Your Guide To The Best Gatlinburg Family Activities For All Ages
Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a great destination for family fun, but that doesn’t mean every activity is family-friendly. While you wouldn’t take your kids on an Ole Smoky distillery tour, you also have to plan around their activity levels, physical abilities, and boredom. How do you get the most out of your trip and keep your kids happy with more than just pancakes and ice cream? Here are some of the most popular Gatlinburg family activities that people of all ages can enjoy.
Located in nearby Pigeon Forge, this massive theme park is consistently one of the top-rated parks in the country. While it’s famous for its roller coasters and shows, it focuses on accommodating children of all ages. Along with several kid-friendly rides, small play areas are scattered around the park to give kids a break from waiting in lines. The same goes for Dollywood Splash Country, the adjoining water park. It has several kid-friendly rides and water features, so the whole family can have fun and stay cool in the summer.
Are you traveling with someone who has special needs? Find everything you need to know about the park at the Ride Accessibility Center.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
If your kids are crazy about aquatic life, this place is a must for your Gatlinburg vacation. While this two-story aquarium features a variety of sea life, the main attractions are the penguins and sharks. Experience the amazing wonders of marine life from within the aquarium’s underwater tunnel, including sea turtles and tropical fish.
If you’re looking for a close encounter, check out Stingray Bay! It’s a stingray pool with a shallow end where you can actually reach out and touch a real stingray! Don’t forget to visit the gift shop to take home a souvenir from your ocean experience. You can get a discount by bundling tickets for all of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not attractions, such as Ripley’s Mirror Maze or Ripley’s Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster.
Most ski resorts just have skiing and snowboarding, with some bunny hills for the kids to practice their skills. However, Ober Gatlinburg is much more than that. This year-round park features both summer and winter activities, including an alpine slide, ice skating, ice bumper cars, chair swings, raft rides, a giant maze, and mini-golf courses. Want to take in the scenery? The park has an aerial tramway 1,000 feet higher than any other cable lift in the area. Best of all, you can choose what you want to pay for. The park lets you buy activities ala carte, or you can get a wristband that covers most of the attractions.
Anakeesta Mountaintop Park
If you have active kids, Anakeesta is a must-visit. This park offers some of the best views of the Smoky Mountains with great opportunities for active kids to play.
The park’s biggest attraction is the Treetop Skywalk, which features almost 900 feet of hanging bridges 50 to 60 feet above the ground. However, this is just one of the play areas in the park. There’s also the Treehouse Village, BearVenture challenge course, and TreeVenture challenge course. All of these activities are included with the standard ticket.
For an extra $59.99 per person, the Dueling Ziplines attraction at Anakeesta is another great family activity — it’s all-ages fun while flying through the treetops! Make sure to sign up in advance because spots fill up fast.
Gatlinburg Space Needle
If Anakeesta sounds overwhelming, there’s an alternative way to get great views of the Smokies: the Gatlinburg Space Needle. Thanks to its location at the center of Downtown Gatlinburg just off the parkway, it’s perfectly situated for seeing Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains. Not sure when to go? The family pass gives you two entrances to the needle. This way, you can see the mountains during the day and the city skyline at night from the needle’s observation deck.
What makes this one of the most fun things for kids to do in Gatlinburg? At the base of the needle, you’ll find a family fun center with over 30,000 square feet of arcade games, crane games, ski balls, and more. You can even buy packages that include credits for the arcade.
Ripley’s Mountain Coaster
One of the things that makes Gatlinburg a unique vacation destination is its alpine coasters. These rides use gravity to propel carts along winding tracks built on the sides of mountains. Riders control the speed using a hand brake, letting you take the ride at your own pace. However, you still need to stay ahead of the cars behind you, which can be anxiety-inducing.
This is where Ripley’s Mountain Coaster stands out. Formerly called Rowdy Bear’s Alpine Coaster, this ride has a sophisticated control system that brakes automatically, keeping you from running into other cars. You still control your speed in most sections, but you don’t need to worry about other riders catching up to you. This takes the anxiety out of the ride, especially for smaller riders. Anyone over three years old and 38 inches tall can ride the coaster.
Laurel Falls Trail
Looking for family activities in Gatlinburg that let you get out in nature? Why not take a hike? This fully paved nature trail is one of the easiest in the area, making it a good choice for families. At the center of this hiking loop, you’ll cross over a stream to see Laurel Falls, an 80-foot-tall waterfall.
Despite its moderate difficulty rating, this is fully paved and has gentle climbs, making it a great place to take small children. However, the surface is too rough for strollers and wheelchairs.
The trail loop is 2.6 miles long and takes a couple of hours to complete. Since this trail is inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, admission is free. If you visit in the summer or fall, you need to get there early to find a parking space. Before you go, check the national parks site to see if there are closings or trail advisories.
Part amusement park and part science museum, Wonderworks has over 100 interactive exhibits, the world’s largest indoor rope course, an indoor rock climbing wall, and laser tag. Best of all, everything is indoors, making it a great choice for days when the weather isn’t cooperating with your trip plans.
Gatlinburg’s most unique mini golf destination recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. After riding the tram 300 feet up the side of a mountain, you have your choice of two 18-hole courses. These courses feature unique obstacles, including wagons, a blacksmith shop, and even a tree that was integrated into the course after it fell over. This attraction is open from March to November.
Gatlin’s Escape Room Games
Bond with your family in a totally new way at Gatlin’s Escape Games. They have multiple rooms to test your wits. You may escape, you may not, but you’re sure to have a thrilling time during the attempt! Visitors can book in advance or not, but due to its popularity, there might be a wait for your room.
Let Us Help You Plan Your Visit to Gatlinburg
Whether you want to hit the Smoky Mountains hiking trails, visit theme parks, enjoy some music or just get away from it all, start planning your trip by visiting Relax Gatlinburg. We have all the information you need for your next family vacation to Gatlinburg, including places to stay, as well as information on transportation, restaurants, and great Gatlinburg attractions.
Looking for more Gatlinburg family activities? Check out our list of the best amusement parks in Gatlinburg!