fun things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

After decades of being overlooked by most travelers outside of its neighboring states, Gatlinburg has finally started to get the international attention it deserves, ascending the popularity ranks exponentially over the last decade.

With an amusement park and ski resort at its center, plus some of the nation’s premier hiking and adventure opportunities, the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains is a must-visit destination for anyone planning a trip through the charming South.

Gatlinburg might be small in size but it’s the furthest thing from small in the entertainment department. With moonshine distilleries and cider breweries, live theater shows, haunted houses, and farmers’ markets, there’s something for everyone in this underestimated town.

Family-friendly that it is and little travelers are kept well-amused. From snow tubing through the mountains, to dizzying escape mazes to themed mini-golf courses … kids love it here!

Close by to Pigeon Forge and plenty of other mountain towns that are great for day tripping, take advantage of the unique scenery and wildlife during buggy excursions or walks to waterfalls.

If you’re on the hunt for exciting and fun things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, look no further.

1 – Quench that thirst for adventure at Anakeesta

Anakeesta, Gatlinburg

One of the most popular adventure parks in Gatlinburg, Anakeesta boasts a wide array of thrilling experiences.

Zoom down the zipline, take a relaxing gondola ride, take a selfie with a (fake) bear, or overcome obstacles in the treetop play area.

Get a bird’s-eye view of the Great Smoky Mountains from the top of 60-foot tall AnaVista Tower, the downtown’s highest point.

This mountaintop wonderland also provides a fun and refreshing atmosphere for eating, shopping and relaxing — with the lush forest and botanical gardens home to more than 3,000 plants.

No matter how strong you’re appetite for adventure, it’s a great day out for the whole family and one of the most fun things to do in Gatlinburg.

2 – Get spooked on a Gatlinburg ghost tour

Gatlinburg ghost tour

Long has Gatlinburg been known for its paranormal forces, with ghosts and ghouls rumored to inhabit the city’s streets.

Bask in the supernatural presence with a 1-mile, two-hour walking tour under the moonlight (a ghost’s favorite time of day).

Hear the sinister stories, view real haunted photographs and even test out some actual ghost-hunting equipment. It’s not your typical tourist activity, but it’s an unforgettable one nonetheless.

3 – Have all the family fun on the Ripley’s Mountain Coaster

Ripley's Mountain Coaster, Gatlinburg

Experience the thrills and take in the views at the same time onboard the Ripley’s Mountain Coaster.

Strap into a gravity-propelled cart, designed to gleam and slide along a single track, and cruise through the mountains, with nature in abundance all around you.

These special coaster carts let riders operate the wheel, and you get to control how fast or slow you’d like to go as you navigate down the mountain. As the route features declines, there are parts of the track that provide a serious adrenaline rush.

There are single and double coasters to choose from. Children need to be accompanied by an adult, but kids aged 10 years and older can ride solo if they’re over 1.3 meters tall.

4 – Take a front-row seat at the Iris Theater’s Impossibilities Magic Show

Impossibilities Magic Show, Gatlinburg

Be amazed at Gatlinburg’s No. 1 show, the mind-shattering performance of the internationally-renowned magician, Erik Dobell!

The beloved Impossibilities Magic Show combines hilarious mayhem with optical illusions. Hosted in a small, intimate theatre, the show contains lots of interaction with the audience.

Every year, this Tennessee-based mentalist and professional entertainer does more than 200 shows at the Iris Theater in downtown Gatlinburg.

Bring the whole crew (yes, the children too) to this incredible show, and be sure to make reservations, as seats run out fast.

5 – Play for hours at the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum

Gatlinburg Pinball Museum

Listen up die-hard gamers! With over 100 nostalgic pinball machines and retro arcade games lining its walls,  Gatlinburg Pinball Museum is one of the best activities in Gatlinburg.

Admission includes unlimited play and no quarters or tokens required. It means guests can button-mash to their heart’s content on classics like Space Invaders, Pacman, Lord of the Rings and so many more.

Packed with super limited edition ones, this largest collection of pinballs in the city can easily fill up all your day with excitement.

6 – Throw some hatchets at Gatlinburg Axe House

Gatlinburg Axe House

Take the entire crew to axe throwing right and hit some targets at the Axe House, located at the heart of downtown Gatlinburg.

Owned by an enthusiast and professional player who has joined famous global competitions, this fun place guarantees success in sticking the axe on the board in no time.

Get some help from well-trained coaches from World Axe Throwing League, which unites all groups dedicated to this competitive sport.

Whether you’re looking for some fun or wanting to improve your competitiveness, you’ve come to the right place. It’s safe and friendly, even your pets are welcome to join you.

7 – Hike beautiful trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

While there’s no shortage of things to do within the Gatlinburg city limits, the city’s true selling point is its proximity to some of the nation’s most beautiful natural hiking trails. Neighboring the magnificent Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the best hikes are through the mountainous landscape.

Tackle 1,500 feet of elevation gain on the Rainbow Falls Trail with a stunning waterfall reward at the finish line. Ascend the relatively easy three-quarter-mile track to Mingo Falls, or hike the Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte which takes up to six hours — with gorgeous landscapes and scenery along the way.

Clocking in at four miles round-trip, the Gatlinburg Trail is one of the simpler routes to trek, starting from the borders of the park, and with no climbing required. It’s a superb choice for travelers seeking a relaxing hike in nature.

If you carry a binocular, you have more chances to see a black bear, white-tailed deer or other wild animals. You can also take a picnic or pitch a tent to camp for the night, so bring all the gear you need for your choice of adventure.

A second option is to ditch the walking shoes and instead, embark on a scenic drive around the National Park. Some of the most beautiful roads to cruise along include Newfound Gap Road, Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Little River Road, Clingman’s Dome Road and Cades Cove Loop

8 – Step into a world of adventure and intrigue at The Escape Game

The Escape Game, Gatlinburg

If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure, an escape game is the perfect choice.

