Kick your feet up and watch the mist drift over the treetops. Gatlinburg is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, famous for its “smoke” that clings to the mountainsides, offering one-of-a-kind views year-round. This charming city also features Tennessee’s only ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg, with an aerial tramway stretching from downtown to the slopes. With ample entertainment and outdoor activities, you can spend your getaway enjoying the perfect balance of action and adventure with mindful time in nature.
We asked our team at Vacasa for their must-see spots when vacationing in Gatlinburg. Here are our recommendations for where to eat and stay, what to see, budget-friendly activities, and even fun things to do with kids. Book your stay, pack your bags, and get ready to relax—we’ve got your Gatlinburg travel plans on lock.
Greet your Smoky Mountain morning with a trip to the locally-loved Old Mill Restaurant, set in a beautiful 1830s gristmill overlooking the Little Pigeon River. While offering home cooked “country chow” any time of day, it’s hard to imagine a better way to start the morning than cinnamon pecan French toast or biscuits and gravy. Looking to hit a happy hour? Check out the margaritas, Mexican food, and cocktails at No Way Jose’s Mexican Cantina with some friends. It wouldn’t be a trip to Tennessee without some famous southern barbecue, so grab a seat at Calhoun’s in Gatlinburg for a mouthwatering dinner of hickory-smoked barbecue ribs or beef brisket.
Gatlinburg attracts families, foodies, and nature enthusiasts for its perfect blend of amusement park attractions, outdoor access, and renowned culinary and brewery scenes. Looking out at the city’s skyline, you’ll notice its most eye-catching standout: the Gatlinburg Space Needle, towering a proud 407 feet and offering guests a sweeping 360° view of the Smoky Mountains from its observation decks. For an even closer look at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, there are over 150 hiking trails that you can take on by foot, mountain bike, or horseback ride. Better yet, experience a true bird’s-eye view with a zipline through the trees at Anakeesta’s theme park, where you can race family or friends on their zipline dueling adventure.
When you’ve gotten your fill of fresh air, take a trip through time at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum. The museum showcases some of the most famous cars from movies and television, like the Fast and Furious, Batman, Ghostbusters, and even Back to the Future’s 1981 DeLorean Time Machine, to name a few. For more thrills (and screams), grab tickets to the Mysterious Mansion’s year-round haunted house and brave a glance at what might lurk in the shadows.
If you’re looking for things to do in Gatlinburg with kids, you’re in luck—the city is buzzing with family-friendly activities, both indoors and out. Challenge the family to a put-off at Hillbilly Golf or make some finned friends at the Ripley Aquarium of the Smokies. Anakeesta makes for a great day trip with an array of things to do, including the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster, a gem mining station, a ropes challenge course, and a breezy TreeTop Skywalk for a stroll with a view. For smaller children, a trip to Wild Bear Falls Water Park promises an easy way to cool down and relax.
For fun on a budget, there’s plenty of natural beauty to take in that doesn’t cost a dime. Hike or enjoy a scenic drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a relaxing 5.5-mile loop road, peppered with rushing streams, waterfalls, wildlife, paths for side adventures, and historic farm cabins. If you’re up for a longer drive, take the only road that takes you up and over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Newfound Gap Road, which winds through a gorgeous 33 miles, ending in Cherokee, North Carolina.
Whether it’s a resort condo or a cozy cabin between the trees, the fun all begins with a Gatlinburg vacation rental. You’ll find spacious homes with fireplaces, hot tubs, and outdoor decks so you can make the most of your trip away. Start your mornings with coffee and a view from the porch before you begin your day of adventure. Save your spot in the stunning Smoky Mountains.