Gatlinburg, Tennessee might not be on your radar as a vacation destination, but it should be. Located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg has history, charm and plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Whether you're looking for indoor or outdoor adventure, consider these attractions on your next visit to Gatlinburg.
25 Things to Do When Visiting Gatlinburg TN
Gatlinburg is known as the "Gateway to the Smoky Mountains".
1. From Anakea
One of the best and newest additions to Gatlinburg is Anakeesta. Part shopping and dining, part outdoor adventure, Anakeesta is one of those things to do in Gatlinburg that the whole family will enjoy.
The latest experience to openFrom Anakeegois Astra Lumina, a passage through light and sound that transports you to a completely different world.
2. Hike a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains
ZPark Narodowy Great Smoky Mountainit is one of the few free national parks in the United States. All levels of hiking are available from beginners to advanced.
Pack a picnic and have lunch at one of the many streams or waterfalls along some of the trails. Wildlife on the hike may include salamanders, snakes, wild turkeys, and maybe even a bear!
3. Visit Clingman's Dome
Clingman's Dome is the highest point inGreat Smoky Mountains. The observation tower at the top gives visitors a 360-degree view of the Smokies.
The road to the tower is seasonally closed, usually from the beginning of December to the end of March. Clingman's Dome is much cooler even in summer, so pack a jacket or sweater for your trip up the tower.
4. Educate yourself at the Sugarlands Visitor Center
The Sugarlands Visitor Center is the first port of call for visitors entering the National Park from Gatlinburg. The natural history exhibition and the accompanying film can be visited and viewed for free. Park Rangers run seasonal programs and offer free parking for short trips on the nearby Gatlinburg Trail.
5. Rafting down the river
White water rafting is an exciting experience. Three companies in Gatlinburg offer Pigeon River tours; SMO Rafting, Nantahala Outdoor Center and Rafting in the Smokies.
Each rafting company offers a choice from gentle, scenic rafting to thrilling non-stop action. Prices range from $40 to $50 per person depending on the type of activity you choose.
6. Go to Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg is known as an urban ski resort, but if skiing isn't your thing, there's plenty to do year-round. At Ober Gatlinburg, guests can experience snow and summer tubing, miniature golf, an alpine slide, ice trucks, ice skating and more.
The indoor facilities provide guests with places to shop, eat and drink, as well as a store stocked with suppliesskiingor snowboarding.
7. Cross the bridge at Gatlinburg Skylift Park
The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park has been part of the Gatlinburg area since 1954. It started with the construction of an elevator, but expanded to include the Gatlinburg SkyBridge.
At the top of the lift is the SkyBridge. It is the longest cable-stayed terrain pedestrian bridge in North America. The park also has a walking trail, an observation deck, a retail area and a food court called the SkyCenter.
8. Browse the village shops
Step into the cozy shops of The Village and you'll feel like you've been transported to a small Bavarian town with its cobbled streets and narrow sidewalks.
The shops offer modern goods such as art, board games, clothing and home accessories, but the atmosphere is what you will enjoy in the village. Stop by Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen when you go out and see how they make toffees!
9. Take a pink jeep ride through the Great Smoky Mountains
If walking or cycling is different to how you want to explore nature, consider a ride in a pink jeep. Pink Jeep Tours offers a Christmas light tour of the area during the holiday season. Other sightseeing options include the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and the Newfound Gap tour.
10. Believe it or not, Genie van Ripley! oddytorium
Ripley's Believe It or Not is located in Gatlinburg! Odditorium, but Gatlinburg also hosts several other attractions within the Ripley family of properties, including miniature golf, a maze of mirrors, a roller coaster, and an aquarium.
If you want to visit one of these attractions, consider combining admission with another to save some money.
11. Los Breakout Games Gatlinburg op
Breakout games are all the rage, and Breakout Games in Gatlinburg offers an experience unique to this location. Players can choose between Clue, The Kidnapping, Bomb Squad or Mystery Mansion.
Breakout Games is a must in Gatlinburg as the area does not depend on the weather to stay open.
12. Unique view at Ripley's Aquarium or The Smokies
Another indoor activity is a visit to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Like its sister "odditorium", you could spend a whole day in the aquarium and not see everything.
Be sure to check out the penguin exhibit at the aquarium's exit. Penguins are fun and entertaining to watch.
13. Winkelen i Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community
Gatlinburg's arts and crafts community abounds with unique handmade gifts. Everything from pottery to handmade brooms to leather goods and woodworking is available.
Even if you don't buy anything, it's a great experience to see these masters at work.
