6 Smokin’ Things to Do in the Tennessee Smokies This Fall

Must-Do Activities in the Tennessee Smokies This Fall

By Kelsey Thomas

The beginning of fall is such an exciting time in the Tennessee Smokies. The beauty of the leaves changing and the perfect weather makes for a perfect photo-opportunistic, nature-driven vacation. Whether you’re looking for exciting festivals to attend or would rather lay low and enjoy a relaxing hike in one of the nation’s most gorgeous national parks, you’ll never run out of things to do in the magnificent Tennessee Smoky Mountains. Here are our top 6 picks of events and activities to experience from now until the end of fall.

View Wildlife at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of the best places to view wildlife in the Tennessee Smokies. Some animals you may be able to see include white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, turkeys, woodchucks and many other animals. They have two open areas, Cataloochee and Cades Cove, that are perfect for wildlife viewing.

great smoky mountains during fall season
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sept. 24 – Oct. 30, 2021: Dollywood’s Harvest Festival

Dollywood, a popular theme park joint owned by Dolly Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment, is located in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains metroplex in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Every fall, the park transforms into a magical experience filled with playful days and illuminated nights. The festival features various live performances, as well as artisans and craftsmen that can demonstrate and sell their crafts.

Sept 24. – Oct. 31, 2021: Ober’s 12th Annual OktOBERrfest

This annual October event, held at Ober Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg, celebrates the traditions of the original OktOBERfest in Munich, Germany. Featured will be daily shows, updated food menus and even an outdoor bier garden! Try different brews with a $20 beer card or enjoy a delicious salted pretzel while listening to live music.

keg at Oktoberfest
Ober’s OktOBERfest

Go Leaf Peeping in Gatlinburg

The Smoky Mountains are known for their breathtaking array of colors that are painted throughout the mountains during the fall season. Any time between late September to late October is the best time to see this colorful phenomenon. Refer to the Gatlinburg Fall Foliage Report to know exactly what type of fall colors to expect and when.

Oct. 10, 2021: 5th Annual Chalkfest at the Island of Pigeon Forge

Calling all artists, professional or aspiring! This themed chalk drawing competition is a fun way to tune into your artistic side in the Smokies. Artists may bring their own chalk or use the chalk provided at the event. Awards will be presented for multiple prize categories at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Stage.

girl drawing with chalk
Chalkfest at the Island of Pigeon Forge

Find the Photogenic Spots

You are going to want to take a picture of everything you see in the Smokies. From the various waterfalls, like Abrams Falls or Rainbow Falls, to lookout spots like Chimney Tops or Newfound Gap, you are destined to capture some stunning images. You could even make a trip itinerary of all the places you wish to photograph.

Sugarlands Distilling Best Craft Whiskey Distillery 2019

Image from Sugarlands Distilling Co.

Sugarlands Distilling Company ranked “Best Craft Whiskey Distillery” for 2019

The Tennessee Smokies region is known for many things – family friendly attractions, beautiful scenery and locally made spirits. The Smokies are home to several breweries, wineries and distilleries that produce award-winning alcoholic beverages. In 2019, Sugarlands Distilling Company took the fourth spot on the USA Today 10Best ranking of “Best Craft Whiskey Distillery” and second place on the list of “Best Craft Specialty Spirit Distillery.” These rankings, of all distilleries in the country, was decided by experts in distilled spirits.

About Sugarlands Distilling Company

Sugarlands Distilling Co. is known for its moonshines and award-winning whiskey, the Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye. Visit the distillery, located on the Gatlinburg Parkway. Take a tour of the distillery and get a behind-the-scenes look at Sugarlands’ process.

The distillery also offers tastings of Sugarlands’ award-winning spirts, as well as seasonal offerings. Try one of the specialty boozy Sippin’ Creams, in flavors such as Strawberry Dream, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Electric Orange, Dark Chocolate, Butter Pecan and more.

Click here to read more about the Tennessee Smokies’ local libations.

Gatlinburg Sky Deck

Adding to your viewing experience is the new Gatlinburg SkyDeck, set to open spring 2019.

Continue reading “Gatlinburg Sky Deck”

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.

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. Countless adventures await those that make the most of exploring the park’s sprawling landscape, cascading falls, and countless species and ecological communities at the most biodiverse park in America.

Gatlinburg Arts Community

Long before the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains inspired travelers to visit Gatlinburg, the stunning scenery inspired artists and crafters to create. Today, creativity abounds in Gatlinburg as the site of two major arts and crafts intuitions, Arrowmont School of Arts and Craft and Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Established in 1937, Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is the largest group of independent artisans in North America, forming an eight-mile loop of artisans dedicated to creating unique handicrafts for purchase and preserving the area’s renowned craft heritage. For more than a hundred years, the Arrowmont School of Arts and Craft has been a vehicle of education in Gatlinburg and stands today as a nationally-recognized arts intuition, whose galleries and seasonal workshops can be experienced by artists and visitors alike.

Things to Do in 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.

If you are looking for leisure and love to shop, Gatlinburg’s got you covered! With more than 400 specialty shops, you can easily find a special collectible or unique piece in this mountain resort. A great, one-stop retail destination to begin with is the Village Shops. Forged from European architectural items handcrafted across generations and continents, the Village easily transports you back in time as you shop its many stores, boutiques and galleries. In the summer of this year, Gatlinburg will celebrate the Village Shops’ 50-year legacy as one of the most unique retail destinations in the Southeast. And dozens upon dozens of dining choices, from national chains to family-owned, provide menus featuring pancakes to prime rib and everything in between.

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.

When you get tired of perusing on foot, jump in the 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. It’s all here and more when you plan a vacation to one of the most celebrated gateway towns in the Smokies. 

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!

Staying in Gatlinburg

From hotels to cabins and everything in between, Gatlinburg provides a home away from home with a variety of unique and private accommodations for visitors looking for that perfect place to retreat. From its earliest days, Gatlinburg’s resort legacy drew from the hospitality of small mom and pop hoteliers like the Greystone Lodge on the River, Gatlinburg Inn, and Appy Lodge, Gatlinburg’s newest family owned and operated hotel, which pays homage to the history of the Appalachian Trail and Gatlinburg’s mountain community. Ambiance and privacy can be found in a number of Gatlinburg’s coziest cabins, condos and chalets, or nearby at a pampering bed and breakfast, where the area’s friendliest folks are often the proprietors. Hotels such as the Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg provide the best in luxury and location when guests check-in and experience fabulous services at this Jimmy Buffet-inspired resort, just steps away from Gatlinburg’s lively downtown area.

Explore Downtown Gatlinburg

Explore a world of exciting activities and venues when you take part in the great family tradition of the downtown Parkway stroll. More than ever, Gatlinburg offers variety and entertainment on every corner, with new businesses and attractions providing something for every member of the family. Country music star Blake Shelton’s newly opened restaurant and venue, Ole Red Gatlinburg, hits all the right notes with unforgettable live performances and delicious Southern dishes inspired by the star himself. Opening in spring 2019, Gatlinburg Skylift Park will bring two new spectacular experiences to visitors with the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, and the Gatlinburg SkyDeck. New outdoor adventure park Anakeesta offers 72-acres worth of fun, starting with a Chondola ride to magical Firefly Village, where dueling zip lines, tree canopy walks, scenic mountain views, a full-service restaurant and one-of-a-kind mountain coaster await visiting guests.

Click here to learn more about hotels in downtown Gatlinburg.