Nestled in the foothills and surrounded on three sides by the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park- the most visited national park in the United States - is the small yet idyllic town of Gatlinburg, TN. It’s known as the mountain gateway to the Great Smokies and is often seen as one of America’s greatest mountain resort destinations. The tiny tourist hub of about 4,000 residents attracts more than 11 million visitors each year (it can grow up to a population of more than 40,000 on any given night!) and is wholly dedicated to welcoming all sorts of guests with a taste of Appalachian hospitality at its best.
From accommodations of every kind imaginable to dozens of local-to-national restaurants, as well as an eclectic array of attractions, families come from all around the globe for seasonal vacations, outdoor adventures, memory making, and just pure simple fun. Gatlinburg prides itself on its walkability amidst mountain heritage and its outstanding selection of of arts, crafts, and shops dutifully reflects that tradition. There’s tons to see and even more to do, especially with the young ones, who will no doubt be pleased with everything from breathtaking views, hiking trails, and mini-golf under the trees, to lavish ski resorts, water amusement parks, and awe-inspiring aquariums and museums all within close trekking distance. The possibilites are endless. Here are just ten of the many activities, attractions, and fantastic adventures available for the entire family to enjoy in Gatlinburg.
What to do With Kids in Gatlinburg: The 10 Top Activities and Attractions to Enjoy with Children
1. Guinness World Records Museum
From the largest works of art to the lowest limbo, record-breaking facts and feats come to life through incredible displays, cool interactive games, trivia, themed galleries, and hundreds of jaw-dropping exhibitions. Revel in world records from topics ranging about sports, space, and animals to food and human achievement. Featured memorabilia of famous record holders including Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jordan, and Michael Jackson are on display as well. There’s certainly something fun for every curious person in the group!
The Guinness World Records Museum is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 631 Parkway and is open all year round: Jan-Feb 11am-8pm, March-Memorial Day 10am-9pm, Memorial Day-Labor Day 10am-11pm, Labor Day-New Year’s Day 10am-9pm. Admission is $12.99 for Adults and $7.99 for Children.
2. Ripley’s Aquarium Of The Smokies
Named one of the Top 5 Aquariums in the USA and the world, the space boasts a spectacular underwater tunnel chock full of 12-foot sharks, giant sea turtles, and thousands of other various exotic sea creatures. Playful penguins will delight the little ones over at Ripley’s Penguin Playhouse, as well as various other diving, feeding, and ocean-related shows. Special exhibits covering subjects such as the Titanic, pirates and more recently, the planet Mars, further provide an educational yet fun family experience.
The Ripley’s Aquarium Of The Smokies is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 88 River Road and is open all year round: Jan-Feb Mon-Thurs: 9am-8pm, Weekends: 9am-10pm, March-Memorial Day Mon-Thurs: 9am-9pm, Weekends: 9am-10pm, Memorial Day-Labor Day Mon-Thurs: 9am-10pm, Weekends: 9am-11pm, Labor Day-New Year’s Day Mon-Thurs: 9am-9pm, Weekends: 9am-10pm. Admission is $26.99 for Adults and $15.99 for Children.
3. Gatlinburg Sky Lift
Fly up Crockett Mountain on the best seat available in Gatlinburg. A vintage attraction offering majestic views of lush forests and majestic mountains, the lift, which initially opened in the 1950s, is one of the oldest continuously operated attractions in the Smokies. It’s located directly across the street from Ripley’s Believe It or Not in downtown and easily provides visitors with Gatlinburg’s number one scenic overlook.
The Gatlinburg Sky Lift is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 765 Parkway and is open all year round: April-May 9am-9pm, June-August 9am-11pm, Sept-Oct 9am-10pm, Nov-March hours are as posted. Admission is $15.50 for Adults and $12.00 for Children.
4. Dollywood & Dollywood’s Splash Country
Owned by none other than Dolly Parton herself, the theme park and adjacent water park hosts over 3 million guests in a typical season and is the biggest “ticketed” tourist attraction in Tennessee. In addition to typical theme park thrill rides, it offers traditional crafts and hosts a number of annual concerts and live musical events. It’s also the home of the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.
