Gatlinburg, Tennessee may not be on your radar as a vacation destination, but it should be. Located just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg has history, charm, and abundant activities to entertain you. Whether you’re looking for indoor or outdoor adventures, consider these things to do in Gatlinburg on your next visit.
One of the best and newest additions to Gatlinburg is Anakeesta. Part shopping and dining destination, part outdoor adventure, Anakeesta is one of the things to do in Gatlinburg that everyone in the family will enjoy.
The newest experience to open at Anakeesta is Astra Lumina, a walk-through light and sound experience that transports you to another world entirely.
2. Hike a Trail in The Great Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the few free national parks in the United States. Every level of hiking is available, from beginner to advanced.
Pack a picnic and enjoy lunch by one of the many streams or waterfalls along some trails. Wildlife on the hike may range from salamanders to snakes to wild turkeys and maybe even a bear!
3. Visit Clingman’s Dome
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains. An observation tower at the summit gives visitors 360-degree views of the Smokies.
The road to the tower is closed seasonally, typically from early December through late March. It is much cooler at Clingman’s Dome, even in the summer, so pack a jacket or sweater for the walk to the tower.
4. Educate Yourself in The Sugarlands Visitor Center
Sugarlands Visitor Center is the first point of contact for guests entering the national park from Gatlinburg. The natural history exhibit and accompanying video are free to explore and watch. Park Rangers lead programs seasonally, and it’s a free place to park for short hikes on the nearby Gatlinburg Trail.
5. Raft Down The River
Whitewater rafting is an exhilarating experience. Three companies in Gatlinburg offer trips down the Pigeon River; SMO Rafting, Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Rafting in the Smokies.
Each rafting company offers choices ranging from gentle, scenic raft rides to thrilling nonstop action. Prices range from $40-$50 per person, depending on the type of experience you select.
6. Go to Ober Gatlinburg
Ober Gatlinburg is known as the town’s ski resort, but there is plenty to do year-round if skiing is not your thing. At Ober Gatlinburg, visitors can experience snow and summer tubing, mini golf, an Alpine coaster, ice bumper cars, ice skating, and more.
The indoor facilities offer guests places to shop, eat, and drink, and there is a shop full of gear for skiing or snowboarding.
7. Walk on The Bridge at Gatlinburg Skylift Park
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park has been part of the Gatlinburg area since 1954. It began as a lift structure but has expanded to include the Gatlinburg SkyBridge.
At the top of the lift is the SkyBridge. It is the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America. The park also contains a walking trail, an observation deck, retail space, and a dining spot called SkyCenter.
8. Explore The Village Shops
Step into the quaint shops of The Village, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a small Bavarian town complete with cobblestone streets and narrow walkways.
The shops contain modern items like artwork, board games, clothing, and home decor, but the atmosphere is what you’ll enjoy in the Village. Stop by the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen on your way out and watch them make taffy!
9. Take a Pink Jeep Tour Through The Great Smoky Mountains
If hiking or biking differs from how you want to explore nature, consider a Pink Jeep Tour. Pink Jeep Tours offers a tour of area Christmas lights during the holiday season. Other tour opportunities include the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and a tour through Newfound Gap.
10. Enjoy Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium
Gatlinburg is home to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, but Gatlinburg also hosts several other activities in Ripley’s family of properties, including mini-golf, a mirror maze, a mountain coaster, and an aquarium.
If you want to visit one of these attractions, consider combining admission with another to save a little cash.
11. Solve Breakout Games Gatlinburg
Escape games are wildly popular, and Gatlinburg’s Breakout Games offers experiences unique to its location. Players can choose from Clue, The Kidnapping, Bomb Squad, or Mystery Mansion.
Breakout Games is a must-do in Gatlinburg because its environment is not dependent on the weather to stay open.
12. Unique Sights at Ripley’s Aquarium of The Smokies
Another indoor activity involves a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Like its sister “odditorium,” you could spend all day in the aquarium and not see everything.
Make sure to check out the penguin exhibit near the exit of the aquarium. The penguins are playful and entertaining to watch.
13. Shop The Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community
Unique, handmade gifts are plentiful in Gatlinburg’s Arts and Crafts community. Everything from clay pottery to handmade brooms to leather goods and woodworking is available.
Even if you don’t buy anything, watching these masters at their craft is an incredible experience.
14. Ride a Horse at Smoky Mountain Riding Stables
Take a guided horseback ride through the Great Smoky Mountains with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables. Their website states that “no experience is necessary to ride” and that their rides are at a “walking pace due to the natural terrain” of the park.
