Gatlinburg, nestled in the heart of Tennessee, is not just another vacation spot; it’s a vibrant, family-friendly treasure trove of adventures waiting to be discovered.
This charming mountain town, set against the backdrop of the majestic Great Smoky Mountains, offers a variety of activities that cater to every age and interest. From nature lovers to thrill-seekers, Gatlinburg has something special for everyone. In this guide, we’ll explore some must-do family activities that will make your Gatlinburg vacation unforgettable. Let’s dive in!
1. Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a natural wonderland that serves as the perfect starting point for your Gatlinburg adventure. Here are some activities and attractions to consider when visiting this majestic park:
- Hiking: With over 800 miles of trails, hiking is one of the most popular activities.
- Scenic Drives: For those who prefer to take in the beauty without walking, there are numerous scenic drives. The Cades Cove Loop Road is particularly popular for wildlife viewing and historic sites.
- Wildlife Viewing: The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and elk. Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley are great spots for wildlife watching.
- Waterfalls: The park boasts several beautiful waterfalls. Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls, and Grotto Falls are accessible via relatively short hikes.
- Picnicking: There are several picturesque picnic areas throughout the park. Pack a lunch and enjoy it amidst the natural beauty of the Smokies.
2. Cozy Stay at a Cabin
With stunning views of the Smokies and modern amenities, cabins provide a comfortable and serene retreat. Whether you choose a cabin by a babbling brook or nestled on a mountainside, you’ll find yourself in the heart of nature, with easy access to Gatlinburg’s attractions.
For a truly memorable stay, consider Stony Brook Cabins, which offers a range of cozy cabins perfect for family bonding. These cabins are not just a place to sleep; they are a part of your vacation experience.
3. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a must-visit for families. This world-class aquarium is home to a remarkable collection of sea creatures, from the graceful rays to the mesmerizing jellyfish. The interactive exhibits, like the Penguin Playhouse, offer a unique hands-on experience.
Imagine touching a real stingray or watching sharks glide overhead in the underwater tunnel. It’s not just entertaining; it’s educational, making it a hit with both kids and adults.
4. Enjoy the Views from the Gatlinburg Space Needle
Elevate your Gatlinburg experience, quite literally, at the Gatlinburg Space Needle. Standing at 407 feet tall, this iconic observation tower offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains and the bustling town below. The educational panels on the observation deck provide interesting facts about the area, making it a learning experience as well as a visual treat.
As the sun sets, watch Gatlinburg light up – a magical sight you won’t want to miss.
5. Fun at Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area
Whether it’s winter or summer, Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area promises year-round fun. In the colder months, the park transforms into a winter wonderland, offering skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. When the snow melts, the fun doesn’t stop. The alpine slide, mountain coaster, and scenic chairlift rides keep the excitement going.
The park is a fantastic way for families to enjoy the outdoors while engaging in some friendly competition or simply enjoying the mountain scenery.
6. Discovering Gatlinburg’s Arts and Crafts Community
Gatlinburg isn’t just about outdoor adventures; it’s also a hub for unique arts and crafts. The Gatlinburg
Arts and Crafts Community, located off the beaten path, is an 8-mile loop of local artisans and craftsmen. Here, you can watch potters, painters, and blacksmiths at work, creating one-of-a-kind pieces. It’s a fantastic opportunity for families to immerse themselves in the local culture. Kids will be fascinated to see crafts being made right before their eyes, and you might find the perfect handcrafted souvenir to take home.
7. Take a Gatlinburg Trolley Tour
One of the most relaxing ways to explore Gatlinburg is by taking a trolley tour. The Gatlinburg Trolley is an affordable and convenient way to navigate the town, with routes covering major attractions, shopping areas, and dining spots. It’s perfect for families who want to explore without the hassle of driving and parking. The trolley drivers often share fascinating tidbits about the town, making the ride both informative and enjoyable.
8. Sweet Treats at Local Candy Stores
Gatlinburg is heaven for those with a sweet tooth. The town boasts an array of candy stores, each offering its own homemade specialties. From creamy fudge to hand-pulled taffy, these confectioneries provide a delightful experience for all ages. Visit Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen to watch taffy being made, or pop into The Fudgery for a sample of their famous fudge. These sweet stops are not just stores; they’re an integral part of the Gatlinburg experience.
9. Adventure Awaits at Anakeesta
Discover the magic of Anakeesta, Gatlinburg’s award-winning outdoor adventure park. Nestled high above the town, this mountaintop destination offers breathtaking views, thrilling rides, and a chance to reconnect with nature. It’s an experience that combines the beauty of the Smokies with fun for the whole family.
As you ascend to Anakeesta via the scenic Chondola or the adventurous Ridge Rambler, you’re greeted with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Once at the summit, a world of adventure unfolds. Stroll through the lush Vista Gardens, where whimsical sculptures and vibrant flowers create a serene atmosphere. Kids will love the Treehouse Village Playground, a whimsical area designed to inspire and entertain.
Gatlinburg, with its blend of natural beauty, unique cultural experiences, and endless entertainment options, is a perfect family vacation destination. Whether you’re hiking through the Smoky Mountains or learning about local crafts, Gatlinburg offers a wealth of activities to create lasting memories.
So pack your bags and get ready for a trip that your family will talk about for years to come. Gatlinburg is waiting to welcome you with open arms and endless possibilities!