21 of the Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, TN (2024 Guide)

Looking for all the best attractions in Jewel of the Smokies? Our guide to all the best things to do in Gatlinburg, TN is all you need!

If you’re itching for an unforgettable escape into the heart of the Smoky Mountains, look no further than Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Nestled amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Smokies, this charming town is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. 

In this travel blog post, we’re diving deep into all the fantastic things to do in Gatlinburg TN, from exploring iconic Gatlinburg attractions to embarking on epic adventures like a visit to Ober Gatlinburg and a scenic drive along the Cades Cove Loop Road.

Gatlinburg is the kind of place that beckons both nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike. It’s a town where you can start your day surrounded by the serene beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and end it with a thrilling ride down a mountain coaster at Ober Gatlinburg. 

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast looking to conquer hiking trails or a fan of arts and crafts ready to explore the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community, there’s something here for everyone.

So, fasten your seatbelts (or hiking boots!), because we’re about to take you on a whirlwind tour of the best that Gatlinburg has to offer.

Hiking Smoky Mountains Tennessee
Explore the heart of the Smoky Mountains while visiting Gatlinburg.

The Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg

These are 21 of the top-recommended things to do in Gatlinburg, TN!

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

1. Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, nestled in the heart of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is an enchanting haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. As the most visited national park in the United States, it boasts a spectacular tapestry of natural wonders, from lush forests and cascading waterfalls to abundant wildlife and panoramic vistas.

Visitors can embark on a myriad of adventures, including hiking along a network of pristine trails, picnicking in serene meadows, and capturing the ethereal beauty of sunrise and sunset over mist-shrouded peaks. With its rich biodiversity, the park also offers opportunities for wildlife spotting, such as black bears, deer, and a diverse array of bird species.

Whether you’re seeking an invigorating outdoor experience or a serene escape into the tranquility of the Smokies, this iconic national park offers a timeless retreat for all who wander its breathtaking landscapes.

2. Take a Scenic Drive Through Cades Cove

Cades Cove, a captivating gem within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a must-visit attraction for those seeking the quintessential things to do in Gatlinburg experience. This scenic valley, surrounded by rolling mountains, lures visitors with its lush meadows, historic buildings, and an abundance of wildlife.

Whether you embark on a leisurely drive or opt for a bike ride along the 11-mile loop road, you’re bound to encounter white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and perhaps even a glimpse of a majestic black bear. The Cove also offers numerous hiking trails, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty.

It’s a place where history, nature, and tranquility converge, making it a cherished destination for those seeking an authentic Gatlinburg experience in the heart of the Smokies.

Read Next: Check out all of these fun things to do in nearby Pigeon Forge!

3. Enjoy the Thrill of Anakeesta Adventure Park

Anakeesta, perched atop a mountain in Gatlinburg, is an enchanting adventure park that invites visitors to embark on a journey into the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Accessible via an aerial tramway or a scenic chairlift, this mountaintop oasis offers a wide array of attractions and activities for nature enthusiasts and thrill-seekers alike.

Visitors can explore the treetop canopy walk, known as the “Treetop Skywalk,” and stroll among the lush forest canopy on suspension bridges. The park also boasts a mountain coaster, ziplining adventures, a botanical garden, and scenic dining options with mountain vistas.

With its captivating blend of natural beauty and exciting outdoor experiences, Anakeesta provides a memorable and immersive mountain adventure for all who venture to this lofty retreat in Gatlinburg.

Anakeesta Adventure Park
Check out the beautiful gardens at Anakeesta Adventure Park!

4. Go Hiking

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a novice adventurer, Gatlinburg’s hiking trails cater to all levels of experience and offer a captivating way to connect with the natural splendor of the Smokies.

Hiking in Gatlinburg is a cherished pastime, and the region boasts a plethora of remarkable trails for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. Among these, the Alum Cave Trail, leading to the stunning Alum Cave Bluffs, stands out for its breathtaking scenery.

Another favorite, the Laurel Falls Trail, offers an accessible hike culminating in views of the picturesque Laurel Falls, making it a great choice for families. For those seeking a more challenging trek, the Clingmans Dome Trail leads to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rewarding hikers with unparalleled panoramic vistas.

Right within Gatlinburg itself, the aptly named Gatlinburg Trail offers a scenic, leisurely hike along the river, providing a convenient and beautiful escape into nature right from the heart of town.

Read Next: Don’t miss out on our list of awesome things to do in Knoxville!

