In today’s gloom-and-doom environment, we all “need a little Christmas” as the song goes, and thanks to a growing Yuletide complex in the Smoky Mountains community of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., we can have all the Christmas we want 365 days a year.
The Incredible Christmas Place is hosting Christmas in July for the second year with a Santa-sized sackful of activities and entertainment, including appearances by the Jolly Old Elf himself. From its humble beginnings as a small gift shop near The Old Mill, the year-round Christmas shop was moved in 1986 to its current Bell Tower Village location by founders Hurshel and Marion Biggs and has grown to more than 43,000 square feet of shopping space—and to become the second largest Christmas Village in the South and one of the nation’s top 10 Christmas and collectible shops.
With the addition of the wildly successful Inn at Christmas Place in 2007 and construction of the soon-to-open Partridge & Pear Restaurant, the store today represents scarcely a fraction of what has become a huge presence along Pigeon Forge’s main parkway.
The Inn is the setting for Christmas in July and features daily activities geared toward the whole family. Everything from a kids Christmas Costume Parade to cookie decorating, storytelling, caroling and a Singing Santa put visitors in the Christmas spirit even as temperatures soar outside.
And speaking of Singing Santa, he is a year-round fixture at the Inn and in the store, dropping in at the hotel’s breakfast room every Thursday through Monday from 9-9:30 a.m. and performing a cozy concert, free of charge, for hotel guests in the shadow of the huge hand-crafted glockenspiel every Thursday and Saturday from 8-9 p.m.
The Inn attracts not only families and individual tourists (including a couple enjoying their 38th stay during our visit) but has breathed new life into group traffic, bringing motorcoach groups back to the area for repeat visits to experience the lavish decor, holiday-scented ambience of the garland-bedecked halls and gorgeous rooms all Christmas decorated to the hilt. Fresh-baked cookies and milk each evening and a full, cooked-to-order breakfast (think chef-prepared omelets) each morning are included in the rate.
Group sales director Dwight McCarter points not only to the upscale, festive surroundings but to the impeccable service as reasons that keep the Inn booked to the rafters. Uniformed doormen welcome each and every guest, a fulltime concierge caters to guests’ every whim, and at every turn it’s obvious the staff has been well-trained in customer service. The Inn has earned a #1 ranking on TripAdvisor.
This July brings even more to celebrate as the highly-anticipated Partridge and Pear Restaurant opens, promising “regional fare with a gourmet flair,” according to executive chef and general manager Aaron Ward, himself a hometown boy. He said the restaurant is more than equipped to handle motorcoach traffic and looks forward to welcoming groups.
The 141-seat, Bavarian-themed eatery bears no resemblance to the Bob Evans Restaurant that formerly occupied the corner of the property bordered by the shops. Lunch and dinner menus will invoke memories of a festive Christmas gathering and offer a wide variety of regional, traditional and specialty dishes, including steaks, seafood and locally grown produce. The gorgeous Atrium Conservatory is flanked by the Angel, Bavarian and Nutcracker dining rooms, each adorned with hand-carved woodwork and hand-painted ceiling frescoes.
For more information, call 888-465-9644 or visit www.christmasplace.com or www.innatchristmasplace.com.
–By Melinda Hughey