5 Things You Must Do When Visiting Gatlinburg

  • Jun 5, 2024
  • Reading time: 6 mins read
  • By Anoushka

Nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains is this quaint, green city of Tennessee, Gatlinburg, a popular tourist destination that has a carnival-like atmosphere all year round. One might wonder why it has 12 million visitors annually. This town is the main point of entrance to the most popular national park in the country, as well as Pigeon Forge.  

From picturesque mountain vistas to adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities, there’s a list of no shortage of things to see and do in Gatlinburg. Even though it is squeezed into the small mountain valleys of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is quite easy to navigate between the two roads of the Parkway (aka Highway 441) and River Road. These two thoroughfares are home to nearly all of Gatlinburg’s key attractions.

Let’s dive in and discover the wonders of this enchanting destination!

Savor the Succulent Southern Delights

Even though Gatlinburg is known for its awe-inspiring landscapes and exhilarating adventures, you will be equally surprised by its delightful culinary scene. Treat your taste buds to a culinary adventure in Gatlinburg’s diverse dining scene.

You will almost find everything of authentic Southern cuisine, be it juicy barbecue, mouthwatering burgers, or delectable homemade desserts, catering to both the picky and adventurous eaters. Explore local eateries, charming cafes, and hidden gems to discover the flavors that Gatlinburg has to offer.

Here’s a list of must-visit restaurants in Gatlinburg for delectable dining experiences:

  • The Peddler Steakhouse: Renowned for its captivating heritage and mouthwatering culinary delights, Gatlinburg boasts an extensive menu with the tantalizing Chilled Shrimp Cocktail, succulent Prime Rib, and flavorful Grilled Rainbow Trout as a main course, accompanied by a refreshing side salad. And when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, prepare to be delighted by tempting desserts like the luscious Tiramisu, the classic Strawberry Shortcake, and an array of delectable options that will leave you craving for more!
  • The Park Grill: Its proximity to Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers the hikers a quick bite or a nice sit-down dinner after an exhausting hike. Start your meal with Crunch Fried Pickles as starters, an entrée of juicy Baby Back Ribs paired with fries and salad, and end it with scrumptious desserts, such as the Black Bear Brownie Bash or the Park Grill Mud Pie.
  • Crystelle Creek Restaurant and Grill: If you enjoy a scenic view while dining, such as koi ponds and 150 ft. cascading tree exquisitely illuminated at night, then this is your place. Visitors may eat indoors or outside and take in the sights. What’s better than having a beautiful atmosphere and delicious food, right? 

Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you are a nature enthusiast, then this park is a paradise spot for a sightseer to get up close and personal with nature. It has a mass influx of people every year due to its enormous wildlife vistas, the history of monumental buildings, and the picturesque Smoky Mountains.

This park also provides several trekking options for individuals who enjoy the great outdoors. There are several hiking paths, waterfalls, mountaintops, and dense woods if you enjoy exploring nature. Moreover, if you are a camper, then this park has many campgrounds and picnic areas, such as Cades Coves, that offer family recreational opportunities and a great camping experience. 

Discover flowing waterfalls such as Abraham Falls, Grotto Falls, Hen Wallow Falls, and Laurel Falls for a thrilling woodland journey. You can also fish trout and pedal with your family as you discover picturesque sceneries along the way.

However, it would be impossible to experience every bit of the park all at once because it covers 522,427 acres. So, it’s better to divide your day according to each area and activity you want to do in a park for a particular time. 

Pro Tip: If you are a wildlife lover, bring along binoculars or spotting scopes, as you’re likely to see a black bear. But, do not approach such animals, as it can lead to severe repercussions. 

Experience Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Who doesn’t like immersing in the mesmerizing underwater world of colorful fish, sharks, and sea turtles? Because if you do, then book a ticket to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies! This aquarium houses more than 10,000 exotic sea creatures, and some of the crowd-favorites include touch-a-ray stingray bay and, of course, the underwater shark tunnel. 

Walk through the fascinating underwater tunnel and marvel at the breathtaking marine life. You can also swim with stingrays, paint with a penguin, or even have a sleepover in the shark tunnel! Just make sure to check the schedule of live dive shows, so you can come and cheer for your favorite marine creatures. 

Explore Outdoor Activities

Your Gatlinburg trip is incomplete without exploring its famous outdoor attractions. Here are some of the outdoor activities to explore to make your trip more fun and adventurous: 

  • Hop on a Mountain Coaster: If you are a fan of thrilling rollercoasters, then take a ride on one of the famous coasters. These rides have family-friendly speed-controlling options. It means you can either take your time to soak up the beauty while you glide through the trees on a rollercoaster or go on 35 miles per hour. 
  • Mini Golf at Hillbilly Golf: Who doesn’t like a bit of golf while they are on vacation? This activity offers two 18-hole courses at the top of the mountain. Yup, at the mountain! 
  • Gatlinburg Space Needle: This one is for all those travelers who enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city! This tallest observation deck offers 360 views of the Smoky Mountains.

Step into Gatlinburg’s Museums and Galleries 

Are you tired of spending your time outdoors? Then, it’s time to visit museums and galleries in the city. These museums promise to make any tourist’s evening enjoyable, whether it’s the Salt and Pepper Museum, which showcases creative designs of salt and pepper shakers, or the Hollywood Stars Cars Museum, which has legendary Hollywood automobiles.

For an artistic touch, visit Fowler’s Clay work, a hand-made pottery studio displaying functional and decorative pottery, and Paul Murray Gallery, showcasing the Smoky Mountain heritage through painting and sketches. 


Gatlinburg offers an array of exciting activities and attractions that will leave you with unforgettable memories. Whether you’re exploring the natural wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains, strolling through the charming downtown area, or experiencing thrilling adventures, Gatlinburg has something to captivate every visitor. 


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