Though going on a family vacation may sound fun in theory, in practice, it so often becomes a stressful balancing act to satisfy everyone’s tastes and travel goals. Luckily, visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee, will at least make the planning process a little easier since this Tennessee city is a paradise for both kids and ‘kids at heart.’

That said, we know the sheer quantity of attractions in and around Gatlinburg can be a little overwhelming at first glance.

To help you plan your family’s next getaway to the area, we’ve compiled a list of the ten fun things to do with kids in Gatlinburg, including amusement parks and hikes, museums, and waterslides. No matter what kind of family fun you are interested in, there’s something on this list that they’ll love.

Why Gatlinburg is the Perfect Family Getaway

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Gatlinburg is the gateway to one of the country’s biggest and most popular playgrounds: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is just a few minutes drive outside city limits.

Kid Friendly Activities

But besides the Smokies, many kid-friendly activities are right within Gatlinburg itself. From Ripley’s Believe It or Not! to the Anakeesta Adventure Park, these attractions will keep the whole family busy for hours or days on end.

Family Friendly Accomodations

To cap off your family vacation plans, book your stay with Prestige Vacation Rentals. Whether you’d like to stay right in Gatlinburg or in one of our nearby Pigeon Forge rentals, our cabins will serve as your home away from home and soothe at least some of the aches and pains caused by traveling with little ones.

Family Friendly Activities in Gatlinburg

1. Play at Anakeesta Adventure Park

Photo Credit: Joseph Hendrickson

Forget your typical theme park experience; mountaintop Anakeesta Adventure Park has something more exciting in store. Kids of all ages (that means adults, too) can enjoy a relaxed walk among the treetops, fly down mountain coasters, or even race family members on the Dueling Ziplines.

When everyone starts getting a little peckish, there’s no need to break out Google and Yelp — just stop by one of Anakeesta’s 11 on-site eateries for a meal or snack with a view. If you’re looking for a little rest and relaxation rather than an adrenaline rush, you can entertain yourself by shopping for souvenirs while you wait for the kids to finish playing.

2. See the Surprises at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Photo Credit: Joseph Hendrickson

Right in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, the sprawling Ripley’s Believe It or Not! encompasses a museum, haunted house, fun park, mini-golf course, aquarium, and mountain coaster.

We could go on, but suffice it to say, Ripley’s has just about every vacation highlight you could imagine and then some. To see multiple attractions during your visit (highly recommended), consider purchasing a combo ticket to save yourself a few bucks. But those who prefer to stick to Ripley’s Museum can still see many fascinating artifacts and exhibits covering everything from space travel to real shrunken heads.

3. Get a Bird’s Eye View at the Gatlinburg Space Needle

Photo Credit: Stephen B. Goodwin

You’ll have to skip the Gatlinburg Space Needle if you’re afraid of heights, but if you hope to get above all the hustle and bustle of the city during your visit, then you’ve come to the right place.

The Needle soars 407 feet into the air, topped with an observation deck that affords 360-degree views of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and, of course, the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains.

You’ll take glass elevators all the way up the tower to get to those views, which are sure to impress all year round. A word to the wise: The tower’s gaming arcade will likely sidetrack the kids for a little while, but don’t worry. If you plan your visit right, you should be able to squeeze in some playtime before or after your ride up the Needle.

4. Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Photo Credit: Weidman Photography

You can’t talk about Gatlinburg without talking about Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This wildly popular park comprises more than 500,000 acres of rolling Appalachian peaks, within which you’ll find opportunities for family-friendly hikes, whitewater rafting trips, historical site visits, and much more.

You could easily spend weeks or even months in the Smokies without exhausting all the things to see and do, so take at least a day or two to cover as much as you possibly can. Highlights include the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, Cades Cove Scenic Drive, and overlooks like Charlie’s Bunion.

