off-season destination, just consider that you’ll enjoy fewer crowds wherever you go, no lines or waiting at restaurants and popular attractions, better rates on rentals and cabins, and scenery that you will not enjoy at any other time of year.
Every season is a good season to visit the Smokies, but if stress-free and ultimately peaceful is your goal, go during the tranquil off-season this winter!
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