When I think about a beach vacation, there are certain things that come to mind. Laying out and listening to music all day, riding go karts, eating ice cream, hunting for seashells, getting dressed up for a seafood dinner, fruity drinks, boogie boards…you get the idea. For a winter ski getaway, I think zipping down the slopes, drinking hot cocoa in the lodge, curling up in front of the fire, and bundling up in cute scarves and boots. A Gatlinburg vacation is no different.
If you’ve ever been to Gatlinburg (and especially if the Smokies is your go-to vacation destination each year), you know there are some things that just scream “classic Gatlinburg.” They’re the attractions, activities, foods, sights, and souvenirs that make you long for a vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains. When someone says “Gatlinburg,” they’re the first things that come to mind. There is always something fun, new, and exciting happening in the area, but we think the classics are sometimes the best.
Here are our top 25 must-dos for a classic Gatlinburg vacation. Next time you’re here, don’t miss out!
- Ride the Aerial Tramway up to Ober Gatlinburg. It’s hard to beat the views you’ll get on an Aerial Tramway ride up to Ober Gatlinburg. Plus, there’s tons of fun waiting at the top.
- Speed around the track with go karts. You’ll have to head to Pigeon Forge for this one, but it’s a classic Smoky Mountain activity – and a must on a summer day.
- Spend the afternoon at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. This isn’t just for the kids. Ride a moving sidewalk beneath sharks, get hands on at Touch-A-Ray Bay, watch a dive show, and see amazing underwater creatures!
- Get an Ogle Dog at Fannie Farkle’s. The fresh-dipped corn dogs at Fannie Farkle’s are a Gatlinburg staple,or you can get sizzling cheesesteaks made right in front of you. Bonus: it’s an arcade, too!
- Drive through Cades Cove Loop. Bring your binoculars and be on the lookout for black bears!
- Load up on creamy homemade fudge. If you walk Parkway in Gatlinburg, you’ll be hit in the face with the smell of fudge every few minutes. Don’t resist the urge. Stop. Sample. Buy a box to take back to the cabin. Kilwin’s, Fudge Shoppe of the Smokies, Country Candy Kitchen, Aunt Mahalia’s, and Chocolate Monkey are just a few of our favorites.
- Get matching airbrush t-shirts. A bit cheesy? Yes. A must-do for that classic Gatlinburg experience? Absolutely!
- Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. FREE to enter, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts 800+ miles of trails to try!
- Go horseback riding through the Smokies. Saddle up with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables, Sugarlands Riding Stables, Waldens Creek Stables, or Five Oaks Riding Stables for a scenic ride through the mountains.
- Play laser tag and arcade games. You’ll have your pick of places to go, especially if you drive to neighboring Pigeon Forge. But even downtown Gatlinburg has some great options!
- Spend the morning sipping coffee in the rocking chairs on your deck. It’s the perfect way to start your day in the Great Smoky Mountains.
- Watch fresh taffy being pulled. Stopping to watch taffy being pulled in a shop full of homemade candies is a classic Gatlinburg must-do. The mouthwatering treat will invite you in to fill up a bag of goodies at the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen.
- Take an old-time photo with the family. If a picture is worth a thousand words, an old-time photo from a trip to Gatlinburg must be worth a thousand memories. Get dressed up and have a fun and unique souvenir to hang in your home for years.
- Tap your toes to the music in the Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler. Live music fills the air in the Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. You can also get a jar of moonshine to take back to the cabin or taste a few of their most popular flavors.
- End the night with a soak in your own hot tub. Almost all our cabins boast hot tubs on the decks, so treat yourself to a relaxing end to the day.
- Go on a zipline tour. Smoky Mountain Ziplines will have you flying through the trees, getting up-close views of the Smokies on an exciting ride.
- Go to a dinner show. While most are in Pigeon Forge, they’re just a short drive from downtown Gatlinburg. Check out Dixie Stampede, Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack Adventure, or the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud for a hearty meal alongside your show!
- Spend the day at Dollywood. In neighboring Pigeon Forge, Dollywood is always a must-do when heading to the Smokies. It has something for everyone, with roller coasters, kids’ rides and games, carnival prizes, a train, water rides, shops, restaurants, and shows!
- Explore the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. This 8-mile loop is home to dozens of artisans who whittle, paint, sew, mold, and create gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pieces to remind you of your time in the Smokies.
- Get your steak cut tableside at The Peddler Steakhouse. Waterfront dining, steaks cut at your table, and an impressive salad bar: that’s a great night out in Gatlinburg.
- Enjoy an afternoon golfing at Bent Creek Golf Course. Designed by Gary Player, this par-72 course is pristinely manicured and surrounded by the peaceful setting of the Smoky Mountain trees.
- Play mini golf. Date night or a day with the kids, mini golf is a Gatlinburg go-to.
- Get 360-degree views atop the Gatlinburg Space Needle. See the city from 400+ feet in the air after a glass-elevator ride up to the top!
- Laugh out loud at Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre. An intimate setting ensures every guest gets the classic Sweet Fanny Adams experience. It’ll be a night of laughs, music, and audience participation.
- Ride a coaster down the mountainside. Quickly becoming a classic Gatlinburg activity, riding mountain coasters is a must-do in the Smokies. Try the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, or The Coaster at Goats on the Roof.