Escape rooms are immersive adventure games where teams must work together to complete a mission and escape a room before time runs out. To progress through the game, you’ll need to find clues and solve puzzles that will lead you to victory.

With five unique games to choose from, including The Depths, our underwater-themed escape room, and Prison Break, the most challenging game yet, there’s something for everyone at The Escape Game in Gatlinburg.

The clock is ticking, are you up for the challenge?

9 – Zoom around the forests on an off-road buggy tour

off-road buggy tour

Explore Gatlinburg and its surrounding Great Smoky Mountains in a unique, adventurous way — behind the wheel of an off-road specialty vehicle. These buggies can tackle the harsh off-road terrain with ease, allowing you to witness areas untouched by the majority of locals and tourists.

Two-, four-, and six-seater UTVs are up for grabs at venues like KanamFun and Mountain Life UTV Rentals, including the slick Polaris Slingshot. Venture out on your own, or opt for one of their guided off-road UTV tours.

Tear up the tracks, throwback mud, cross rivers and try a wheelspin or two through the backcountry. Rent out a UTV from Rocky Top Adventure for two hours, or more, and zoom around their recommended routes like Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome.

Some of the roads in Gatlinburg (for example, the Tail of the Dragon) don’t allow UTVs, but not to fear, this adventure rental company also has Jeeps, Slingshots, Vanderhall and Rykers which you can rent to drive these parts instead.

As the name suggests, Off-Road Gatlinburg is all about the off-road experience and tours with this company favor different areas like the Appalachian Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. ATV tours are available with these pros too, and the quads can seat two people.

10 – Muster up some courage at the Mysterious Mansion

Gatlinburg's Mysterious Mansion
credit to Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion

Officially Gatlinburg’s oldest and spookiest haunted house, this three-story Victorian mansion on River Road has been welcoming brave visitors for over 35 years.

With secret passageways, winding staircases and creepy dark corridors, this is the place to go, especially if you’re planning to release any bottled-up screams.

Make sure to keep your wits about you — spooky surprises await around every corner at the Mysterious Mansion.

11 – Make a penguin friend at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Within walking distance from the Mysterious Mansion (making for the perfect back-to-back itinerary), Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies fuses with the amazing interactive experiences of Ripley’s museum.

It takes all the marine wonder of your typical aquarium with over 10,000 exotic sea creatures spread across 10 uniquely themed galleries.

Meet and interact with a penguin — you can also create art together. Make sure to have a photo with your new buddy and bring home your painting as a souvenir of your new friendship.

For something extra special, opt for a glass-bottom boat ride!

12 – Sample fruity blends during a wine-tasting session

Tennessee Homemade Wines
credit to Tennessee Homemade Wines

Home to a handful of local wineries, there’s a splash of wine-infused activities to try out in Gatlinburg, from tastings to tours to trails. If Moonshine just doesn’t cut it, grab a glass or two of some of the state’s finest blends at Tennessee Homemade Wines.

Though the winery sells original blends, it’s known for its soft and delicious fruit-infused wines, such as the Blueberry Bammer, Proper Peach, Fine Blackberry and White Knuckle Grape.

It also takes pride in its 100-year-old family recipe of Old Apple and Apple Orchard, which are made from locally grown apples. This watering hole is open seven days a week, offering free tastings throughout.

Hot tourist tip: Did you know there’s a dedicated Gatlinburg Wine Trail? Walking from one place to the next, you get to sample FREE wine at each stop on the designated route! Some stops include Sugarland Cellars, Bootleggers Homemade Wine and Little Bear Winery.

If you’d prefer for one of the locals to show you the ropes, wine tours take guests through to two wineries, as well as a traditional moonshine distillery — even if you’re not a fan, it’s an interesting endeavor, you’re in the South after all.

13 – Adore exceptional views at Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

Boasting remarkable and unbeaten views of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is an essential spot for any visitor.

The spectacular SkyBridge claims the title of the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, with glass floor paneling adding another dimension of adventure.

Meanwhile, the Sky Lift soars 500 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain, offering even more incredible vistas. It’s one of the essential things to do in Gatlinburg, without a doubt.

14 – Go snow tubing at Rowdy Bear’s Smoky Mountain Snowpark

Rowdy Bear’s Smoky Mountain Snowpark, Pigeon Forge

Did you ever think you’d go tubing down snowy mountains in the South? Seeing is believing and it’s all possible at the epic Rowdy Bear’s Smoky Mountain Snowpark.

Home to the largest outdoor snow tubing hill in Tennessee, during the wintery months, grab an inflatable tube and hit the slopes laden with real snow — thanks to the park’s special snow-making machines.

Glide and slide down the 150-meter-long slope, with its highest elevation reaching a 21-meter incline to ride down. Then warm up afterward with a cup of hot chocolate at the Sugar Bears Café And Creamery.

When the summer months roll in, the snow tubing is converted into an outdoor tubing hill so the fun never stops 365 days a year.

There are other mountain-themed outdoor pursuits to try at Rowdy Bear Mountain, including axe-throwing activities, and the riveting Ski Lift Shootout Coaster — a suspended Alpine coaster with two-seater swing chairs attached. Feel the thrills as you “dip and soar” over Rowdy Bear Ridge.

For the younger crowd, head on over to Rowdy Ridge Playground with interactive features from slides to climbing nets for children (the minimum age requirement is two years old and kids must be chaperoned at all times).

15 – Shop till you drop at The Village

The Village, Gatlinburg
credit to The Village

Nestled in downtown Gatlinburg lies the Smokies’ most unique shopping destination, The Village district.

Explore nearly 30 intriguing boutiques, restaurants and galleries, all brought together with an old-timey European flare.

