Downtown Gatlinburg, TN

Scenic Mountains and Entertainment in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Find out what to do, where to eat and outdoor activities for every season when you’re in the mountain town of Gatlinburg, TN

Looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors? Look no further than Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Named one of Travel + Leisure’s Best Places to Visit in the U.S. for Families, there is no shortage of things to do, explore and see in this eastern oasis of the state. From natural wonders and the Great Smoky Mountains to delicious eats and treats to one-of-a-kind museums, there is, quite literally, something for everyone here.

Astra Lumina at Anakeesta 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. Plus, the attraction will add two new chapters in the spring of 2024.

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. 

The Great Smoky Mountains

Gatlinburg is surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on three sides. The city serves as a basecamp for adventure for those hoping to explore the great outdoors. The park is home to some of nature’s finest gems, including scenic vistas, over 800 miles of trails and diverse plants and wildlife, including over 1,500 black bears. The Smokies is also home to the 25-foot Grotto Falls - the only waterfall in the Smokies that you can actually walk behind.

Guests can also spend some time on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a 5.5-mile, one-way loop road. If history is more your speed, stop to admire historic structures such as log cabins, grist mills and other buildings. At Ely’s Mill, you can find souvenirs to take home, with a variety of local crafts, antiques and seasonal honey available to purchase. And if you’re looking to fish, Gatlinburg has that, too, with several scenic streams open to the public. 

Arts and Crafts Community in Gatlinburg

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. Several 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.

Places to Eat in Gatlinburg

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.

Gatlinburg recently welcomed one of Nashville’s biggest names to the Smokies. Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar made its debut on the iconic Parkway, offering stunning views of downtown Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. The restaurant offers some of Aldean’s home-cooked favorites, not to mention, a full menu of Southern comfort food.

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. And the newly opened Tennessee Stud Cider offers a variety of artfully crafted hard ciders. 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 in the realm of entertainment. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies offers over 10,000 species in a state-of-the-art facility, with rotating exhibits and permanent themed galleries available year round.

Plus, 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 SkyLift Park, 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, a one-of-a-kind mountain coaster and mountain biking available to guests. This year, they will also add a four-part ziplining course. And there’s always easy access to hiking, camping, fishing and all the outdoor activities the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains have to offer.

To add to these offerings, Anakeesta just completed a 34 million dollar expansion. The exciting additions include part 1 of their Stone Village, which houses brand new drink and dining options, as well as BirdVenture, an interactive play zone that lets guests experience life as a bird in the Smokies in 3 larger than life birdhouses, seven serpentine slides and climbing elements throughout. Also newly added is the Hellbender Mountain Guster - a 3,350 feet winding trek through the smokies with plenty of twists, turns and unbelievable views.

With all of this and more, plan your visit to this charming Tennessee city.