Sun rays beating down, sand in every nook and cranny, limited real estate for your towel, noisy chatter overpowering the waves, lines out the door…the beach might be the most popular place to spend spring break, but it certainly has its downsides. Why not change things up a bit this year? It’s time to say bye-bye, beach — and hello to your new spring break destination in the Great Smoky Mountains!
At Cabins for YOU, we have you covered with information on wildflowers, hikes, and bear safety in the national park, springtime events, family-friendly attractions, local nightlife, budget-friendly options, tips for a romantic spring break, top restaurants, amenity-loaded cabins of all shapes and sizes, and advice on what to pack for your spring break in the Smoky Mountains.
Spring Wildflowers + Nature Hikes | Great Smoky Mountains National Park
As snow melts, waterfalls awaken, bear cubs play, herds graze, birds soar, and tree groves put on their spring best, enchanting wildflowers bloom in the Great Smoky Mountains. According to the National Park Service, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is “a world-renowned preserve of wildflower diversity” — boasting a collection of 1,500+ kinds of flowering plants. That’s more than any other national park in the country! It’s no wonder this park has been nicknamed the “Wildflower National Park.”
Spring Blooms in the Smokies
Tons of flowers open their petals for all to see with the arrival of spring in the Smokies. Visit the national park to see common flowering shrubs and wildflowers in the area up close (some listed below). And be sure to keep an eye out for showy trees, like silverbells, dogwoods, tulip trees, and red maples!
Scenic Springtime Hikes in the Smokies
Want to see these gorgeous petals up close? Opt for a wildflower walk along a variety of hiking trails within the national park at your leisure. Below are a few hikes we recommend for great views of not only the blooming wildflowers but also breathtaking mountain scenes, foraging wildlife, and rushing waterfalls along the way. Pro tip: protect wildflowers by staying on designated trails and reporting any sightings of others digging for plants (aka plant poaching) to a park ranger.
- Andrews Bald | 3.5 miles roundtrip | moderate climb
- Chestnut Top | 8.6 miles | moderate to strenuous
- Deep Creek Loop | 4.6 miles | moderate | 3 waterfalls
- Kanati Fork | 4 miles roundtrip | moderate
- Rich Mountain Loop | 8.5 miles | moderate to strenuous | most wildflower variety
Hiking Safety Tips
- Never hike alone and stay with your group at all times.
- IF you do hike on your own (as long as you’re familiar with the area), be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when they can expect you back.
- Carry a map of the park — taking pictures of maps at trailheads is helpful, too!
- Always stay on marked trails for your safety and the preservation of the land.
- Bring a flashlight, first-aid kit, non-perishable snacks, and plenty of water.
- Check the weather before you head out and plan your time accordingly (start early).
- Take layers in case the weather changes — especially for higher elevations.
- Do NOT feed or approach wildlife and DO learn bear safety before heading out!
Fun Outdoor Activities in Spring
Hike to stunning waterfalls, through flower-filled meadows, across subtle streams, and past wondrous wildlife along 800+ miles of trails. Take a scenic drive through Cades Cove or opt for a traditional ride and take in the mountain scenery on horseback. You can also trek with llamas; ride bicycles; take a funyak ride down the Pigeon River; zipline in Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Gatlinburg; birdwatch (birding checklist from GSMNP); have a picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and fish for all kinds of trout!
Black Bear Safety & Prime Viewing Spots in Spring
Any animal lovers in the cabin? Welcome to the Great Smoky Mountains — famed for its wealth of diverse wildlife. When winter melts away and springs bursts forth, critters stir, rivers flow, and flowers bloom. Along with bringing animal offspring in abundance, springtime offers plenty of opportunities to see the great symbol of the Smokies: the American black bear.
Where to Spot Black Bears
Adventure with binoculars in the national park, visit Ober Gatlinburg’s Wildlife Encounter, and spot cubs from your cabin as you go black bear viewing during your spring break in the Great Smoky Mountains — safely (tips below)! You may even spot a few raccoons, white-tailed deer, river otters, turkeys, salamanders, and birds of all kinds while you patiently wait to see these majestic creatures.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Little River Road — an 18-mile stretch that follows the Little River from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove where black bears enjoying fishing
- Cades Cove — a lush valley area where you can easily spot wildlife in the open meadows and clearings from your car, bike, or feet
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail — a 1-lane road that takes you from Gatlinburg to Roaring Fork with tons of trees where bear cubs play
Ober Gatlinburg’s Wildlife Encounter
For those wishing to view black bears up close, Ober Gatlinburg’s Wildlife Encounter is a must-visit. Not only can you see a lovely black bear family mere feet from yours, but there are also many other animal friends to be made, including flying squirrels, turtles, raccoons, bobcats, and owls! Open Sunday – Monday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (until 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), this wildlife encounter is a great place to meet and greet with animals for only $5 per child and $8 per adult.