Make sure to stop into Coffee & Company, Gatlinburg’s oldest roasting coffee shop, and grab a personalized souvenir for your jealous friends at U Name It.

Looking for excitement? Experience some powerful magic while facing challenges at the escape room “Masters of Magic” located at Gatlin’s Escape Games. It’s also a shop offering a wide selection of puzzles and board games that you can take home.

16 – Carve powder at the Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park & Ski Area

Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park & Ski Area

The family-friendly Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park is worth a visit no matter the season.

During the snowy wintery months (typically early December to mid-March), it transforms into a magical skiing and snowboarding resort complete with indoor ice skating and wildlife encounters.

Throughout summer and fall, choose from a number of beautiful hiking trails, plus an Alpine Slide and water rides.

You can reach the mountaintop resort by taking the aerial tramway at Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, which allows you to admire the marvelous scenery during the 2.1-mile transport.

17 – Whizz down the mountain on the Moonshine Mountain Coaster

Moonshine Mountain Coaster, Gatlinburg
credit to Moonshine Mountain Coaster

Have you ever ridden a mountain coaster before? Between the pick of ways to sightsee the Smokies and things to do in Gatlinburg, the Moonshine Mountain Coaster is among the top unique attractions.

Prepare for a ride of a lifetime as you’re strapped into a hand-controlled coaster cart (seating up to two passengers) and then begin the descent from the top of the mountains, whizzing through the native terrain at speeds up to nearly 50 kilometers per hour.

If you’re lucky — and not screaming, or taking photographs — you might even spot a grizzly.

Begin at the bottom of the mountain, and first be pulled up to the top of the hill at an altitude of 76 meters, and then zoom along the one-kilometer track. The ride down the mountain is five minutes in total.

Super fun for all ages, the attraction is family-friendly. Children from the ages of three and upwards, and over 96 centimeters tall are allowed to ride the coaster with a parent.

18 – Check out the Batmobile at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum

Hollywood Star Cars Museum, Gatlinburg
credit to Hollywood Star Cars Museum

If you’re searching for fun things to do in Gatlinburg, it’s hard to go past an up-close experience with the real 1966 Batmobile!

Transport yourself to the Tinseltown backlot in this unique museum, with 40 authentic vehicles from films like “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Fast and Furious” lining the floor.

Besides the film cars, the museum also showcases the former rides of celebrities like Paul McCartney and Elvis Presley!

19 – Face down thrill slides at Soaky Mountain Waterpark

Soaky Mountain Waterpark, Servierville, Tennessee
credit to Soaky Mountain Waterpark

The enthralling 50-acre Soaky Mountain Waterpark in Sevierville is about 40 minutes drive from downtown Gatlinburg.

Prepare to brave the combo slide “The Edge Watercoaster” which provides an almost 200 meters long ride. Expect to drop from a height of 70 feet that shoots you down through colorful tubes.

For a dazzling experience, hop on a group raft through the Rainbow Revenge with translucent tubes that create different colors as you go down.

Secure your season passes for the entire family to experience many more exhilarating slides.

20 – Get weird at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Gatlinburg

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Gatlinburg
credit to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Proudly self-labeled as the “weirdest place in Gatlinburg,” Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has been delighting, confusing and entertaining guests of all ages for decades.

It features over 500 unique exhibits encompassing interactive installations, wacky tidbits, optical illusions and a space shuttle made from jelly beans.

See and interact with its latest collection of odd artifacts such as authentic shrunken heads, and a vampire killing kit.

The three-floor building is hard to miss — it’s the absolutely oddest thing you can find at Parkway. It’s easily one of the best things to do in downtown Gatlinburg.

21 – Strap into the 7D Dark Ride Adventure

7D Dark Ride Adventure, Gatlinburg

A quick, entertaining activity during any day of exploring the main Gatlinburg strip, the 7D Dark Ride Adventure is an immersive, exciting activity for kids and adults alike.

Combining a roller coaster with shoot-em-ups, 3D visuals, sensory triggers and epic special effects, this ride simply needs to be experienced to be truly understood.

It’s not hard to get thrilled in this family-friendly attraction that offers plenty of realistic simulated rides and experiences. The staff is notably welcoming and friendly too, which never goes astray.

22 – Wander through Ripley’s Haunted Adventure (if you dare)

Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
credit to Ripley’s Haunted Adventure

One of the Ripley’s-branded attractions throughout the city, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure is ready to scare the socks off anyone brave enough to enter its doors.

The live actors, spooky makeup and frightening special effects combine to make this one of the scariest attractions in Tennessee.

Do you have what it takes? Get an ultimate fun pass which includes a tour in this famous haunted house any time of the year.

23 – Get lost in an Mirror Maze

Amazing Mirror Maze, Gatlinburg

Get spoiled for choice at the Amazing Mirror Maze, one of the most popular family-friendly attractions in Gatlinburg.

As the one-stop shop for fun immersive activities, this treasured locale offers a delightfully disorientating mirror maze and a blacklight mini-golf course to go with it. While available separately, grab the combo ticket for the best bang for your buck.

For even more puzzling adventures, Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze is a treat.

Entering what seems like endless hallways and rooms creating hundreds of reflections, maze-runners, try to make your way through the flashing LED lights and an infinity of mirrors.

Look above to see a ceiling of sparkling stars, or follow the red zigzagging lit-up pathways for an escape out of the labyrinth.

24 – Hold onto your seat in Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater

Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater, Gatlinburg

That’s not a typo, the theater at Ripley’s Gatlinburg really is moving!

Take the classic cinematic spectacle to the next level by strapping yourself into one of the motion seats and letting the state-of-the-art digital effects work their magic.

After watching either Roadhoggers or Winter Wipeout, you would never think of movies the same way again.

25 – Ascend the Gatlinburg Space Needle

Gatlinburg Space Needle

View the city’s glamor and natural beauty from above while being surrounded by a protective mountain range.

