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Discover the Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee: A Guide to Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains

Photo things to do in tn gatlinburg

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a charming mountain town nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Known for its stunning natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and family-friendly attractions, Gatlinburg has become a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which surrounds Gatlinburg, is the most visited national park in the United States. With its diverse wildlife, breathtaking views, and endless outdoor activities, it’s no wonder why so many people flock to this area year after year.

Key Takeaways

  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, a popular national park.
  • Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, biking, and rafting in the Smokies.
  • Families can find plenty of attractions and activities for all ages in Gatlinburg.
  • Scenic drives and views offer breathtaking vistas of the Smoky Mountains.
  • Wildlife watching is a popular pastime, with opportunities to spot bears, elk, and more.

Outdoor Adventures: Hiking, Biking, and Rafting in the Smokies

One of the main draws of visiting Gatlinburg is the opportunity to explore the great outdoors. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors of all ages and skill levels.

For hiking enthusiasts, there are over 800 miles of trails to choose from in the park. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there’s a trail for you. Some popular options include the Alum Cave Trail, which leads to stunning views of Mount LeConte, and the Laurel Falls Trail, which takes you to a beautiful waterfall.

If biking is more your speed, there are several biking trails in and around Gatlinburg. The Gatlinburg Trail is a popular choice for families, as it’s relatively flat and offers beautiful views of the river. For more experienced bikers, the Cades Cove Loop Road is a must-try. This 11-mile loop takes you through scenic meadows and past historic buildings.

For those looking for a thrill on the water, rafting and kayaking options are available in the area. The Pigeon River offers exciting whitewater rafting trips for adrenaline junkies, while calmer sections of the river are perfect for kayaking and tubing.

Family-Friendly Fun: Attractions and Activities for All Ages

Gatlinburg is a great destination for families, as there are plenty of attractions and activities that cater to all ages. Whether you’re looking for amusement parks, mini-golf, or animal encounters, there’s something for everyone in this mountain town.

One of the most popular family-friendly attractions in Gatlinburg is Dollywood, a theme park owned by country music star Dolly Parton. With thrilling roller coasters, live entertainment, and a water park, Dollywood offers a full day of fun for the whole family.

If you’re looking for something a little more low-key, there are several mini-golf courses and go-kart tracks in Gatlinburg. These attractions are perfect for a friendly competition or a leisurely afternoon with the family.

Animal lovers will enjoy visiting the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, which is home to over 10,000 sea creatures. From penguins to sharks, there’s no shortage of marine life to admire at this popular attraction. The Smoky Mountain Deer Farm and Exotic Petting Zoo is another great option for families. Here, you can get up close and personal with animals like deer, goats, and even kangaroos.

Scenic Drives and Views: Exploring the Beauty of the Smoky Mountains

Scenic Drive Distance (miles) Duration (hours) Highlights
Newfound Gap Road 33 1.5 Views of the Smoky Mountains, Clingmans Dome, Appalachian Trail
Cades Cove Loop Road 11 2 Historic buildings, wildlife sightings, mountain views
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail 5.5 1.5 Waterfalls, old-growth forest, wildlife sightings
Foothills Parkway 17 1 Views of the Smoky Mountains, fall foliage, wildflowers

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountains is by taking a scenic drive. There are several routes in and around Gatlinburg that offer stunning views of the mountains and valleys.

The Newfound Gap Road is one of the most popular scenic drives in the area. This 33-mile road takes you from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina, and offers breathtaking views along the way. Be sure to stop at the Newfound Gap overlook for panoramic views of the mountains.

Another must-see drive is the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This 5.5-mile loop takes you through a dense forest and past historic buildings, including old cabins and mills. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as black bears are often spotted along this route.

If you’re looking for a shorter drive, the Foothills Parkway is a great option. This 16-mile stretch of road offers stunning views of the Smoky Mountains and is especially beautiful during the fall when the leaves change colors.

When taking scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains, be sure to bring your camera. There are countless photo opportunities along these routes, so don’t forget to capture the beauty of the mountains.

Wildlife Watching: Spotting Bears, Elk, and More in the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, making it a great destination for animal lovers. From black bears to elk, there’s always a chance to spot some of these incredible creatures during your visit.

One of the best places to spot black bears in the Smokies is Cades Cove. This scenic valley is known for its abundant wildlife, including bears, deer, and turkeys. Be sure to drive slowly and keep your eyes peeled for any signs of movement along the road.

Elk are another popular animal to spot in the Smoky Mountains. The Cataloochee Valley is one of the best places to see these majestic creatures up close. During the fall rutting season, male elk can be heard bugling and seen engaging in fierce battles for dominance.

Other animals you may encounter in the park include white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and various species of birds. Remember to keep a safe distance from all wildlife and never feed or approach them.

History and Culture: Museums and Landmarks in Gatlinburg and Beyond

Gatlinburg and the surrounding area are rich in history and culture, with several museums and landmarks that offer a glimpse into the past.

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is a must-visit for history buffs. This museum showcases the history and culture of the Smoky Mountains through exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays. Learn about the early settlers of the region and their way of life, as well as the Native American tribes that once called this area home.

Another interesting museum in Gatlinburg is the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum. This unique museum houses over 20,000 sets of salt and pepper shakers from around the world. It’s a quirky and fun attraction that is sure to leave you with a smile on your face.

For those interested in the history of moonshine in the Smoky Mountains, a visit to Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery is a must. Take a tour of the distillery and learn about the process of making moonshine, as well as its role in Appalachian culture.