5. Snow Tube Ober Mountain

Photo Credit: AboutLife

Once a humble local ski hill is known as Ober Gatlinburg, Ober Mountain has recently been reinvented as a year-round destination for adventure. Indoors, there’s ice skating, ice bumper cars, and a carousel, all great choices for some rainy-day entertainment. But the great outdoors is where Ober Mountain really excels.

Warm weather, visitors can mountain bike and ride the alpine slide, while fall and winter bring crowds to the ski slopes and snow tubing hill. Available activities can vary by time of year, so there’s something new to experience during every trip. Whenever you plan to visit, reserve your family’s tickets for a ride on Ober’s famous aerial tramway, which connects the mountain complex with downtown Gatlinburg.

6. Spend the Day at Dollywood

Photo Credit: Nicholas Lamontanaro

The candy-colored world of Dollywood represents some of the very best parts of the South: fun activities, beautiful scenery, delicious food, and, naturally, catchy country music. Owned and operated by Ms. Parton herself, this theme park is situated in Pigeon Forge, just a 20-minute drive away from Gatlinburg.

With plenty of rides, restaurants, live entertainment, and much more, Dollywood has a little something for visitors of all ages. That includes teenagers who just want to lounge by the pool – Dollywood’s Splash Country water park is open from May through September, the perfect place to catch a summer-break tan.

7. Check Out the Hollywood Star Cars Museum

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The Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a must-see for anyone with a Hot Wheels-obsessed kid (or adult, as the case may be). Remember the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1, the iconic orange Dodge Charger from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and Marty McFly’s DeLorean?

Well, you can find detailed, life-sized replicas of all those vehicles and more parked under one roof in downtown Gatlinburg. Snag a few family pics in the recreated sets that house the cars, which will allow you to pretend like you’re behind the wheel in several film franchises and TV shows.

8. Use Your Smarts at Gatlin’s Escape Games

Bring the whole family together to solve a mystery at Gatlin’s Escape Games, located in downtown Gatlinburg and on the parkway in Pigeon Forge. Though escape rooms may feel like they’re a dime a dozen these days, Gatlin’s stands apart for its well-crafted rooms and puzzles that will have everyone in the family scratching their heads.

If you have enough time, try your hand at more than one themed escape room, like the haunted Hyde House or the Moonshine Hill Hootenanny. (To discover just what a hootenanny entails, you’ll have to come visit!)

9. Take in the Views at Gatlinburg SkyPark

Photo Credit: Johnnie Laws

As its name implies, Gatlinburg SkyPark is all about the views. Surrounded by the Smoky Mountains, SkyPark offers walks across the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America; chairlift rides high above swooping green valleys, and more.

If you prefer a more relaxing visit, meanwhile, look no further than the comfy rocking chairs on the SkyDeck. You can even return after dark for aerial views of the city lights — as long as the kids can stay up past their bedtime, that is.

10. Ride the Slides at Westgate Wild Bear Falls Water Park

Photo Credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani

If you visit during the warmer months of spring or summer, a trip to Westgate Wild Bear Falls Water Park is the ultimate antidote to the sweltering Tennessee heat and humidity. But Wild Bear Falls stays open all year round, so if you’re planning a trip for fall or winter, you can still throw on your bathing suit and head to the lazy river, slides, and playground in the park’s comfortable indoor space.

Keep an eye out for water features named after familiar Smoky Mountains landmarks, like Ramsey Cascades, Clingmans Dome, and Laurel Falls.

Pack Up the Kids and Head to Gatlinburg

Regardless of how old your kids are or what they’re interested in, the ten best things to do in Gatlinburg with kids will appeal to a wide range of ages and preferences. This list is just a starting point for your plans, though.

You may want to add activities like the Mysterious Mansion, Hillbilly Golf, and more to your itinerary, so make sure you set aside some time to explore with the family. Just don’t forget to book your stay with Prestige Vacation Rentals and get ready for a trip the whole family will never forget — even if the kids just end up playing in the backyard the whole time.