Finest issues to do in Gatlinburg and past – Lonely Planet


The three major gateway cities to Nice Smoky Mountain Nationwide Park – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville – share an abiding love for the patron saint of East Tennessee: Dolly Parton. Because the nation music celebrity as soon as joked, it takes some huge cash to look this low cost. So go forward, immerse within the cheesy exuberance of all of it.

Whereas the nationwide park is a lush wonderland of waterfalls and wildflowers, within the gateway cities, putt putt programs, moonshine distilleries and theme parks press tight towards Parkway, the principle drag by way of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which rolls proper into the park. There’s even an infinite duplicate of the Titanic perched by the street. Sensory overload and neon – and apparently fluffy pancakes – are assured, however truthfully, in the event you embrace the campiness of the sights and all of the Appalachian kitsch, these gateway cities generally is a heck of plenty of enjoyable, particularly for households.

Journey Tip: Many sights and eating places are seasonal, or their hours differ by season, so name earlier than making a particular journey. Every part needs to be open from late Could by way of early September.

Dollywood in East Tennessee is understood for rollercoasters, like this wood one ©Nicholas Lamontanaro/Shutterstock

Have fun Appalachia in Dollywood

Nation music legend Dolly Parton was born and raised in East Tennessee, and he or she celebrates her native roots with good cheer and greater than 40 Appalachia-themed rides at this busy theme park in Pigeon Forge. Dollywood is understood for its rollercoasters, however you’ll additionally discover unbelievable stay music, regional arts and crafts and southern-fried fare.

Head to Dollywood very first thing within the morning as a result of the crowds (and contours) solely get longer. There are add-ons you will get to your ticket that permit you to skip the longest strains. The park gives two tiers for friends, one which lets you skip eight strains and one that’s limitless.

Whereas the park closes in January and February, it opens for weekends in March. Not all the sights can be found, however it’s a little much less busy.

Dollywood has nice playgrounds and rides all through the park for little folks in the event you’re touring with toddlers in tow. There actually is one thing for everybody.

Dollywood’s Splash Nation water park is subsequent door and opens in summer season. Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa and Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins are lodging choices near each parks.

Get pleasure from sky-high adventures atop Anakeesta Mountain

A chondola swoops riders from the crowded sidewalks of Gatlinburg to the summit of Anakeesta Mountain, the place the pure fantastic thing about the Smokies is the backdrop for a tree cover stroll, dueling zip strains and a mountain coaster. The remark tower doubles as the best level within the metropolis. Seven eating places and eateries are scattered throughout two small “villages” on the summit. Brews include views on the Faucet Home and the Bar on the Prime of the World.

See what the hype behind moonshine is all about at Ole Smoky Moonshine ©Miro Vrlik Images/Shutterstock

Pattern Moonshine in Gatlinburg

Hooch. White lightning. Mountain dew. Yep, moonshine has deep roots – and plenty of nicknames – in Appalachia. However in the event you take away the outlaw status, moonshine is nothing greater than unaged whiskey, typically constructed from corn. Step as much as the counter for a rainbow’s array of samples and a few entertaining historical past at Ole Smoky Moonshine and Sugarlands Distilling Co, each on Parkway. Ole Smoky additionally has a tasting room at The Island in Pigeon Forge. Apple Pie taste is an effective wager, however we are able to’t vouch for Peanut Butter & Jelly.

Delve into the story of the Titanic

An unlimited duplicate of the Titanic, the posh steamship that sank on her maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, shares a really superb assortment of artifacts, private tales and recreated settings from the doomed ship. Every customer to the museum is assigned a boarding cross with the identify of a real-life passenger or crew member. You’ll uncover whether or not you survived on the finish of your go to. E book forward as a result of it does promote out, and walk-ups aren’t assured admission.

Get pleasure from breathtaking views from the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park ©Getty Pictures/EyeEm

Absorb large views atop Clingmans Dome

Kitschy household enjoyable isn’t an indicator of Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. However the remark tower atop Clingmans Dome, the best level within the park at 6643ft, does resemble a constructing straight out of The Jetsons, with its round ramp and flying-saucer-style platform. From the platform, 360-degree views soak up light waves of forested peaks. Mountain climbing trails, together with the Appalachian Path, cross by way of the woods under.

Tiptoe throughout the Gatlinburg SkyBridge

A swish pedestrian cable bridge swings above a steep valley within the Smoky Mountain foothills above Gatlinburg, stretching the size of almost two soccer fields and linking two peaks. See-through glass panels await in the midst of the Skybridge – which is 140ft above floor. Step on these in the event you dare! A workhorse chairlift whisks riders as much as the bridge and to the brand new SkyTrail, a 0.6-mile scenic mountaineering path with rope bridges and a four-platform viewing tower. The path is canine pleasant.

Float the Little River

In hotter months, River Rat Tubing launches float journeys on the Little River from its basecamp in Townsend, a gateway city not removed from the attractive Cades Cove space of Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. River Rat runs two journeys: a simple float appropriate for younger children and canines, and a bouncy, rapid-filled journey for these 6 years and up. Each float previous swimming holes. Afterward, take pleasure in an ice cream sundae on the retro Burger Grasp Drive-In.

