Things to Do in Gatlinburg
Making Memories in Gatlinburg
Images and editorial supplied by the Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau
History of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Things stayed pretty quiet around Gatlinburg for a long time until the ultimate game changer arrived in the 1930s. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: big name, big park. Quite a few families were required to move from where they’d lived for so long and for so many generations in order for the park to be established. Many of the families were given years, even after the park’s opening day, to find new homes for their families outside park boundaries. This was all done in accordance with President Woodrow Wilson’s signing of an act creating the National Park Service. President Wilson’s vision was spot-on and has carried over into the modern-day Gatlinburg experience.
What was coming next would be big for Gatlinburg and the surrounding area! Now boasting over 10 million visitors a year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has transformed Gatlinburg from a sleepy little town of 70-plus years into the perennial mountain getaway choice of generations of families.
Gatlinburg Arts Community
Arts and crafts have long held a deep association with the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Nowhere else in the South will you find a richer heritage of fine craftsmanship than in Gatlinburg. Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, established in 1937, is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. Located on an eight-mile loop at the northeast edge of Gatlinburg, the community proudly preserves the craft heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains year-round.
Discover the Best of Gatlinburg
A leisurely stroll on the downtown Parkway opens up a world of opportunities when you’re in Gatlinburg. From the amazement of seeing 14-foot sharks swim over your head in an underwater tunnel at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies to gazing at all the incredible mysteries and amazing findings at Guinness World Records Museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. You can also try mountain bobsledding, barreling down the side of a mountain on one of Gatlinburg’s three mountain coasters, soaring through the sky on Ober Gatlinburg’s Aerial Tram or Anakeesta’s Chondola, miniature golfing and an evening of entertainment at Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre.
Outdoor Attractions in Gatlinburg
If you are still in need of more outdoor adventures, discover Cades Cove, a western valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 11-mile, one-way road passes by 19 numbered tour stops. Be sure to bring your camera in hopes of spotting wildlife, such as deer, bear, turkey, owl and fox. If you prefer, you can also experience the loop on horseback or bicycle!
Restaurants and Shopping in Gatlinburg
If you love to shop, Gatlinburg is your kind of place! With more than 400 specialty shops, boutiques and galleries, you can easily find a special collectible or unique piece in this mountain resort. And dozens upon dozens of dining choices, from national chains to family-owned, provide menus featuring pancakes to prime rib and everything in between.
Staying in Gatlinburg
Lodging landmarks like the stately Mountain View Hotel and granite-laden Greystone Lodge are just memories to the older visitor, replaced now with an almost endless array of lodging options. Luxuries like room service and big indoor or outdoor pools are a staple at a number of these facilities. The pampering of bed and breakfast lodging is also available in beautiful settings nearby, with some of the area’s friendliest folks as proprietors. Scattered across the mountainsides and on the fringe roads in the hollows are cabins, condos and chalets, known for their “home away from home” ambience and privacy.
Explore Downtown Gatlinburg
More than ever, downtown Gatlinburg offers visitors variety and entertainment as it continues to welcome new businesses and attractions. New outdoor adventure park Anakeesta offers guests 72-acres worth of fun, starting with a Chondola ride to magical Firefly Village, where dueling ziplines, tree canopy walks, scenic mountain views, dining options and shopping await visiting adventures. Margaritaville Resort will soon be bringing their Jimmy Buffet inspired brand of ocean vibes and carefree living to the mountains! Opening in the summer of 2018, Margaritaville will feature ample lodging for guests, alongside fabulous luxury services such as an indoor heated pool, St. Somewhere Spa, splash pad area for kids, shops and much more to enjoy. Nashville country music star Blake Shelton’s Ole Red Restaurant is also expected to be lining the Parkway in the spring of 2019.
Free Things to Do in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg also has many fun and free things to do! Find adventure along the way when you get out of the car and join in the great family tradition of the downtown Parkway stroll. You might just choose to play miniature golf, experience the world’s largest underwater aquarium tunnel, ride America’s largest aerial tram, take a chairlift to the top of the town, visit the unique museums or take a turn on live-action rides along the way.
Need to rest your feet? Jump in your car and explore a collection of historical sites on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, including the preservation of a homestead owned by the Noah “Bud” Ogle family who lived in Gatlinburg after the Civil War.