January 3, 2023
Looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors? Look no further than Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
According to a recent survey of Tripadvisor travelers, more than half say they are more likely to take an outdoor or nature trip than they were before the pandemic. As a result, the Travelers’ Choice Trending Destinations for 2021 are almost entirely outdoor destinations, including Gatlinburg, which ranked at the top of the list of places to go in the United States. Here are a few outdoor getaways you’ll want to visit when you’re in Gatlinburg.
An exclusive experience to Gatlinburg, Astra Lumina at Anakeesta brings the stars to the Smokies as the very first of its kind in the United States. Anakeesta welcomes its newest addition, creating a cosmic experience for Gatlinburg’s visitors after dark. The attraction features extraordinary lighting, sound and projection which illuminates and enhances the enchanted night walk through eight unique sections.
What to Do in Gatlinburg Each Season
Known as “America’s Mountain Home,” Gatlinburg is a walkable city with attractions to delight every age, taste and interest. The four seasons are just four of the many reasons to come to this East Tennessee city.
Whether leaf peeping, hiking or admiring the magical holiday decorations, every season offers unexpected surprises. Any time of year, you can stroll The Parkway and shop and eat at dozens of local restaurants and boutiques, many of which have been family-owned for generations.
Spend some time on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 5.5-mile, one-way loop road. Stop to admire nature at its finest and historic structures such as log cabins, grist mills and other buildings. Don’t miss Ely’s Mill, which has local crafts, antiques and seasonal honey. Finally, spend a day in the woods fishing for trout in one of Gatlinburg’s many scenic streams.
Three miles from downtown Gatlinburg, you’ll find the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, the largest group of independent working crafters in the U.S. Over 100 artists and craftsmen hone their techniques and sell their wares. Pottery, paintings, wood carvings, soap, jewelry, and so much more – Gatlinburg’s resident artists give you the chance to bring home a handmade piece of the region’s rich creative heritage.
In fact, some shops have You Create Classes, which are hands-on workshops (and also kid-friendly), where you can try your hand at crafts including ceramics, weaving, glassblowing and woodworking.
Gatlinburg offers a wide array of delicious fare, including Bennett’s BBQ with its classic smoky flavor, bringing an entirely new meaning to the Smoky Mountains. After a day of shopping in the Village, head over to Boudicca’s Celtic Pub to experience traditional Irish fare including Banger’s and Mash, Fish and Chips, and of course, a towering glass of Guinness. Or if you’re in the mood for pizza, check out Best Italian for specialty pizzas and more. For an elevated dining experience, visit The Greenbrier. Recently reimagined and remodeled, the new fine-dining spot is the perfect hybrid of coziness and class, featuring oyster flights, craft cocktails and whiskey tastings.
Stop by The Village Shops for sweets and more at The Donut Friar, which specializes in doughnuts, cinnamon bread and pastries, or treat the crew to some homemade taffy and chocolate at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, in business since 1952.
No trip to Gatlinburg is complete without a meal at legendary local restaurant Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, where Big Tennessee French Toast, hen fruit (eggs), candied apple waffles and thick griddle cakes are well worth the wait for a table. Pancake lovers don’t need to worry about running out of options: Gatlinburg is home to seven different pancake restaurants, including Pancake Pantry, which opened in 1960. Sit-down dining and takeout are available.
Ole Red Gatlinburg, Blake Shelton’s Smoky Mountain outpost, is another recent addition. With live musical acts handpicked by Shelton’s team in Nashville and menu items like Redneck Nachos and the Clingman’s Dome Burger, Ole Red has become an instant favorite among locals and visitors alike.
If you’re looking for a bit of sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth, try The Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar for whimsical, larger-than-life treats. Make sure to try the signature flavor “Meet Me in the Mountains.” Exclusive to Gatlinburg, the milkshake features MoonPies, crushed Oreos and, of course, the Teddy Graham to represent Gatlinburg’s favorite animal, the black bear.
The exciting interplay of tradition and innovation can also be found in the local brews and spirits. From the city’s newest craft brewery, Gatlinburg Brewing Company, to Ole Smoky Distillery, where the family moonshine recipes date back to the 1800s, you can responsibly sip your way through past, present and future here. Beyond beer and spirits, the city boasts several popular wineries such as Tennessee Homemade Wines, Elkmont Winery and Sugarland Cellars, to name a few.
Gatlinburg Attractions and Events
Gatlinburg has a lot to offer. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has been in Gatlinburg for more than 50 years, and it has been more than 100 years since Robert Ripley founded the iconic museum itself.
There are annual events that get better every year. One of Gatlinburg’s signature events, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, has dazzled visitors of every age with floats, music, dancing and inspiring holiday decorations for more than 45 years.
There are also attractions like Gatlinburg SkyPark, a family-friendly outdoor attraction featuring North America’s longest Pedestrian Cable Bridge, towering 500 feet above downtown Gatlinburg. With glass-bottom sections, visitors can dare to peer into the mountain ravine as they cross the 700-foot-long bridge. The attraction also offers the Gatlinburg SkyLift offering guests bird’s-eye views of Gatlinburg and Mount LeConte, particularly beautiful in the early morning or late-afternoon hours. The park recently expanded, creating the SkyTrail which is complete with three unique sections meandering guests across Crockett Mountain to Tulip Tower, a multilevel platform with stunning views of the SkyBridge and Gatlinburg. Ober Mountain is the only ski resort in Tennessee that transforms into an amusement park in the summertime with snowless tubing and a one-of-a-kind mountain coaster. And there’s always easy access to hiking, camping, fishing and all the outdoor activities the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains have to offer.
With all of this and more, plan your visit to this charming Tennessee city.