Adventure Travel

5 Favorite Things To Do In Gatlinburg

There’s plenty to enjoy on a short stay in the Smokies

The Vacationeer
Aerial view, charming mountain town, misty clouds, blue skies, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a year-round outdoor lover’s paradise, with myriad things to do from hiking the Great Smoky Mountains to enjoying local attractions, visiting unique shops and museums, and much more. Discovering all that this destination offers could take quite a while — but if you only have a few days to spare, here are five best bets for your short stay.

Picturesque waterfall, lush forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.    

Explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Named for the characteristic fog that rises from the forested landscape, the Great Smoky Mountains don’t disappoint avid nature buffs. The famous national park that straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border is a must-see stop on any Gatlinburg itinerary, with wonderful hiking trails that take you to scenic waterfalls and amazing overlooks.

Start at the Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up driving and trail maps so you can make the most of your time experiencing this natural delight. It’s just three miles from Bent Creek Golf Village, where you might sneak in a round on the fairways with your stay. Other options for your accommodations include Sunrise Ridge Resort in nearby Pigeon Forge, or multiple Hilton hotels in the heart of Gatlinburg

Visit Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

While there are many local attractions, if you’re looking for incredible views and fabulous photo ops, consider a visit to SkyLift Park. Feel the adrenaline when you traverse the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America, stroll an elevated boardwalk called the Gatlinburg SkyTrail, and ride a chairlift to the top of an 1,800-foot overlook with panoramic views of the Smokies.

Stunning sunset views, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.    

If heights aren’t your happy place, choose from more grounded attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies where you can take a glass bottom boat ride over a shark lagoon and see green sea turtles and  many exotic marine species. Or try Gatlin’s fun center featuring two award-winning mini-golf courses, escape rooms, bumper cars, a laser maze and more. Here are nine other family-friendly Gatlinburg activities that won’t break your budget.

Dine Like a Local

Foodies fare quite well in Gatlinburg. Try Tennessee Jed’s for authentic local barbecue and large craft sandwiches that earn rave reviews. Trish’s Mountain Diner also gets high marks for its daily breakfast menu, while Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is another popular option with its rustic décor, Appalachian-inspired menu and signature fried cinnamon rolls.

For a casual lunch or dinner, you might try Smoky Mountain Brewery for savory burgers and sandwiches, hand-tossed pizzas and freshly brewed libations. This architecturally interesting location features an enclosed deck overlooking Calhoun’s Village, a quaint European-inspired area with brick pathways and more than two dozen unique shops and restaurants.

Mountain lake, dusk, purple painted skies overhead fisherman silhouettes, Gatlinburg, Tennessee.    

Find a Great Fishing Hole

With more than 900 miles of natural streams, it’s not surprising that Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains boast some of the best places to cast a line in the South. The Horseshoe at Cades Cove, Crosby Creek Watershed and LeConte Creek are all favorite fishing spots. And at English Mountain Trout Farm and Grill in nearby Sevierville, you can catch your own meal on the premises and have it cooked for you while you wait.

For ardent anglers, here’s a rundown of 10 of the best Smoky Mountains fishing spots. Be sure to research local fishing regulations before you go.   

Take a Day Trip to Dollywood

Less than 10 miles away from Gatlinburg is beautiful Pigeon Forge, home to world-famous Dollywood®. This beloved family attraction, co-owned by the legendary entertainer Dolly Parton, earned top honors as the “#1 Theme Park in the United States” on Tripadvisor. With 50+ rides (including nine roller coasters), incredible dinner shows and popular annual festivals, this seasonal attraction is well worth the side trip from late March through early January.

For more great ideas about things to do in the Smokies, read about these activities and experiences for the discerning Gatlinburg traveler

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The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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