Planning Your Gatlinburg Trip: 12 Must-Do Fun Activities

Gatlinburg, a charming mountain town near the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, offers rich natural beauty and fun-filled activities. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a family looking for an adventurous getaway, or a couple seeking a romantic retreat, Gatlinburg has something for everyone. This guide highlights must-do activities that capture the essence of Gatlinburg, ensuring your trip is packed with unforgettable experiences.

1. Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a crown jewel of natural beauty, is an essential visit in Gatlinburg. With its sprawling landscapes, diverse wildlife, and over 800 miles of trails, the park offers endless opportunities for exploration. Embark on scenic hikes, enjoy tranquil picnics amidst lush greenery, or capture the majestic wildlife through your lens. The park’s accessibility and variety cater to all ages and fitness levels, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers.

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2. Visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Dive into an underwater adventure at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. This premier aquarium houses an impressive variety of sea creatures, ranging from elegant stingrays to lively penguins. Interactive exhibits, such as touching a stingray or walking through the Shark Lagoon tunnel, offer an immersive experience for the whole family. The aquarium’s commitment to education and conservation makes it not just an entertaining, but also an enlightening experience.

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3. Playing a Round of Hillbilly Golf

Experience a unique twist on mini-golf at Hillbilly Golf, one of Gatlinburg’s most beloved attractions. Set on the side of a mountain, this mini-golf course offers fun and challenge with every putt. As you navigate through whimsical obstacles and enjoy the rustic hillbilly theme, you’ll also be treated to panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains. It’s an entertaining activity that combines fun, skill, and stunning scenery.

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4. Visiting Gatlinburg SkyPark

For breathtaking views of Gatlinburg and the Smokies, ride SkyLift to the Gatlinburg SkyPark. As you ascend, the panoramic views unfold, offering a spectacular perspective of the town and its surrounding natural beauty. At the top, take a stroll on the SkyBridge – the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America – and capture these memorable views in photos. It’s a serene experience that showcases the beauty of Gatlinburg from above.

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5. Sampling Local Cuisine

Gatlinburg’s culinary scene is a delightful combination of traditional Southern flavors and innovative cuisine. Take a gastronomic journey through the town, sampling everything from smoked barbecue to homemade fudge. Local eateries and mountain grills offer dishes that reflect the region’s culinary heritage. Don’t miss the chance to savor some local specialties like trout, which is freshly caught from the nearby streams.

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6. Shopping at the Village Shops

A visit to Gatlinburg is incomplete without exploring its quaint shopping scene. The Village Shops, a charming European-style village with many unique boutiques and galleries, offer a shopping experience like no other. Browse through handcrafted goods, local art, and specialty foods. It’s the perfect place to find souvenirs and gifts that capture the spirit of Gatlinburg, from artisan crafts to homemade jams.

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7. Enjoying Ober Mountain Adventure Park and Ski Area

Ober Mountain stands as a beacon of fun, offering year-round entertainment. In winter, it transforms into a snowy paradise for skiing and snowboarding, while summer brings the thrill of amusement park rides, alpine slides, and scenic chairlifts. The park also hosts various festivals and events throughout the year, making it a versatile destination for all ages. Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping adventures or leisurely mountain coaster rides, Ober Mountain provides a unique mix of amusement and alpine charm.

8. Experiencing Gatlinburg’s Arts and Crafts Community

Step into the heart of creativity at Gatlinburg’s Arts and Crafts Community. This historic 8-mile loop is home to the largest group of independent artisans in North America. Here, you can explore studios and shops showcasing handmade pottery, paintings, jewelry, and more. Many artisans offer live demonstrations, giving visitors a glimpse into their craft. You get access to unique souvenirs as well as the chance to appreciate the rich artisan traditions of the Smoky Mountains.

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9. Taking a Moonshine Distillery Tour

Gatlinburg’s distillery scene offers a taste of Appalachian heritage with its famous moonshine. Go on a distillery tour to learn about the history and art of moonshine-making. These tours often include tastings, where you can sample various flavors of this iconic spirit. Don’t forget to visit some of the local distilleries, such as Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, where you can experience the lively atmosphere and perhaps bring home a bottle of authentic Tennessee moonshine.

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10. Hiking to Laurel Falls

One of the most accessible and picturesque hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the trail to Laurel Falls. This 2.6-mile round trip leads to a stunning 80-foot waterfall, making it a rewarding hike for families and casual hikers. The path is well-maintained and offers several viewing platforms to enjoy the scenic falls. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Smokies.

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11. Attending Seasonal Festivals and Events

Gatlinburg’s calendar is brimming with exciting festivals and events that showcase the town’s vibrant culture. From the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage to the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair and the various holiday parades, these events offer a glimpse into the rich traditions and spirited community of Gatlinburg. Participating in these festivals is a fantastic way to experience local music, crafts, and festivities.

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12. Relaxing at Anakeesta Theme Park

Anakeesta Theme Park, located on a mountain overlooking Gatlinburg, provides a serene escape with its stunning gardens, tranquil walkways, and spectacular views. This park offers a unique experience with its treetop canopy walk, observation towers, and dining options with breathtaking views. It’s a perfect spot to unwind, enjoy the natural beauty, and spend a peaceful evening.

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Gatlinburg, with its natural splendor and entertaining activities, is a destination that promises fun and adventure for everyone. From the thrill of amusement parks to the tranquility of mountain trails, each activity in this charming town offers a unique experience. Whether you’re exploring artisan studios, savoring local flavors, or capturing the scenic beauty of the Smokies, your trip to Gatlinburg is sure to be filled with moments that turn into lasting memories.