by Katy Koontz
The Inn at Christmas Place in the Smoky Mountain town of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., offers all the magic and charm of visiting the North Pole with none of the frostbite. That’s because at this 145-room Bavarian-style inn, it’s always Christmas — even in the middle of July! The celebratory spirit starts in the lobby, fully decked out in plenty of Christmas bling, and then carries into each of the guestrooms. Some rooms have just a bit of Christmas spirit here and there (a “Ho, Ho, Ho” throw pillow on the bed, a ceramic Santa’s sleigh holding amenities in the bathroom, pine boughs decorating the mantle), while a handful go all out with fully decorated, seven-foot-tall trees so authentic that you’ll be peeking underneath for packages. Just as magical is the lower lobby, which sports a huge Christmas tree, a three-story Glockenspiel that plays Christmas carols every hour on the hour, and a mailbox for letters to Santa.
As you might suspect, Santa and his entourage show up at the inn on a regular basis — making the rounds in the breakfast room, sitting in front of the fireplace reading stories in the winter, roasting marshmallows around the outdoor fire ring in the summer, and even leading a sing-along while strumming a guitar in the lobby. Santa, Mrs. Claus, or an elf or two have also been known to serve milk and cookies.
The inn is owned by the same family that runs the Incredible Christmas Place complex of Christmas-themed shops that sits right across the street. The main shop opened in 1986, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the inn was born. Three years later, the same family also opened a restaurant right next to the shops appropriately named the Partridge & Pear. Many inn guests eat there several times during their stay.
The neighborhood offers plenty more for families to do, as well. The town of Pigeon Forge (not to mention its neighbors, Sevierville to the north and Gatlinburg to the south) is overflowing with countless family-friendly attractions. Perhaps best of all is the jewel that sits just 10 miles down the road — the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the most popular of all national parks).
Our Editor Loves
- Santa breakfasts
- Indoor and outdoor pool with waterslide
- Spacious Christmas-themed suites
- Free Wi-Fi
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The inn has 145 rooms (most with two queen beds each), including 22 mini suites (single rooms with a king bed and a sleeper sofa) and five two-room suites (which can be made into three-room suites by connecting them to a standard room). All guestrooms have refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs with DVD players. (You can borrow various holiday-themed DVDs from the front desk for free). The inn is also famous for its specially made Sleep in Heavenly Peace mattress sets (available for purchase should you decide to buy one and have it shipped from the warehouse to your home). Cribs are available free of charge for all guests, and rollaway beds are available for a nightly fee.
The mini suites and two-room themed suites all offer gas fireplaces and double whirlpool tubs, and the latter also have full-size kitchens. The fireplace mantels are fully decorated and Christmas trees are displayed. Some suites also have a private balcony. A sleeper sofa is also available in the sitting room.
It was a perfect experience for me, since I adore the Christmas season. Clean rooms, friendly staff, and a wonderful breakfast bar made the experience magical and memorable for us. The decorations were timeless.
The rooms are lovely and the hotel is beautifully decorated for Christmas year round. There are story times with Santa for children and tons of Christmas decor photo ops. There was an artist displaying his work in the lobby for added attraction. The hotel is situated just a trolly ride from The Island and LeConte Center.
Santa is undoubtedly one of the main attractions here. The easiest way to see the jolly old elf is at breakfast, when he makes an appearance from 9 to 9:30 a.m. on weekend mornings from Easter through Memorial Day and on most every Thursday through Monday morning from Memorial Day through December 23. (Mrs. Claus fills in on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from the start of summer through the holiday.)
Santa also gives guitar concerts in the lower lobby on most Thursday and Saturday nights from 8:15 to 8:45 p.m. throughout the year. This is also where various Christmas characters read stories on most Friday nights. Milk and cookies follow both events. (In the summer, the story-telling action switches to the outdoor fire ring, where kids can toast marshmallows.) The inn also offers a special mailbox in the lower lobby where kids can place letters that they've penned to Santa on special stationery kept on a table nearby. These letters are indeed answered (via e-mail) in December.
Everyday Holiday Cheer
Even if you visit on a day when no North Pole residents are scheduled to show up, you will always find freshly baked cookies available at the front desk every night at 8 p.m. Every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., the inn's beautiful hand-crafted, three-story Glockenspiel (made from wood that originated in Germany's Black Forest region) plays Christmas carols after figures of a boy and girl take turns using candy canes to strike the bell that chimes the hour.
The inn offers both an indoor pool with a hot tub (open year-round, 24 hours a day) and an outdoor pool with a 95-foot, figure-eight-shaped waterslide (open, weather permitting, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., May through September). Children must be at least 48 inches tall to ride the slide. On the same floor you'll find a game room/arcade and a small fitness center.
Rates include a full hot and cold breakfast buffet, which also includes an omelet station manned by a truly gifted omelet chef. The hot bar includes southern treats like biscuits and gravy, hash browns, ham, sausage, and bacon. Cold breakfast staples include cereals, donuts, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, bagels, and toast. You'll find a make-your-own waffle station, too. Juices, milk, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea area all included, and high chairs are available on request.
You can also get complementary coffee in the lobby throughout the day. Although standard coffee is an option, most guests prefer the inn's tasty White Christmas blend (which is also available for purchase if you want to brew some at home).
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Not only does the inn boast the only doorman in town, but there's a concierge on duty daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ask the concierge about discounted two-day passes to Dollywood (Dolly Parton's theme park) or a combo ticket for Dollywood and the adjacent Dolly's Splash Country water park.
After eating lots of cookies and milk, guests can hit the treadmill or elliptical machines at the fitness center.
The Art of Smart Timing
The least crowded time to visit the inn are weekdays in January and February. The high season is October (for the fall colors) through December, although summer is also pretty busy. Special events at the inn itself include the Christmas in July celebration (with free sno-cones by the pool, cookie decorating, face painting, kids' crafts, and a Christmas costume parade). The inn's Mountainfest event (one week every October) includes bluegrass music, singers, storytellers, and demonstrations of various mountain crafts.
Winter is also a great time to visit, because Pigeon Forge and the neighboring communities of Sevierville and Gatlinburg team up to host Smoky Mountain Winterfest -- the largest festival of light displays in the southeast, featuring no less than five million lights in all three communities. The fun starts in early November (with a holiday focus) and stretches through February (when the holiday themes switch to Valentine's Day).
Knoxville is the nearest airport (38 miles from the inn), and although the inn doesn't provide airport transportation, you can easily rent a car there or hire a taxi. If you drive your own car, you'll likely take I-40 to exit 407, where you can merge onto TN Route 66 south through neighboring Sevierville and then continue on U.S. Highway 321 to Pigeon Forge.
A car or taxi are needed to explore outside of the resort.
For Mom and Dad
For a day on their own, parents will enjoy golfing at Eagles Landing (a 36-hole championship golf course in nearby Sevierville) or shopping at Pigeon Forge's several different outlet malls (not to mention at The Incredible Christmas Place, just across the street from the inn).