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Celebrating America’s Declaration of Independence – our birthday – will be extra sweet this year now that we can travel again. What better place to celebrate America the Beautiful than in the majestic Smoky Mountains?

Eagle perched in front of an American Flag

Whether you are a local or in town for a summer visit, there are plenty of ways and places to celebrate on Sunday, July 4, and all weekend. Here are 5 ideas we think you’ll love in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.

Gatlinburg Midnight Parade

Gatlinburg celebrates the 4th of July in a big way, starting with the nation’s first Independence Day Parade that kicks off at 12:01 a.m. July 4. For 45 years (with 2020 as an exception), Gatlinburg has held the first parade in the nation.

This year’s celebration and Gatlinburg’s award-winning Fourth of July Midnight Parade will honor First Responders, U.S. Veterans, military heroes, and frontline healthcare workers. “Parade-goers can enjoy a celebration of red, white, and blue as patriotically decorated and lighted floats line downtown streets and the 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, Kentucky commemorates the holiday with a musical performance.

American Idol contestant, EmiSunshine will lead the festivities as the official Grand Marshal of Gatlinburg’s annual parade. An East Tennessee native, EmiSunshine’s unique musical talent has been featured everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry, a GRAMMY award-winning film, to several appearances on national television shows including NBC’s “The Today Show”. While acclaimed on the national stage, the artist’s beginnings started in the heart of Gatlinburg as a regular cast member of Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales and as a crowd favorite singer and songwriter at the Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival.”

Stretching more than a mile, the parade route begins at Baskins Creek Bypass and travels the length of downtown to traffic light #10 at Ski Mountain Road. Parade-goers are encouraged to arrive early on Saturday, July 3, to secure a place to watch the Midnight Parade along the Parkway to see the live music, colorful floats and all the patriot spirit.

For 45 years, Gatlinburg’s parade has been held late-night to start the July 4th off with a bang.

child on a man's shoulders watching fireworks

Parade goers should arrive early on Wednesday, July 3 to secure the perfect viewing area along the parade route. More than 80,000 people are expected at the parade. There is a city-owned parking garage next to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and another garage at traffic light #3. There also are privately owned parking lots downtown.

Gatlinburg’s parade has been named by National Geographic Traveler Magazine as among Ten of the Most Fun Parades to Watch. So don’t miss it!

One TripAdvisor reviewer wrote about last year’s events:
“We did go to the Midnight Parade in GB. That was a neat experience. I never saw the tradition of throwing coins into the street prior to a parade…for the kids to collect. That was really cute. A lot of the floats were really beautiful. we had a good time. It is unique.

Before the parade, check out our kid-friendly dining options or go to a dinner theater for entertainment and a great meal. Or make dinner in your Gatlinburg area American Patriot Getaways cabin.

“The parade is pretty fun especially for kids. There are always lots of people and the parade lasted just about 1 1/2 hours as I recall,” wrote one TripAdvisor reviewer. “Go early and park in one of the garages or even better take the trolley over from Pigeon Forge to avoid the traffic.”

Gatlinburg Fireworks

Gatlinburg’s Fourth of July celebrations will end at 11:00 p.m. on July 4th when the spectacular 20-minute fireworks display will take place from the Gatlinburg Space Needle. The Fireworks Finale from the Gatlinburg Space Needle can be viewed from any vantage point in Gatlinburg.

This event is designated as a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

In addition to the 4th of July events, the streets of Gatlinburg are filled with Appalachian music from Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales. The city offers free Parkway Trolley service, spanning the full length of the Parkway, daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Also check out the Gatlinburg Farmers Market. Every year from May to October, local farmers, artisans and food producers gather on Saturday mornings from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Covered Bridge in the Arts and Crafts Community. The Gatlinburg Farmers market features fresh, local produce, eggs, homemade baked goods and items like jams, honey and natural health products.

