Not only does the town of Gatlinburg offer some of the area’s best attractions (i.e. Ripley’s Aquarium), it also knows how to throw quite the party. Each New Year’s and Independence Day, Gatlinburg is the site for two of the biggest celebrations for each respective holiday.
Each has become an event that visitors will travel in droves to be a part of, or stay up at night to catch a glimpse of on television.
For the New Year’s Eve crowd, including us locals, experiencing the celebration in Gatlinburg ranks right up there with seeing the ball drop in Times Square – you have to see it at least once. And if you do decide to go, just follow the crowd. The space needle in the middle of downtown is where all the action takes place. Starting around 11 p.m. on December 31, vendors start handing out free party favors such as whistles, funny glasses, hats, streamers, etc. This all builds up to the midnight crescendo when Gatlinburg’s own ball drops at the top of the space needle downtown and fireworks light up the night sky to mark the coming New Year.
For those of us who have been a time or two, the best places to go are old hat. So, if this is your first New Year’s in Gatlinburg, try to find a place near the space needle. Many people use the parking garage as a birds-eye-view for the celebration/fireworks display. If you’re not staying in Gatlinburg that night, but just want to do a bit of partying, find a parking spot along River Road and the commute out should be an easier one.
Gatlinburg also bills itself as the town with the first 4th of July parade of the year. Starting at midnight on the evening of July 3rd, the annual Gatlinburg Midnight Independence Day Parade brings in 90,000 to 100,000 spectators each year with their patriotic celebration.
You’ll want to leave a bit early because the town of Gatlinburg closes all the streets at 11 pm. It’s not uncommon for it to take 1-2 hours to get in and out of town because of the number of people that come in for the parade. As far as the best place to view the parade, basically anywhere downtown along the main strip is a prime place. So if you’re not directly in the middle of downtown by the time fireworks start don’t sweat it too much. If you’re in the vicinity of downtown, you’ll be able to see plenty. The parade is also the same at the beginning as it is at the end of the route.
All five military branches are recognized during the parade for their service to our country…. It’s definitely one of the highlights.
And if you didn’t get enough fireworks during the New Year’s celebration, Gatlinburg also does a fireworks show on July 4 just after dusk. It’s about a half hour show that you’ll be able to see from as far as the lift at Ober Gatlinburg.
If you’re planning on being in Pigeon Forge for the day, you can stop by their event which usually features a free concert and is of course FREE, like the Gatlinburg fireworks show. They’re both a great way to spend time for the entire family and can be a great reminder of why we celebrate the Fourth.