For 45 minutes, riders will enjoy three miles of horseback riding through wooded trails and mountain streams. Ages five and up can ride for $26.50 per person plus tax.
15. Get a Hole-in-One at Hillbilly Golf
Mini golf is plentiful in Gatlinburg, but there is only one place you can play it on a mountainside. Hillbilly Golf is a staple of Gatlinburg; the unique incline ride to the top is part of the fun.
Visitors play “down” the mountain and often lose their golf balls while playing. Two courses are available: adults are $13.50 plus tax, while kids 4-12 are $9.50 plus tax. Add on the second course for just $5.99 if you can’t get enough!
16. Must-do Moonshine Tasting
Moonshine is legal in Tennessee, and there are a plethora of distilleries to sample. Sugarlands Distillery offers samples of their flavored moonshines and “sippin’ cream,” a sweet cream liquor similar to Irish cream.
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine has the distinction of being the first federally licensed moonshine distillery in Tennessee. All the parkway distilleries offer samplings and merchandise for visitors to purchase.
17. Gotta Eat Pancakes
There are so many pancake houses in Gatlinburg; which is the best? Pancake Pantry, located near The Village shops, is often packed because of its size. Davy Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is known for its pancakes and giant cinnamon rolls.
Just off the main road, Log Cabin Pancake House is an excellent choice for good food and a vintage log cabin experience. There is no wrong choice when it comes to pancakes in Gatlinburg.
18. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen has two locations. The one not connected to The Village shops is much less crowded, and visitors can watch confectioners pull taffy.
They are known for their hand-pulled taffy and homemade chocolates.
19. Go for a High Score at Gatlinburg Pinball Museum
Gatlinburg Pinball Museum is part museum, part pinball experience! Some games can be played, and some are for display only. Check out their website for hours and play information. Occasionally, they have free play or discounts on an all-day play!
20. Eat and Play at Fannie Farkle’s Family Fun Parlor
Vintage arcade games, street fair food, and prizes await visitors to Fannie Farkle’s Family Fun Parlor. This historic location has been operating in Gatlinburg for forty years. Visitors can play classic games like skeeball and PacMan or choose from new virtual reality and racing games.
21. Ride a Smoky Mountain Coaster
Outdoor mountain coasters are almost as plentiful in Gatlinburg as moonshine distilleries. Choose from tracks like the Moonshine Mountain Coaster, Ski Mountain Coaster, Ripley’s Mountain Coaster, or the Rail Runner at Anakeesta.
Each experience is slightly varied, but they take you downhill on a thrilling ride to the bottom!
22. Brave The Mysterious Mansion
A somewhat cheesy, nostalgic activity, the Mysterious Mansion has been part of Gatlinburg for over 42 years. It is designed and decorated in an early 1900s Victorian style, and the “spooks” are open for business year-round.
General admission is $22 per person, and children 7-12 are $16 per person. It is not recommended for children under 6 to visit this attraction.
23. See The Town From Gatlinburg Space Needle
Want a great view of the town? Make plans to visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle. The glass elevator and viewing platform allow unobstructed views of the town and the surrounding mountains.
Adults admission is $15.95 per person, children 4-11 are $9.95 per person, and military and seniors (age 60+) are $12.95 per person—kids under three visit free with a paid adult.
24. Swim and Splash at Wild Bear Falls Water Park
You do not have to stay at Westgate Resort to enjoy Wild Bear Falls Water Park. Not only is this water park indoors, but it is also heated. Though they close for a few weeks, from the end of January to the beginning of February, visitors can enjoy water park fun (almost) year-round.
25. Shop Your Heart Out at Mountain Mall
Mountain Mall has the best indoor shopping experience and six floors of unique shops. All shops are locally owned and offer a variety of items from apparel to jewelry to hot sauce and popcorn.
No matter what you choose to do in Gatlinburg, there is a range of activities to fit every need a budget. Try a few new things and plan a return visit to Gatlinburg to try the rest!
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Sarah Gilliland is a travel journalist and travel editor for Wealth of Geeks with over ten years of experience writing, editing, and producing content related to family travel. She freelances for several online outlets, including Yahoo, Insider, Conde Nast Traveler, and Attractions Magazine. Sarah's beats include theme parks, family travel, cruises, and road trips. When she isn't traveling or writing freelance columns, Sarah can be found on her website, On the Road with Sarah, or binging the latest geeky thing on Netflix or Disney+.