Food and Drink: Local Cuisine and Craft Breweries in Gatlinburg

No trip to Gatlinburg would be complete without indulging in some local cuisine and craft beer. The town is home to several restaurants that serve up delicious Southern comfort food, as well as breweries that offer unique and flavorful beers.

One of the best places to sample Southern cuisine in Gatlinburg is The Peddler Steakhouse. This iconic restaurant has been serving up mouthwatering steaks and other dishes since 1976. Enjoy your meal while taking in stunning views of the river from the outdoor patio.

For a taste of authentic Appalachian cuisine, head to The Old Mill Restaurant. Located in nearby Pigeon Forge, this restaurant is housed in a historic gristmill and serves up classic Southern dishes like fried chicken, country ham, and cornbread.

If you’re a fan of craft beer, Gatlinburg has several breweries that are worth checking out. Smoky Mountain Brewery is a local favorite, offering a variety of handcrafted beers and delicious pub food. Another great option is Gatlinburg Brewing Company, which specializes in small-batch beers made with locally sourced ingredients.

Shopping and Entertainment: Unique Boutiques and Shows in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is home to a wide range of shopping options, from unique boutiques to souvenir shops. Whether you’re looking for handmade crafts, local artwork, or one-of-a-kind souvenirs, you’re sure to find something that catches your eye.

The Village Shops is a charming outdoor shopping area that features a collection of boutiques and specialty stores. Here, you can browse through shops selling everything from handmade jewelry to gourmet chocolates. Be sure to stop by The Donut Friar for a sweet treat or The Cheese Cupboard for some delicious cheeses.

For those looking for a more traditional shopping experience, the Mountain Mall is a great option. This multi-level shopping center is home to over 30 stores, including clothing boutiques, gift shops, and art galleries. Don’t forget to check out the Smoky Mountain Knife Works, which offers one of the largest selections of knives in the world.

In addition to shopping, Gatlinburg also offers a variety of entertainment options. From live shows to theaters, there’s always something happening in this vibrant mountain town. Catch a dinner show at the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud or enjoy live music at Ole Red Gatlinburg, owned by country music star Blake Shelton.

Seasonal Events: Festivals and Celebrations in the Smoky Mountains

Throughout the year, the Smoky Mountains are home to a variety of seasonal events and festivals that celebrate the beauty and culture of the region.

One of the most popular events in the area is the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair, which takes place in July and October. This fair showcases the work of over 180 artisans from around the country, offering visitors the chance to purchase unique handmade crafts and artwork.

During the fall, the Smoky Mountains come alive with vibrant colors as the leaves change. To celebrate this natural spectacle, Gatlinburg hosts the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival. This month-long event features live music, arts and crafts shows, and delicious food.

As winter approaches, Gatlinburg transforms into a winter wonderland with its annual Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights. Hop on a trolley and take a tour of the town’s dazzling light displays, including a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree made entirely of lights.

In the spring and summer, Gatlinburg hosts a variety of events and festivals, including the Smoky Mountain Wine Fest and the Gatlinburg Farmers Market. These events showcase the best of local food, wine, and crafts.

Planning Your Trip: Tips and Resources for Visiting Gatlinburg and the Smokies

When planning your trip to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

The best time to visit Gatlinburg is during the spring or fall when the weather is mild and the crowds are smaller. However, if you’re interested in seeing the fall foliage or participating in seasonal events, visiting in the fall may be your best bet.

There are plenty of accommodation options in Gatlinburg, ranging from cozy cabins to luxury resorts. If you’re looking for a more rustic experience, consider renting a cabin in the mountains. For those who prefer more amenities, there are several hotels and resorts in town that offer comfortable accommodations.

Getting around Gatlinburg is relatively easy, as most attractions are within walking distance of each other. However, if you plan on exploring the surrounding area or visiting the national park, having a car is recommended.

To save money on your trip, consider purchasing a Smoky Mountain Adventure Pass. This pass offers discounted admission to several attractions in the area, as well as savings on dining and shopping.

When planning your trip, be sure to take advantage of the many resources available online. The official website of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides up-to-date information on hiking trails, road closures, and park regulations. The Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau website is also a great resource for finding information on attractions, events, and accommodations.

In conclusion, Gatlinburg, Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains offer a wide range of activities and attractions for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re interested in outdoor adventures, family-friendly fun, or exploring the history and culture of the region, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful mountain town. So start planning your trip today and get ready to experience the magic of Gatlinburg and the Smokies.


What is Gatlinburg?

Gatlinburg is a city located in Sevier County, Tennessee, United States. It is a popular tourist destination known for its scenic beauty, outdoor activities, and attractions.

What are some popular things to do in Gatlinburg?

Some popular things to do in Gatlinburg include visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, exploring the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, taking a ride on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, and visiting the Gatlinburg Space Needle.

What is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a national park located in the southern Appalachian Mountains, straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. It is known for its scenic beauty, diverse wildlife, and hiking trails.

What is the Gatlinburg SkyBridge?

The Gatlinburg SkyBridge is a pedestrian suspension bridge located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

What is the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway?

The Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is a cable car system that takes visitors from downtown Gatlinburg to the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park. It offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and is a popular attraction in the area.

What is the Gatlinburg Space Needle?

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a 407-foot observation tower located in downtown Gatlinburg. It offers 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and is a popular attraction for visitors to the area.