Situated in the heart of the Appalachians, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, attracts thousands of visitors each year with its unbeatable mountain views, thrilling outdoor adventures, and endless entertainment options.
The charming East Tennessee town of Gatlinburg offers year-round activities for the whole family. Between whitewater rafting, hiking trails, and horseback riding, Gatlinburg is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts who stay at one of our luxe Smoky Mountain vacation homes. There are also plenty of fun things to do for the laid-back traveler, from live music to delicious eateries; there’s an equal opportunity for those looking to relax and recharge.
These are our top ten can’t miss things to do during your Gatlinburg getaway!
1. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Address: 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: nps.gov/grsm
As the country’s most visited national park, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular Gatlinburg attractions for a reason. Spanning both Tennessee and North Carolina, the Smokies terrain covers 500,000 acres of wilderness.
This uninhabited national park is known for its diverse wildlife, picturesque waterfalls, and beautiful mountaintop views.
The most popular way to explore the park is by hiking one of its 150 nature trails. Each trail offers an up-close look into the plant and animal life that make up the Smokies. If you’d rather a scenic drive, the park’s got you covered. From the highest point of the Smokies at Clingmans Dome Road to the valley of Cades Cove, you can get a true taste of the great outdoors from your car window!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not charge an entrance fee, making this a fun and free family-friendly activity.
2. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
- Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: ripleyaquariums.com/gatlinburg
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a state-of-the-art aquarium featuring over 10,000 sea creatures from 350 different species.
Head to the Penguin Playhouse first, where you can crawl through underwater tunnels to get an immersive view of penguins playing. If you’re feeling brave, head to the Shark Lagoon next, where you’ll take a ride on a Glass Bottom Boat surrounded by sharks, sting rays, and more!
The aquarium also features a tropical rainforest, coral reef exhibit, and ocean realm for visitors to explore the diverse sea life around them. From educational activities to live shows, there is no shortage of entertainment at the aquarium.
Visitors can purchase an Aquarium Pass or a Combo Pass to explore one of the many other Ripley’s Believe It or Not activities in Gatlinburg.
3. Get Active at Ober Gatlinburg
- Address: 1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: obergatlinburg.com
Ober Mountain Adventure Park and Ski Area is a one-stop shop for all things adventure in Gatlinburg.
Open year-round, Ober Gatlinburg offers a variety of experiences to get the most out of the four seasons in Tennessee. The winter brings cold-weather activities ranging from snowboarding to snow tubing to ice skating. Visitors can enjoy a scenic chairlift and the aerial tramway for incredible views of the smoky mountains as it warms up.
The adventure park also features bumper cars, a rock climbing wall, and even ziplining over the Big Pigeon River!
No matter what adventures pique your interest, you’re sure to have a ton of family fun at Ober Gatlinburg any time of the year.
4. Sample Moonshine at Sugarlands Distilling Company
- Address: 805 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: sugarlands.com
If you’re looking for an adult activity in Gatlinburg, Sugarlands Distilling Company is your place. While this local distillery produces everything from rum to vodka, they are best known for their award-winning moonshine.
Located right in the heart of Downtown Gatlinburg, Sugarlands invites guests to partake in tastings and tours of their infamous moonshine distillery daily. For just $5/person, you can enjoy a round of 12 different flavors of moonshine. If you want a first-hand look at how Sugarlands makes its delicious cocktails, distillery tours are available at $12 per person.
The cocktail bar is also open daily until 10:30 pm, making it the perfect pit stop while you’re exploring Downtown.
Pro Tip: If you want to keep the fun going, check out Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery next!
5. Play Mini Golf at Hillbilly Golf
- Address: 340 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: facebook.com/HillbillyGolfTN
Have you ever dreamed of playing mini-golf on top of a mountain? If so, now is your chance. Named the “World’s Most Unusual Golf Course,” Hillbilly Golf offers two mini-golf courses that start 300-feet above the city!
Both courses provide a challenging atmosphere of downhill slopes and plenty of visual entertainment. Along the way, you’ll get a Tennessee history lesson as you move through various hillbilly-themed obstacles on the course. You can choose just one course or play both courses back-to-back.
