Living just a few hours away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I’ve visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee at least twenty times. Thinking back on all these ventures, I’ve compiled my personal recommendations on the top things to do!
These activities may all fit into one Gatlinburg trip, or you can spread them out over separate visits. I’ve gone down there for Bachelorette parties, with my family growing up, on my honeymoon, and for a college spring break. Basically, there’s a little something for everyone and every occasion!
Cabin Time– In my opinion, if you aren’t going to rent one of the thousands of beautiful, rustic cabins when you visit Gatlinburg, then you shouldn’t go at all. Save a hotel for another trip! There is such a huge array of cabins with a wide variety of prices, that you can certainly find one to fit your budget.
Read about my stay at a cabin in nearby Pigeon Forge
Staying in a cabin is half of the reason I go to this area so much. I love the wooden interiors, the sweeping mountain views, and of course spending time in a hot tub looking at the stars! Check out my cabin recommendations at the end of this post!
Hiking– If you’re going to be in the area and not visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I have no clue why you’d go to Gatlinburg! One of the most visited national parks in the country, there is a huge abundance of trails, beautiful views, and chances for wildlife sightings.
CLICK HERE to see my post of best hikes in the Smokies!
The Strip in Gatlinburg– Perhaps Gatlinburg is known just as much for its cheesy main strip as it is for the national park. A bit like a country version of Las Vegas, the strip is about as cheesy and hoaky as it gets. Despite this, I somehow still love it, and it’s something you need to experience!
Simply walking down the street and taking in all the shops, mini golf, wacky museums, old time photos, and moonshine tastings can easily fill an entire day or two. Over the years I’ve discovered my favorite things to do on this famous street:
Smoky Mountain Brewery– Original craft beers brewed on site, tasty food, a great ambiance, and above all…free parking!
Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler– This little corner of the strip not only has educational information about the history of moon-shining, but it most often has live bluegrass music playing. The atmosphere is great, and you can sample tiny shooters of moonshine from the enthusiastic staff. This is always one of my favorite things to check out!
Aquarium of the Smokies– A bit pricey, but definitely an amazing place. If it’s too hot or too cold outside, even better!
Mountain Candy– Get some taffy logs from Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, and some rock candy too! For some reason I’m always mesmerized watching their taffy being stretched on the machine.
Putt-Putt & Go-Kart (Pigeon Forge area)– If you never do these activities anywhere else, this is the place to do it! There are an abundance of spots to make this happen, and I definitely recommend it for any age!
Country Drives– Another activity I love to do is honestly just to drive around aimlessly on what I like to call a “country drive”. You’ll end up finding hidden gems and classic “backwoods Americana”.
Arts and Crafts– On one of these drives we discovered the “Arts and Crafts Community”, where you can buy anything from a wooden bear sculpture to custom Christmas ornaments (I highly recommend Santa’s Claus-et). You should also check out the Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge!
The Alpine Slide– The only other place I’ve seen the chance to slide down a mountainside on a toboggan was in Switzerland, and I honestly think the slide here was better!
Anakeesta- This spot is worth a visit! It is a “mountaintop adventure park” above the Gatlinburg strip, and has epic views along with a splash pad, playgrounds, canopy walks, zip-lining, and more. |Click here to see a video of our experience!)
Sky Lifts and Bridges– There are several places you can ride chair lifts up to scenic mountain views, so if you have mobility issues this could be a great option. I recently went here with my toddler, and while the chairlift ride up was a little hairy, we had a great time once safely at the top!
The Abandoned Town of Elkmont– This deserves its own blog post… coming soon!
Lodging: In the past, I have stayed at a variety of beautiful cabins (Most recently, Beaver’s Mountaintop Retreat which had an indoor pool!). Typically, I find these cabins using local agency, CabinsForYou. However you can also try your luck at VRBO and dozens of other organizations in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. If you’d like, read about hotels in Gatlinburg with indoor pools too!
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As always, all reviews and opinions are my own. However, should you choose to book any of the tours listed above, please know I will receive a small commission.