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River Raft Regatta in Gatlinburg

If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate the 4th of July this summer, look no further than Gatlinburg, Tennessee. To kick off the holiday, join nearly 100,000 spectators as they line the streets of Gatlinburg to watch the first Independence Day parade in the nation. This award-winning parade will be celebrating its 41st year in 2015. The parade begins at midnight on July 3, celebrating another year of freedom in America and honoring the brave men and women who fight to keep it that way.

Then, on the evening of July 4, be sure to gather on the streets of Gatlinburg to enjoy the crowd-pleasing fireworks display. This show-stopping event, declared a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society, is fun for the whole family. Fourth of July in Gatlinburg is one celebration you will not want to miss!

A Unique Way to Celebrate

Between the parade and the fireworks, be sure to check out an annual event you will find only in Gatlinburg: the River Raft Regatta. Every year, local organizations host this event on July 4. A friendly competition for the whole family, the River Raft Regatta features a race of unmanned rafts that begins at the Christ in the Smokies Bridge on River Road and ends at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

The only criteria for entry into the regatta is having an item that will float. Take this opportunity to get creative with your loved ones as you design a raft and participate in this unique activity on the 4th of July! Using anything from matchsticks to floating rocks to rubber ducks, anyone can enter a raft in the River Raft Regatta. In fact, prizes are awarded to the youngest participant and the oldest participant in the competition. Prizes are also awarded to the top three places in these divisions:

  • Trash (not handmade)
  • Treasure (handmade)
  • Smallest Entry (pill-bottle size)
  • Ripley’s Believe It or Not Entry

The Judges' Choice Award is reserved for the most creative or unique raft in the competition. All trophies are supplied by the Gatlinburg Recreation Department.

To join the fun, have your floatable raft ready for registration at 10 a.m. Registration is free and is located on the lawn of Christ in the Smokies. Even if you don’t plan to enter the race, make plans to attend the registration. Fun-filled games and prizes will keep the children entertained as well as provide an opportunity to meet and greet with Sharkey from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies or Zeno, the Gatlinburg bear. Then, get ready for the big competition! The race begins at 12 p.m. and ends when the last raft makes it to the aquarium.

Have fun and good luck! Maybe you’ll take home the prize! Either way, the River Raft Regatta is sure to be an event your family will not want to forget.

For more information regarding the River Raft Regatta, call (800) 568-4748 or visit the Gatlinburg chamber's website.

Cabins on the Water

The River Raft Regatta is not the only fun you will find along the river in Gatlinburg. Other river races in Gatlinburg, such as the Gatlinburg United Way Shark Race, provide all the more reason to look for a cabin along the river during your Gatlinburg vacation. Even if you only plan to be a spectator at these events, a riverfront cabin provides the perfect way for you to enjoy the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains right outside your front door. Imagine waking up to the rushing water and the cool breeze coming off the water as you sip on your morning coffee. These experiences can be yours when you check in to your cabin on the river!

If being in the water is more your style, then consider a cabin with a pool or pool access for your visit to Gatlinburg. You get the beauty of the water right outside your door—plus the enjoyment of jumping in! As a bonus, these cabins are close enough to the river that you can still join the fun of the Regatta and other activities during your stay. Book now to enjoy this coming 4th of July, Gatlinburg-style!