The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers visitors a slice of serenity with sweeping mountains views and babbling brooks. Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a famous town that serves at the gateway to the Smoky Mountains. It is an action-packed city full of adventure, wonder, and excitement.
It can be challenging to navigate the sea of tourist attractions from intriguing museums, delightful restaurants, and top-notch entertainment. Here are the top ten things to do in Gatlinburg, TN.
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Named the best Aquarium in the US, Ripley's Aquarium of Smokies is a must-see attraction. Beautiful exhibits allow guests to explore the wonders of the deep without getting wet. A highlight of any visit is traveling along a moving glide path that takes guests under the sea through underwater tunnels. Get face-to-face with sharks, sawfish, giant stingrays, and more.
Hands-on experiences give up-close encounters to sea life, such as jellyfish, stingrays, and horseshoe crabs. Swing by the penguin playhouse, hop aboard a glass-bottom boat or plan a time to go behind the scenes.
The Aquarium offers the Feeding Frenzy Eatery as a quick meal option. Live shows such as the Mermaid Dive, Penguin Feeding, and Stingray Bay Dive happen daily. Check the calendar for showtimes.
Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Also Read: 25 Best Aquariums in the US
Enjoying the Great Smoky National Park is the main reason so many visitors flock to Gatlinburg each year. The park offers a beautiful motor tour that will take guests on a scenic journey through a portion of the Smoky Mountains. Enjoy the mountains without leaving the comfort of your vehicle.
There are plenty of scenic views, pull-offs, and hiking trails scattered throughout this 5.5 one-way loop. The trailhead to Grotto Falls is along the path. Historic buildings can also be found along the trail that is accessible through a walking path.
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is one adventure that can last as long as you want. Take a quick drive or spend more time exploring the park. On average, it takes roughly two hours to experience the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. Take time to enjoy the mountain scenery by packing a picnic. Pull-over to take a quick hike to the mountain stream or simply enjoy those gorgeous panoramic pull-offs.
Tip: During winter months, the trail may close due to weather conditions.
Take to the skies by viewing the Smoky Mountains from an aerial tramway. Ober Gatlinburg has been an iconic attraction in Gatlinburg as the tram transports guests to an amusement park and ski area at the top of a mountain.
A massive ice-skating rink greets guests as they exit the aerial tram, followed by shops, restaurants, and other fun attractions. Outside, the adventures continue with a scenic chairlift, alpine slide, mini-golf, and rides, to name a few.
During the winter months, Ober Gatlinburg welcomes skiers to test their skills on their slopes. Snow tubing is a favorite as they offer an outdoor escalator known as a "Magic Carpet," which takes guests back up the hills. No climbing involved!
Address: 1001 Parkway Suite 2 Gatlinburg TN, 37738
Sample Gatlinburg's famous Smoky Mountain moonshine by visiting one of the many moonshine distilleries found in town. There is a nominal fee for moonshine tasting at most of the distilleries, which many will give back upon purchase.
Try the White Lightnin', a little apple pie moonshine or moonshine pickles! Sample them all! Three distilleries to add to your Gatlinburg Moonshine experience should be Ole Smoky Moonshine, Sugarlands, and Doc Collier Moonshine.
In addition to moonshine, Gatlinburg is home to a variety of local wineries and micro-breweries.
Address: 903 Parkway Suite 128, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is a beautiful way to experience the Smokies from your vehicle; however, it is a hike in the park that is a top experience while visiting Gatlinburg.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a wide variety of hiking trails for all levels of experience. With over 850 miles of hiking trails to explore, the most popular ones lead to scenic waterfalls. Popular trails include Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Ramsey Cascades, and Abrams Falls.
Experienced hikers can experience the breath-taking views from the variety of trails on Mount LeConte. Another popular hike is from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion, which will reward those who complete the 8-mile trek with breath-taking views.
Tip: Stop by the visitor’s center to grab a map of the park with all the trails. A few of the trails are handicap accessible.
Address: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, TN
Also Read: Best Travel Tips for Planning First Trip to Great Smoky Mountains
Anakeesta is one of the top ten things to do in Gatlinburg that you don't want to miss. Hop aboard the world's only fixed-grip Chondola to enter Anakeesta. Get whisked to the top of the mountain via a scenic ride in an open-air 4-person chair with a safety bar or select an enclosed gondola cabin with seating for 6.
Anakeesta is a playground for adults and children alike. Take a walk through the treetops across sky bridges as you take in the scenic views. Soar through the air on one of their many ziplines or try the first-ever single-rail mountain roller coaster.
The Vista Gardens are an iconic part of Anakeesta. Lush floral displays, beautiful sculptures paired with breath-taking views, is a photographer's dream. Grab a scoop of ice cream at Pearl's Pie in the Sky, dine at the Cliff Top Grill, or enjoy a cocktail at the Bar at the Top of the World.
Annakeesta is the ideal spot to spend a fun afternoon or to catch the sunset.
Address: 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
In the event, rain sneaks into the forecast plan a visit to this wacky indoor museum. It is easy to spend hours exploring the weirdest place in Gatlinburg with three stories of bizarre, interactive exhibits.
The museum is home to an eclectic collection of artifacts from around the world. Each one has its own unique story to tell.
The museum is full of engaging displays that are strange, shocking, and downright odd. Take in a portrait of Jimi Hendrix made from Rubix cubes, the National Anthem on license plates, or one of the many optical illusions.
A highlight of the museum is that all ages will find the exhibits fascinating, entertaining, and fun. Whether it is gazing upon authentic shrunken heads or stepping in a giant kaleidoscope, there is something for everyone.
Ripley's own a few attractions in the Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge area. If you are planning on visiting more than one of Ripley's attractions, purchasing a combo ticket is a better value. Discover more to do in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Tip: Arrive early for little to no crowds. During the peak season, this attraction can get busy with a wait to enter.
Address: 800 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Walk across the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America for an experience like none other. The bridge stretches 680 ft across a valley offering tremendous views with a hint of adventure.
Guests can walk across the bridge at their own pace, taking time to enjoy the panoramic views from a height of 140 ft above the valley. Glass-floor panels thrill guests as they make their way across the middle of the bridge.
A visit to the Skybridge isn't complete without taking the classic yellow SkyLift up to the SkyDeck that has been iconic to Gatlinburg for decades. The SkyCenter offers refreshments and a gift shop. Don't forget to grab a drink at the bar that offers spectacular views overlooking the city and mountains.
Address: 765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
A visit to Gatlinburg is incomplete without walking up and down the Parkway, aka the "strip." The Parkway is home to countless restaurants, attractions, shops, and shows within walking distance. One top spot of shopping along the strip is The Village.
The Village consists of a variety of fantastic restaurants, and cute boutiques tucked off the Parkway in a quaint village setting. This ole world themed Village is an ideal spot to relax by flowing fountains, shop in cozy houses then conclude your visit with a delicious homemade treat.
Tip: Arrive early to the Donut Friar to get first dibs on fresh donuts. They open at 5:00 am.
Address: 634 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
There is mini golf, then there is Hillbilly Golf. For a unique mini-golf experience that allows you to golf in the mountains head over to this one-of-a-kind course. Guests take a tram ride to the top of the mountain to the mini-golf course. There are two different eighteen-hole courses to choose from at the top of the hill. The course is played downward, so hang on to those golfballs!
Obstacles throughout the course include outhouses, tractors, moonshine stills, rocky walls, and other wacky deterrents. At the end of the eighteen-hole course, guests get to take the tram back to the parking lot.
Address: 340 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738