YOUR Cozy Cabin
Another great place for black bear viewing in spring is YOUR cozy Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg cabin in the Smokies! Featuring tons of indoor and outdoor amenity options, Cabins for YOU offers comfort and entertainment while you wait for the stars of the Smokies to arrive. Splash in the private indoor pool, soak in the outdoor hot tub, watch movies in the home theater, play in the game room, and sip sweet tea in the rocking chairs. Many of our guests report black bear sightings in spring — now it’s your turn! Pro tips: roll up your windows, keep all food inside, remain indoors for the show, and snap loads of pics.
Tips for Viewing Black Bears
There are currently around 1,500 bears estimated to be in the national park, with additional bears in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg areas. For the best black bear viewing experience, follow our tips!
- Bring a pair of binoculars and a camera to zoom in at a safe distance.
- Black bears like to den in tree cavities, so keep an eye on the canopy as well as the forest floor.
- Late spring is best to see little bear cubs (moms usually have 1-4 in winter and bring them out of the den around May).
- Rise and shine as one of the best times to see black bears roam is between 6:00 & 10:00 a.m.
- If you’re not an early bird, opt for afternoon sightings between 3:00 & 7:00 p.m. when it’s cooler and quieter.
Black Bear Safety First!
While black bear viewing in spring is indeed fun, it’s most important to stay safe with our top tips.
- Stay at least 150 feet away from wild black bears (if bear changes behavior, you are too close).
- Never approach black bears as you are in their territory…so it can seem quite rude to intrude.
- Do not feed black bears! Becoming comfortable with humans is dangerous for them.
- If a bear follows you, change direction. If it persists, shout and make yourself as big as possible (move to higher ground) and throw non-food objects (like rocks) to scare them.
- NEVER turn away, run, or play dead — fight back!
Springtime Events in the Smokies
Plan to attend 2021 events on your spring break in the Great Smoky Mountains when sunlight melts snow, flowers blossom, and wildlife stirs. Springtime in the Smokies brings annual favs and new fun to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. From arts and crafts to friendly (and fierce) competitions to car shows and themed festivals, the Smokies presents entertaining events for every age and interest when spring is in full bloom!
A Mountain Quiltfest | March 5 – 8 | classes, vendors, and prizes
Dollywood’s Festival of Nations | Mid-March – Mid-April | dance, music, and arts from around the world
Annual Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament | April 3 – 4 | open to all; prizes, cash, and more
Pigeon Forge Spring Rod Run | April 15 – 17 | hot rods, vendors, and entertainment
Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage | April 21 – 24 | classes, guided hikes, workshops, and more
Dollywood Flower & Food Festival | May – Mid-June | flowers, seasonal foods, and music
MayFest at Ober Gatlinburg | Mid-May | historical displays, Maypole dance, crafts, kids’ activities, and a Biergarten
Chuck Wagon Cookoff Competition | cowboy cooking by wagon and plenty of fun
Great Smoky Easter Arts & Crafts Show | crafts show with paintings, candles, baskets, and more
Annual Mountain Man Memorial March | march and run honoring our heroes
Smoky Mountain Wine Weekend | food and wine pairings at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts
Hands-On Gatlinburg | classes focused on local crafts
Family-Friendly Things to Do in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg, TN
When we think of spring break, the first image to mind typically shows tons of youngsters flooding the beaches and going (to put it mildly) out of control. And for those of us with kiddos and teens, that’s the last thing we want them to experience, whether on vacation or not. Breaking away from the beachy tradition — spend your spring break playing at family-friendly attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains!
A magical place in the Smokies, Gatlinburg’s Anakeesta is a mountaintop of adventure! Journey to the tippy top of Anakeesta Mountain aboard the innovative chondola (chairlift + gondola), then explore Firefly Village — featuring shops, eateries, and stunning views of the Mt. LeConte range. Race your bestie on the dueling ziplines, zoom downhill on the mountain coaster, stroll through the treetops 40-60 feet in the air, and teach your kiddos how the American Goldfinch builds its home with a visit to Treehouse Village!
