Children enjoying the penguins at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg.

What to See and Do on Your Weekend Trip to Gatlinburg, TN

From mountain views, to a mouthwatering pancake house  – there’s always something to see (or eat) in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. In fact, it can feel like too much if you’ve only got so much time.

Don’t worry – we’ve come up with the perfect itinerary so you can get the most out of your weekend trip to Gatlinburg.

The Perfect Weekend Getaway

Whether you’re looking for breathtaking views or a taste of mountain moonshine, Gatlinburg TN is sure to wow. It can be hard to know how to fit all the popular attractions into a single visit – but you can do a lot with a little bit of time if you know where to go.

Now, everyone has different tastes, so feel free to explore other fun and affordable activities around town – but if you’re looking for a mix of everything Gatlinburg has to offer with just a little bit of time, then we think we have the perfect plan for you.

Day One: Downtown Gatlinburg

The best thing to do when you first get to Gatlinburg is to really soak in the city. If you roll in the night before, then you can get started with a delicious breakfast at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. But if you don’t finish your road trip to town until the afternoon or evening – the best thing to do is to jump right in to getting to know downtown Gatlinburg – and our day one will help you do just that.

Gatlinburg SkyLift

Start your weekend at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park to get an eye full of the city. The Skylift can take you from the heart of downtown Gatlinburg up to the top of Crockett Mountain – giving you a wonderful view of all the city has to offer as you go, not to mention the breathtaking mountains. A ride on the skylift is a wonderful way to kick-off your weekend trip.

Once you’re at the top you can take in the sights on the SkyDeck, or walk along the SkyBridge to take in the sight of not only Gatlinburg, but the Smokies as well.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

If you love penguins, you’re going to love Ripley’s Aquarium. And even if for some strange, unimaginable reason you don’t love penguins, there’s plenty more to see – from sharks to live coral reef shows.

Moonshine Distilleries/ Quirky Museums

What’s a trip to the mountains without a little moonshine? A toast (or two) of moonshine at the many local distilleries your first night is a great way to loosen up and celebrate during your weekend getaway.

Two distilleries in particular that absolutely cannot be missed are Ole Smoky Moonshine and the Sugarlands Moonshine Distillery and Tasting. Both offer tours of their distilleries. Ole Smoky has a few distilleries open but the Gatlinburg location on parkway is the first they opened and America’s most visited moonshine distillery. Just don’t get too carried away tasting moonshine – we have a lot of hiking planned for you tomorrow.

If you’re looking for something a little more whole family friendly, or you don’t drink then there’s still plenty of unique spots for you to visit in downtown Gatlinburg – such as the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum or the Hollywood Star Cars Museum.

Dinner at the Cherokee Grill

The Cherokee Grill is the perfect spot to stop for dinner your first night to take in all the ambiance of the mountain town. The restaurant is styled with a mountain lodge atmosphere and decorated with authentic Cherokee artifacts, and also features delicious Southern-style steaks and seafood.

Day Two: Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Pigeon Forge

Your second day in Gatlinburg begins bright and early! Get ready for a mix of fresh air and dinner shows – today, you’re going to be bouncing around the Smoky mountains, and taking in the sights of Pigeon Forge.

Now – if you happen to be visiting in the Winter, you might want to swap the Great Smoky Mountains for Ober Gatlinburg, a mountain top theme park featuring skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and more.

Pancake Pantry

Before you start your second day, make sure your stomach is full. We’re going to recommend something hearty and filling – a good old fashioned pancake breakfast. And Gatlinburg has some of the best pancakes you could hope to find over at the Pancake Pantry.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you’re in Gatlinburg, you need to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are plenty of hiking trails for you to choose from and also some key spots you should make sure to see while you’re in the area.

Clingmans Dome

This impressive structure is the highest point in all of Tennessee! From the top of this impressive structure, on a nice clear day, you can see up to 100 miles. Keep in mind, it can be chilly being up this high at any time of the year, about 10-20 degrees cooler than in the lowlands, so bring a jacket.

Newfound Gap

After you see the highest point – then it’s time to see the lowest pass. The Newfound Gap is right near Clingmans Dome – it’s about a twenty minute car ride from one to the other.

Laurel Falls

The Smokies have plenty of breathtaking waterfalls to see, but we’re going to recommend you take a trip over to Laurel Falls. This 80 ft waterfall is split into two sections. It’s a 2.6 mile round trip hike that takes about 2 hours.

Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

As you’re driving out of the park, make sure to take a stop by the scenic overlook. This is one of the most beautiful sightseeing spots in the USA, offering a view of Gatlinburg with the mountains in the backdrop – plus, it’s on the way to your next spot in Pigeon Forge.

Titanic Museum

If your mind doesn’t immediately leap to the Titanic when you hear Tennessee, we understand – but it’s actually home to one of the most impressive Titanic Museums in the world. It’s built as a half-scale to the ship itself, and from the parking lot, looks like the S.S. Titanic floating in the sea.


No trip to the area would be complete without a visit to Dollywood. It’s a theme park, waterpark, and it’s the perfect place to grab a bite to eat and take in a dinner show.

Day Three:  Cades Cove, Anakeesta, and the Parkway

Two days down – and it’s on to the third! Today there’s more breathtaking sights and even mountain coasters on the menu – not to mention a little shopping so you can pick up a souvenir or two to remember your time in Tennessee.

Donut Friar

Hailed as the best donuts in Tennessee, you’re going to start your day off by picking up a few sweet treats. This donut shop is legendary, and the area adorable – but don’t linger too long. You want to get your donuts and get on the road before things get too busy to truly enjoy your next stop. Don’t worry, you’ll be back here soon.

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is an 11-mile loop where you can take in the sights of historic log cabins, churches, barns, and other historic structures. This is a beautiful and leisurely way to take in the scenery, and especially sweet with a donut in hand. But – get there early! The road fills up fast after 9 am.


Next you’ll be heading to Anakeesta, a theme park on Parkway where you can partake in mountain coasters, ziplining, chairlifts and more.

Fannie Farkles

Next up is some indoor fun and food at Fannie Farkles – an arcade with traditional games like PacMan and Skee Ball, along with modern favorites like Robot Storm or Sink It.  While you’re here make sure to try the Ogle Dog – a foot long corn dog that is absolutely legendary.

The Village

After you’ve had your fill of corndogs and fun at Fannie’s, you’re heading back towards Donut Friar and The Village, a unique and old fashioned shopping area in the heart of Gatlinburg. Take some time to pursue the shops, people watch, and take tons of Insta-worthy photos.

Gatlinburg Space Needle

As time draws to a close, and it’s time to head back home, there’s no better way to say goodbye than to take a ride up the Gatlinburg Space Needle. Take in the sights of the city and the mountains one last time before you start your road trip home.

Enjoy All This and More in Gatlinburg!

When you’re in Gatlinburg, you’re always within walking distance to something fun. More than you can truly fit into just 3 days. While this weekend trip to Gatlinburg has covered a lot of the popular attractions in the area, there’s always more to discover. Check out our blog to see more options for your next trip to Tennessee – and remember to take some time during your visit to catch your breath and relax! Gatlinburg will always be waiting for you to come back.