Welcome to your go-to guide for the best things to do in Gatlinburg, TN! Nestled right up against the famous Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee has a lot to see, do, and experience.
This town makes for a great weekend getaway, a family trip, or a friends’ adventure! There is such a wide variety of fun things to do that there is most certainly something for everyone.
How to get around Gatlinburg
Let’s start by letting you know that downtown Gatlinburg is where you want to be. You can walk everywhere, which as we know is the best way to experience a city. Trust us. It is way more convenient to stay downtown, especially if you are going to imbibe in some cocktails during your visit.
Aside from most things being available on foot, you really just don’t want to drive around this town. There is little to no parking, and if you find it, you will more than likely be paying for it. If you don’t want to walk up and down the Parkway of downtown Gatlinburg, then take advantage of the free trolley system in Gatlinburg. More info on the Gatlinburg Trolley is here.
Best places to stay in Gatlinburg
Where you choose to lay your head down at night can sometimes make or break a trip. Take it from us when we say that sleep matters! Here is a list we compiled of the best places to stay in Gatlinburg, TN.
The Appy Lodge
When we visited, we stayed at The Appy Lodge. Known for its “rustic luxury,” The Appy Lodge has so much to offer. With an indoor and outdoor pool, free parking, and free parking passes to downtown, as well as being within walking distance of all of the downtown attractions, this is a prime location to stay during a trip to Gatlinburg.
In the mood for a more secluded, in-the-mountains type of stay? Well, for starters, you cannot go wrong with waking up to incredible views of the Smoky Mountains every morning or watching the sun set across the sky. At Hillside Cabin you can get all of that, plus, you don’t even have to leave your bed for the view! But we would suggest taking in the views from the hot tub.
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty that surrounds this lovely town is by spending the night at one of the numerous, tranquil campsites in Gatlinburg. There are tons of options within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but you can also find more luxurious campsites, such as Camp LeConte, which offers nightly stays in luxurious tree houses, European safari tents, or 1960’s retro campers (plus tons of amenities).
Book your camping through Hipcamp and save on your first booking!
Best places to eat in Gatlinburg, TN
Now, if you’re as much of a foodie as we are, you will most definitely appreciate this list of the best places to eat in Gatlinburg. Everything here is local to downtown.
The Park Vista Hotel Bar
If you’re looking for tasty drinks while enjoying an amazing view, then you should stop at The Park Vista Hotel bar. Firefly’s is a restaurant and lounge that offers a light fare menu with a wide selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. But I (Shannon) think that one of the greatest perks about this bar is the scenery you can enjoy from Firefly’s patio lounge, especially when relaxing around the fire pit.
Another one of our favorite stops was the Cliff Top. This restaurant is the perfect place to dine after a day spent exploring Anakeesta. Feast on modern American cuisine while taking in the sight of Mt. LeConte. There is even an outdoor deck to feel even more immersed in the natural landscape.
Crockett’s Breakfast Camp
Are you craving sweet, delicious, and belly-filling food? Look no further than Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. They have cinnamon rolls as big as your head! They truly do serve portions fit for a hungry hiker. Crockett’s offers some of the most unique breakfast options around, and it all tastes delicious.
Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
Get a taste of some of the best desserts, appetizers, and wood-fired pizza in Gatlinburg at Big Daddy’s Pizzeria. You just can’t go wrong with the friendly service and great-tasting food, where they pride themselves on always using the freshest ingredients. Choose to either dine in or take it to go while enjoying the sunset somewhere in the Smokies!
Adventures and the top things to do in Gatlinburg, TN
Now that the basics of where to sleep at night and where to fuel your stomach for the day are taken care of, it is time to feed your adventuring side! When it comes to this town, there are so many different things to do in Gatlinburg TN.
Pink Adventure Jeep
If you’re coming here to enjoy the scenery while also seeking an adrenaline rush, then one of the best things to do in Gatlinburg is to take a Pink Jeep Tour through the Smoky Mountains. The Smokies themselves are magnificent but getting to ride around in a Jeep makes that experience even more enjoyable. You get to stop at all of the breathtaking scenic spots while also enjoying the thrill of rambling along the mountainous roads on a 4×4 off-road adventure!