5. Visit Ober Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg is a captivating mountain resort and amusement park nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, offering an array of year-round activities and attractions.

During the winter season, it transforms into a winter wonderland with opportunities for skiing and snowboarding, while the rest of the year, visitors can enjoy an aerial tramway ride that offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The resort also boasts an indoor ice skating rink, an alpine slide, a wildlife encounter, and numerous shops and restaurants.

Ober Gatlinburg provides not only thrilling outdoor adventures but also a cozy mountain retreat atmosphere, making it a versatile destination for travelers seeking both excitement and relaxation in the scenic setting of Gatlinburg.

6. Go to the Top of Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is an iconic attraction that stands tall in the heart of Gatlinburg, offering visitors breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains and the charming town itself.

This 407-foot tall observation tower provides an unparalleled vantage point from its enclosed glass observation deck, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a bird’s-eye perspective of Gatlinburg’s stunning landscape.

Whether you choose to visit during the day to admire the lush greenery or opt for an evening visit to witness the town’s sparkling lights, the Gatlinburg Space Needle provides a memorable experience and a unique opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty and vibrant atmosphere of this beloved mountain town.

7. Explore Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a mesmerizing aquatic wonderland that beckons visitors to explore the mysteries of the deep in the heart of Gatlinburg. Home to a diverse array of marine life, this world-class attraction features interactive exhibits, underwater tunnels, and captivating displays that showcase the beauty and diversity of ocean ecosystems.

From the colorful coral reefs to the mesmerizing jellyfish and the awe-inspiring shark tunnel, the aquarium offers a captivating educational experience for visitors of all ages.

It’s not just an opportunity to observe marine life up close but also a chance to learn about conservation efforts and the importance of preserving these fragile ecosystems. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a must-visit attraction in Gatlinburg TN, promising a memorable and immersive journey into the underwater world.

8. Be Amazed at Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

The Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook is a breathtaking spot that encapsulates the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Perched high above the city, this vantage point offers visitors sweeping, panoramic views of the majestic mountains, lush forests, and the charming town of Gatlinburg below.

It’s a picture-perfect location for capturing stunning photographs, particularly during sunrise and sunset when the scenery is bathed in soft, golden light.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking a serene place to take in the awe-inspiring vistas, the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook is a must-visit destination that will leave you with a deep appreciation for the stunning landscapes of the Smoky Mountains region.

Related: Spend a few days in Nashville with our list of all of the best things to do in Nashville!

9. Explore Downtown Gatlinburg

Downtown Gatlinburg is the heart and soul of this charming mountain town, offering a delightful array of things to do in Gatlinburg. As you wander through its bustling streets, you’ll find a vibrant tapestry of shops, restaurants, and attractions that cater to every traveler’s interests.

From souvenir shops and art galleries to mouthwatering eateries serving up Southern cuisine and sweet treats, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Whether you’re seeking unique gifts, delicious food, or simply a stroll to soak in the atmosphere, downtown Gatlinburg is the perfect place to start your adventure in this picturesque corner of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Town Center Of Gatlinburg
Take some time to stroll around the adorable town center of Gatlinburg.

10. Explore the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community

The Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community is a unique and charming destination that showcases the talents of local artisans and craftsmen. Spanning an 8-mile loop road, this historic community is the largest group of independent artisans in North America.

Visitors can explore a wide variety of galleries, studios, and shops, each offering a diverse range of handmade and one-of-a-kind creations. From pottery and jewelry to paintings and woodwork, the Arts & Crafts Community provides an opportunity to discover and purchase authentic Appalachian arts and crafts.

The community’s rich history and dedication to preserving traditional craftsmanship make it a captivating and culturally enriching experience for those seeking locally made treasures and a glimpse into the artistic heritage of Gatlinburg.

11. Go Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater rafting near Gatlinburg offers adventurers the thrilling experience of conquering the wild rapids of the Pigeon River while surrounded by the stunning beauty of the mountains.

Whether you’re a novice seeking a leisurely float or an experienced rafter looking for an adrenaline rush, the Pigeon River offers a range of rafting options suitable for all skill levels. Experienced guides lead expeditions through the river’s exhilarating twists and turns, providing both safety and entertainment with their knowledge of the area’s history and ecology.

The combination of rushing waters and picturesque mountain scenery makes whitewater rafting in Gatlinburg an unforgettable outdoor adventure for anyone seeking a refreshing and adrenaline-pumping experience in the heart of the Smokies.

