Gatlinburg, Tennessee is always bustling. Year-round, there is always something to do, see, hear, smell, taste, and experience. And whether you’re here for a honeymoon, romantic getaway, fun family vacation, special event, work conference, sports tournament, church retreat, weekend with friends, or family reunion, you’ll quickly understand that there is no shortage of things to do in downtown Gatlinburg. And as you extend your radius, you’ll find even more activities, from shopping in Pigeon Forge and driving through Wears Valley to finding outdoor fun in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and more.
Adults can appreciate local wineries and moonshine distilleries, craft beer, unique stores along the Parkway, live music, amazing mountain views, golfing, and great local events throughout the year. Kids will love airbrush t-shirts and old-time photos, go karts and laser tag, mini golf and arcades, TopJump trampoline park, and more! There are plenty of family-friendly attractions, fun things to do for all ages, and great options for couples, large groups, and more.
And of course, when it’s time to take a break from exploring, Cabins for YOU brings you a huge variety of Gatlinburg cabins to perfectly suit whatever type of vacation you’re planning. We have everything from cozy 1-bedroom retreats up to large group lodges sleeping 60+ guests – with options for pet-friendly cabins, luxury lodges, budget-friendly picks, and more. Read on to learn more about things to do in Gatlinburg – and start planning your getaway today!
NEW IN 2020!
Some of the newest attractions in the area include…
Ruby Sunshine – New Orleans favorites
AnaVista Tower, The Smokehouse Brewery, and Treeventure Challenge Course at Anakeesta
LIVE MUSIC + SHOWS
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge know how to put on a show. Live shows, including dinner shows, are a must when you’re in the area, and there are so many to choose from! If you spend the evening at the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, you may find yourself pulled into the show a bit, and you’ll definitely leave laughing! And if you take a short drive to Pigeon Forge, you’ll find the Lumberjack Adventure, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, The Comedy Barn, and so much more!
LOCAL ART + SHOPPING
The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is an integral part of the Smokies. The 8-mile loop of local artisans features some amazing work. You can meet the artists in their natural habitats, find out more about their work, browse, and buy one-of-a-kind pieces – from leather goods, photographs, and wood carvings to jams and jellies, quilts, and much more!
The Village Shops in downtown Gatlinburg have everything from hiking gear and personalized kids’ toys to local books and more – all in an old-world setting that will take you back in time.
Shopping along the Parkway never gets old. The main strip through downtown Gatlinburg is home to dozens of shops, all with unique goods that cover just about anything you might want. Get an airbrush t-shirt, browse unique knives, find a bear wood carving, pick up a quilt for grandma, take old-time photos with friends, fill up bags of old-fashioned candies to enjoy at the cabin, shop for local wine, find great art for the house, and more!
Kilwins Gatlinburg has you covered for sweet treats! Grab a chocolate-dipped strawberry, treat the kids to a candy apple, and try unique fudge flavors like Peruvian chocolate, peppermint stick, sea-salt caramel, eggnog, toasted coconut, and more! Not a fan of chocolate? Kilwins offers plenty of other candies, including salt water taffy in an assortment of flavors.
Play the day away at Gatlinburg attractions, offering something for groups, families, and couples. Ober Gatlinburg has a ski area in winter, indoor ice skating year-round, an aerial tramway to the top, the Alpine slide, OktOBERfest, and more! At Anakeesta, one of the newest attractions in the area, you can eat, shop, take a chondola ride, try dueling ziplines, ride a mountain coaster, take a treetop walk, and enjoy truly incredible views of the Great Smoky Mountains!
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is an underwater adventure, with a tunnel beneath the sharks, stingrays at Touch-A-Ray Bay, and fun kids’ features. Gatlinburg Mountain Coasters let you get the wind in you hair, Dollywood amusement park (down the road in Pigeon Forge) has roller coasters and kids’ rides, Mysterious Mansion keeps things creepy, and the Gatlinburg Space Needle offers 360-degree views of the Smokies from the observation deck.