Hillbilly Golf is open daily. Tickets at the time of publication are $13.50 for adults and $9.50 for children, with a second course just $5.99 if you decide to go for two!
6. Take a Trip to Dollywood
- Address: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN
- Website: dollywood.com
Just a short trip away in neighboring Pigeon Forge, Dollywood is a must-visit Smokies attraction. Boasting a theme park and water park, Dollywood provides endless entertainment for the whole family.
Consistently rated the #1 amusement park in the country, Dollywood is packed with over 50 rides, seasonal festivals, live entertainment, and countless dining options. During the warm months, visitors are invited to cool off in one of its many water park rides.
Be sure to check out their event calendar to plan your visit during one of Dollywood’s infamous dinner shows or live festivals.
7. Hike the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is one of the most popular Gatlinburg trails to hike and for good reason. The hike boasts an up-close look at one of the largest mountain streams in the Smokies.
This 5.5-mile loop road is located just beyond the Rainbow Falls trailhead and is considered a moderate hike. Along the trail, you’ll pass mountain streams, uninhabited forest terrain, and plenty of historic buildings scattered throughout the park. You might even spot natural wildlife, so make sure to watch out for black bears along the route.
To access Roaring Fork, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg and follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the national park entrance. Just beyond the Rainbow Falls Trailhead, you’ll find the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The trail is free for visitors and is closed during the winter.
8. Ride the Gatlinburg Space Needle
- Address: 115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: gatlinburgspaceneedle.com
If you’re looking for a creative way to get a birds-eye view of the smokies, Gatlinburg Space Needle is just the spot. It’s the ultimate immersive way to experience the beauty of this beloved mountain town.
Open 365 days a year, this observation deck offers a panoramic view of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. Visitors take a glass elevator over 400 feet above the city to the Space Needle, where they’ll witness one of the best Gatlinburg scenic overlooks you can imagine. Along the way, riders will learn about the history of the city and mountains beyond through an educational lesson.
Pro Tip: Just across the street is Gatlinburg Skylift Park, where visitors can partake in even more panoramic views. From the Skylift up Crockett Mountain to the Skybridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in North America, Gatlinburg Skylift Park is packed with activities for the adventure enthusiast.
9. Visit the Hollywood Star Cars Museum
- Address: 914 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: starcarstn.com
There is nowhere else like Hollywood Star Cars Museum in Gatlinburg. This one-of-a-kind museum features over 50 years of vehicles used in some of the most famous movies and TV shows of our generation.
If you’re a fan of Hollywood and famous cars, you’ll be amazed at the collection. Visitors can use larger-than-life displays to step inside their favorite movie sets and admire the iconic cars. The museum is most famous for its Fast and Furious car collection, which features vehicles used in the entire movie series. But don’t worry – there are over 40 vehicles from a variety of movies and shows to explore.
Tickets at the time of publication are $17.99 for adults and $9.99 for children.
10. Go Shopping at The Village Shops
- Address: 634 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
- Website: thevillageshops.com
Downtown Gatlinburg is home to a collection of stores known as The Village Shops. This quaint, European-inspired area is home to local boutiques, eateries, souvenir shops, and more.
We recommend using the Gatlinburg Trolley to get to the Village. Once there, take your time strolling from one shop to the next to experience all of the charms that this little town square offers. Pop into The Honey Pot for hand-made souvenirs by the local crafts community. The Daily Hiker offers all the items you may need for outdoor adventures.
Once you work up an appetite, head to The Donut Frier for some delicious pastries. And don’t forget to grab a cup of coffee at Coffee and Company on your way out.
Stay and Play in Gatlinburg
For the adventure lover, Gatlinburg offers a variety of outdoor activities ranging from theme parks to hiking trails to observation decks. Foodies will enjoy the local distillery and restaurant scene that Gatlinburg provides. And those that are looking for a relaxing stay will appreciate the many scenic views you can experience by car.
Gatlinburg is home to some of the most exciting experiences within the Great Smoky Mountains, and with many of our vacation rentals nearby, you’ll have easy access to the best of this Tennessee treasure!