Take into account a trolley trip whereas buying round Gatlinburg © cweimer4 / Getty Pictures

Store Appalachian Arts & Crafts

An eight-mile driving loop swings previous greater than 100 galleries, studios, outlets and supporting companies in and round downtown Gatlinburg. Often known as the Nice Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts Group, this assortment of stops embraces native artwork in all its kinds, with glassworks, jewellery, leather-based items, work, pottery, wooden carvings and extra on the market. The Gatlinburg Trolley’s yellow line stops alongside the loop.

Trip the Nice Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island

The hanging Nice Smoky Mountain Wheel and its all-glass gondolas rise 200ft above Pigeon Forge, sharing high-elevation views of the Smoky Mountains rippling towards the horizon. The gondolas additionally present a simple retreat from the hubbub of The Island, a festive leisure district with buying, eating places, stay music and enjoyable watering holes.

Discover the historical past of crime and punishment

The VW Beetle owned by serial killer Ted Bundy and the white Ford Bronco from the OJ Simpson automotive chase are simply two of the numerous fascinating artifacts on show on the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge. The huge museum explores all features of criminology, spotlighting medieval torture, witch trials, serial killers, capital punishment, crime scene investigation and extra. Children are permitted, however a number of the shows are the stuff of nightmares.

Ski Tennessee

Ober Gatlinburg is the house of Tennessee’s solely ski and snowboard space, however this Bavarian-themed mountain-top attraction stays busy after the slopes shut in winter. In hotter months, children swarm to the place for the alpine slide, the mountain coaster, summer season tubing and mini-golf. The indoor ice-skating rink is open year-round. The enclosed aerial tramway from Gatlinburg to the park soars over the forested mountain panorama, overlaying two miles in about 20 minutes.

Find out about ocean marine life

A clear glide path funnels guests by way of the Shark Lagoon at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Sharks swim overhead whereas stingrays, moray eels, inexperienced sea turtles and quite a lot of fish catch the attention in each route. It’s a mesmerizing immersion within the wonders of the ocean. The aquarium is one in every of eight Ripley’s Imagine It or Not sights in and round Gatlinburg.

Play mini-golf…nearly in every single place

When you like mini-golf, then East Tennessee is your completely happy place. With not less than 16 putt putt programs throughout Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you’re by no means removed from a sport. The most recent spin? Blacklight video games, that are illuminated by glow-in-the-dark options. Memorable programs in Pigeon Forge embody Crave, marked by its candy-themed rooftop course, and Professor Hacker’s Misplaced Treasure Mini Golf, the place a mining automotive whisks you up the “mountain” to the primary gap.

Wonderworks, an upside-down amusement park, is only one of many vacationer sights in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee © Walter Bibikow / Getty Pictures

Stampedes, Feuds and Pirates: Get pleasure from a dinner present

With so many billboards promoting dinner reveals in Pigeon Forge, it may be laborious to resolve which one is “one of the best.” However actually, simply decide a theme that appears enjoyable on your group, and go together with it. Southern consolation meals, viewers participation and corny jokes are widespread options. A perennial favourite is Dolly Parton’s Stampede, identified for its horseriding stunts, musical numbers and delicate North-South rivalry. Dolly dropped “Dixie” from its identify in 2018.

Snow Tube in July

Parkas aren’t required at Pigeon Forge Snow, an indoor snow tubing hill the place temperatures hover between 65 and 70 levels. Take your decide of snow tracks for a swoosh down the snow hill then construct a snowman within the Snow Space. Pigeon Forge Snow is open year-round.

Gatlinburg and the encompassing areas are stuffed with wealthy Appalachian Historical past. Pictured right here is the Noah ‘Bud’ Ogle historic cabin close to Gatlinburg ©Robert Cable/Getty Pictures

Immerse in Appalachian Historical past

Points of interest throughout the gateway cities embrace Appalachian stereotypes, from hillbilly-themed putt putt programs to moonshine distilleries romanticizing the exploits of bootleggers. The Nice Smoky Mountains Heritage Middle in Townsend explores the genuine historical past and tradition of Appalachia in its Historic Village, dwelling to a Nineteenth-century log cabin, two cantilever barns and different buildings. There may be additionally a three-room museum and an amphitheater on the grounds.

Sightsee in Sevierville

Positioned 35 miles southeast of Knoxville, Sevierville is finest often called the hometown of Dolly Parton. An inspiring bronze statue of the nation music star as a younger singer anchors the entrance garden of the Sevier County Courthouse. Close by, guests can stretch their legs on a riverside stroll on the West Prong Greenway or spend an hour or two cut price buying on the Tanger Shops. Loaded with resorts and motels, town is an effective launchpad for native exploring.

Two hikers descend stairs on a steep part of the Alum Cave Path within the Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park ©Theron Stripling III/Shutterstock

Stroll away from the crowds

If the hordes jostling for pancakes and moonshine on Parkway/US 441 in Gatlinburg get to be an excessive amount of, bear in mind there’s an escape hatch: the Gatlinburg Path. This two-mile pedestrian and bike path runs parallel to US 441, linking the southern fringe of downtown Gatlinburg with the Sugarlands Customer Middle inside Nice Smoky Mountains Nationwide Park. The path rolls by way of the woods on a degree path beside the beautiful West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

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