Sporting 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains, with downtown Gatlinburg beneath your feet, the 407-foot tall Space Needle is the premier inner-city observation deck.

Don’t toss up between the clear day or sparkling night views, head to the top just before sunset for the best of both worlds.

Riding the glass elevator, take time to admire the surrounding greenery and dynamic colorful villages below.

26 – Try some homebrew at the moonshine distilleries

Moonshine distilleries in Gatlinburg

It wouldn’t be a trip to Tennessee without at least a taste of the region’s infamous moonshine — otherwise known as hooch or homebrew.

While there are plenty of questionable brews out there, by far some of the highest-quality samples can be found at America’s most visited distillery Ole Smoky and the rustic award-winning Sugarlands Distilling Company.

For those keen to go behind the scenes and learn about the drink’s distillery process and historical significance, sign up for a walking tour.

Many tourists say it’s an unforgettable experience, but that depends on how much you drink.

27 – Practice pirouettes at the ice skating rink

ice skating Ober Gatlinburg

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, the extra-large ice skating rink at the center of Ober Gatlinburg’s enclosed mall is an ideal activity for anyone to spend an hour or two.

Skate rental and lessons are available, so just bring yourself and a can-do attitude!

If your visit happens to align with the holiday season, check the calendar for the annual  Christmas on Ice events.

28 – Rocket down Ober Gatlinburg’s Ski Mountain Coaster

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Mountain Coaster

The Ober Gatlinburg resort has plenty to offer year-round, however, two of its thrilling attractions reign supreme!

On the Ski Mountain Coaster, you twist down 3,750 feet of the mountain at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour (or at their own pace, of course).

As you control your speed, take a glimpse of the stunning mountain views and forests around you. Schedule your time of visit because this ride is a crowd favorite.

On the Alpine Slide, youngsters race against their friends in sled-like carts across a winding 1,800-foot long track.

29 – Ride bumper cars … on ice!

ice bumper cars, Ober Gatlinburg

All the fun of the classic bumper car ride is thrown into an ice rink!

That’s Ober Gatlinburg’s Ice Bumper attraction in nutshell, one of the most enjoyable things to do in Gatlinburg for kids and teenagers.

With joystick in hand, riders can spin in circles around the rink or smash (safely) into their friends — before finishing off and making a beeline for Ober’s Alpine Slide or Mountain Coaster.

30 – Support local artisans at the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community

Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, Gatlinburg

With over 100 artists and craftsmen lining its corridors, the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is officially the country’s largest independent artisan organization.

Drive down the 8-mile-loop road to discover weavers, watercolor artists, soap makers, potters and so many more unique vendors — making for the perfect selection of handcrafted, Appalachian souvenirs.

Definitely for art and handicraft lovers, this is a complete destination for shopping and dining experiences — with specialty foods and candies you couldn’t resist.

31 – Race against the clock in an escape room

escape room in Gatlinburg

Test your puzzle-solving abilities and prove once and for all who the smartest family member is with a 60-minute detective challenge in one of Gatlinburg’s immersive, always-entertaining escape rooms.

Pick from themes like the Indiana Jones adventure, the Haunting of Hyde House, the Realm of Illusions, and even the Moonshine Hill Hootenanny!

You can find these amazing escape rooms in two locations: Reagan Terrace Mall and The Village with Masters of Magic — where you can also choose from various classic and contemporary board games to take home.

32 – Conquer Goliath at the Firefox Mountain Adventure Park

Firefox Mountain Adventure Park
credit to Firefox Mountain Adventure Park

Adrenaline junkies, this one’s got your name written all over it.

At 475 feet above the earth and with a scintillating top speed of 55 miles per hour, the Goliath zipline proudly wields the title of highest, longest and fastest zipline across the Great Smoky Mountains.

After tackling Goliath, there’s still plenty more to do throughout the Firefox Mountain Adventure Park. Choose from amphibious rides, ropes courses and a knee-buckling suspension bridge.

Enjoy the hikes along with the views in this 150-acre mountainous destination, as you learn about its significant role during the Civil War.

33 – Take a swing at some of the most unique locations for mini golf

Hillbilly Golf, Gatlinburg

It’s putt-putt but as you’ve never seen before. The Hillbilly Golf mini-golf course straddles the side of a mountain, requiring a tram ride up the slopes to the top.

Spread across the two 18-hole courses are plenty of cliché hillbilly and redneck decor: outhouses, moonshine stills and farm equipment, to name a few. Don’t putt too hard — your ball might roll down the mountain!

With not one, but five putt-putt courses, playtime at Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf ensures exciting corners to tee off from, as well as hours of laughter. With an area designed to replicate the landscapes and mountain ranges of Tennessee, offering two 18-hole courses with a touch of humor into the mix.

Look out for all the barnyard characters as you move between holes at one of the three 18-hole courses at the Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf area. Decked with immersive features and water elements, children especially love these themed courses.

Head up the hillside and “travel back in time” around the two mini-golf courses at Gatlin’s Mini Golf. Not only fun but as you putt-putt your way through 45 holes (if playing both courses), learn about the history of Gatlinburg dating to its first settlers.

34 – Go whitewater rafting in the Pigeon River

rafting in Pigeon River

The Great Smoky Mountains are an untouched slice of Mother Nature. Its forests provide perfect shade for a day on the upper Pigeon River — as you zoom down the class 3 and class 4 with rapids with the water splashing in all directions.

Visit Smoky Mountains Outdoor Rafting and jump into the smaller boat in the “extreme” upper river section for a heart-pumping adventure. For something more relaxing, opt for a Lower Pigeon River rafting tour.

Choose from the rafting packages which include ziplining and great deals for visiting other attractions such as the Ober Gatlinburg, Dollywood and Anakeesta.

