Enjoy a mountain escape in Gatlinburg, a small city in Tennessee located near the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This vibrant community buzzes with activity all day and night, so you can look forward to great attractions like thrill rides, outdoor adventures, and traditional distillery tours. When you stay at one of many Gatlinburg vacation rentals, you can enjoy easy access to these noteworthy points of interest. Check out Gatlinburg’s top activities, which are fun for adults and kids of all ages.
1. Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Marvel at fog-shrouded peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of Gatlinburg’s most popular attractions. Companies such as Smoky Mountain Guides provided guided day hikes; your guide takes care of transportation and route planning, so you can just relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Walk behind a waterfall at Grotto Falls, experience rugged falls and ravines on the Appalachian Trail, or peek into early setters’ homes on The Mountaineers Way.
2. Ride the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster
Soar through the trees on the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. Hop in a single or double car to coast down the mountain. Your car comes with brake handles, so you have full control over speed. Don’t worry about heights; this alpine coaster rides tracks that sit close to the ground.
3. Watch Sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium
Spend a rainy afternoon at Ripley’s Aquarium. Try to spot weedy scorpionfish, masters of camouflage, among the coral in the Ocean Realm, or pet stingrays in Touch a Ray Bay. The highlight of the aquarium is the clear shark tunnel, where you can come face-to-face with enormous sand tiger sharks and stunning green sea turtles.
4. Go Whitewater Rafting on The Big Pigeon River
Get up close and personal with The Big Pigeon River with a whitewater rafting tour. Get your bearings with the Class III Powerhouse rapid, and feel your heartbeat increase as you rush through Roller Coaster and Lost Guide. Multiple outfitters, including Smoky Mountain Rafting and Rafting in the Smokies, provide itineraries for all levels, from extreme rafting to gentle float trips.
5. Hit the Slopes at Ober Gatlinburg
Hit the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg, a ski and snowboard hill that features an aerial tram for easy uphill rides. Take jumps or work on your tricks in the Ober Gatlinburg Freestyle Terrain park, or give your legs a break at the snow-tubing hill. For kids, the Cubbies Snow Zone provides a safe way to enjoy the snow.
6. Check Out the Hollywood Star Cars Museum
For lovers of movies, television, or vintage autos, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a must-see. The star of the show is the Batmobile from the 1966 “Batman” TV show. Other standouts include actor Paul Walker’s 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse from “The Fast and the Furious,” the S.H.I.E.L.D. Hummer 3T from “The Avengers,” and Herbie, the 1967 Volkswagen Beetle of “The Love Bug” fame.
7. Enjoy the Views at the Gatlinburg Space Needle
Ride a glass elevator 400 feet up one of the city’s most visible attractions at the Gatlinburg Space Needle. From the top of the observation tower, use the free SeeCoast view finders to check out downtown and the foothills; try to pick out Mount LeConte, the highest local peak. On the way down, grab dinner from Slice Pizza Bakery.
8. Take an Aerial Tour
Glide above the trees on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift, an open-air chairlift on Crockett Mountain. From your seat, take in views of the lush forests and the rugged Smoky Mountains, or look back to see Gatlinburg far below. The Sky Lift is particularly spectacular in the fall, when the mountainsides blaze with fire-colored leaves.
9. Navigate the Mirror Maze
Try to get your bearings in the Ripley’s Mirror Maze, an enormous reflective maze. Every wall of this labyrinth is lined with tall mirrors, and colorful lines of LEDs create a fun, disorienting effect. There’s only one way out, but don’t worry; the maze sends out search parties to rescue lost wanderers. The maze is great for both kids and adults.
10. Ride the Trolley
Get a feeling for Gatlinburg with a ride on the city’s trolley system. Don’t worry about parking; these vintage cars travel to all of the major local sites, so you can leave your car at your vacation rental. Stay close to home and visit the Historic Nature Trail or the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, or take the long-haul Pink Route to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge.
11. Tour a Moonshine Distillery
Get into the Tennessee spirit at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery. Walk through the facility, see authentic moonshine stills, and learn about the distilling process from friendly staff. Finish your visit with a tasting session; be sure to try local specialties including Apple Pie, White Lightnin’, and Moonshine Cherries.
12. Stop by the Gatlinburg Farmers Market
Taste locally grown goods at the Gatlinburg Farmers Market. Stock up on homemade jam made with pesticide-free fruits from The Three Hoe Farm booth, or sample artisan bread from Bake My Day. The market also features live music, kids’ activities, and a fun local-food scavenger hunt.
13. Take a Ghost Walk
Learn about Gatlinburg’s spooky underworld with Appalachian Ghost Walks. The tour takes you to the city’s haunted properties, while guides regale you with terrifying tales. Alternatively, venture into the Smoky Mountains after dark to search for Bigfoot, explore underground caverns, and delve into the unexplained mysteries of the misty mountains.
14. Ride a Zipline
Race your travel buddy down the mountain on the dueling ziplines at Anakeesta. Side by side, you can fly through the trees more than 200 feet above the ground. Along the way, take a heart-pounding rappel and take in the view from the tall platforms. If you’re in the mood for more adventure, head over to Anakeesta’s tree canopy walk, which features a series of sky bridges.
15. Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community
Score a one-of-a-kind handmade souvenir in the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community. An 8-mile loop road takes you past silversmiths, leather artisans, stained glass artists, and more, so you can shop to your heart’s content. Enjoy the scents at the Misty Mountain Soap Co., and recharge with a pastry at the Morning Mist Cafe.
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