Things to Do in Gatlinburg
No matter what season you’re visiting Gatlinburg, chances are it’s the Great Smoky Mountains that first drew you to this small resort city
Great skiing, snowboarding, hiking and outdoor activities are a huge part of what makes this East Tennessee destination so alluring. But, the fun doesn’t stop with winter sports and mountain adventures. Gatlinburg offers numerous options to imbibe at its local breweries and wineries, taste the state’s beloved moonshine or take a walk on the wild and whacky side at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! If you’re a history buff, believer in the supernatural or just love a juicy murder mystery, Gatlinburg’s ghost tours are definitely a highlight. No matter the season, this resort city offers adventures and expeditions for all ages.
1. Trek the Great Smoky Mountains
Gatlinburg locals refer to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as “800 miles of perfect.” They might just be right—experiencing the Smoky Mountains’ mist while surrounded by the vast, inspiring landscape is idyllic, to say the least. With 11 waterfalls and more than 150 trails, it’s hard to choose which trail to hike, bike or explore on horseback. Keep in mind that you’re in Bear Country, and if you picnic, your tasty eats might attract an unexpected guest. Before adventuring into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, remember to brush up on your black bear safety tips.
2. Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries—Oh My!
If you enjoy sipping moonshine, sampling microbrews and savoring fine wine, Gatlinburg's got you covered. You could devote a whole day to tasting the 60-plus varietals at the five wineries located within 15 minutes of Gatlinburg. For one-stop sipping, the Sugarland Cellars is located right in town. If your palate prefers beer over fine wines, pull up a bar stool at the Smoky Mountain Brewery to sample its line of mainstay ales and seasonal brews. A stop at Doc Collier’s will give you a taste of that Tennessee liquor tradition—moonshine. They may not use the old mountainside stills anymore, but the recipe hasn’t changed for generations.
3. Walking With Gatlinburg Ghosts
Take a walk through history on the 60-minute Ghostwalk of Gatlinburg, a guided nighttime tour through the backstreets of the city. You’ll uncover Gatlinburg’s darkest secrets with an EMF detector in tow as your costumed guide weaves tales of the town’s local legends, superstitions and murderous history. If you’re after even more tantalizing backstories and more chances for supernatural contact, spend two hours with the Ghost and Haunt Tours of Gatlinburg. You’ll get a hands-on ghost hunting experience with K2 EMF detectors, digital thermometers, positive/negative ion pods, laser grid pens and Digital Dowsing's energy rods. The tours aren’t for the faint of heart and ghost sightings aren’t guaranteed—obviously—though the tours are incredibly popular for good reason.
4. Rip-Roaring Fun at Ripley’s
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! is a must-see Gatlinburg adventure if you’re brave enough to face the weird, wild and sometimes wacky. The Odditorium is just one of its eight attractions, with the Aquarium of the Smokies stealing the attention as the main crowd pleaser. Dare to walk through the underwater tunnel as 12-foot sharks circle overhead or simply enjoy the frolicking penguins in an expansive habitat enclosure. Take things up a notch and get lost in the mirror maze, scream yourself hoarse in the Haunted Adventure, play a competitive round of 18-hole miniature golf or hang onto your seat in the Moving Theater simulator.
5. Ride the Mountain Coaster
If you’re seeking a fast and furious adventure in Gatlinburg with beautiful scenery to boot, opt for the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. You’ll curve and wind through the woods for a gravity-driven trip down the mountainside, with the option to strap into the driver’s seat solo or take along a riding partner. Individual brake handles control the speed of your trip, so it's up to you to decide on a swift ride or a leisurely downhill glide through the trees. At night, the coaster becomes an entirely different journey with only twinkling track lights to guide you through the darkened forest. A winter ride is pretty spectacular, too, as you zip your way across snow-covered hills.
6. Ascend to Ober Gatlinburg
The Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area offers year-round adventures with arrays of outdoor and indoor activities. During the snow season, skiing, snowboarding and winter tubing take center stage. With numerous trails and the terrain park, accessibility is available by the scenic Aerial Tramway or open-air chairlift. The Aerial Tramway departs regularly from downtown Gatlinburg and ascends a breathtaking 2.1-mile ride up to the mountain. The new Ski Mountain Coaster is open year-round, plus other attractions offer thrills during warm weather. Take a spin on the carousel or a faster ride on the chair swings. Not enough? Take a fly down the mountainside on the Alpine slide. On warmer days, cool off on the water slides or skate around the indoor ice rink.
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