Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee: 12 Must-See Places

by Flora
Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
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Are you planning on visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee this year? Here are some of the most fun and interesting places and unique things to do in Gatlinburg. These sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for an unforgettable mountain town vacation experience.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a haven for tourists seeking both adventure and relaxation nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. This charming mountain town is a hub of unique attractions, from its bustling downtown area to the tranquil beauty of the surrounding nature. If you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or a solo adventure, Gatlinburg offers a diverse range of activities that cater to all tastes and interests.

Known for its stunning landscapes, Gatlinburg is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. With the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at its doorstep, visitors can indulge in a plethora of outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. But the allure of Gatlinburg extends beyond its natural beauty. The town boasts a lively arts and crafts community, diverse museums, and unique Gatlinburg attractions, making it a must-visit in Tennessee.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. From popular tourist spots to hidden gems, we’ve got you covered. If you’re wondering where to start your Gatlinburg adventure, read on to discover the top attractions that Gatlinburg has to offer.

Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
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Best Places to Visit in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Can’t wait to get into all the coolest things to do in Gatlinburg? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this underrated vacation spot. Keep reading to discover all these unique places to visit.

Are you looking for some exhilarating adventure? Or would you prefer a tranquil getaway in nature? Whatever you’re planning, these must sees in Gatlinburg can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Gatlinburg that you should know about.

1. Gatlinburg Trolley

Looking for the best things to do in Gatlinburg? Don’t miss this one! Embark on a journey through the heart of Gatlinburg aboard the city’s beloved Gatlinburg Trolley. This isn’t just a mode of transportation; it’s a ticket to a scenic exploration of this vibrant mountain town. The trolley, with its old-fashioned charm, offers multiple color-coded routes that cater to different interests, making it one of the top things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Red Route is a whirlwind tour of Gatlinburg’s lively downtown area. As the trolley trundles down the River Road, you’ll be treated to a kaleidoscope of sights, from bustling shops and restaurants to picturesque streets lined with quaint buildings. It’s a slice of Gatlinburg’s vibrant city life served on a moving platter.

Aboard the city's beloved Gatlinburg Trolley
Aboard the city’s beloved Gatlinburg Trolley

The Yellow Route, on the other hand, is a tribute to the city’s rich artistic heritage. This route takes you through the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community, a thriving hub of creativity where local artisans showcase their talents. From handcrafted jewelry and pottery to unique paintings and sculptures, it’s a treasure trove of local art and culture.

For nature lovers, the Tan Route is a must. This route winds through various parks and campgrounds, leading you to the doorstep of the famous Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the trolley meanders through the lush greenery, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the mountains, making it a memorable journey into Gatlinburg’s natural beauty.

The Gatlinburg Trolley isn’t just a ride but it’s also an experience that encapsulates the essence of Gatlinburg. Making it a must-do activity when you’re in town.

2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park

As far as things to do in Gatlinburg go, this activity is among the coolest! Just a stone’s throw away from Gatlinburg lies the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. As America’s most visited national park, it’s a testament to the timeless allure of nature’s beauty.

The park is a sprawling expanse of unspoiled wilderness, with majestic mountains, lush forests, and crystal-clear streams painting a picture of tranquil beauty. It’s a haven for a wide variety of flora and fauna, making it a hotspot for wildlife viewing. From black bears and white-tailed deer to over 200 species of birds, the park is teeming with life.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts

Adventure seekers can indulge in a plethora of activities. Hike along the park’s 800 miles of trails, each offering a unique perspective of the park’s diverse landscapes. The park offers excellent opportunities for fishing, camping, and horseback riding. And with the park being open all year round, each season brings with it a unique charm.

The allure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park extends beyond its natural beauty. It’s also steeped in history and with preserved structures. Like log cabins, barns, and churches. Offering a glimpse into the life of the early settlers.

A visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park isn’t just about enjoying nature’s beauty. It’s about immersing yourself in an experience that’s both enriching and invigorating. It’s no wonder that it’s one of the best places to visit in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

3. Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre

It would be a crime to write an article on the top things to go in Gatlinburg without mentioning Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre. Make your way to the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre for a dose of laughter and entertainment. As the only live comedy theatre in Gatlinburg, it holds a special place in the city’s cultural scene. Its vaudeville-style performances, which delightfully blend comedy, music, and dance, have made the theatre renowned.

