Gatlinburg Space Needle#6 in Best Things To Do in Gatlinburg
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.
While most visitors agreed that the view from the observation deck was unbeatable, many thought the attraction was overpriced. However, recent guests appreciated that the admission included a second free visit, allowing visitors to take in the view by day and by night.
Located across from the convention center and Ripley's Believe It or Not! in downtown Gatlinburg, the Space Needle is open 365 days a year (weather permitting) from 9 to 1 a.m. Sunday through Friday and 9 to 2 a.m. on Saturday. Discounted individual tickets are available online for $8.99, with more significant savings on the family pass ($22.99), which includes admission for two adults and two children (12 and younger). If you purchase your tickets at the attraction, prepare to pay $9.50 for an individual ticket and $29 for the family pass. All tickets include two visits within a 24-hour period. To learn more about the Gatlinburg Space Needle, check out its website.
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#1 Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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.
Recent visitors raved about the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, describing it as "a must-see" with awesome views. The one-way, narrow road can be crowded in peak seasons (summer and the month of October), so reviewers advised going early in the morning, especially to hike the many trailheads that originate along the way. Many visitors recommend hiking to Grotto Falls (stop No. 5 on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail) and most were also excited to see bears and other wildlife along the route. Recent visitors also said the Cades Cove Loop is a great place for viewing wildlife, but they advise packing a lunch and drinks and to be prepared to spend a half-day or more exploring the historic cabins and sites along the way. As with the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, traffic can be heavy during peak times.
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