35 – Go horse riding at the Smoky Mountain Riding Stables

horse riding Smoky Mountains

Head to the Smoky Mountain Riding Stables and trot through the vast and rocky terrain of the Smoky Mountains.

You’re saddled onto a slow-moving, well-trained horse — the way nature was meant to be explored. Without the roar of car engines scaring off wildlife, nature sightings are common.

Keep an eye out for wild turkeys, deer and even tree-climbing black bears!

36 – Practice your drive at the Gatlinburg Golf Course

Gatlinburg Golf Course

Just 5 miles from downtown Gatlinburg, the state’s most celebrated golf courses offer lush manicured greens of the fairways — combined with the fairytale-like atmosphere created by the forest landscapes.

Besides the 18-hole and nine-hole courses, the facility also boasts a fully-equipped pro shop to upgrade your kit. There’s also an on-site restaurant to refuel after a few hours of practicing your drives.

Highly admired for its beautiful scenery and great shape, as well as useful GPS screens on the golf carts, this place makes a wonderful day out where you can also bring your family and friends to hang out.

37 – Go fishing in the Smoky Mountains

fishing in the Smoky Mountains

Fishing and mountains might seem like an odd combination, however, the Smoky Mountains are teeming with wildlife-abundant streams.

With tour companies like Smoky Mountain Angler, expert guides take guests along the fresh rivers and teach them how to reel in wild mountain trout — or whatever other critter floats along.

Depending on how much time you’ve got to spare, half-day and full-day excursions are available.

38 – Spend a day at the Dollywood theme park

Dollywood theme park
credit to Dollywood

One of the nation’s few theme parks built with a dedication to replicating that classic “Southern charm” is the amusement park co-owned by famous entertainer Dolly Parton.

Dollywood features over 50 enthralling rides spread across 150 acres, a number of award-winning eateries and regular live entertainment.

Topping it all off, the entire park sits within the stunning surrounds of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s located in the Knoxville-Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, about a 20-minute drive from downtown Gatlinburg.

39 – Get soaked at Dollywood’s Splash Country water park

Dollywood’s Splash Country water park
credit to Dollywood

Inspired by the fun childhood moments of the entertainer Dolly Parton, this water park sits beside the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge.

Dollywood’s Splash Country water park ranked fourth on USA Today’s assessment of the country’s best outdoor water parks. This can tell you all you need to know about the array of amazing rides and attractions at this Southern-themed splash zone.

For the ultimate thrill-seeker, get in line for the Fire Tower Falls! Thanks to its location in a mountain hollow, there’s plenty of natural shade.

Keep in mind, being an outdoor park, Splash Country is only open from May to September (the summer months). Make sure to check its opening schedule so you can time your visit and have a wonderful time in the city.

40 – Zip through the Smoky Mountains with CLIMB Works

zipline in Smoky Mountains
credit to CLIMB Works

Immersed within the beautiful greenery of the Smoky Mountains, CLIMB Works provides adventurous visitors the chance to explore the stunning natural landscape in two equally exciting ways — the breathtaking Mountaintop Zipline and the top-rated Treetop Zipline.

The two-hour Mountaintop option includes five zip lines, four aerial bridges, a platform rappel, and an ATV tour on the top of the mountain.

The Treetop package includes nine world-class ziplines, keeping you off the ground and among the trees for 2.5 hours — non-stop.

41 – Soar above the mountains in a hot air balloon

Smoky Mountains hot air balloon

For one of the best outdoor activities in Gatlinburg, soar over the city and the endless greenery of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains on board a hot air balloon.

It’s an experience that manages to be exhilarating and relaxing simultaneously.

The balloon rides launch just before the sun comes up, providing stunning sunrise views and a thrilling start to any day.

Time your visit for perfect weather to fly and get a bird’s-eye view of the magnificent mountain ranges.

42 – Keep the family entertained at Gatlin’s Fun Center

Gatlin’s Fun Center

True to its name, this place offers hands-down one of the most fun things to do in Gatlinburg.

Gatlin’s Fun Center has laser tag, a ropes course, multiple escape rooms, bumper cars and a high-speed coordination game called Atomic Rush.

It also features Glow in the Dark mini golf where you can play in an underwater theme with brightly colored creatures, including a mermaid, giant octopus and dolphins.

It’s the one-stop shop for interactive, family-friendly entertainment.

43 – Enjoy hiking to the waterfalls for breathtaking scenery

waterfall hiking in Gatlinburg

Cascading through valleys and mountains, the waterfall scene in Gatlinburg is next level, and you could dedicate an entire day just to go chasing waterfalls.

As most are located inside the Great Smoky Mountains range, there is a bit of hiking required to reach the waterfalls, so decide on the one that best suits you in terms of time, distance and strenuosity.

In the midst of a hemlock forest discover the seven-meter-high Grotto Falls, accessible via the Trillium Gap Trail. Take precaution on the rocks around the waterfall as they tend to get super slippery.

If you’re traveling with the kids, Cataract Falls is a great option. Easy to reach along the Cataract Falls Trail, the walk there and back is just over a kilometer. Following the trailhead with the same name as its 24-meter-high waterfall, Rainbow Falls gains its nickname because when the sun is shining, a rainbow glimmers in the air around it.

As you arrive at Laurel Falls, spot mountain laurel blossoming along the trail and around the waterfall in shades of soft pinks (in May). As one of the most popular walks in the park, the hike along Laurel Falls Trail is a two-hour round-trip.

A second spot whose name helps paint a picture; The Place of a Thousand Drips is one of the waterfalls in the park accessible by car, with no hiking needed to reach it. Diverging into plentiful small cascades, it’s a spectacular sight to behold.

The soaring 36-meter-high Mingo Falls can be found just outside the National Park’s perimeters, and it’s one of the tallest waterfalls in the area. Follow Pigeon Creek Trail for just over half a kilometer to reach it.