The moment you step into the theatre, you’re transported to a bygone era. The vintage decor, the intimate seating, and the warm, welcoming atmosphere set the stage for an unforgettable experience. The performances are a riot of laughter, with talented actors delivering witty dialogues, performing hilarious skits, and breaking into spontaneous songs and dances.

 Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre for a dose of laughter and entertainment
Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre for a dose of laughter and entertainment

What sets Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre apart is its audience participation segments. As an audience member, you’re not just a spectator; you’re part of the show. If it’s joining the actors on stage for a skit or participating in a sing-along, these interactive elements add a unique twist to the theatre experience.

A visit to the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre is a celebration of the joy of live performance, a testament to the power of laughter, and a cherished memory in the making. Is this one of the coolest things to do in Gatlinburg? You bet!

4. Ghost Walk of Gatlinburg

For a unique experience like no other, you’ll want to check out this top attraction to visit in Gatlinburg. If you’re a fan of the supernatural, the Ghost Walk of Gatlinburg is an experience you won’t want to miss. This guided tour takes you on a chilling journey through the city’s most haunted locations, offering a unique blend of history, folklore, and spine-tingling tales.

The tour is led by knowledgeable guides who are well-versed in Gatlinburg’s ghostly past. As you walk through the city’s dimly lit streets, they’ll regale you with tales of the city’s long-standing settlements, the mysterious disappearances, and the eerie occurrences that have given rise to numerous ghost stories.

The Ghost Walk of Gatlinburg is an experience you won't want to miss
The Ghost Walk of Gatlinburg is an experience you won’t want to miss

One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to a 19th-century cemetery. Known for its eerie nighttime noises, it’s a place that’s sure to send a chill down your spine. It’s not just about the scares. The tour offers fascinating insights into the city’s history. Making it a captivating experience for history buffs as well.

As one of the top Gatlinburg attractions, you’ll definitely want to add this to your travel itinerary.

5. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

A trip to Gatlinburg would be incomplete without a visit to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen. The iconic candy store has been delighting visitors with its mouth watering treats since 1950. Making it a cherished part of Gatlinburg’s culinary scene.

When step into the store, you’re greeted by the sweet aroma of candies being made. From creamy fudge and chewy taffy to hand-dipped chocolates and caramel apples, the array of treats on offer is truly impressive. What makes the experience even more special is that you can watch the candies being made right before your eyes. The sight of candy makers pulling taffy or dipping apples in caramel is a spectacle in itself, adding a touch of magic to the candy shopping experience.

The iconic candy store - Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
The iconic candy store – Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

The Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen isn’t just about candies. It’s also known for its specialty desserts, including the famous “moonshine taffy.” Made with real Tennessee moonshine, it’s a unique treat that’s sure to delight your taste buds.

For those seeking a memorable shopping trip and a journey to the sweet side of Gatlinburg, the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is one of the best places you should know about.

6. Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster

For a thrilling adventure, head to the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. This alpine coaster is a unique attraction that offers an exhilarating ride through the scenic beauty of the Smoky Mountains. It’s a perfect blend of adventure and nature, making it one of the best things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The coaster ride begins with a leisurely ascent up the mountain. As you climb higher, you’re treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. And the real thrill begins once you reach the top. With the pull of gravity, the coaster descends down the mountain, twisting and turning through the forest at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.

Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster offers an exhilarating ride through the scenic beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

What sets the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster apart is that you’re in control of your ride. Each coaster cart is equipped with hand-held brakes, allowing you to control your speed as you navigate the mountain’s curves and corners. If you want a leisurely ride to enjoy the scenery or a high-speed thrill, the choice is yours.

The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is more than just a ride. It’s an experience that combines the thrill of a roller coaster with the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains. It’s no wonder that it’s considered one of the top attractions in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. And after a long day of theme park fun, be sure to spend the night at a cozy Gatlinburg cabin with views of these mountains.

7. Mountain Mall

A visit to Gatlinburg would be incomplete without a trip to the Mountain Mall. Shopping in Gatlinburg is an experience in itself, and the Mountain Mall is a testament to that. With its unique wooden architecture and country-style shops, it offers a shopping experience that’s quintessentially Gatlinburg.

The mall houses over 35 stores, each offering a unique selection of goods. From handmade leather goods and locally made crafts to specialty foods and custom-blended tobacco, the variety is truly impressive. It’s a treasure trove for shoppers looking for unique souvenirs and gifts.

The Mountain Mall is one of the top places to visit in Gatlinburg.
The Mountain Mall is one of the top places to visit in Gatlinburg.