12. Visit the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum

The Gatlinburg Pinball Museum is a fantastic destination for both pinball enthusiasts and casual gamers seeking nostalgic fun. This interactive museum allows visitors to step back in time and enjoy a wide array of vintage and modern pinball machines, all set to free play.

The collection spans decades and includes machines that showcase the evolution of pinball art, design, and gameplay. Whether you’re a seasoned pinball wizard or a novice looking to try your hand at this classic arcade game, the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum offers a unique and entertaining experience.

It’s a place where you can relive the nostalgia of arcades while appreciating the craftsmanship and history behind these iconic machines.

13. Experience a Thrilling Ride Down Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster

The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is a thrilling ride that adds an extra dose of excitement to the list of things to do in Gatlinburg. This unique coaster is set amidst the picturesque east Tennessee mountains, allowing riders to control their speed as they twist and turn down the mountain.

The coaster’s track is beautifully illuminated at night, creating a mesmerizing spectacle as you zoom through the forested slopes. Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or a memorable family adventure, the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster provides an unforgettable experience that combines the thrill of a roller coaster with the scenic beauty of the surrounding landscape, making it a must-visit attraction for visitors of all ages.

14. Visit the Hollywood Star Cars Museum

The Hollywood Star Cars Museum in Gatlinburg is an absolute must-visit for film enthusiasts and car aficionados alike. This captivating museum boasts an impressive collection of iconic cars from the world of cinema and television, making it a memorable attraction in Gatlinburg.

From the Batmobile to the DeLorean from “Back to the Future” and the iconic General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” visitors can get up close to these famous vehicles, taking photos and marveling at their cinematic history.

It’s not just a treat for the eyes but also a nostalgic journey through the memorable moments of Hollywood, making the Hollywood Star Cars Museum an engaging and entertaining stop for travelers exploring the Gatlinburg area.

15. Take a Scenic Chairlift Ride at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is a captivating and scenic attraction that ranks high on the list of things to do in Gatlinburg. Offering a breathtaking perspective of the Smoky Mountains, this park is renowned for its iconic chairlift ride, which carries visitors to the summit for unparalleled panoramic views.

The highlight of the park is the SkyBridge, one of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges in North America, providing an exhilarating stroll amid the treetops.

With opportunities for hiking, photo ops, and a charming mountain-top café, Gatlinburg SkyLift Park promises a complete mountain experience that immerses travelers in the natural beauty of the Smokies while offering a taste of adventure and serenity simultaneously.

Gatlinburg Chair Lift
Get the best view of the Smoky Mountains on the iconic chair lift!

16. Explore the Mysterious Mansion

The Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg is a spine-tingling attraction that beckons to those who seek a thrilling and spooky adventure. This haunted house offers a suspenseful and eerie experience as visitors navigate its dimly lit corridors and encounter a myriad of surprises and mysteries along the way.

With its atmospheric setting, creepy special effects, and unexpected scares, the Mysterious Mansion creates an unforgettable journey into the realm of the supernatural. Whether you’re a fan of horror or just looking to test your bravery, a visit to this mysterious mansion is sure to provide a hair-raising experience that adds an extra layer of excitement to your Gatlinburg itinerary.

17. Sample Moonshine

Moonshine tasting in Gatlinburg Tn is a delightful and flavorful adventure that introduces visitors to the rich history of this iconic Appalachian spirit. Gatlinburg is home to several renowned moonshine distilleries, such as Ole Smoky Moonshine and Sugarlands Distilling Company, where guests can sample a wide array of moonshine flavors and traditional Appalachian spirits.

From sweet and fruity concoctions to classic corn whiskey, the tastings offer a chance to savor the distinct flavors and craftsmanship behind each batch. Beyond the tastings, visitors can explore the distilleries, learn about the moonshining process, and even purchase bottles of their favorite moonshine to take home as souvenirs.

Moonshine tasting in Gatlinburg not only provides a memorable tasting experience but also offers a glimpse into the region’s history and the enduring Appalachian tradition of distilling spirits.

Read Next: Check out these other great things to do in Tennessee!

18. Play Hillbilly Golf

Hillbilly Golf is a one-of-a-kind attraction in Gatlinburg that offers a delightful and quirky take on mini golf. Situated on a mountainside, this unique course is a standout among the many attractions in Gatlinburg.

Players can navigate two distinct and challenging courses adorned with creative obstacles that pay homage to the Appalachian heritage of the region.