44 – Escape from ghosts at The Captured

The Captured, Gatlinburg
credit to The Captured

Situated at the base of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, The Captured fuses the challenging detective work of an escape room. Inspired by the ghosts and ghouls of Gatlinburg’s past, it creates an atmosphere that’s delightfully spooky.

With the perfect amount of horror-themed suspense keeping escapees on the edge of their toes, this activity is regularly reviewed as one of the best escape rooms going around.

This interactive game tests your ability to solve puzzles and discover clues, so you can escape death — like avoiding the cannibals who are ready to devour you if you can’t escape the cellar in 60 minutes.

45 – Sample local produce at the Gatlingburg Farmers’ Market

Gatlingburg Farmers' Market

Sample all the best fresh food Gatlinburg has to offer, while chatting to the friendly locals and the fan-favorite Farmers Market — a city staple that operates most Saturday mornings.

As you stroll through the aisles, expect rows of just-picked fruits and vegetables, scrumptious cookies (Josie’s Cookies), dehydrated chili flakes (Olde Virden’s Red Hot Sprinkle), lovely handmade soaps (Kulturology Soap Co), and plenty more.

Check out its website for the market schedules and new vendors and crafts to keep an eye out during your visit to Gatlinburg.

46 – Take to the skies on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway

Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway

Ascend thousands of feet in one of the more fun things to do in Gatlinburg — the famous Aerial Tramway.

The 120-passenger cable car operates year-round, presenting spectacular views of the Great Smoky Mountains no matter the season.

The entire journey takes about 10 minutes, dropping visitors off at Ober Gatlinburg, home to must-do activities like ice skating and the Alpine Slide.

47 – Explore Gatlinburg, Amazing Race-style!

Amazing Gatlinburg Race

Race against the clock and outwit your competition by exploring this Southern city in a fast-paced competition, one of the best things to do in Gatlinburg.

The interactive puzzle-solving adventure game is jam-packed with exciting challenges that test your teamwork and creative thinking — while taking you all over the city in search of your next clue.

Keep an eye out for the schedules of the next Amazing Gatlinburg Race!

48 – Baffle your mind at Wonderworks


No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you — that house genuinely is upside down!

The disorientating abode is just one of the many whimsical illusions on display at Wonderworks, self-proclaimed as an “amusement park for the mind.”

While technically located in Pigeon Forge, Wonderworks is just 15-20 minutes from Gatlinburg, making for an easy afternoon activity that the kids (and adults) will love.

In addition to the six wonder zones, this attraction also boasts laser tag, an indoor ropes course and a 4D simulator!

49 – Visit the intriguing Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum

Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum, Gatlinburg
credit to The Salt And Pepper Shaker Museum

Among the weird and wonderful endeavors to try attempt in the city, the Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum is really one-of-a-kind, and in fact, it’s the only museum quite like in the entire world!

Unravel the world of shakers at this zany museum, and investigate a collection of over 20,000 pairs of salt and pepper shakers.

What started out as a quest to find the best salt shakers turned into an insatiable hobby for the founders of this museum, and when no space was left in their home to keep their collections, the unique Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum was established.

Today, walk through shelves of all sorts of shakers and grinders from across the globe, dating throughout the centuries, in varying shapes, colors and designs.

Explore the evolution of the shaker — which was created way before you would imagine.

Accompanying the themed displays are little stories that shed some light on the tool or information about the artists behind the creation.

50 – See a live springboard chop at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud

Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud
credit to Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud

For an amazing show seldom found anywhere else, Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud puts on a 1.5-hour extravaganza.

Watch professional log rolling, axe throwing, speed climbing and the nerve-racking springboard chop.

After gawking at the pros in action, try log rolling or speed climbs yourself (safely harnessed, of course).

Don’t miss your chance to ride The Flying Ox either, the world’s first zipline rollercoaster!

51 – Meet the monkeys at RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo

RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo, Glatlinburg

Home to over 600 critters originating from rainforests all over the world, this family-friendly Smoky Mountains attraction should be high atop any animal lover’s bucket list.

The RainForest Adventures Discovery Zoo houses over 140 species, including reptiles, birds, adorable primates and plenty more.

Bringing joy to millions of visitors since its inception in 2001, the zoo located in Sevierville, Tennessee, is about a 40-minute drive from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg.

To keep the kids entertained, the facility offers immersive, educational activities and even a petting zoo!

52 – Win an awesome prize at Arcade City

Arcade City

The fun doesn’t have to end here … Besides Arcade City, Arcadia is another awesome choice for gamers — whether young or old — and the prizes up for grabs are pretty mental!

Plowing through a mix of classic games and newer ones sporting interactive features, from pinball to Halo to claw games, racing cars and hundreds more, build up your gold collection and cash it in afterward for mega rewards.

Play for keeps and win BIG brands from the likes of Sony, Playstation, Lego, Xbox, Apple, Cuisinart, Coach, Nerf and plenty of others.

At the family-fun center, catch a fantabulous Magic Show performed by a top mentalist and magician, or ride a glass elevator to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle tower for panoramic city views.

The fun doesn’t have to end here… Besides Arcade City, Arcadia is another awesome choice for gamers — whether young or old — and the prizes up for grabs are pretty mental!

Plowing through a mix of classic games and newer ones sporting interactive features, from pinball to Halo to claw games, racing cars and hundreds more, build up your gold collection and cash it in afterward for mega rewards.

Play for keeps and win BIG brands from the likes of Sony, Playstation, Lego, Xbox, Apple, Cuisinart, Coach, Nerf and plenty of others.

At the family-fun center, catch a fantabulous Magic Show performed by a top mentalist and magician, or ride a glass elevator to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle tower for panoramic city views.

53 – Dress up for an old-time photo

old-time photo

Gatlinburg and the neighboring Pigeon Gorge aren’t bustling metropolises or tourist-trodden concrete jungles. They’re impressive historical towns that emit a vibrant atmosphere of eras gone by.