What sets the Mountain Mall apart is its atmosphere. The mall’s rustic decor, complete with wooden walkways and a charming creek running through it, creates a warm and welcoming ambiance. It’s a place where you can take a leisurely stroll, explore the shops, and soak in the local culture.

With so much charm and hospitality, the Mountain Mall is one of the top places to visit in Gatlinburg.

8. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium

As far as things to do in Gatlinburg go, this activity is among the coolest! Step into the world of the weird and wonderful at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. This unique attraction is a celebration of the bizarre and extraordinary, making it one of the most interesting places to visit in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Odditorium houses an extensive collection of oddities from around the world. From shrunken heads and vampire killing kits to a two-trunked elephant and a spinning vortex tunnel, the exhibits are as fascinating as they are strange. Each exhibit tells a story, offering a glimpse into the strange and unusual aspects of our world.

Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Step into the world of the weird and wonderful at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium.

The Odditorium is more than just a museum of oddities. It’s also an interactive experience with hands-on exhibits and interactive displays, visitors are encouraged to touch, play, and engage with the exhibits, making the experience both fun and educational.

It’s easy to see why this is one of the best places to visit in Gatlinburg!

9. Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa

For a touch of luxury in the heart of the mountains, look no further than the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa. This upscale resort offers a tranquil retreat amidst the natural beauty of Gatlinburg.

The resort offers a range of accommodations, from cozy studios to spacious villas, all designed with comfort and convenience in mind. Each unit features a rustic mountain-themed decor, creating a warm and welcoming ambiance that complements the surrounding landscapes.

Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort and Spa offers a tranquil retreat amidst the natural beauty of Gatlinburg

It’s the resort’s amenities that truly set it apart. Indulge in a relaxing treatment at the full-service spa, take a dip in the indoor water park, or challenge your companions to a game at the mini-golf course. The resort offers a variety of dining options, from casual fare to fine dining. Ensuring a delightful culinary experience.

With its luxurious accommodations, top-notch amenities, and stunning location, this spa is a perfect choice for those seeking a memorable stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

10. Wild Plum Tea Room

Looking for what to do in Gatlinburg? Look no further than Wild Plum Tea Room. Tucked away in the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is the Wild Plum Tea Room, a charming eatery that offers a unique dining experience. Inspired by the Austrian tea houses, this quaint tea room is a hidden gem in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The tea room is set in a cozy log cabin, surrounded by lush gardens. The moment you step in, you’re welcomed by a warm, inviting atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. The rustic decor adds to the overall charm of the place.

Wild Plum Tea Room, a charming eatery that offers a unique dining experience
Wild Plum Tea Room, a charming eatery that offers a unique dining experience

The menu at the Wild Plum Tea Room is a delightful blend of traditional and innovative dishes. From fresh salads and homemade soups to gourmet sandwiches and delectable desserts, each dish is prepared with fresh, local ingredients. A visit to the tea room would be incomplete without trying their selection of teas.

What truly sets the Wild Plum Tea Room apart is its commitment to providing a personal touch. The friendly staff goes out of their way to ensure a pleasant dining experience, making you feel like a part of their family. It’s a place to relax, unwind, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. As such, this Gatlinburg attraction is one of the most popular sights in the state.

11. Hollywood Star Cars Museum

History lovers will love this top thing to do in Gatlinburg. Step into the world of cinematic magic at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, a must-visit for film buffs and car enthusiasts alike. This unique museum is a treasure trove of over 40 iconic vehicles that have graced the silver screen and the small screen. From the sleek Batmobiles of the Batman TV Show and Batman Returns to the quirky Ghostbusters Ecto-1, and even the time-traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future, each car has a story to tell.

Hollywood Star Cars Museum, a must-visit for film buffs and car enthusiasts alike
Hollywood Star Cars Museum, a must-visit for film buffs and car enthusiasts alike

Many of these vehicles were crafted by the legendary George Barris, known as the ‘King of Kustomizers’. His creations have become as famous as the stars who drove them, making this museum a true homage to Hollywood’s automotive artistry. Wandering through the museum, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped onto the set of your favorite films. Each car is displayed in recreated movie settings, adding to the immersive experience.

If you’re a movie fanatic, a car lover, or simply a fan of pop culture, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum offers a fascinating journey through Hollywood’s automotive history. It’s a trip down memory lane, where every car revs up a sense of nostalgia and cinematic wonder.

12. Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

For an unforgettable panoramic view of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, make your way to the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. This attraction offers three unique ways to take in the breathtaking scenery.

