Gatlinburg, Tennessee — A gem at the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, Gatlinburg welcomes families, couples, and solo travelers alike. You’ll experience some of the most friendly people and amazing mountain views you’ve ever seen here, so don’t sleep on sleepy yet bustling little Gatlinburg.
Why is Gatlinburg worth visiting?
Gatlinburg is the perfect place to visit, no matter what you like. If you’re into mountain views, that’s a no-brainer— check, but there is also live entertainment, breweries, wineries, arts and crafts, plenty of amazing dining, and of course, you can’t miss out on Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies or staying is an adorable cabin in the woods.
What to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
1) Get High on Life at Gatlinburg Skylift Park
If you love ski lifts, then you’re in luck. No, you won’t be able to ski when you get to the top, but the views you get coming down are amazing.
You don’t only get on the lift to see the view, but when you reach the top, there is more fun to be had.
At the top, you’ll come to a beautiful landing with chairs, and of course, there is food and drink for your enjoyment. But if you want to brave more heights, you can go right over to the SkyBridge, which is said to be the longest of its kind at 680 feet.
If you still want more heights but don’t want to deal with a bridge that moves, you can climb the tulip tower on the Gatlinburg SkyTrail and just look at the people on the SkyBridge.
2) Enjoy the Fun at Ober Gatlinburg
Depending on the season in which you visit, there are a lot of different things you can do. Depending on the weather, certain things will be open, and others won’t, so just make sure to check what’s happening during the season you choose to visit this location.
The ariel tramway is one of the favorite parts of Ober Gatlinburg for many people. If you’re a little nervous about going on the open Skylift at Skylift Park, this can help you get the same type of views without having to feel like you’re out in the open.
The ski mountain coaster will give you some amazing thrills, you’ve got ice skating, and you can even check out some pretty cool wildlife at the Ober Gatlinburg wildlife encounter.
There’s even more, though. There’s the alpine slide, scenic chairlift, carousel ride, ice bumper cars, mini golf, a rock wall, and more.
If you only went to Ober Gatlinburg, you could easily spend all day and not get bored.
3) See Cool Creatures at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies keeps adding cool new things, so if you haven’t visited in a while, you need to check it out again.
One of their new adventures is a glass bottom boat you can see 12-foot sharks through. There are other cool creatures down there as well, but the sharks are probably the coolest part. You are only three inches away from these giant creatures.
There are multiple levels to this aquarium where you can enjoy some unique experiences. Petting the sting rays is a lot of fun, but look out because they don’t mind splashing you.
If you want to see maximum cuteness, you’ve got to check out the penguins in the penguin playhouse.
4) Hike Gatlinburg Trail
For those of you that want to enjoy a nice hike that doesn’t take too much effort, the Gatlinburg Trail is the perfect spot.
The trail is at the Gatlinburg/Sugarlands Visitor Center is 3.9 miles for a roundtrip along the Little Pigeon River. For those of you that want to stick your toes in the river, there is easy access.
You’ll find one of the longest footbridges in the park here, and there will be a short climb, so prepare for an incline. While this is a pretty easy trail, keep in mind it isn’t too far from the highway in some areas, so you aren’t going to get the remote trail feel here. But that also means it isn’t too far away from Gatlinburg, so you can hop back on the highway and get back to civilization.
5) Take a Sip at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery
When you come to Tennessee, you can’t miss the Tennessee Moonshine. Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery is a popular spot to check out the moonshine, but there are also whiskies and canned cocktails.
This distillery has a good variety, and everything is in cool containers that scream Tennessee hospitality.
They talk about their heritage with their “mawmaws and pawpaws” making moonshine illegally, and you can expect some pretty cool stories when you visit this spot for a sip of moonshine.
6) Scale the Treetops at Anakeesta
What’s not to love when it comes to amazing treetop views? Even those of you that are afraid of heights might brave them for this cool experience.
Whether you have kids that want to check out the neat play area or if you want to hit the zipline for a rush of adrenaline, Anakeesta has something for everyone.
The observation tower gives amazing views of the mountains and other activities around. Depending on the time you visit this location, you may get to see the sparkling lights of the cozy little tourist town.
If you’re up for a challenge, you should check out the Treeventure Challenge Course. You’ll have plenty of room to climb, swing, crawl, and slip and slide your way through the levels of this super neat treehouse.
Anakeesta also has a single-rail mountain coaster. It gets up to 25 miles per hour, so make sure you hang tight. They have solo rides, but they also have tandem rides if you want to ride with your small kids.
Anakeesta is the longest treetop sky bridge in North America.
7) Be Amazed at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
I’m sure you’ve seen some weird things in your life, but half of those were fake. When you visit Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in Gatlinburg, you’ll see some weird things — but it is all real.
The “incredible oddities” they boast are truly freaky.
There are over 500 wonders to see that show that truth is stranger than fiction. Whether you’re looking at double-headed cows or shrunken heads, this stuff is sure to haunt your dreams.
8) Fly Down the Mountain at Ripley’s Mountain Coaster
Ready to fly down the mountain? Ripley’s brings it again with their mountain coaster. It’s self-operated and gravity-propelled, so it can get going pretty good.
There are single or double carts, and the net around the coaster puts parents’ minds at ease.
These thrills are simple but memorable.
9) Have a Ball at Gatlinburg Pinball Museum
Talk about nostalgia. Walk into the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum, and you can cut the nostalgia with a knife. This awesome collection will have you running from exhibit to exhibit like you’re a kid again.
The fun part is that you can play with the exhibits, and some of your favorites might be there. They even have pinball machines that date back to the 1960s.
The Walking Dead, Medieval Madness, Attack From Mars, Lord of the Rings, and Metallica are just a few of the cool limited-edition pinball machines they have.
10) Escape Boredom at Breakout Games
If you’ve always dreamed of being locked in by an evil villain, then Breakout Games is where you need to be.
You can choose between Clue, Kidnapping, Bomb Squad, or Mystery Mansion so you can experience the escape room that best fits you. You can also decide how many hints you get and how hard you want it to be to escape the room which might put your mind at ease if you’re second-guessing your problem-solving abilities.
11) Go Rafting in the Smokies
No experience? No problem. You can hit the rapids in Gatlinburg without any prior experience. There are several rivers only minutes away from Gatlinburg, so you have options when you want to go white water rafting.
Not only is white water rafting exciting, but it’s also a beautiful experience. Seeing the mountains from the river instead of looking at the river from the mountains will give you a cool story to tell all your friends.
If you don’t want to get too wild, there are also raft tours that aren’t too wild.
Our Take on Gatlinburg
Heading to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, gives you options for everyone in the family. You could stick around for a week or even more and barely scratch the surface of things you can do there.
Whether you want to experience adventures like white water rafting or if you’re more interested in seeing the mountains, there are plenty of options. You’ll also notice that there is unrivaled hospitality from the welcoming people of this gorgeous tourist town. When you leave to go back home, Gatlinburg will have given you many great memories of the mountains and also the people that you met there. If you want a new place to come back to time and again, Gatlinburg, Tennessee should be at the top of your travel list.