Gatlinburg Travel Guide

USA  #3 in Best Winter Family Vacations
Credit

Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Best Things To Do in Gatlinburg

No matter the season, Gatlinburg offers a wide variety of attractions and activities. In the summer and fall, adventurers can hike, bike and horseback ride through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the winter, visitors can ski and snow tube at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort. Year-round, this mountain town offers plenty of unique diversions you won't find anywhere else, including moonshine tastings and an 8-mile loop of galleries and boutiques featuring Appalachian arts and wares like wood-carving and broom-making. For a bird's-eye view of the city, take the elevator up to the observation deck of the Space Needle or hop on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated June 22, 2017

  • #1
    Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    View all Photos
    #1 in Gatlinburg
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of only a few national parks that do not charge an admission fee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also the most visited, welcoming more than 10 million travelers annually. The 522,427-acre park is shared by Tennessee and North Carolina with the border running through the center. In addition to hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, the park offers historical exhibits, including original Appalachian cabins, and scenic drives to popular spots like Cades Cove and the waterfalls on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. If you love seeing wildlife in its natural habitat, Cades Cove is a great place to spot deer and black bears. Start at the Sugarland Visitor Center to get an overview of the area's history and pick up trail maps, or head to what is known as "the locals entrance" at Greenbrier a little more than 2 miles east of Gatlinburg. Trailheads to Ramsay Cascades, Porter's Creek and Injun Creek start here, and it's often much less crowded than other areas of the park.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Mountain Moonshine Tastings
    View all Photos
    #2 in Gatlinburg
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Tours, Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Tours, Wineries/Breweries
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Moonshine tastings have become one of the trendiest activities in Gatlinburg for visitors of age. The Appalachian tradition of making moonshine in hidden mountain stills took hold in the early 20th century. Immigrants from Scotland and Ireland, who had settled in the mountains, found that the abundance of corn and clear mountain streams were perfect for making whiskey. Plus, the mountains provided plenty of hiding places for their illegal stills. The area eventually became known as Moonshiner's Paradise.

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Great Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Loop
    View all Photos
    #3 in Gatlinburg
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're interested in art and authentic Appalachian crafts, you'll want to spend a day exploring the 8-mile Arts & Crafts loop in and around Gatlinburg. Watch mountain craftsmen and women make brooms, baskets and pottery or peruse the paintings, hand-blown glass and photography at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, which features five galleries with work from local, national and international artists.

    ...Read More »
  • #4
    Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram
    View all Photos
    #4 in Gatlinburg
    Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    For a bird's-eye view of the Gatlinburg area and the Smokies, hop on the Ober Gatlinburg Tramway, one of the country's largest tramways. Catch the tram in downtown Gatlinburg for a 2.1-mile ride up the mountain to its peak at 11,088 feet. At the top, you'll find shopping, dining, an amusement park, an ice skating rink and a small zoo (note that all of the Ober Gatlinburg attractions require additional fees not included in your tramway ticket). To continue your vertical ascent, you can take the chair lift from the peak (for an additional charge) for even more incredible views.

    ...Read More »
  • #5
    Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre
    View all Photos
    #5 in Gatlinburg
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This vaudeville theater pays homage to the music halls of the late 19th century with variety shows that include singing, dancing, magic and audience participation. According to recent travelers, the two-hour shows are suitable for all ages.

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Gatlinburg Space Needle
    View all Photos
    #6 in Gatlinburg
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This 407-foot tower overlooks the town of Gatlinburg and offers 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains. The observation deck is equipped with viewfinders and educational exhibits that detail the history of the town and the surrounding mountains. Arcadia, a 25,000-square-foot arcade with video games and a playground is also located here, as are the Iris Theater and Slice Pizza.

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area
    View all Photos
    #7 in Gatlinburg
    Amusement Parks, Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Recreation, Skiing
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area is open 365 days a year. During the winter months from mid-December to mid-March, skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes and even non-skiers enjoy snow tubing. The amusement park, which offers several rides, including a mountain coaster, an indoor ice skating rink, a kiddie park, shops and restaurants and a small zoo, is open throughout the year. Although the resort itself does not offer accommodations, its location just a few miles from Gatlinburg makes it easy to find lodging. You can drive up to the resort (weather permitting) or take the aerial tram from downtown.

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
    View all Photos
    #8 in Gatlinburg
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most popular attractions for children, Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies offers unique opportunities to get up close and personal with a wide variety of marine life. You can pet a penguin, splash around with a stingray in Touch a Ray Bay or take a behind-the-scenes tour. A people mover takes you through an underwater tunnel, where you can watch green sea turtles, big snappers, tarpons and sharks through the floor-to-ceiling glass wall.

    ...Read More »

Explore More of Gatlinburg

Recommended

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

Zach WatsonApril 18, 2019

50 Awesome Vacation Ideas for Every Type of Traveler

Consider these vacation ideas for your next getaway.

Holly JohnsonApril 11, 2019

The 13 Best National Parks in California

You won't regret adding one of these national parks to your California itinerary.

Rachel CenterApril 10, 2019

10 Beautiful Places to Visit in the South of France

Plan a getaway to these special destinations to soak up culture, cuisine and quaint atmospheres.

Gwen PratesiApril 8, 2019

Best Carry-on Luggage of 2019

U.S. News rated the best carry-on luggage, considering recommendations from experts and consumers.

Lyn MettlerApril 3, 2019

The 11 Best Utah National Parks and Monuments to Visit

From birding to bouldering to boating, Utah's national parks have it all.

Zach WatsonApril 2, 2019

The 30 Best Zoos in the U.S.

Get an up-close look at wild creatures in natural settings at America's top animal parks.

Kyle McCarthyMarch 28, 2019

15 Scenic Train Rides to Add to Your Bucket List

Climb aboard these locomotives for jaw-dropping views.

Christine SmithMarch 26, 2019

13 Top Places to Visit in Tuscany, Italy

Ditch the crowded streets of Rome or Milan and head to Italy's picturesque countryside.

Lyn MettlerMarch 25, 2019

10 Excellent Educational Vacations for Families

Make sure your next getaway is both enjoyable and informative.

Holly JohnsonMarch 14, 2019