First, the SkyLift, a gentle ride that takes you to the top of Crockett Mountain. At its peak, you’ll be dangling at a height of 1,800 feet, offering an unparalleled view of the surrounding landscape.

Gatlinburg SkyLift Park,  at a height of 1,800 feet, offering an unparalleled view
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, at a height of 1,800 feet, offering an unparalleled view

Next, the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. As you walk across, you’ll be treated to a bird’s eye view of the lush forests and rolling mountains below.

The SkyDeck is a perfect spot to relax and take in the view from the safety of solid ground. Grab a snack, shop for souvenirs, or just sit back and enjoy the view.

The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is a must-visit for those seeking a unique perspective of Gatlinburg’s natural beauty. If you’re an adrenaline junkie or prefer a more relaxed experience, this attraction has something for everyone. It’s truly a must-do while visiting Tennessee.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, TN

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Gatlinburg:

Is it better to be in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?

Curious about whether it’s better to stay in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg? Choosing between these neighboring towns in Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will depend on your personal preferences. Both towns have unique offerings and atmospheres.

Pigeon Forge:

  1. Entertainment: Pigeon Forge is known for its myriad entertainment options. There are numerous theaters featuring everything from country music shows to magic acts.
  2. Attractions: The town boasts a variety of family-friendly attractions like Dollywood, WonderWorks, the Titanic Museum, and go-kart tracks.
  3. Shopping: Pigeon Forge has larger shopping outlets and complexes, making it a shopper’s delight.
  4. Ease of Access: It is slightly more accessible than Gatlinburg, with broader roads that can handle heavy traffic a bit better.

Gatlinburg:

  1. Mountain Town Feel: Nestled at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg has a more rustic, mountain-town vibe. Its downtown area is walkable with shops, eateries, and attractions close together.
  2. Natural Beauty: Being closer to the national park, it offers more immediate access to nature, hiking, and mountain views.
  3. Unique Attractions: Gatlinburg has its own set of attractions like the Gatlinburg Space Needle, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium, and the SkyLift Park.
  4. Arts and Crafts: The town is known for the historic 8-mile Arts and Crafts Loop, showcasing the work of local artisans.

Which is better for you: Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge?

  • If you’re traveling with family and are looking for a variety of entertainment options, Pigeon Forge might be more suitable.
  • If you prefer a mountain-town feel with immediate proximity to nature and a cozy downtown atmosphere, then Gatlinburg is a better choice.

Ultimately, due to their proximity (they’re only about 15 minutes apart), you can easily visit both regardless of where you choose to stay. Many visitors find it rewarding to split their time between the two or to stay in one town and make frequent trips to the other.

What’s Gatlinburg known for?

Gatlinburg is known for its rustic mountain-town ambiance and its position as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s also famous for its variety of unique attractions like the Gatlinburg Space Needle and SkyLift Park, and its historic Arts and Crafts Loop, which showcases local artisans. The town also boasts a walkable downtown filled with shops, eateries, and entertainment venues.

Where Is the Closest Airport To Gatlinburg?

The closest airport to Gatlinburg is the McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) in Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s approximately a one-hour drive from the airport to Gatlinburg.

Best Places to Visit in Gatlinburg, Tennessee aren't hard to come by
Best Places to Visit in Gatlinburg, Tennessee aren’t hard to come by

Gatlinburg, a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, captivates visitors with its mountain-town ambiance, unique attractions like the Space Needle, and a rich arts scene featuring local artisans. Its walkable downtown brims with vibrant shops and eateries.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Into Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg?

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few national parks in the United States that does not charge an entrance fee. You can enjoy the park’s natural beauty free of charge.

What are the best months to visit Gatlinburg?

The best months to visit Gatlinburg are October for vibrant fall foliage, June to August for warm summer activities, and December for winter festivities and holiday lights. Each season offers unique attractions, with spring and fall generally being the most temperate and scenic.

What Do I Do If I See A Bear in Gatlinburg?

If you encounter a bear, it’s important to remember not to approach it. Maintain a safe distance, do not feed it, and notify park rangers if the bear is in a developed area or is behaving aggressively.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a destination that offers something for everyone. From the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains to the unique attractions in the city, there’s no shortage of things to do and see. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, a foodie, or a shopaholic, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained. So pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure, and get ready to explore all that Gatlinburg has to offer. You’re sure to leave with a suitcase full of memories and a desire to return.

the top things to do in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee for all types of travelers
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