The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee are absolutely breathtaking, certainly a sight you must see for yourself to truly understand.
If you are looking for a weekend getaway to clear your mind, an exciting 2-day adventure in the mountains, or perhaps just a new city to stroll the streets of, then Gatlinburg is the place for you!
Staff tested and approved, the following hot spots and hidden secrets throughout the city are our personal suggestions of how to spend a weekend in the Smokies and not miss out on anything, from the best budget friendly deals to the best can’t-miss attractions!
Things to Do:
- The Island - The Island is a quaint amusement park and shopping center technically located in Pigeon Forge, right outside of Gatlinburg, that will take you no time to drive to and keep you occupied for well into 4 to 5 hours. Here you can ride the climate controlled gondola style Ferris wheel, try the 4-story ropes course, get lost in a mirror maze, or spend the day shopping and sampling delicious foods such as Paula Deen’s or Dude’s Pizza.
- Hiking - Of course you have to do some hiking while in the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest, all you need to do is head up the windy mountain road and find the trailhead, waterfall, or outlook that appeals to you the most! See the spots in ‘Sights to See’ below for more ideas.
- Ripley’s Aquarium - Rated as the #1 U.S aquarium by TripAdvisor, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is truly a sight to see, with or without young children. No matter what age group you bring, it is almost guaranteed you will learn something new, see something you have never seen before, and be truly impressed with the diverse species inside.
- Tourist Shop - Whether you like to people watch or shop for local specialties, walking around the main street in Gatlinburg will be a delight for you! Spend a day eating, people-watching, and stopping in all the local shops lining the roadway to truly get a feel of the city outside of the mountains.
ities & Museums - One walk, or drive, down the main strip of both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge will show you several different unique and interesting museums, from classic car museums to children’s interactive museums. You will definitely want to spend some time exploring these hot spots that you won’t find anywhere else. Our suggestion: be sure to hit the Guinness World Records Museum!
- Ziplining - There are so many different options for great ziplining companies around this area, the entire mountain experience is definitely taken to a whole new level from the treetops! Our number one suggestion, however, is to head to Wears Valley Zipline. This locally loved company will show you safety tips, make you feel comfortable, and joke with you all along a 4-8 line zip course high above the trees.
Places to Eat:
- Big Daddy's Pizzeria - This spot isn’t rated as the #1 pizza joint in Gatlinburg for no reason, so if you are craving a new type of pizza to fall in love with be sure you stop here and try the brick oven cheesy goodness!
- Log Cabin Pancake House - Let us just tell you now, you are going to be seeing A LOT of pancake houses, but this one is the best, in our opinion. Try the Caribbean Pancakes, Sausage and Crepe Pigs in a Blanket, or All You Can Eat Southern Style Biscuits and Gravy and you won’t be disappointed, that’s a fact.
- Bennett’s Smokehouse - If you are like us and haven’t tried authentic ‘Carolina Style’ bbq before, you’re going to want to stop at Bennett’s Smokehouse and try any of their signature plates and sides, from the mustard-based sauce smothered ribs to the tangy burnt ends and pimento mac-n-cheese.
- Smoky Mountain Shakes N Dawgs - This is a quick and delicious spot to get the classics you love, in a setting you won’t forget. Kids especially like this option with it’s fun atmosphere, but adults flock here daily as well, not wanting to pass up some of the best hot dogs and milkshakes around.
- The Peddler Steakhouse - A little more ritzy, the Peddler Steakhouse is a really mouthwatering option for a date night or ‘night on the town’, the popular evening eatery serving some of the juiciest steaks, freshest local seafood (rainbow trout is a must), and nicest service in the city.
- Paula Deen's Family Kitchen - Loosen your belts and get ready to find out what makes the South so special when it comes to dinner with Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, a hotspot that serves up family-style meals in The Island. Fried chicken, cheesy macaroni, and the best biscuits you may ever eat all await you, not to mention the very definition of a great banana pudding for dessert!
Sights to See:
- Gatlinburg Space Needle - This is one of the more touristy spots in Gatlinburg’s busy downtown, but it really will catch your eye and make you want to see it’s similarities to the iconic Seattle Space Needle. The views from the top are pretty spectacular, also!
- Roaring Fork Motor Trail - The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is a must-see from the car, the easy drive through the mountains a great way to see different wildlife you may not be able to otherwise. Be on the lookout for black bears, turkey, and chipmunk, as well as some seriously gorgeous mountain and forest-filled scenery.
- Cades Cove - Cades Cove is a great fishing spot, hiking trail, and even scenic drive as well. This is a more busy spot to be, but you really can do it all here when it comes to seeing the sights, so we wouldn’t pass it up if we were you!
- Abrams Falls - This spot is another great falls opportunity with the national forest that will take your breath away once you see it, a sort of hidden gem as far as traffic goes. To get here just follow the Cades Cove road about 4.5 miles and you will see it!
- Alum Cave - Though this cave is oftentimes closed, if you can catch it open you won’t be disappointed in the sights! This is a 4-mile roundtrip hike, and due to its popularity you may want to get here early to beat the crowds!
- Laurel Falls - A fairly easy, 1.3-mile paved hike is the only thing that stands in the way between you and one of the most scenic local waterfalls in the area. This trailhead is near Cades Cove and is quite the sight to see when the area has seen a lot of rainfall. Just don’t let the ‘falling deaths have occurred’ signs deter you, the hike truly isn’t that bad!
**All Photos owned by Group Tours Staff