Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a small mountain town in Eastern Tennessee. The area is loaded with attractions which explains why more than 10 million people visit the area each year.
Getting to Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg is located at the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s about an hour southeast of Knoxville and within driving distance for most people in the East and Midwest.
Getting Around and Parking
Since Gatlinburg is easily accessible to most by car, the majority of people have their own car to get around. If you plan to fly into Knoxville, a rental car is definitely recommended for transportation to and around Gatlinburg.
During peak seasons, the traffic can become quite congested making it difficult to navigate driving and parking. An alternative is to utilize the free Gatlinburg Trolley System by using the Park N Ride lot located at the Gatlinburg Welcome Center, 1011 Banner Rd.
Paid parking is available in several lots downtown or in the parking garage at the aquarium. If you are lucky enough to beat the crowds, drive down River Rd which runs parallel to the parkway to find free parking along the road.
Best Time to Visit
Everyone wants to know when the best time to visit Gatlinburg is to avoid the crowds. As someone put in a Facebook group, “any day that it is raining.” There is no real “off season” in Gatlinburg but if you are looking to avoid crowds there are a few times that are better than others. The slowest months tend to be January, February, and early March (before Spring Break).
The other frequent when to visit questions is to see the Fall color changes. It is difficult to determine the best time to visit as the color change is dependent on variable factors but plan to visit early-mid October to early November.
Entertainment and Activities
There is so much fun and adventure packed into Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. For a complete guide of EVERYTHING the area has to offer the visitor’s bureau offers a free vacation guide HERE.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There are over 522,000 acres to explore in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The question is, how are you going to explore them? There are endless opportunities for auto trails, hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, waterfalls, and wildlife viewing.
Ober Gatlinburg is a four seasons amusement park and the only ski area Tennessee has to offer. Visit in the warmer months for carnival type rides, a mountain coaster, alpine slide, mini golf, and so much more. Or, come in the winter for skiing, snowboarding, tubing and ice skating.
Anakeesta is a mountain top family theme park located directly downtown. Take in the spectacular views from the observation tower. Discover America’s longest tree-based sky walk. Play in the TreeVenture or BearVenture challenge courses. Shop and dine and be sure to check out all the special events they have going on.
Start your adventure by taking a chairlift ride up the mountain from the heart of downtown. From there, conquer the SkyBridge, America’s longest pedestrian cable bridge which features a 30 feet of see through glass in the middle of the bridge. Hike the SkyTrail, explore Tulip Tower, relax and enjoy a meal in the SkyCenter, and check out their special events like live music.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Voted as one of the Top 10 Best Aquariums in North America by USA today 10 Best, this Gatlinburg aquarium is not to be missed. It is home to over 10,000 sea creatures.
Wine, Whiskey, and Moonshine
Meander downtown Gatlinburg and enjoy samples of local wines, whiskeys, moonshine, and even hard ciders. Some places offer free samples while most are $5+. Some of the companies offer tours (check ahead to purchase tickets) and live music.
The Parkway has even more entertainment to offer such as arcades, ax throwing, shopping, museums, mini golf, and the Space Needle.
In case, the above mentioned activities aren’t enough, Gatlinburg has even more to offer such as whitewater rafting, ziplining, mountain coasters, ropes courses, and golfing.
Gatlinburg celebrates with numerous annual special events such as Fourth of July Celebrations, Oktoberfest, Winter Magic, and the New Year’s Eve Events and Fireworks are not to be missed. For more information on events click HERE.
There are an abundance of places to stay in Gatlinburg from cabins to homes, hotels, motels, camping, and RV parks.
We would love to have you stay at Cypress Lodge if you are looking for a conveniently located cabin with a view, plenty of sleeping room and entertainment.
For more specific information on our local recommendations and favorites, read our blog post Things to do in Gatlinburg.