Top Things to Do in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee Area

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
February 18, 2020

Deeply rooted in the traditions of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee — along with nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville — brings together stunning natural beauty, family-friendly attractions, and southern charm.

There’s something to do every hour of the day, whether it’s strolling the quaint small town to shop arts and crafts by morning, or digging your fork into Southern cuisine by dinner — paired with local wine and spirits. Fill your stay with adventure by walking among the wonders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, watching the world fly by at Dollywood and other amusement parks, or grabbing a seat at a mesmerizing live performance.

Booking a Gatlinburg vacation rental can provide a perfect home base for exploring all the area has to offer.

It’s All About Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Pink-hued view of mountains in Great Smoky Mountains Naitonal Park
Photo by Cathy Joiner

Gatlinburg is the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the country. All of those visitors are onto something — the park offers 800 miles of hiking trails, scenic drives, and the chance to experience wildlife sightings, grand vistas, roaring waterfalls, and jaw-dropping beauty around every turn.

Outside of the park, take your pick of ways to explore the mountains. Enjoy a panoramic view on a chairlift or aerial tram ride, seek the thrill of whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River, bike the Cades Cove scenic loop, sail down a zip line, or find some of the finest fly fishing in the state. Winter brings its own adventure. As the snow sets in, you can fly down the slopes on skis or snow tubes at Ober Gatlinburg resort, which features an amusement park, alpine slide, and more for year-round fun.

You can also venture deep beneath the mountains to explore Tennessee’s famous caves. At Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, experienced guides lead you past awe-inspiring formations, underground springs, and grottoes, complete with light shows.

Wander Through Charming Downtown Gatlinburg

View of downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Smoky Mountains backdrop
Photo by Cathy Joiner

It’s easy to get around downtown Gatlinburg by foot or trolley. While you’re there, stroll the Parkway, lined with attractions, one-of-a-kind stores and galleries, and restaurants serving up Southern family fare ranging from pancakes to barbecue. You can also enjoy the views from the Riverwalk, which follows the Little Pigeon River through town, with plenty of gazebos and benches for scenic photo ops.

Visit Dollywood and Other Unique Attractions

Dolly Parton's Stampede in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Photo by Cathy Joiner

Dollywood, located in Pigeon Forge, is country superstar Dolly Parton’s ode to her native region (she was born and raised in Sevierville). At Dollywood, you can grip the handlebar and climb 20 stories high on the Lightning Rod coaster or splash your way down the Smoky Mountain River Rampage. You can also trade the adrenaline rush for a live show or find a peaceful moment at the spa.

While Dollywood may be the area’s most famous amusement park, it’s not the only one. There are plenty of places to ride roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and other thrill rides at parks including Rowdy Bear (the first mountain glider in the world), drive go-karts or ride the Skyflyer at The Track, and much more.

Aside from rides, you can visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the 400-foot-high Gatlinburg Space Needle — offering 360-degree views of the town and mountains — mirror mazes, a wax museum, mini golf courses, haunted houses, and escape rooms.

Toast to the Great Smoky Mountains at a Distillery or Winery

While there is plenty in Gatlinburg to keep the kids happy, there’s no shortage of fun for adults, too. Get a taste of Appalachia at local breweries, wineries, and distilleries with tastings and tours. You can even try some (legal) moonshine, catch live music on the town, or dance the night away at a local watering hole like The Rampant Lion, a locally-loved spot for wine, pints, and Irish delicacies.

Listen to Live Music from Bluegrass to Broadway

Tennessee takes its music seriously, and you’ll have many options for hearing live musical performances in the Gatlinburg area. Experience Appalachia’s bluegrass heritage at venues and festivals or listen to live country at Ole Red, country star Blake Shelton’s restaurant and entertainment venue. Love Broadway-style entertainment? Check out vaudeville revue and musical comedy at the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre — now celebrating its 42nd year — catch a musical variety performance at Smoky Mountain Opry, or see a show at one of several dinner theaters.

Support the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community

Tennessee has a strong craft and artisan tradition, and you can take this artistry home in the form of mountain art, quilts, woodcarvings, leather goods, jewelry, metalwork, weaving, pottery, glass, and more. Stop at the many shops along Gatlinburg’s Parkway or follow the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Trail loop, featuring more than 100 local artisans.

Get Your Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Sevierville Visitors Guide

The Gatlinburg area offers a multitude of options for groups ranging from young families to bachelorette parties. For more details on vacationing in the Gatlinburg area and upcoming events, download the latest visitors guides here:

Gatlinburg Downloadable Guides

Pigeon Forge Travel Guide

Sevierville Vacation Planner

Rest Easy with an Evolve Vacation Rental

The moment you book your vacation, you should start looking forward to your trip — not worrying about the little details. When you choose Evolve for your Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Sevierville vacation rental, you can feel confident that the home you book will live up to our standards.

Every Evolve vacation rental you book comes with a team of hospitality experts, and we’re here to help make your stay more comfortable 24/7. To help you feel even more confident, we created The Rest Easy Promise: if a stay doesn’t match our standards, we’ll make it right.

Find Gatlinburg vacation rentals you can count on.

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