When the kids want to play, you’ll find plenty of family-friendly attractions, including arcade games at Fannie Farkle’s, Ripley’s mirror maze, laser tag and go karts, mini golf just about everywhere, and Ripley’s attractions – including weird exhibits at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium! And don’t forget a ride up to the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, where you’ll walk the skybridge – the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS | OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Boasting more than 800 miles of trails throughout, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is THE place to enjoy the great outdoors. In fact, it’s the most-visited national park in the United States! Take a hike, go horseback riding, go whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River, plan a picnic, take a scenic drive (try the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail), go fishing, or search for a waterfall!
This 11-mile scenic loop is available to drive, walk, or bike. Take a peaceful drive to check out the scenery and explore the historic buildings of the Smoky Mountains – and you may see deer, turkeys, and black bears!
If you’re up for a challenge, the hike up to Mt.LeConte is a great pick. Several trails lead up to the top, and all offer a variety of things to see along the way. The hike up is fairly steep and can be a bit dangerous in some areas (just be careful!), but the view from the top is worth the work.
Whether you’re here with family, friends, or as a team, ziplining in the Smokies is always a great option. It’s exciting, fun with a group, and perfect for team building and getting closer with others!
TIME TO EAT!
There is no shortage of great things to eat in Gatlinburg, Tennessee – no matter what you like! Sit down for a nice meal at The Park Grill, order an ice-cold margarita and a piled-high plate of Mexican favorites at the waterfront No Way Joe’s Cantina, watch taffy being pulled at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, and fill up on breakfast plates and oversized waffles at Crockett‘s Breakfast Camp.
Moonshine + Wine
Sip on the taste of the Appalachians with locally made wine and moonshine in the Smokies! Flavors range from apple pie to peach – and everything in between – and Ole Smoky Moonshine has distilleries in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (live music at both). Sugarlands Distilling Company, Doc Collier Moonshine, Old Forge Distillery, and Tennessee Shine Company are other great moonshine options!
More of a wine fan? Spend the day touring the Rocky Top Wine Trail, home to 5 local wineries you can tour, enjoy tastings, and find the perfect bottles to take back to the cabin and enjoy!
GATLINBURG EVENTS | YEAR-ROUND FUN
From the annual Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament and the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Shows throughout the year to Easter Sunrise at Ober Gatlinburg and the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, Gatlinburg’s events offer something for everyone throughout the year. Check out our Gatlinburg Events page to see what’s happening when you’ll be in town!
TOP 10 TIPS FOR GATLINBURG VACATIONS
- Peak seasons include mid-summer (June 15-August 15) and the entire month of October.
If you’ve traveled to Gatlinburg in the past, your one complaint might be the heavy traffic and crowded streets. To avoid this chaos as much as possible, plan to visit Gatlinburg during its less-crowded seasons. Mid-summer and October are peak seasons, but there are plenty of things to see and do all year round!
- Traffic can be tricky.
During the peak seasons, traffic in Gatlinburg will be at its worst. You should definitely expect traffic delays, especially on the weekends. But there are plenty of ways to get around without getting stuck in traffic, like taking the back roads and walking wherever you can. Check out our blog on Gatlinburg traffic for other tips.
- You can take the Fun Time Trolley to save on gas and parking.
Another great option for avoiding the Gatlinburg traffic is to take the Fun Time Trolley. During the summer months, the trolley is FREE to all visitors and locals, so you can enjoy an open-air ride through the streets of Gatlinburg without wasting your money on gas! Popular stops along the trolley’s route include the Village Shops, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.
- Be careful not to overheat your engine or your brakes on steep mountain roads.
Gatlinburg is located right in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, so you’re going to encounter some steep mountain roads. As you drive uphill, be sure to pay attention to your engine and stop at available pullouts if you need to allow your engine to cool down. While driving downhill, be sure to shift to a lower gear to prevent your brakes from wearing out.
- Dozens of activities are inexpensive and even free.
You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a vacation in Gatlinburg—even a vacation that involves the whole family! A visit to the Farmers Market or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park won’t cost you a dime. And you can check out affordable attractions like floating down the river for a fun day with the family that doesn’t max out your budget. For more tips on saving money in Gatlinburg with your big group, check out 12 Ways to Save Money in Gatlinburg.