Surrounded by lush greenery and boasting scenic mountain views, visitors can revel in a round of mini golf that combines entertainment and hillbilly charm, making it a memorable and entertaining option for those looking for things to do in Gatlinburg.

Whether you’re a seasoned mini-golfer or a first-timer, Hillbilly Golf promises a fun and whimsical experience that sets it apart from the usual tourist activities in the area.

19. Hop on the Gatlinburg Trolley

Whether you’re looking to explore the town without the hassle of parking or simply want to enjoy a relaxing ride through the mountains, the Gatlinburg Trolley system provides a convenient and enjoyable way to experience the area’s beauty and attractions.

The Gatlinburg Trolley system is a convenient and scenic way to explore the charming town of Gatlinburg and its surrounding attractions. With multiple trolley routes available, visitors can easily navigate the town and reach various points of interest, including popular destinations like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Ober Gatlinburg.

The trolleys are not only a practical means of transportation but also offer a leisurely way to take in the picturesque mountain scenery and the bustling streets of Gatlinburg.

20. Take Some Scenic Drives

Scenic drives are an essential component of the Gatlinburg experience, and the region offers some of the most breathtaking routes for travelers to explore. The Newfound Gap Road, traversing through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a beloved route, providing stunning vistas and access to numerous hiking trails.

Another gem is the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which winds through lush forests and offers the chance to observe the park’s diverse flora and fauna up close. These scenic drives are not just about the destination but also the journey, allowing visitors to soak in the natural beauty of the Smokies at a leisurely pace.

Regardless of whether you’re chasing autumn foliage, hoping to catch glimpses of wildlife, or simply seeking tranquility amidst nature, these drives in Gatlinburg promise a memorable and immersive experience in the heart of the Smoky Mountains.

Gatlinburg Scenic Drive
There are so many scenic drives around Gatlinburg!

21. Shop at Gatlinburg Mountain Mall

The Gatlinburg Mountain Mall is a shopper’s paradise in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, offering a diverse and enchanting retail experience that ranks high among the many things to do in Gatlinburg.

This multi-level shopping complex is a treasure trove of souvenirs, artisanal crafts, jewelry, apparel, and more. With its rustic Appalachian ambiance and over 30 unique shops, the Mountain Mall is a haven for those seeking mementos of their Tennessee adventure.

Visitors can peruse an array of locally made goods, art, and collectibles while soaking in the mountain-inspired atmosphere, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Gatlinburg’s charming streets.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg, TN

Here are a few of our top-recommended places to stay in Gatlinburg, TN.

High-End Luxury Hotel: The Park Vista – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Gatlinburg 

Located on a hill overlooking the town of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, The Park Vista offers both luxury and convenience. The hotel features contemporary rooms with panoramic mountain views, an indoor pool with a water slide, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant.

It’s an excellent choice for travelers seeking upscale accommodations near Gatlinburg’s attractions.

Mid-Range Family Accommodation: Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg 

Located in the heart of Gatlinburg, this mid-range hotel offers modern and comfortable accommodations suitable for families. The hotel provides spacious rooms with mini-fridges and microwaves, making it convenient for families. Amenities include an indoor pool, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant.

Its central location provides easy access to Gatlinburg’s attractions, shops, and dining options.

Budget Hostel/Hotel: Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Gatlinburg 

This budget-friendly hotel offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities, including flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Guests can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast to start their day. The hotel is located near Gatlinburg’s downtown area, providing easy access to attractions, restaurants, and shops.

Wrapping Up

As we wrap up this adventure through the charming town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, it’s clear that this place is a true gem for travelers seeking a perfect blend of nature, excitement, and unique experiences. We’ve covered an array of Gatlinburg attractions, from the awe-inspiring beauty of Cades Cove Loop Road to the exhilarating adventures at Ober Gatlinburg. 

But Gatlinburg also surprises with its quirky side, offering visitors a chance to indulge in some unusual mini-golf, like at the Hillbilly Golf course, experiences that are sure to leave you smiling.

So, whether you’re a nature enthusiast exploring the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains, a thrill-seeker riding the Gatlinburg Space Needle, or simply looking to unwind with some eccentric mini-golf, Gatlinburg has something special in store for you.

It’s a town that effortlessly combines the grandeur of the great outdoors with the excitement of unique attractions, making it an unforgettable destination for anyone in search of fun, adventure, and a touch of the unexpected. So, pack your bags, bring your sense of wonder, and get ready to explore all the incredible things to do in Gatlinburg, TN – a place where the extraordinary meets the extraordinary!

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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