14. Go horseback riding at Smoky Mountain Riding Stables
Take a guided horse ride aroundGreat Smoky Mountainswith Smoky Mountain Driving School. Their website states that "no experience is necessary to ride" and that their rides are at a "gradual pace due to the natural terrain" of the park.
For 45 minutes, riders will enjoy a three-mile ride along forest trails and mountain streams. Five years and older can ride for $26.50 per person plus tax.
15. Play a hole-in-one at Hillbilly Golf
There's plenty of miniature golf in Gatlinburg, but there's only one place on the mountainside where you can play it. Hillbilly Golf is a Gatlinburg staple; unique mountainside driving to the top is part of the fun.
Visitors play "down" the mountain and often drop golf balls while playing. There are two prices available: adults $13.50 plus tax and children 4-12 years $9.50 plus tax. Add another course for just $5.99 if you can't get enough!
16. Mandatory tasting of moonshine
Moonshine is legal in Tennessee and there are plenty of distilleries to try. Sugarlands Distillery offers samples of their flavorful moonshine and "sippin' cream," a sweet cream liqueur similar to Irish cream.
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine has the distinction of being the first federal moonshine distillery in Tennessee. All Parkway distilleries offer tastings and merchandise for visitors to purchase.
17. I'm going to eat pancakes
There are so many pancake shops in Gatlinburg; which one is the best? The Pancake Pantry, located near The Village shops, is often packed due to its size. Davy Crockett's Breakfast Camp is famous for its pancakes and giant cinnamon rolls.
Log Cabin Pancake House, just off the main road, is a great choice for fine dining and a historic log cabin experience. There's no wrong choice when it comes to pancakes in Gatlinburg.
18. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen has two locations. The one not connected to The Village shops is much less crowded and visitors can watch pastry chefs pulling caramels.
They are known for their handmade caramels and homemade chocolates.
19. Get the high score at the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum
The Gatlinburg Pinball Museum is part museum, part pinball! Some games are playable, others are for viewing only. Check their website for hours and game information. Sometimes they have free play or discounts on play all day!
20. Eat and play at Family Fun Parlor Fannie Farkle
Classic arcade games, street food and prizes await visitors at Fannie Farkle's family-run entertainment lounge. This historic site has been in operation in Gatlinburg for forty years. Visitors can play classic games like skeeball and PacMan, or choose from new virtual reality games and racing games.
21. Ride a smoke-filled roller coaster
There are almost as many outdoor roller coasters in Gatlinburg as there are moonshine distilleries. Choose from routes such as Moonshine Mountain Coaster, Ski Mountain Coaster, Ripley's Mountain Coaster or Rail Runner in Anakeesta.
Each experience is a little different, but they will take you on a thrilling ride all the way down!
22. Meet the mysterious mansion
A slightly tacky, nostalgic business, The Mystery Mansion has been a part of Gatlinburg for over 42 years. Designed and decorated in the Victorian style of the early 20th century, the "hauntings" are open all year round.
General ticket costs USD 22 per person and children 7-12 years old USD 16 per person. Children under the age of 6 are not advised to visit this attraction.
23. See the city from the Gatlinburg Space Needle
Do you want a great view of the city? Plan a visit to the Gatlinburg Space Needle. A glass elevator and viewing platform provide unobstructed views of the city and surrounding mountains.
Admission is $15.95 per person for adults, $9.95 per person for children ages 4-11 and $12.95 per person for military and seniors (60+) - children under three get in free with paid adult admission.
24. Swim and splash at Wild Bear Falls Water Park
You don't have to stay at Westgate Resort to enjoy Wild Bear Falls Water Park. This water park is not only covered but also heated. Although they are closed for a few weeks, visitors can enjoy the fun of the water park (almost) all year round from the end of January to the beginning of February.
25. Shop at Mountain Mall
Mountain Mall has the best indoorsStoreexperience and six floors with unique shops. The shops are all locally owned and offer a range of goods from clothing to jewellery, hot sauce and popcorn.
No matter what you choose to do in Gatlinburg, there are a variety of activities to suit every need and budget. Try some new things and plan your next visit to Gatlinburg to try the rest!
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Sarah Gilliland is a travel journalist and travel editor for Wealth of Geeks with over ten years of experience writing, editing and creating family travel related content. He freelances for several online retailers, including Yahoo, Insider, Conde Nast Traveler and Attractions Magazine. Sarah's beats include theme parks, family outings, cruises and road trips. When Sarah is not traveling or writing freelance columns, she can be found on her website,On the road with Sarahor watch the latest geeks on Netflix or Disney+.