Nestled in the mountains of Tennessee, Gatlinburg is the gateway to America’s most popular national park – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a small but very popular resort village with a resident population of around 4,000. If you are going to Gatlinburg during the height of tourist season, plan ahead because things can sell out.
Gatlinburg is part of the larger Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge resort area and is a great place for families. It has plenty of attractions for kids of all ages – think magical treetop villages or dueling ziplines. Enjoy roller coasters, year-round ice staking, and family-friendly amusement parks. This region is a great place to experience the best of Southern culture.
Gatlinburg – A city full of man-made attractions
In addition to offering breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is full of man-made attractions. They are aimed at families as well as thrill seekers.
- Location: Sevier County, Tennessee
- Population: 4,000
Attractions include a ski resort, the Gatlinburg SkyLift, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, the longest skywalk in the United States (connects two mountains), Iris Theater, Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community, Ripley’s Aquarium Smokies and just down the road in Pigeon Forge are the main attractions of Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country.
- Gatlinburg Elevator: Takes tourists 1,800 feet up Crockett Mountain
- Gatlinburg Space Needle: 407-foot-tall observation tower with 360-degree views
- Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community: An 8-mile loop with traditional mountain crafts
These are just a few of Gatlinburg’s many attractions — and many more within a short drive of Pigeon Forge (like the massive Titanic Museum and Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner). Pigeon Forge also just got its first-ever “zipline roller coaster.”
Due to their proximity, one can also consider (for trip planning purposes) the attractions of Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains as part of Gatlinburg.
A slightly more unusual attraction for Gatlinburg is to get married there at one of its 20 wedding chapels. This is because it’s relatively easy to get a marriage license in the state – Gatlinburg has become a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons.
- July Midnight Parade: The first in the nation at 00:01
While this season may be over, plan for next year to spend July 4 in Gatlinburg. They start their 4th of July celebrations before everyone else with their July Midnight Parade starting at 12:01 a.m.
Ober Gatlinburg – Tennessee’s Only Ski Resort
It is also home to the only ski resort in the state of Tennessee – Ober Gatlinburg. This makes it a year round destination with winter sports to enjoy during the colder months of the year. Come during the Christmas season and you’ll be greeted with the entire downtown area decked out in lights for the annual Winterfest celebration.
- Ober Gatlinburg: Tennessee’s only ski resort
Ober Gatlinburg has eight ski runs, three chair lifts and the opportunity to ski, snowboard, snow tube, ice skate or just play in the Cubbies Snow Zone. The ski season generally runs from December to March, while snow tubing begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
- Skiing season: Usually early to mid-December to mid-March (weather dependent)
- Tubing season: Saturday before Thanksgiving through March
- Aerial tramway: $19.00
- Encounter with wildlife: $10.00
- Ski: Not yet available for the 2022/2023 season
They also have an indoor skating rink, aerial tram, Mountaintop park, and even a wildlife encounter area. Their hours change depending on the season and the particular attraction – refer to their website.
A gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains
Gatlinburg is right on the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. From here, it’s easy to spend the day exploring the country’s most visited national park. Hike the more than 900 miles of hiking trails and learn about the park’s various historic settlements.
- Hiking trails: Over 900 miles
The park is also famous for its stunning cascading waterfalls and the eye-catching views of the “steaming” Smoky Mountains (in effect, the collective steam exhaled from the millions of trees that create a blanket of fog).
Activities to be enjoyed in the national park include guided nature hikes, rafting, picnicking, and horseback riding.