Are you looking for fun for the whole family? Anakeesta is the place to be. There are so many activities to do here, that one whole weekend could be spent inside Anakeesta. Depending on the season, they have different attractions, but you can enjoy unlimited Chondola rides, climb the observation tower, walk along the treetop skywalk, race through the trees on a zipline, or try out their Treeventure Challenge Course. There is so much we could talk about at Anakeesta and it is one of the best things to do in Gatlinburg.
A great bar with live music, Ole Red has a lot to offer for a fun night out. The live bands are amazing and sometimes they even have well-known artists perform. Don’t just come for the music, the food is delicious and the drinks, well, the drinks add to the enjoyment. They offer souvenir cups, jars, shot glasses, and a variety of mocktails, specialty drinks, and beers.
One of the most famous trails in the US, the Appalachian Trail, runs close to Gatlinburg. Many people hike this whole trail every year, but even more, are just excited to walk a portion of it. But if it’s the views you are looking for, there is no shortage of those here. Check out the National Park close by, but make sure you add Grotto Falls to your list. There is a stunning waterfall that you can walk behind!
Nearby Gatlinburg, TN things to do
Of course, we’d be remiss by not talking about Ms. Dolly Parton. This is where you are going to want to get back in your car. Pigeon Forge is about 8 miles away from Gatlinburg Tennessee.
It is in this town that you will find Dollywood. Dollywood is a theme park that has something to offer everyone. Between your choice of mountain coaster, sky rides, water park-type rides, and just a ton of shows and music. Even if you are not a Dolly fan (how dare you!) you will still enjoy it. It should be a must, at least once.
If you love golf, the Gatlinburg Golf Course is in Pigeon Forge. We know, confusing, but there you have it. Of course, mini golf fans will have access to that in downtown Gatlinburg. We know of at least six mini-golf locations on the Parkway. They are all geared toward adults and kids having fun.
Speaking of kids
While we don’t have kids, we have nieces, and they love Gatlinburg, TN, and have plenty of things to do. From Smoky Candy Kitchen, a pinball museum, and the ability to be at heights looking for bears, what is not to love!?
Know before you go
- Always have your ID with you. Just in case you opted to leave it at home, Gatlinburg is super strict with its drinking laws. Even if you are of age to drink, you always have to have your ID checked before ordering alcohol.
- Ober Gatlinburg and Anakeesta are two different parks. We kept hearing people confuse the two during our trip. Check out all the deets for Anakeesta and Astra Lumina here.
- Gatlinburg Skylift Park is a lot of fun if you love the exhilaration of heights, but if you are looking for a budget-savvy trip, go to Anakeeasta where you can ride a skylift and tons of other adventures, like zip lining and treetop walks.
- The Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook is a popular place to go and see the town of Gatlinburg below. Again, this is not a plug for Anakeesta, but you get jaw-dropping views of Gatlinburg from Anakeesta. You don’t even have to go up into the Anavista tower to see it, though that is fun, too.
- Speaking of the Anavista Tower, it and the Space Needle are two different things.
Gatlinburg, TN is the perfect place for a weekend getaway, or a longer trip to get in as many fun things to do as possible. Be sure to check out the link below to score some deals on local attractions and events. Even if you visit the town from a naturist’s perspective, it is the perfect place to hike, climb, and take in all that the Smoky Mountains have to offer.
You may see a bear (or three) during your visit to Gatlinburg. Always stay back, and walk away. If you are hiking, check with the Park Ranger about bear spray or other defense tactics. While sightings of bears are common, attacks are not. Be smart. Don’t leave food out, nor litter.
Sevier County is a dry county, but the town of Gatlinburg has it’s own laws regarding being able to drink and purchase alcohol. Tourism is huge for the area. Money talks, honey! You may drink.
Blake Shelton is part owner of Ole Red. He does make appearances once in a while but don’t count on seeing him there. There is a cardboard cutout of him though for photo opps.