20+ Fun Things to do in and Around Downtown Gatlinburg
Nestled in a small valley, Gatlinburg is only slightly over ten square miles. But, packed within that space are a ton of great attractions!
[FREE GUIDE] Looking to get away from the crowds? Uncover Gatlinburg’s hidden gems!
Hotels and Resorts in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg has plenty of hotels to pick from! All of the biggest hotel chains operate here, and we’ve got many locally owned Gatlinburg hotels, too. Here’s a list of Gatlinburg’s best hotels:
Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium
There’s an entire group of Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg. First, there’s the Ripley’s Odditorium, proudly proclaiming itself as “the weirdest place in Gatlinburg!” There’s a whole world of bizarre exhibits to see! And it’s all true, right?
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Named “Best Aquarium in the United States” in both 2017 and 2019 in a USA Today readers’ poll, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies houses over 10,000 fish and aquatic creatures from every corner of the seven seas! It even features interactive exhibits, like interacting with stingrays! Make sure to check their calendar to find out about the latest events, and don’t forget to see the penguins!
Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion
Need a good scare? Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion has three stories of terror to chill your bones! After undergoing a major renovation in 2012, the Mysterious Mansion is now scarier than ever before. Remember, no refunds if you get too scared, so be brave!
Gatlinburg Pinball Museum
Want to visit a completely interactive museum? Or maybe just dreaming about a retro trip down memory lane? Pay a visit to the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum and replay all your favorite memories from the arcade! There are over 100 pinball machines to try, plus video games too. You don’t even have to worry about having enough quarters to play. For just one single-day admission fee, you can play as many games as you want. Plus, with the handstamp, you can come and go all day!
Gatlinburg Space Needle
Ride the glass elevator over 400 feet up to take in the breathtaking, 360-degree views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains from the observation deck at the Gatlinburg Space Needle! While you’re there, play some games at the arcade or get a pizza from Slice Pizza Bakery!
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts
The Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, established in 1912, provided education to the then rural population of Gatlinburg. For over 70 years, the School has been teaching rural arts and crafts, with its signature summer program starting in 1945. The School now offers summer and fall course offerings, with over 130 classes available.
Even without taking any classes, Arrowmont operates five art galleries on its campus that are open to the public. It houses a permanent collection of over 1,000 pieces of art, in addition to rotating exhibits. The arts and crafts community in Gatlinburg is well-established and still going strong. Art lovers, don’t miss this stop!
Hollywood Star Cars Museum
If you want something that appeals to both movie buffs and automobile enthusiasts, spend some time at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, located right in the heart of Downtown Gatlinburg. You’ll see the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters, a collection of vehicles from the Fast & Furious series, and many more!
The Museum’s collection also includes several cars owned by celebrities such as Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Make no mistake: Gatlinburg has some of the best golf courses in America. But what about golf for the entire family? Gatlinburg’s has enough mini-golf courses to keep everybody putting away!
There’s Hillbilly Golf, situated on the side of a hill with a course filled with homages to the town’s original Appalachian settlers. You could check out Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini Golf, with its frontier theme. Or, putt your way through a jungle full of adventure at Treasure Quest Mini Golf —no golf experience necessary!
Sugarlands Riding Stables
If you’ve ever wanted to feel like a real frontiersman trekking through the wild mountains of Tennessee, saddle up for horseback riding at Sugarlands Riding Stables (located near the Gatlinburg Trailhead, just south of town).
You don’t need any previous experience riding horses at Sugarlands; not only will they pair you with a horse that matches your comfort level, but will also choose one of their four riding tours that best suits you. It’s a kid-friendly activity, but note that riding tours are only for children ages five or older. Experience the wilderness of the Smoky Mountains in true, old-fashioned style!
Gatlinburg Farmers’ Market
In the market for fresh fruits and vegetables while you’re in Gatlinburg? Perhaps some local sweets and baked goods? Or, maybe you’re looking for a special, locally produced gift for someone back home? The Gatlinburg Farmers’ Market is one of the largest farmers’ markets in Tennessee.
It’s not just food at The Gatlinburg Farmers Market! Here you can find handmade soap, cosmetics, and other locally produced artisan products. There are also fun activities for both kids and adults. The Gatlinburg Farmers’ Market operates every weekend from May through October. Support local artists, farmers, and producers!
Dining in Gatlinburg
Dining out in Gatlinburg is an adventure itself. With so many different places to try, you’ll never run out of good food!
Log Cabin Pancake House
The Log Cabin Pancake House may be renowned for its dazzling selection of pancake styles, but don’t forget about their french toast and crepes too. Their burgers and sandwiches also make The Log Cabin Pancake House a great place to stop for lunch!
Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar
Enjoy fresh seafood in decor that makes you feel like you’re on the Atlantic Coast! Fresh Maine lobster, shrimp, and authentic crab cakes are all here, plus Chesapeake’s famous seafood bar. Come take a bite of the ocean in the mountains!
Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que
You can’t visit The South without having a taste of some barbecue. So, why not try one of the best around? Bennett’s has been serving barbecued pork, chicken, and beef brisket for almost 30 years! Stop in for lunch or dinner and taste the time that Bennett’s puts into its barbecue.
Ole Smoky Moonshine
This stop is just for the grownups! Visit an authentic moonshine distillery and sample Tennessee moonshine in a variety of flavors! The Ole Smoky Distillery in Gatlinburg, known as “The Holler,” is America’s most visited distillery and produces all of Ole Smoky’s signature moonshine flavors.
When Scottish and Irish immigrants first came to the Appalachian Mountains, they brought the whiskey distilling traditions of their home countries. But, when the United States Government raised the tax on whiskey, many distillers simply decided not to pay and began to perform their work in secret, many times in the middle of the night. Hence, the term “moonshiner” became popular to describe them. Nowadays, there’s nothing illegal about making or selling moonshine in Tennessee, so enjoy a sip!
El Soñador Mexican Grill
Maybe you’re in the mood for some south-of-the-border cuisine while in the South? Head over to El Soñador Mexican Grill for authentic Mexican food right in Gatlinburg! Browse through their selection of tacos and quesadillas, and don’t forget their array of mind-blowing Mexican desserts. Everything is made with quality ingredients, and there are lunch and dinner specials every day. All of this, plus live music and an outdoor patio to enjoy. Stop in and let El Soñador Mexican Grill bring Mexico to you!
Amusement Parks and Family-Friendly Spots
If you have a whole day to spend, there are theme parks galore both in and around Gatlinburg! There are thrill rides, games, and fun for the whole family!
Anakeesta Theme Park
Just off the parkway in Gatlinburg is Anakeesta Theme Park. Take a walk through the treetops on the Treetop Skywalk, taking in views of the forest while walking on bridges suspended over fifty feet in the air! Need something quicker? Ride down the mountain on the Rail Runner mountain coaster at speeds up to twenty-five miles per hour! Maybe even try the Anakeesta Gem Mine and see if you can unearth something special!
Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s world-famous theme park, is located in Pigeon Forge, just a short drive north from Gatlinburg. There’s not only an amusement park but a water park as well! Combined with musical shows, festivals, and special events year-round, you’ll find there’s something for everyone at Dollywood!
Ober Gatlinburg is home to the only ski resort in Tennessee. From downtown Gatlinburg, you can take the two-mile aerial tramway all the way to the mountaintop while enjoying the amazing views of the Smoky Mountains. Zipline down the mountains of the famous Alpine Slide, which has been thrilling visitors since 1976! Sure, there’s a ski area, but with activities like the rock climbing wall and water rafting rides, there’s fun for every season of the year at Ober Gatlinburg! Plus, you can go ice skating all year round!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Last but certainly not least, there’s The Great Smoky Mountains National Park – the very creation of which put Gatlinburg on the map. It’s the most visited national park in the United States and is just as beautiful today as when it was dedicated to the American people by President Franklin D. Roosevelt back in 1940. There are great opportunities for biking, hiking, and whitewater rafting for all of the outdoor enthusiasts out there!
Cades Cove, one of the most visited spots in the Great Smokies, is a picturesque valley dotted with preserved and restored structures from early European settlers. Buildings include barns, log cabins, three churches, and a working grist mill. There’s also plenty of wildlife to be seen, including white-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, and turkeys!
Catch the stunning views from the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi River! You can take a paved trail from the Clingman’s Dome parking lot all the way to the observation deck, where the views can extend for over 100 miles on a clear day. Parking is limited, so plan to arrive early in the day to avoid the rush!
Pigeon River Rafting
If you’re looking to get your blood pumping, raft on the Pigeon River. There are two stages of rafting. The Upper Pigeon River is the more popular, but more advanced, option with twelve class III rapids and three class IV rapids over five miles. If you’re in the mood for a more leisurely float down the river, the Lower Pigeon River is also a five-mile stretch, but at a better pace for taking in the wild river beauty.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over 850 miles of hiking trails and unpaved roads to explore. They range from simple nature trails for sightseeing to strenuous treks to the tops of local peaks.
Popular hiking destinations include the abundance of waterfalls in the Park. The most visited waterfalls are Rainbow Falls, Laurel Falls, and Grotto Falls, although smaller falls can be seen around almost every corner throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
And Much More
This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fun things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. With so many Gatlinburg attractions to see, you’ll need a place to go to for all the latest and best news on what’s going on. Relax Gatlinburg is your source for all the fun and excitement at one of the most popular destinations in North America!