What is there to do in Gatlinburg?
Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee, Gatlinburg is a charming mountain town that offers a wide array of attractions, activities, and entertainment for visitors of all ages. With its scenic beauty, rich history, and vibrant atmosphere, Gatlinburg serves as an ideal destination for nature lovers, adventure seekers, and those looking for a relaxing getaway. This comprehensive guide will highlight some of the top things to do in Gatlinburg, ensuring you make the most of your visit.
Section 1: Nature and Outdoor Activities
Gatlinburg’s prime location in the Great Smoky Mountains provides a wealth of opportunities for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Here are some must-visit spots for those looking to explore the area’s natural beauty:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: As the most visited national park in the United States, Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts over 800 miles of hiking trails, picturesque waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. Popular activities include hiking, wildlife viewing, and scenic drives such as Cades Cove Loop and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Clingmans Dome: The highest point in Tennessee, Clingmans Dome offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains. A half-mile, steep paved trail leads visitors to the iconic observation tower.
Chimney Tops Trail: This moderately difficult trail rewards hikers with stunning views from the Chimney Tops, one of the park’s most recognizable geological features.
Laurel Falls: An easy 2.6-mile round trip hike leads visitors to the beautiful 80-foot Laurel Falls, a popular destination for families and photographers.
Ober Gatlinburg: This mountain-top amusement park and ski area features year-round activities, including skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and an alpine slide, chairlift, and wildlife encounters during the warmer months.
Section 2: Attractions and Entertainment
Beyond its natural wonders, Gatlinburg offers a variety of attractions and entertainment options to keep visitors engaged and entertained:
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park: Ride the SkyLift chairlift to the top of Crockett Mountain, where you can enjoy stunning views from the SkyDeck or cross the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, the SkyBridge.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies: This award-winning aquarium features over 10,000 exotic sea creatures, interactive exhibits, and unique experiences such as the Shark Lagoon and the Penguin Playhouse.
Anakeesta: An outdoor adventure park located in the heart of Gatlinburg, Anakeesta offers a range of activities, including a scenic chondola ride, tree canopy walk, dueling ziplines, and gem mining.
Hollywood Star Cars Museum: Auto enthusiasts will love this museum, which showcases famous vehicles from television and film, including the Batmobile, General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and the DeLorean from “Back to the Future.”
Space Needle: Standing at 407 feet, the Gatlinburg Space Needle provides 360-degree views of the city and surrounding mountains. The observation tower also features an arcade, a virtual reality experience, and a laser tag arena.
Section 3: Shopping and Dining
Gatlinburg’s vibrant downtown area is home to a variety of shops, galleries, and restaurants that cater to a wide range of tastes and budgets:
The Village Shops: This quaint, European-style shopping center features 27 unique shops, including clothing boutiques, specialty stores, and eateries.
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community: Explore the largest group of independent artisans in North America along the 8-mile loop, where you can find handcrafted items such as pottery, jewelry, paintings, and wood carvings. This historic arts and crafts community allows visitors to watch the artisans at work and purchase one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery: Sample authentic Tennessee moonshine at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, the state’s first legal moonshine distillery. The facility offers tastings, live music, and the opportunity to learn about the region’s moonshining history.
Gatlinburg Farmers Market: Open from May through October, the Gatlinburg Farmers Market offers a variety of fresh, locally-sourced produce, artisan goods, and homemade treats.
Local Dining: Gatlinburg boasts a diverse culinary scene that ranges from traditional Southern cuisine to international fare. Popular dining options include The Peddler Steakhouse, The Pancake Pantry, and The Park Grill.
Section 4: Seasonal Events and Festivals
Gatlinburg hosts several annual events and festivals that celebrate the region’s culture, history, and natural beauty:
Gatlinburg Winter Magic: From November through February, the city transforms into a winter wonderland with millions of twinkling lights and festive decorations. The annual Trolley Ride of Lights provides a guided tour through the city’s enchanting displays.
Smoky Mountain Winefest: Held in April, the Smoky Mountain Winefest features wines from over a dozen Tennessee wineries, along with local cuisine and live music.
Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair: This biannual event, held in July and October, showcases the work of hundreds of artisans from across the country, featuring live demonstrations, hands-on workshops, and the opportunity to purchase unique crafts.
Gatlinburg Chili Cook-Off: In November, this popular event brings together local restaurants and amateur cooks to compete for the title of Gatlinburg’s best chili. Visitors can sample the entries, enjoy live music, and vote for their favorite chili.
Section 5: Family-Friendly Activities
Gatlinburg offers a wide range of family-friendly activities that cater to all ages and interests:
Gatlin’s Fun Center: This entertainment complex features attractions such as mini-golf, laser tag, bumper cars, escape rooms, and an indoor ropes course.
Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park: Get your adrenaline pumping with thrilling activities like the mountain coaster, alpine flyer, and laser gun coaster.
Sugarlands Riding Stables: Explore the Great Smoky Mountains on horseback with guided trail rides suitable for beginners and experienced riders alike.
Gatlinburg Trolley: Hop on the Gatlinburg Trolley to explore the city and surrounding areas with ease. The trolley provides access to key attractions, including the Arts & Crafts Community, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Dollywood.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium: This unique museum showcases over 500 fascinating exhibits, including shrunken heads, bizarre artifacts, and interactive displays that will spark the curiosity of visitors young and old.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a vibrant mountain town that offers a wealth of activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. From exploring the stunning beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to enjoying the city’s diverse shopping, dining, and entertainment options, there is truly something for everyone in Gatlinburg. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventure, family-friendly fun, or a relaxing mountain retreat, this charming destination is sure to create lasting memories.