Capture that essence with a timeless photo by dressing up as a cowboy or cowgirl at Old Town Photos or Miss Sadie’s in Gatlinburg. You can even bring your pets along to Four Sisters Old Time Photos.

Whatever you do, don’t leave Gatlinburg without this essential souvenir.

54 – Walk around the summit of Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s highest point, Clingmans Dome has a peak of almost 7,000 feet above sea level and is the third tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River.

There’s no better way to appreciate the spruce-fir forest and mountain views than from atop its observation deck.

See the marvelous mountain ranges with a 360 degrees view, which extends to 100 miles in a clear sky.

After trekking the easy half-mile paved trail to the viewing platform, you can see the expansive wilderness of Tennessee and North Carolina all the way out to the horizon.

55 – Chow down at the best restaurants

best restaurants in Gatlinburg

After all the outdoor activities and city exploring, treat yourselves to a delicious meal at one of the best restaurants in town. With a strong hold on traditions, indulge in prime custom-cut steaks and premium wines at The Peddler Steakhouse. Set up inside a log cabin, the setting adds extra authenticity.

The South is renowned for dishes enhanced by flavors created by smoking techniques; Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que is one of the top places in town to experience all the smoky goodness. Naturally, everything is cooked over flames, and the restaurant has been serving patrons for over 29 years!

Designed to replicate a traditional (and stylish) mountain lodge, Calhoun’s has several locations, including the one in Gatlinburg. Discover classic American and Southern dishes on its menu, and they also do a mean BBQ.

Claiming the local award for the best steakhouse in the area, Alamo Steakhouse’s selection of aged steaks is hard to beat. Open since 1991 and boasting 11 local locations, they sure know a thing or two about food.

With the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a backdrop, The Park Grill is a great spot for couples and has a refined dining feel.

56 – Cool off at the Wild Bear Falls Water Park

Wild Bear Falls Water Park, Gatlinburg
credit to Wild Bear Falls Water Park

For days when the sun just refuses to shine, the indoor Wild Bear Falls Water Park is the answer — with waters kept warm year-round.

Boasting attractions like the lazy river, a pair of water slides and kid-friendly pools and splash zones, it’s the perfect place to let the youngsters loose for an afternoon.

If you’re looking to do your swimming workout or play a basketball game in the water with friends, this water park has the Swimming Hole for you. Then relax your body in a 42-inch hot tub at the Grotto Falls.

57 – Experience the truly unique show at Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Dolly Parton’s Stampede
credit to Dolly Parton’s Stampede

An extraordinary spectacle combining a delectable dinner with a 32-horse live show (plus the riders, of course), Dolly Parton’s Stampede is Tennessee entertainment like you’ve never seen before.

This Civil War-themed attraction allows viewers to sit with either the North or the South group, as the battle plays out and, occasionally, the South wins.

If you happen to be visiting around Christmas time, the holiday show receives nothing but glowing reviews.

58 – Get stuffed at Pancake Pantry

Pancake Pantry, Gatlinburg
credit to Pancake Pantry

A beloved local eatery for residents and tourists alike, Pancake Pantry has been dishing up piping hot plates for over half a century and is yet to put a foot wrong.

With a menu offering both sweet and savory — covering everything from Old Fashioned Buttermilk Pancakes to Sweet Potato Pancakes, Pecan Pancakes, and Georgia Peach Crepes (perfect for the sweet tooth) — there’s a stack for every palate.

Located next to the entrance of the charming European-inspired The Village, the restaurant can be a great stop before or after exploring the artisanal shops.

59 – Wander through the beautiful Forbidden Caverns

Forbidden Caverns, Sevierville

For a terrific day trip itinerary, head to the outskirts of Sevierville, Tennessee. It’s only about a 35-minute drive from Gatlinburg but has plenty of shopping, dining and activities to offer.

Arguably its greatest highlight is the stunning and eerily quiet Forbidden Caverns.

Learn from friendly expert guides who can explain the significance of the area’s geology and its unique history.

As any visitor can say, photos just don’t do this place justice. To truly experience its natural beauty, you have to witness its rock formations with your bare eyes.

60 – Quench your thirst at the best breweries

best breweries in Gatlinburg

Craft beers have soared in popularity over the years. For those that consider themselves connoisseurs in the category, stop by the best breweries and be your own judge of the local brews on offer.

With a serious passion for brewing, taste the selection of locally-crafted beers at Gatlinburg Brewing Company. With the funkiest beer names on tap, sample IPAs, golden ales, Szechuan Peppercorn Witbier, Coffee Porter and plenty of other unique craft drafts.

Drinking often leads to rumbling bellies — fact — and if you’re feeling peckish, ask for the menu and build your own pizza.

The folks over at Smoky Mountain Brewery know what they’re doing when it comes to manufacturing excellent craft beer … they are the oldest brewery in East Tennessee after all!

Order a cold one from the selection of the brewery’s own branded beers on tap, or if you’re here for serious business, try their Brew Samplers. You have a choice of between four and 10 sample-sized beers to test.

The crowds favor the Gatlinburg brewery for its authentic feel, designed as an amalgamation between a ‘ski lodge and a Bavarian beer hall’, looking out onto the Great Smoky Mountains.

61 – Get buzzed at the Tennessee Cider Company

Tennessee Cider Company

After perhaps spending a couple of hours across the road at the Ripley’s Aquarium, the Tennessee Cider Company is the perfect spot to sit back and unwind.

Centrally located at the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, this watering hole is heaven on Earth for cider lovers.

Try a few of the local creations in Gatlinburg’s first Hard Cider tasting room, before grabbing a take-home growler or two of your favorite flavor.

The company takes pride in making traditional fresh tastes made from hand-picked apples from local farms.