Constantly rolling in guests and out great big smiles, Dollywood is a staple theme park in Pigeon Forge, TN. Jam to live musical performances, savor traditional Southern flavors around every corner, pick out special souvenirs from one-of-a-kind shops, watch master craftsmen in their element, take a VIP tour of the park, visit an interactive museum, ride the Dollywood Express, greet bald eagles at the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary, and scream at the top of your lungs on wild roller coasters!
Get ready for outdoor adventures and indoor fun at Ober Gatlinburg, a mountaintop amusement park in (two guesses where) Gatlinburg, TN. Ride the scenic aerial tram to the top, then let the good times never end! Skate or bump cars on the ice rink (offered year-round), soar down the mountain coaster, glide on the 1,800-foot Alpine Slide, meet fascinating wildlife up close, shop until you drop, and dine with majestic mountain views. The kiddos will have a blast no matter where you explore, and they’ll really love rides just their size (even a train!) plus Kiddie Land — a FREE playground!
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
While you may not be heading to the beach, you’ll still have an ocean view at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies — featuring 2 levels brimming with sea life and cute critters from around the world! Gaze as sharks glide past overhead, see schooling fish sway, look closely for the elusive octopus, come face to face with adorable penguins, and help your littlest find Nemo…and Dory. There are also many interactive experiences, such as the Glass Bottom Boat Adventure over Shark Lagoon and the Discovery Center, where you can pet horseshoe crabs and moon jellies!
Home to The Escape Game, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, and The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, The Island in Pigeon Forge is worth a full day’s exploration. Browse 35+ boutiques and quaint shops, snack and dine to your heart’s content with 18 restaurants and small eateries, and enjoy 21 possible activities — from climbing a ropes course to snapping an old-time photo to solving cases at the Alcatraz East Museum. This is just the beginning of the family fun in store at The Island!
Parrot Mountain & Gardens
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t the only place to experience breathtaking beauty this spring. For another outdoor attraction that’s full of flowers, plants, trees, and tropical birds by the hundreds, visit Parrot Mountain and Gardens in Pigeon Forge. This unique attraction is like walking through a live scene from one of Thomas Kinkade’s paintings — they even offer a replica of his “Stairway to Paradise”!
Shop, Shoppe, Shopping!
Add to your teenager’s bedroom collection with Smoky Mountain souvenirs, grow your style with pieces from country-chic boutiques, and enjoy spending quality time browsing and chatting through local shops in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
- The Village Shops — a European-style shopping village with 27 shops
- The Island — a shopping and entertainment complex with 40+ experiential stores
- Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet Mall — find quaint shops under the red roof!
- Mountain Mall — features 36 themed shops
- The Old Mill — shopping and food combine at this country-style complex
More Family-Friendly Options
While our top attractions and shops above will provide more than plenty to do with your whole family this spring break in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, we understand they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. So, we’ve compiled a bonus list of family-friendly spring break attractions!
- Big Top Arcade
- Crave Golf Club
- Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction
- Flyaway Indoor Skydiving
- Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park
- FunStop Family Action Park
- Gatlinburg Space Needle
- Gatlin’s Mini Golf
- Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud
- Hollywood Wax Museum
- Nantahala Outdoor Center
- Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show
- Rowdy Bear Mountain
- Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
- The Comedy Barn Theater
- The Mysterious Mansion
- The Track Smoky Mountains
- Titanic Museum Attraction
- TopJump Trampoline & Extreme Arena
College Spring Break in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
With wineries, breweries, distilleries, tons of hiking trails, go-kart tracks, arcades, outlet shops, bars, great views, and some awesome cabins loaded with game tables, big screen TVs, hot tubs, indoor pools, and full kitchens you can load up with drinks and late-night snacks — the Great Smoky Mountains is the perfect place for a college break this spring!
Now that finals are over, let loose and have some fun. Race around go-kart tracks, play arcade games and use your tickets to buy some slap bracelets and erasers — they’ll take you back. The area also has laser tag, country chic shops, indoor skydiving, the Hollywood Wax Museum, the Titanic Museum Attraction, The Escape Game (try breaking out of prison), and even a haunted house where you can run from zombies (Outbreak – Dread the Undead). And if you love the great outdoors, head for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to hike, bike, picnic, fish, or go horseback riding.
Nightlife in Town
By day, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are all attractions. But at night, bars serve up ice-cold drinks and breweries have live music and late-night food fit for spring break for those 21 and over.
- Dude’s Daiquiris at The Island in Pigeon Forge is a cool place to hang out on the patio.
