Stretching from southeastern Tennessee to western North Carolina, the Great Smoky Mountains is a mecca for outdoor lovers and also, for people looking for a good time with two resort towns providing hours of entertainment around the clock. In the fall and winter, visitors enjoy hiking, skiing, and sledding while the warmer months provide the perfect climate for enjoying an amusement park and cooling off at a waterpark. Choose a Smoky Mountains vacation rental in one of the two resort towns, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, or opt for some peace and quiet with a cabin in the woods. To keep busy, peruse this list of the top 10 things to do in the Smoky Mountains.
1. Learn More About the Environment With Cataloochee Eco-Tours
Located in Waynesville, Cataloochee Eco-Tours helps you look at the Great Smoky Mountains from a new perspective as they teach you more about the habitats, ecosystem, and animal life in the area. They offer several tours, including an evening elk tour to see these majestic animals in the wild instead of behind a fence. Other tours include seasonal ones with a wildflower tour in the spring months when everything is in bloom, and a tour of the fall foliage later in the year.
2. Learn About the Most Famous Shipwrecks at the Titanic Museum
In the town of Pigeon Forge, you can learn more about one of the most famous shipwrecks at the Titanic Museum. Tempting fate, the builders called her unsinkable, and the world gasped when she sank on her maiden voyage in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg. Explore this museum that holds actual artifacts brought up from the ocean floor, such as coins, personal items, and other knick-knacks. You’ll recognize it from the ship-shaped building.
3. Visit Hollywood Star Cars Museum
In Gatlinburg, you can gaze at some of the most famous cars from television and movies at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum. Check the schedule to see if they have any special events on the date of your visit. The collection includes the Bat Mobile from the 1966 television show along with General Lee from the Dukes of Hazard. If you’re looking for more modern references, they have cars from the Fast and Furious franchise.
4. Try Your Luck at Harrah’s Cherokee
When you’re traveling with adult children and older friends, take them to Harrah’s Cherokee for a night of games of chance. This full-service casino has all of your favorite games from roulette to slots. Check the schedule and see a show before or after playing at the tables. When hunger strikes, visit the Chefs Stage Buffet for everything from Italian delights to Mexican fare and everything in between.
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5. Horseback Riding at Walden’s Creek Stable
Explore the mountains and valleys in the Great Smokey Mountains with a horseback ride from Walden’s Creek Stable. Schedule your ride, and show up early enough for one of the friendly stable hands to match you with a horse based on your experience and skill level. Young kids can take a pony ride. If you feel uncomfortable on a ride, then arrange to take a lesson ahead of your ride.
6. Take a Whirl on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
Step into a glass pod, and watch as the ground drifts away from you on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel. Located in downtown Pigeon Forge at the Island, this giant wheel is a slow, gentle ride to almost 200 feet in the air to take in the stunning scenery of the Smokies and the town below. The climate-controlled cars make it a comfortable ride anytime of year. At night, the LED lights on the wheel light up the sky.
7. Visit the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Learn more about the life under the water for a trip to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. In the Shark Lagoon, find a tunnel with clear aquarium walls on all sides to get a great look at sharks up close and personal. Feel the skin of a stingray, and see some rare fish. Buy a Penguin Painting at the gift shop, painted by the aquarium’s penguins, to hang up back at your vacation rental.
8. See for Miles at the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Jutting out over the mountains in the Smoky Mountains National Park, Clingmans Dome offers views of the mountains for miles in almost every direction. The observation area stretches out over the forest. This is an amazing spot to watch either the sunrise or the sunset, or watch the fall foliage as it changes colors in the autumn.
9. Go Skiing at Ober Gatlinburg
Hit the slopes and feel the cold mountain air ruffling your hair as you zoom down the mountain at Ober Gatlinburg. With trails for all level skiers, this ski resort is welcoming to anyone who wants to hit the slopes. You can rent the equipment you need there, and take a lesson to hone your skills. Take the tram up the mountain, and try your hand at ice skating and eat at one of the restaurants.
10. Enjoy the Rides at Dollywood
Last but certainly not least is the Appalachian-themed amusement park, Dollywood. While away the day riding on the wooden roller coaster, taking a ride on the train around the park, and watching shows filled with music and dancing. You can have lunch at a sit-down restaurant or grab a hotdog-on-a-stick and go. In the shops throughout the park, find beautiful handmade crafts to take home as a souvenir.
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