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A winter visit to Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains would not be complete without experiencing two of the city’s signature celebratory events. The Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff, held November 8, marks the beginning of the city’s annual three month long Magic Trolley Ride of Lights tours through sparkling and enchanting holiday displays.

Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili CookoffPut it on your calendar now and be sure to arrive hungry. The 28th annual Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff begins at 5pm and ends at 8pm on Wednesday, November 8th. Local restaurants, eateries, civic organizations and businesses enter their finest chili for the chance to win the coveted People’s Choice award and the Best Booth award. Each registrant is required to cook up a minimum of 50 gallons of chili for sampling, so there’s certainly enough to go around. Tickets to participate in the chili sampling and vote in the contests are $10. Not a chili fan? That’s no problem – stick around to rock out to your favorite Journey songs from tribute band Departure or relax to the music of rock-bluegrass trio Grassabillies and the Greenbriar band. The music is free for all to enjoy.

City officials will be on hand at the Winter Magic Kickoff to officially mark the start of the holiday season by lighting the annual (and now famous!) Gatlinburg lights.

There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by taking a tour on the annual Magic Trolley Ride of Lights. Kicking off November 8 and running through January 31, take a ride on a Gatlinburg trolley to view more than 3 million holiday lights along the route. Winding through downtown Gatlinburg and Highway 321, the enclosed and heated trolley will take visitors through winter scenes lit with bright and festive LED lights. More than $1.6 million in lights await your eyes with spirited displays sure to enchant even the biggest Scrooge. Those nostalgic Gatlinburg fans will delight in seeing lit displays from more than 20 years ago updated to LED lights – providing significant energy savings for the city. Tickets for the trolley tour are $5 per person and children under age three ride free in an adult’s lap. Tours run daily at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30pm. Tickets are available beginning October 15.

There’s nothing quite so special as winter in the Smokies. We cannot wait to share the magic of the holiday season with you and your family during a visit to Gatlinburg this winter.

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