- Margaritaville has island-inspired food and a giant blender that starts up every time “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” plays.
- Puckers Sports Grill plays sports non-stop on HDTVs and offers pool tables and darts for guests to enjoy.
- Loco Burro has a rooftop patio to party — enough said!
- No Way Jose’s in Gatlinburg is the ideal place when you’re in the mood for Mexican and margaritas!
Fun at the Cabin | Pool, Hot Tub & More!
Cabins for YOU has tons of vacation rentals to choose from, whether you’re on a road trip with a few friends or planning your spring break vacation with a huge group. A log cabin in the Smokies gives you a cool mountain feel and has amenities to keep you comfy and entertained. Hop in a bubbly hot tub outdoors, chat around a firepit, splash in a private indoor pool, relax in rocking chairs on the deck, toss some veggie burgers or steaks on the grill, chill in front of the big screen TV, or host movie night in the home theater. Many of our Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge cabins also have game tables, and some feature huge rec rooms with air hockey, pool, foosball, shuffleboard, arcade games, and more!
Budget-Friendly Spring Break in the Smokies
Itching to leave winter behind and finally get out of the house to explore this spring? If yes, but I can’t afford… is the start of your answer, stop right there. Everyone (yes, that includes YOU!) deserves a memorable cabin stay in the Great Smoky Mountains – and we can help.
Imagine sipping coffee with mountain views, soaking in a bubbly hot tub under the stars, playing at in-town attractions, snapping pics of wondrous wildlife, and getting loads of freebies — on a budget! If your answer has changed to yes, I’m ready to plan, then stick around for details on how you can enjoy a spring vacation to the Smokies on a budget.
- Get discounts to our partner attractions.
- Take advantage of our starter kit items (included and ready in the cabin) like toilet paper and dish soap.
- Use the fully equipped kitchen to cook instead of going out to eat for each meal.
- Skip the laundromat and use the washer/dryer in the cabin! (most cabins have this)
- Keep everyone entertained with game tables and your favorite movies from home on a big screen TV with DVD or Blu-ray player.
- Relax with soaks in the hot tub, baths in the indoor jetted tub, and tranquil views from the deck.
- Pick a cabin near downtown or the national park to save on gas.
Affordable Things to Do in Town
While you could spend your spring vacation playing and relaxing inside and outdoors at your budget-friendly cabin, we do recommend heading into town for a little fun, too. And the best part is it’s affordable! From perusing unique shops and checking out local crafts to walking through a tree canopy and dining with a show, exciting attractions in town are well within your reach.
- Walk The Island with family and friends! Enjoy mesmerizing fountain shows for free, browse 40+ shops (one offers a magic trick for those who enter), watch the kids smile around The Flying Carousel (just $4 per person), enjoy free wine tastings, and sample 13 different shades of moonshine for only $5.
- Cruise around the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community! Home to the largest group of independent artisans in the country, there are plenty of galleries, boutiques, and eateries to keep everyone entertained all day on this 8-mile loop. In fact, it only costs $1 to take the trolley!
- Use discounts on attractions when booking with Cabins for YOU! Play at one-stop attractions that include food, entertainment, and shopping. Putt-putt on a rooftop, enjoy dinner with a show, bounce to new heights, and visit all 8 Ripley’s attractions. All this and more with attraction discounts for YOU — check ‘em out!
Freebies in the Smokies!
What’s better than affordable pricing and discounts? Freebies! Yeah, when something’s FREE…it’s somehow more enjoyable. And there are plenty of no-cost things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains in spring!
- Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that offers entry at no charge. Lace up your hiking boots, bring your bicycle from home, lead Fido along a dog-friendly path, or pack a picnic for a spring meal riverside.
- Enjoy free wine tastings and gifts along the Rocky Top Wine Trail! The trail features 5 wineries in the Pigeon Forge and Sevierville area — some even offer free wine cellar tours. Collect stamps at 3 locations for a free wine glass and at all 5 for another free gift!
- Attend local events that don’t cost a dime. These include car shows, a chuckwagon competition, a trout fishing tournament, an Easter arts and crafts show, the Mountain Man Memorial March, and parades!
Romantic Spring Break for 2 in the Smoky Mountains
The scent of wildflowers all around, a glimpse of a heartfelt smile, genuine laughter mixed with captivating conversation, candlelit dinners and spa nights…love is in the Smoky Mountain air! As winter recedes and spring blooms forth, you and your dearest will surely be itching to get out of the house and away from it all. So why not enjoy a romantic spring getaway together? From outdoor activities and indoor attractions to entertaining dinners and romantic cabin nights, the Smokies is the perfect spring vacation destination! Need a few romantic ideas for your spring break vacation in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, TN? Easy.