Dollywood & Dollywood’s Splash Country are located in Pigeon Forge, TN at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd. and is open all year round. Dates and specific hours vary depending on season and are subject to change without notice. Visit the website for additional details. Admission is $62 for Adults, $49 for Children, and $57 for Seniors.
5. Gatlinburg Space Needle
Standing at 407’ above the city’s streets, Gatlinburg’s unique outdoor observation deck offers a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Great Smoky Mountains as well as the entire tourist town. Ride the glass elevators all the way to the top and enjoy a truly panoramic experience. Make sure to bring along a camera because there will be tons of opportunities to capture some spectacular family shots.
The Gatlinburg Space Needle is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 115 Historic Nature Trail and is open all year round: Mon-Thurs 9am-12am, Fri-Sat 9am-1am, Sundays 9am-12am. Admission is $9.50 for Adults, $5 for Children, and $6 for Seniors.
6. The Salt And Pepper Shaker Museum
Boasting over 20,000 pairs of shakers dating from the 1500's to modern day, the quirky museum celebrates America’s favorite collectible and reveals the surprisingly telling history behind some of our most basic kitchen spices. It’s fun for the whole family!
The Salt And Pepper Shaker Museum is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 461 Brookside Village Way and is open everyday all year round from 10am-4pm. Admission is $3.00 for Adults and Free for Children under the age of 12.
7. Hollywood Stars Cars Museum
Relive a bit of old Hollywood history at the home of over 40 of some of the most iconic automobiles of Film & Television within the last 50 years. Exhibits range from such blockbuster hit movies such as The Avengers, Batman Returns, Gone in 60 Seconds, and The Fast and the Furious series to some of TV’s most memorable shows including NCIS, The Beverly Hillbillies, Andy Griffith, and The Munsters. It’s also the resting site of some of the world’s most famous cars: George Barris’ Batmobile, the Camaro From Charlie’s Angels, and Herbie The Love Bug
The Hollywood Stars Cars Museum is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 914 Parkway and is open everyday all year round from 9am-10pm. Admission is $12.99 for Adults and $6.99 for Children.
8. Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf
Celebrate Tennessee hero David “Davy’ Crockett along with the wild frontier all with The Great Smoky Mountains as your backdrop. The fun pint-sized arena replicates the “old days” when Crockett roamed “them thar hills.” Kids will be amazed at the various large animated animals and rustic wooden buildings that accent two themed and terrifically landscaped 18-hole mini-golf courses.
The Ripleys Davy Crockett Mini-Golf is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 188 Parkway and is open all year round: Jan-Feb 10am-6pm, March-Memorial Day 10am-9pm, Memorial Day-Labor Day 10am-11pm, Labor Day-New Year’s Day 10am-8pm. Admission is $14.99 for Adults and $9.99 for Children.
9. Sugarlands Riding Stables
With blue sky above you and a good horse beneath you, see wildlife creatures on scenic wilderness trails and climb alongside streams inside the National Park all while listening to the creaking of saddle leather and breathing in the smell of fresh mountain air.
Sugarlands Riding Stables is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 1409 E. Parkway. Dates and specific hours vary depending on season but typically run from 10am-4pm in Spring & Fall and 10am-6pm during the Summer. Call ahead for further details. Rates for an hour ride are $30 per person and include 4 miles of wooded trails and mountain streams.
10. Gatlinburg Ziplines
An aerial adventures course set in the beautiful woods of the Smoky Mountains, this challenging but awesome family activity features 100 exciting obstacles including suspending bridges, bonus zip lines, cargo nets, ladders, Tarzan jumps, and many other thrilling elements. It’s indeed a truly extreme vacation both kids and parents are sure to love.
Gatlinburg Ziplines is located in Gatlinburg, TN at 125 Historic Nature Trail. Hours vary depending on season but typically run from 8am-8pm. Call ahead for further details. Zipline rates are $45 per person or $69 per person for Zipline/Tree Trek Combo Packs.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.