Read our blog on the Arts and Crafts Community. The Arts & Crafts Community itself is 3 miles outside of Gatlinburg on Glades Road with more than 100 shops in the 8-mile loop. You can drive there or get there by Trolley (take the yellow route).

Gatlinburg’s July 4 Weekend Entertainment

The 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, Kentucky will provide entertaining performances over the course of the holiday weekend. Beginning July 3, the band will perform at noon and 2 p.m. at The Village, Reagan Terrace Mall, Ober Mountain, and the Gatlinburg Convention Center. The band will kick off the July 4 evening festivities the next day, with a performance at 9 p.m. at Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza as visitors and locals alike prepare for the fireworks finale.

Gatlinburg River Raft Regatta 2021

The River Raft Regatta, Gatlinburg’s annual unmanned floatable objects race, will begin registration at 11 a.m. at the former Christ in the Smokies Museum. The race will set sail at 1 p.m. and finish when all floatables have crossed the finish line at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Eventgoers have the option to bring their own floatable at no cost or to rent a rubber duck for $2, $3 or $5. Trophies will be awarded to first second and third spots in the Treasure, Duck and Most Creative Float categories.

All proceeds go to the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation.

If you make your own floatable, be sure to dress up! Patriotically, something that expresses you uniquely, maybe make a floating fairy house or put pictures of your whole family on it. One year, someone put Dolly Parton’s face on a float.

Christ in the Smokies is located at 510 River Road and Ripley’s Aquarium is located at 88 River Road.

Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival and Fireworks

The annual Patriot Festival is an experience you will want to take the whole family to!

The event begins Saturday, July 3 at 4 p.m. with food vendors offering tasty bites. From 5:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., enjoy free entertainment from the Brad Hudson Band and Rumors (Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band). At 8:30, headliner Clint Black – Grammy and AMA winner – takes the stage. The fireworks showcase beings at 9:45pm!

In its 31st year, the Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival is free and open to the public. Plenty of family friendly activities and games are around throughout the afternoon and evening and of course that amazing 4th of July fireworks show to conclude the Pigeon Forge Patriot Festival 2021.

“Bring a seat and stay a while. Blankets and lawn chairs are welcome. Umbrellas and coolers are not permitted.” Food vendors with burgers, franks, and more will be in attendance. A portion of the proceeds from the festival help support local charities. By 9:30 pm, the live music will be winding down and the night will conclude with “a massive fireworks display!”

“The fireworks in Pigeon Forge are always really pretty,” a TripAdvisor reviewer wrote. “Lots of very large bursts that can be seen from anywhere in town.”


Parking for the Pigeon Forge Patriot Fest is free and available at the city parking area on Teaster Lane. A shuttle will be available to take guests to Patriot Park to enjoy the festival. Honor America’s heroes and our freedom at the Annual Patriot Festival in the heart of Pigeon Forge

Check out our Smoky Mountain Travel Guide for things to do the rest of the weekend including Dollywood and its Theme Park (open 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.) and Water Park (open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) to keep you cool.  We have discount tickets to many more attractions in the area.

Check out our blog for free things to do, hiking, museums, views, and more.

Get Ready for your July 4th Trip to the Smokies

Black Bears and Biscuits Lodge - A Cabin in Wears Valley

You’ll need a place to relax, enjoy the view and lay your head at night; American Patriot Getaways has something for every size group and every budget.

Give American Patriot Getaways a call at 800-204-5169. Let our experts help you find the right cabin and all the right fun, food, and entertainment for your July 4 celebration or anytime of the year.

Check out our blog on staying near the parkway. You can also contact us online by searching our cabins in Gatlinburg and in Pigeon Forge.  Check out our Pinterest boards if you want a cabin close to the fun and the food! See our boards where to eat in Gatlinburg and where to eat in Pigeon Forge.

If you need more help planning your Smoky Mountain Vacation, be sure to check out all our vacation guides, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

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