62 – Go zorbing at Gatlinburg’s Outdoor Gravity Park

Gatlinburg’s Outdoor Gravity Park
credit to Gatlinburg’s Outdoor Gravity Park

If you’ve seen videos of people tumbling down the hills in giant bubbles (AKA zorb balls) and always wanted to try it for yourself, head to the Outdoor Gravity Park — the only dedicated zorbing park in the country.

So long as you don’t get too motion sick, tumbling down that 1,000-foot tall hill in a giant bubble is undeniably one of the most fun things to do in Gatlinburg.

Choose from three different tracks, including a combined tunnel and zigzag course, a speedy roll, and an extreme zigzag course. Or, why not try them all?

Prepare to get wet, so bring swimwear or a towel, and don’t forget to book online to reserve a spot to make sure you can start the fun as soon as you get there.

63 – Watch the sunset from the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

For some of the best views of both the town and mountains, Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook is smack bang between Gatlinburg Spur (connecting the city with the nearby Pigeon Forge) and the Great Smoky Mountains (along the Gatlinburg Bypass).

Overseeing downtown Gatlinburg and with the Smokies as a surrounding backdrop, it is heaven on earth for fabulous photography angles.

Changing with the seasons; the scenery presents something new to marvel over as the months move from one to the next. Witness snowflakes falling in winter, or snap pictures of the trees in a sea of autumn colors from October to November.

The time of day that you arrive also has an impact on what you will see at the overlook.

Sunrises are favored for witnessing a blanket of mist rise above the city, the afternoon has the clearest visuals, or stand under the stars at night and enjoy the crisp-clear air and views of sparkling lights.

Easy to reach by car, it’s considered one of the greatest free viewing locales in Gatlinburg.

64 – Dined with delight at The Grand Majestic Theater

The Grand Majestic Theater

Considered as the area’s only “Dine-In” theater, The Grand Majestic hosts an array of brilliant entertainment perfect for guests of all ages.

This Pigeon Forge-based venue brings a whole lot of fun to the entire family with timeless songs and outstanding performances.

The Soul of Motown and Terry Evanswood Magic Show are each high-energy favorites, while the Hazzard Hoedown is a regular comical delight.

The fourth option, Hit Parade transports guests into the 50s and 60s with chart-topping hits from the likes of Elvis and Neil Diamond!

How to get to Gatlinburg?

The nearest airport to Gatlinburg is McGhee-Tyson Airport (TYS) in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the drive from the airport to the city is roughly one hour.

Hire a car for the duration of your vacation, order a taxi, or hail a cab from the airport to your stay. Renting a vehicle is recommended, as the public transport options are limited.

Where to stay in Gatlinburg?

From a selection of mountain-y inns, hotels and resorts, here are some of the best places to stay around Gatlinburg. Luxurious, comfortable and done up in classy rich woods, expect everything from this hotel name, and then some at The Park Vista – A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel – Gatlinburg.

For the most truly authentic mountain-living feels, book out the entire home of The Fish House at Norton Creek, boasting a beautiful location next to a stream. Sleeping six guests revel in peace and tranquility.

Winning over hearts thanks to its location, guests love the running river alongside the Greystone Lodge on the River, the mountain backdrop, and the short distance to restaurants and shops.

Sporting modern finishes and less than 100 meters away from the start of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, enjoy excellent service, views and facilities at the Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg.

This stunning riverside location is all you need and really completes a stay at Baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg On The River. Choose between room and suite options with river views to wake to.

Take advantage of the guest hot tub after a long day exploring at the Hampton Inn Gatlinburg Historic Nature Trail. The rooms have comfortable finishes and are well-equipped.

Feel all the romance when checking into your room at the Gatlinburg Town Square by Exploria Resorts with its own fireplace and private jacuzzi, and from the balcony, you might even get lucky… and spot a bear or two!

A fantastic family option is Bent Creek Golf Village, equipped with gaming rooms, large fire pits for making smores, a swimming pool and so much more to keep all family members smiling.

Great for business travelers, appreciate the spacious rooms and convenient locale of the Edgewater Hotel and Conference Center. With bright, airy and classy interiors, couples and families love the River Edge Inn.

Where to go next?

Make sure to check out the fun things to do in Pigeon Forge right next door. Visit museums, adventure parks, arcades and forbidden caverns, and the travel time between the two towns is merely 15 minutes by car.

Continue venturing further south to either destination close by, or a little further away. Superb day trips (or overnight stays) from Gatlinburg include Asheville — approximately a 1.5 hours drive — or lively Chattanooga.

Moving away from the Smokies, visit Charlotte in North Carolina. Fill your days with race car events, state mountain park explorations and city sightseeing from museums to interesting architecture.

Atlanta is four hours from Gatlinburg and playing a pivotal role in local American history and culture, it’s well worth visiting.

Final thoughts

From an overload of exciting outdoor adventures to the weirdest and most wonderful activities, the things to do in Gatlinburg are endless, and you’ll need at least two days to fully enjoy and experience all that this southern town has to offer.

What are your favorite sites to tour or places to visit in Gatlinburg? Let us know by sharing in the comments, we love hearing about your experiences.

Happy and safe travels!

Evan Bryce Riddle is a versatile and ambitious content producer whose passion for globetrotting runs deep. When he’s not crafting travel content, Evan is the Content Executive at Australia’s leading digital marketing agency, managing end-to-end video production and written content to build brands to 7 and 8 figures. Evan has also spearheaded content for world-leading digital media channels (TheRichest, TheTravel), written multiple published books, photographed weddings, and hosts the coveted MegaMinds podcast – a handful of highlights from his 10+ year content and marketing career. Where does the love for travel come from? Born in Melbourne, Australia but having grown up in Hollywood, Evan fell in love with international jetsetting from a young age. Fast forward to today and he’s visited 30+ countries, highlighted by a 4-year stint in vibrant Montreal.