Tucked in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a picturesque mountain town that offers an unparalleled blend of natural beauty and vibrant attractions. With its rich history, breathtaking scenery, and countless activities for visitors of all ages, it’s no wonder that Gatlinburg has become a beloved tourist destination. It features attractions that you simply cannot miss on your next trip to this charming town. From outdoor adventures to thrilling amusement parks and fascinating museums to unique shopping experiences, here’s the best Gatlinburg has to offer.
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
A treasure trove of natural wonders, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is undoubtedly the crown jewel of Gatlinburg. Established in 1934, this UNESCO World Heritage site sprawls across more than 500,000 acres and offers an abundance of biodiversity, enchanting forests, and awe-inspiring mountain vistas. As America’s most visited national park, it draws millions of visitors each year who come to revel in its pristine beauty.
With over 800 miles of well-maintained trails, the park offers countless opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and nature photography. Don’t miss the chance to hike to Clingmans Dome, the park’s highest point, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The park is also home to several historic structures, such as the Cades Cove Loop Road, where you can explore log cabins, churches, and a working grist mill. For a truly immersive experience, consider staying at one of the cabins in Gatlinburg Tennessee where you can unwind after a day of exploring and wake up to the sounds of nature.
2. Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area
Located just a stone’s throw away from downtown Gatlinburg, Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area has been a favorite destination for both thrill-seekers and families since its inception in 1962. This year-round playground boasts a variety of attractions, including an aerial tramway, alpine slide, chairlift, and ice-skating rink. Visitors can also enjoy skiing and snowboarding during the winter months on the park’s groomed slopes.
In addition to the aforementioned activities, visitors can also learn about and observe native animals, such as black bears, bobcats, and river otters. For adrenaline junkies, the park’s Ski Mountain Coaster is a must-try; this thrilling coaster zips through the woods, providing breathtaking views and heart-pounding excitement. Don’t forget to round off your visit with a delicious meal at the Seasons of Ober Restaurant, which offers panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains and a menu of delectable dishes.
3. Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
Since its debut in 1954, the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park has been an iconic symbol of Gatlinburg’s allure. The SkyLift, a scenic chairlift, whisks visitors up 1,800 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain, providing stunning views of downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. In 2019, the park expanded its offerings with the addition of the record-breaking SkyBridge, North America’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge.
Spanning 680 feet in length and suspended 140 feet above the ground, the SkyBridge offers an exhilarating experience for those who dare to cross it. The bridge features glass-floor panels in the middle, providing a bird’s-eye view of the lush forest below. Once you reach the other side, you can explore the SkyDeck, which boasts observation areas, a snack bar, and a gift shop. For a truly unforgettable experience, consider visiting during sunset, when the sky is painted in vibrant hues and the twinkling lights of Gatlinburg come to life below.
Anakeesta, a unique outdoor adventure park, is nestled atop a mountain overlooking Gatlinburg. Established in 2017, this 70-acre park can be accessed via a scenic chondola ride or an adventurous Ridge Rambler. Anakeesta offers a magical experience with its whimsical treehouse village, lush botanical gardens, and incredible mountaintop views.
Once you reach the summit, take a leisurely stroll along the Treetop Skywalk, a series of connected sky bridges suspended 50-60 feet above the forest floor. For an adrenaline-pumping adventure, try the Dueling Zipline, which allows you to race through the treetops at thrilling speeds. When you’re ready for a break, savor a delicious meal at one of Anakeesta’s many dining options, such as Cliff Top Grill & Bar or Kephart Cafe, and indulge in some retail therapy at the charming shops scattered throughout the park.
5. Gatlinburg Space Needle
Standing at an impressive 407 feet tall, the Gatlinburg Space Needle has been a beloved landmark since 1970. This iconic observation tower offers panoramic views of Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains, providing a birds-eye perspective that is truly unparalleled.
Ride the glass elevator to the top of the tower, where you’ll find an observation deck equipped with free viewfinders and informative panels about the landmarks visible in the distance. A visit to the Gatlinburg Space Needle is especially magical at night when twinkling lights illuminate the town. After taking in the breathtaking views, explore the base of the tower, where you’ll find Arcadia, a 25,000-square-foot amusement center featuring over 100 arcade games, as well as a 3D theater and a pizza parlor.
6. Hollywood Star Cars Museum
A paradise for movie buffs and car enthusiasts alike, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum has showcased an impressive collection of iconic vehicles since 1996. This fascinating museum features over 40 famous cars from movies, television shows, and celebrity-owned collections, providing a unique and entertaining experience for visitors of all ages.
As you wander through the museum, marvel at the legendary vehicles that graced the silver screen, such as the Batmobile, the DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” and the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Don’t miss the chance to snap a photo with your favorite star car, or even better, opt for the green screen experience, which allows you to create a personalized souvenir with you “inside” the famous car. With so many incredible cars on display, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a must-visit attraction for any pop culture aficionado.
7. Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster
Opened in 2013, the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is the longest downhill mountain coaster in the United States, providing an exhilarating ride through the stunning Smoky Mountain landscape. This exciting attraction allows visitors to control their speed as they race down the mountain, making it an unforgettable adventure for the entire family.
The coaster’s unique design enables riders to control their own pace, reaching speeds of up to 27 miles per hour. So, whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking for a heart-pounding experience or you prefer a leisurely ride to soak in the breathtaking scenery, the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster delivers. Be sure to ride during both day and night, as the coaster’s dazzling lights create an enchanting nighttime experience you won’t want to miss.
With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Gatlinburg is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking adventure, relaxation, and unforgettable experiences. As you plan your next trip to this enchanting mountain town, be sure to include these must-visit Gatlinburg attractions in your itinerary. It will surely leave you with lasting memories and a newfound appreciation for the magic of Gatlinburg.