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The Great Smoky Mountains' Synchronizing Fireflies Are Coming — but You Need to Enter a Lottery to See Them

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 4/29/2021 Meena Thiruvengadam
a group of people in a dark forest: Getty Images © Provided by Travel + Leisure Getty Images

Move over Immersive Van Gogh, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee has just announced the dates for its mesmerizing annual firefly show.

The event — canceled last year because of the pandemic — is scheduled to run from June 1 through June 8 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but don't expect tickets to be easy to get. Nature enthusiasts looking to watch as tens of thousands of fireflies put on a synchronous light show will have to enter a lottery to secure one of the 800 vehicle passes being made available to the event.

a group of people in a dark forest: Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee has just announced the dates for its mesmerizing annual firefly show. © Getty Images Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee has just announced the dates for its mesmerizing annual firefly show.

Video: The Great Smoky Mountains' Synchronizing Fireflies Are Coming (Travel + Leisure)

The Great Smoky Mountains' Synchronizing Fireflies Are Coming
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The lottery opens at 10 a.m. ET April 30 and runs through 11:59 p.m. ET on May 3. To sign up, travelers will need to create a recreation.gov account and pay a $1 application fee. Winners will be announced May 7 and will need to pay an additional $24 vehicle fee.

For their effort, those lucky winners will be rewarded with a unique show from a very special type of firefly — one that synchronizes its light patterns with its peers. And while this sometimes results in these bugs flashing their lights in unison, it can also emerge as waves of light rolling across hillsides and random flashes in the darkness.

The Great Smoky Mountains, just outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is home to the largest population of synchronous fireflies in the western hemisphere. The fireflies are among 19 species found in the park and emerge to mate each year between late May and June, putting on a real-life show rivaling Van Gogh's "Starry Night."

If you are one of the lucky lottery winners who scores a pass to this year's viewing of the fireflies, check out these tips for capturing the experience on your phone.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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