- Take a stroll hand-in-hand. Enjoy the enchanting sights and sounds of the Smokies with a professionally guided hike through the forest, courtesy of A Walk in the Woods. Or experience the grandeur of an old-growth forest on the Cove Forest Outing or the immeasurable beauty of local wildflowers in full bloom along the Spring Wildflower Walk (only offered March 15 – May 15).
- Go wine tasting together. Perhaps you and your sweetheart would prefer another kind of trail…off nature’s path, like a wine-tasting walk downtown on the Rocky Top Wine Trail. With 70+ wines to sample, complimentary wine cellar tours at select locations, and free gifts, extend your “hike” over a few days and enjoy delectable meals in between.
- Visit picturesque spots. Start off slow with a roundtrip ride to the top of Crockett Mountain on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift — complete with panoramic, breathtaking views of the entire city and the Smokies beyond. Pull a classic romantic move with a sunset ride and a sweet kiss atop the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island. And throw in a bit of excitement with Scenic Helicopter Tours, offering one-of-a-kind views of the national park, local cities, and more.
- Plan a classic mini-golf date. Turn to yet another time-honored classic with a round or 2 of mini-golf indoors — or on the roof! — at Crave Golf Club. Afterward, grab a bubblegum garden milkshake at the Milkshake Bar and a tantalizing treat to go from the Sweet Shop. They even offer miniature bowling, so cute!
- Spice up dinner with a show! Why not make dinnertime exceptional with a dinner show downtown? From Southern meals and scrumptious desserts to endless grins and belly laughter, it’s a perfect way to end the night. Try Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, and the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud.
- Romance each other at your cabin. Pull up to a secluded cabin in the Smokies, where romance is on a whole other level. Enjoy morning coffee with sunrise mountain views, midday in-cabin massages, evening soaks in the hot tub, a dinner for 2 prepared by your personal chef, champagne with a romantic comedy, and a candlelit spa night in the jetted tub. And as a special surprise, invest in a gift basket, flowers, or gourmet gift item!
Places to Eat in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg
Spring break is all about getting away, having a blast, enjoying the moment, and seriously relaxing. How does one keep the party going? Food! Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are brimming with tons of food options ranging from classic Southern dishes to out-of-this-world pancakes to international flavors. And of course, vacations are nothing without sweet treats and adult drinks to seal the deal!
- Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen
- Mama’s Farmhouse
- Frizzle Chicken Farmhouse Cafe
- Reagan’s House of Pancakes
- Smoky’s Pancake Cabin (kudos on the name choice)
- No Way Jose’s Mexican Cantina
- Geppetto’s Italian Restaurant
- China Town Restaurant
- Kinkaku Japanese Steakhouse
- The Fudgery
- Farmhouse Sweets
- Old Mill Candy Kitchen
Wine & Shine!
- Rocky Top Wine Trail (visit all 5 wineries for 2 free gifts!)
- Tennessee Shine Company
Spring Break Cabins for YOU
Whether you want to spend quality time with the whole family, catch up with a group of friends, or sneak away with your sweetheart, Cabins for YOU has you covered with a cool, comfortable place to relax in the Smokies on spring break. Currently with 450+ options of all shapes and sizes — ranging from 1-16 bedrooms and including budget-friendly, luxury, pet-friendly, and large group rentals — we would love the opportunity to help plan your spring cabin stay. Plus, we offer top-notch amenities to make your stay extra comfy and fun — from rolling mountain views and an outdoor hot tub to a fully loaded rec room and a private indoor pool! And that’s just the start…
Need help planning your memorable Smoky Mountain spring break vacation? Fill out our easy Options for YOU form to have cabin options sent straight to you or chat with your personal Vacation Specialist at 1.800.684.7865 to get the ball rolling…before summer takes over!
Don’t miss out! Bump the beach tradition and make this spring break one to remember — with wildflowers in the most-visited national park, free events, exciting attractions, chic shops, yummy food, and ace amenities at your Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg cabin rental — in the Great Smoky Mountains today!
Note: Spring events, area attractions, and cabin rentals are upholding CDC guidelines to help decrease the risk for exposure to COVID-19, such as more intense cleaning routines, temperature checks, face mask requirements, and proper social distancing.