- You will need comfortable walking shoes.
If you’re wanting to see the City of Gatlinburg, the best way to do that is on foot. You can save yourself the headache of fighting traffic and enjoy the dozens of shops and attractions that line the streets of Gatlinburg. You’ll also want comfortable shoes if you’re planning on spending time in the National Park. With more than 800 miles of trails, your feet will thank you for planning ahead!
- The weather can change quickly.
Be prepared. Mountain weather is unpredictable. When you’re visiting Gatlinburg, it’s a good idea to keep extra ponchos or umbrellas in the car for unexpected rainstorms, especially in the spring and summer. And if you’re planning to spend the day exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, be sure to wear multiple layers, including a windbreaker, just in case.
- You should check for trail and road closures before heading out.
Often, inclement weather leads to temporary road and trail closures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To save yourself the headache of a wasted morning or afternoon, check the park’s website before you head out. Most of our cabins are equipped with free Wi-Fi so you can easily access this information on your cellphone or tablet.
- You should learn bear safety.
Another important tip for Gatlinburg visitors is to brush up on your bear safety skills. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas for black bears in the eastern United States. If you visit the park, especially in spring and summer, you will want to know what to do in case you encounter a bear in your car or on foot. Visit the National Park Service website for more info.
- Cabins are the most cost-efficient way to enjoy your Gatlinburg vacation.
If you’re coming to Gatlinburg to enjoy your family, a group of friends, or your significant other, our Gatlinburg cabins are the best way to do that. You’ll get more than what you pay for, including amazing amenities and private mountain views. Check out our Gatlinburg cabins today.
10 Unexpected Finds in Gatlinburg
Most people think of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, miniature golf courses, outlet shops, lots of restaurants, and even moonshine when they think of Gatlinburg. And while those are all great, Gatlinburg holds a lot of hidden gems – unique attractions and things you wouldn’t expect to find in this charming mountain town. There are fun things for the whole family, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find something new each time you visit.
- A kilt – While Gatlinburg is quite a cultural melting pot because of the visitors who come for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year, you might not expect to find authentic Celtic goods in this country town. But if you stop in Celtic Heritage at The Village Shops along the Parkway, you will find Irish, Scottish, and Welsh goods such as jewelry, tartans, wedding bands, and Celtic music.
- A Western shoot-out – Saddle up and get your six shooter ready at Shoot’em up Cinema – a 5D family ride in the heart of Gatlinburg.
- A shrunken head – Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium is a collection of all things strange and unexpected. The multistory attraction features more than 500 exhibits and one-of-a-kind finds.
- The Chicken Dance – At the Bavarian Funmaker Show, the audience is encouraged to participate in the hilarious fun. It features yodeling, The Chicken Dance, sousa, and more.
- A haunted house – in June – Haunted houses are usually reserved for Halloween, but Ripley’s Haunted Adventure is open year-round. Live actors in Hollywood-grade makeup and costumes are ready to scare around each corner.
- Hollywood celebrities – Just down the road in Pigeon Forge, the Hollywood Wax Museum is the place to “meet” your favorite celebrities. Pose with their life-like figures in movie scenes, play trivia, and pick up some movie- and TV-themed gifts.
- The Batmobile – Located on the Parkway in Gatlinburg, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum is home to more than 40 automobiles from your favorite TV shows, movies, and celebrities. Pose with Michael Jackson’s Mercedes, a 1955 T-bird autographed by The Beach Boys, and more.
- A NASCAR race – At the NASCAR Speedpark, you can test your driving skills on multiple tracks. While they aren’t actual NASCAR cars, you’ll feel like a pro drive racing along in the fast go karts!
- The circus – The “circus” is in town year-round at Circus Golf 3D in Gatlinburg. It’s part circus funhouse and part miniature golf, featuring computer animations, sound effects, animatronic characters, and more.
A hog race – Ripley’s Moving theater 5D runs on the same Real D 3D technology that was used in The Hobbit, Wreck-It-Ralph, and Hotel Transylvania. Watch Winter Wipeout or Roadhoggers and feel like you’re in the middle of it all.