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Gatlinburg is known as the gateway to the Smoky Mountains and is an incredibly popular place to visit for families. It’s impossible to be bored in Gatlinburg because there are so many fun things to do. From moonshine distilleries and quirky museums to mini-golf and outdoor adventure, Gatlinburg should be on every traveler’s must-see list. Here are our top picks for things to do when you visit Gatlinburg.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park in America and is an amazing place to take a hike. Depending on the season you visit, you can experience wildflowers, waterfalls, and colorful leaves on the park’s many trails and maybe even have some chance encounters with wildlife. One popular trail close to downtown Gatlinburg is simply called the Gatlinburg trail. Bikes and dogs are allowed here, which is very rare to find elsewhere in the park, and the trail is an easy loop that’s just under 4 miles in length. Top hikes in the park include Gregory Bald, Mt Cammerer, Rocky Top, Mount LeConte, and Abrams Falls. There are lots of kid-friendly hikes here too, so pick up a trail map or stop by the visitor center when you arrive in the area.
Craft spirit culture is strong in the Gatlinburg area, and there are quite a few distilleries you can visit to try the local goods. Sugarlands Distilling Co. is a highly rated distiller here, and it’s open from noon to 6:30 p.m. on Sundays and from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every other day of the week. You can take a blending sampling tour or sign up for a ‘meet the distiller’ workshop, while a ‘distiller for the day’ workshop offers a truly educational experience.
You don’t need to be an avid hiker to see the natural beauty of the Gatlinburg area. There’s a sky lift here that takes tourists up Crocket Mountain, which stands about 1,800 feet tall. Instead of climbing the mountain on foot, you can sit back, relax, and ride to the top in just a few minutes. At the top of the mountain, you’ll find a restaurant, small gift shop, and some of the best views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. .
Mini golf is a big deal in Gatlinburg, and you’ll notice an insane number of mini golf businesses scattered all over town. One of the best spots to hit a few balls is Hillbilly Mini Golf. The obstacles you need to hit your ball around to get a hole-in-one are fun and quirky with an Appalachian theme, such as outhouses and covered wagons. Hillbilly Golf offers an 18-hole course at 340 Parkway in Gatlinburg. This is a great way to spend a romantic day out with your sweetheart or a fun activity for the whole family.
No Tennessee experience would be complete without a little moonshine. Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine is a lively place to visit with sampling sessions, friendly bartenders, and often live music too. This distillery makes some really unique spirits that even have cherries and peaches inside the jars. Favorite styles of moonshine include White Lightnin’, Moonshine Cherries, Lemon Drop, Apple Pie, and Hunch Punch Lightning. There are even festive seasonal flavors available, such as Pumpkin Pie, Shine Nog, and Key Lime moonshine. Moonshine doesn’t get much more creative than this!
If you love quirky roadside attractions, then you definitely have to stop by the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg. A Texas couple started the museum from their own personal collection, which now has thousands of sets of shakers from many different time periods. Conveniently located, you can hop off the Trolley Blue Line to visit this attraction.
There are two thrill rides at this Gatlinburg attraction, including the world’s first mountain glider. The Gravity Coaster reaches speeds up to 35 miles per hour and winds through woods. Meanwhile, the new Mountain Glider is a single-rail coaster that soars through the treetops. It kind of feels like a combination of hang gliding and free falling. You can even come by at night for a truly unique experience with the track all lit up.
Summer is always a popular time to visit Gatlinburg, but this is a year-round destination that’s fun in the winter too. The Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park & Ski Area is open year-round to offer amusement park rides, as well as skiing, snowboarding, and tubing in the winter. Equipment rentals are available, and other winter activities include ice skating and the ski mountain coaster. There are also restaurants and shops to check out at Ober Gatlinburg.
Another fun thing to do when you’re in Gatlinburg is to go horseback riding, and Sugarlands Riding Stables offers rides for people of all skill levels. As you ride through the forested area, you’ll often hear turkeys in the distance. Guides will take out kids as young as 5 years old on horseback, and the maximum weight is 225 pounds. There are around 40 horses here that range in size from 13 to 17 hands tall to suit all sizes of riders. Just be aware that these rides are on mountain terrain that isn’t necessarily flat, but it sure is scenic.