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.