Nestled in the ancient Appalachian Mountains, you’ll find the picturesque town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This charming gateway to the stunning Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been attracting nature enthusiasts, families, and fun-seekers for many years. Gatlinburg offers a unique mix of natural beauty and lively attractions, ensuring an unforgettable experience. Families can enjoy exciting rides at Ober Mountain or explore marine life at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Don’t miss the scenic chairlift ride at Gatlinburg SkyPark, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or family entertainment, Gatlinburg has something for everyone.
Read on as we take you through some of the most must-visit attractions in Gatlinburg.
- Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway
Ride above the trees for a bird’s eye panorama of the Smokies on the Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway. This high-flying tram carries up to 120 passengers at a time from downtown Gatlinburg up to the Ober Mountain Ski Resort and Amusement Park in just 7.5 minutes. Sit back and soak up unbeatable views of Mount LeConte and the surrounding peaks over 2,600 vertical feet. Once at the top, enjoy ice skating, shopping, dining, and attractions like an alpine slide. If you’re looking for great dining options, you’ll find several restaurants in Gatlinburg strip. The scenic tram ride down adds another opportunity to admire the fall foliage and mountain scenery.
- Explore the Great Smoky Mountains
Experience natural wonders just steps from downtown Gatlinburg in the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This national park spans over 500,000 acres of pristine forest along the Tennessee and North Carolina border. It boasts 150 hiking trails with cascading waterfalls, diverse wildlife, lush forests, and endless mountain vistas. Take a scenic drive along the 11-mile Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to discover historic homes, churches, and mills. For breathtaking views, journey 2.5 miles to the summit of Clingman Dome, the highest point in Tennessee.
- Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery
Immerse yourself in Appalachian history and culture at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery while savoring creative moonshine flavors. Located along Gatlinburg’s main street, this family-run distillery is the world’s most visited maker of unaged corn whiskey. Explore the distillery on a guided tour to learn about the moonshine-making heritage inspired by “Popcorn” Sutton. Afterward, indulge in tastings of inventive flavors like salted caramel and peach in their spacious tasting room. They even offer moonshine pickles and popsicles! The extensive retail space also sells mason jars, coasters, hats, and other mountain-inspired souvenirs.
- Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum
Gatlinburg’s Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum is home to one of the largest collections of salt and pepper shakers on public display. Marvel at a staggering 20,000+ pairs representing iconic pop culture, historical events, foods, animals, holiday themes, and more. This unique museum originated from owners Andrea and Steve Lauck’s personal shaker collection, which numbers over 1,000. Today, it attracts shaker enthusiasts from all over, thanks to ever-changing exhibits and new additions. Beyond the main museum, a gift shop offers its distinct shaker creations that make for perfect souvenirs.
- Gatlinburg’s Arts & Crafts Community
Explore Gatlinburg’s Arts & Crafts Community along the 8-mile loop of Glades Road and Buckhorn Road, featuring over 100 shops and galleries. These establishments showcase jewelry, paintings, woodwork, quilts, and various handcrafted items. Watch local artisans demonstrate glassblowing, woodturning, and broom-making. Originating in the 1930s, this community began with young mountain craftsmen displaying their work at small roadside stands. Be sure to visit the historic Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, offering workshops and two galleries representing 250 regional artists.
- Anakeesta: Gatlinburg’s Mountain-Top Adventure
Anakeesta is Gatlinburg’s thrilling mountain-top theme park, offering stunning views and adventures. Ride the Chondola gondola from downtown to reach pristine vista points, dining options, and exciting attractions. Thrill-seekers can enjoy a cliff walk, explore a treehouse village, experience rail bikes, or take on a dueling dual zipline. Families love the 16-acre Anakeesta Forest, complete with interactive Talking Trees, fairy villages, and a “troll hole.” After sunset, enjoy magical views on the park’s illuminated Vista Garden Walkway.
- Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, come face-to-face with playful penguins, intimidating shark shadows, and over 10,000 aquatic animals. This family-favorite aquarium, one of the largest in the United States, features 1.4 million gallons of water and marine life representing tropical waters from around the world. Engage with interactive exhibits, allowing you to touch rays, horseshoe crabs, and bamboo sharks. Walk through an underwater tunnel surrounded by swimming reef sharks and green sea turtles. Witness the enormous whale shark, the world’s second-largest shark species.
- Sweet Treats at Gatlinburg’s Candy Stores
Satisfy your sweet tooth at old-fashioned candy stores like the Old Mill and Pigeon Forge Candy Kitchen. The Old Mill, built in the 1830s, now produces delightful treats such as fudge, truffles, taffy, and caramel apples. Witness skilled confectioners work their sugary magic as they create these delicious goodies. Nearby, Pigeon Forge Candy Kitchen crafts melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, pralines, taffy, and other delectable confections. You can even participate in candy-making classes to create your very own sweet mementos. These and other candy shops ensure you’ll always find something sweet to enjoy in Gatlinburg.
Whether you’re in search of outdoor adventures, artistic exploration, or family fun, Gatlinburg offers unforgettable experiences for all interests. By adding these eight attractions to your Smoky Mountain getaway, you’ll create memories that will endure long after your return home. Gatlinburg, a mountain town filled with natural wonders, culture, history, and small-town charm, is sure to capture your heart and imagination.
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