Are you ready to experience summer adventures in Gatlinburg? Located in beautiful eastern Tennessee, surrounded by The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a nature lover’s wonder and an outdoorsman’s paradise. Plus, there are a variety of Gatlinburg attractions that aim to put the thrill back into your summer vacation. Ready for some fun?

Here’s my picks for the top five summer adventures in Gatlinburg:

Adventures in Gatlinburg

1) White Water Rafting

There are several reputable rafting companies in the Smokies giving guided tours of the Pigeon River, including Smoky Mountain Outdoors and Big Creek Expeditions. You can choose between upper and lower sections, so the thrill level is up to you.

Adventures in Gatlinburg

2) Ziplining in the Smokies

Where better to zipline that scenic Gatlinburg? We recommend zipping with Foxfire Mountain Adventures as they have the highest, longest and most scenic zip lines in the Smokies, with up to 1/4 mile long zip line over 200 feet above the forest floor. Other options include Adventure Ziplines of Pigeon Forge and Adventure America.

Adventures in Gatlinburg

3) Go Zorbing

Zorbing is good, old-fashioned fun those of all ages can enjoy. At Outdoor Gravity Park you can Zorb wet or dry, alone or with a friend, but the only place you can currently do it in the United States is in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Go once and you’ll want to go again!

Adventures in Gatlinburg

4) Tube the River

This one might not be adrenaline filled but it’s a summer tradition in the Smokies. Rent a tube from River Romp and float on down the river as your cares drift away behind you.

Adventures in Gatlinburg

5) Visit Dollywood

Dollywood is home to 40 exciting rides and attractions, including the all-new Lightning Rod, America’s fastest wooden coaster, and the soaring Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster. Families with little ones love the Country Fair area, themed with flying elephants and a ferris wheel, while the perfect place to cool off is at the Lazy River, Daredevil Falls and River Battle. Purchase a Dollywood vacation package for great savings or to combine your tickets with Dollywood’s Splash Country.

Add these summer adventures in Gatlinburg to your vacation for a trip you’ll never forget!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Gatlinburg to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Gatlinburg is known worldwide as a destination for all types of travelers. Visitors come from far and wide to hike the Smoky Mountains, sample the endless cuisine, experience Dollywood, and see what makes Gatlinburg great. While planning your trip to the Smokies, you might ask, how much does a trip to Gatlinburg cost?

The answer: it depends on the type of vacation you prefer!

Do you want to save money and still have fun? Would you like to spend a little bit for some extra memories? Or, are you prepared to go all out for a luxury Smoky Mountain vacation? Determining how much your Gatlinburg trip will cost depends on your choice of vacation style:


Choose your type of vacation from the list above to get started.

How Much Does a Trip to Gatlinburg Cost

One of the best things to do during a Gatlinburg vacation is explore the great outdoors.

Budget-Friendly Gatlinburg Vacation

When I travel, I prefer not to drain my savings account to do so. Plus, traveling on a budget is entirely possible when you visit Gatlinburg. Instead of frantically worrying about the cost of your trip, you can relax knowing you’ll save money and see the stunning Smoky Mountains at the same time.


To truly save money, your best option is to drive to Gatlinburg, TN. Of course, if you live far away, this isn’t a possibility. Although, keep in mind flying into the Knoxville airport can be a bit pricey. One way to get around the high airline prices is to fly into Nashville or Atlanta airport and drive to Gatlinburg from there. These larger airports not only have cheaper tickets, they also offer more flight options per day. However, if driving to Gatlinburg is within reason, I highly recommend doing so to save time and money.

Also, try to travel in the off-season in the spring, early fall, and winter. Visiting during the peak season can escalate flight prices and traffic jams.


Gatlinburg is also known for the various types of lodging available to guests. Fortunately, many of these options are also affordable.

If you’re like me, you want your budget-friendly Gatlinburg vacation to be adventurous as well. Those who love the great outdoors should look into camping in the Smoky Mountains! The national park offers a wide variety of inexpensive camping options. When you’re looking to save money and have fun, head to the mountains!

I know, not all travelers are into nature, bugs, and hiking. Not to worry! Gatlinburg is home to a multitude of affordable hotels such as:


Do note that visiting during peak season (June through August and October) will result in a higher nightly rate.

While the cabins in Gatlinburg are often promoted as luxury cabins, they are still affordable. These spacious accommodations can fit multiple people, meaning your price per person (when shared among friends/family) can be quite low! For instance, if you rent a $200 per night, 2 bedroom cabin for 4 people, that’s only $50 per night per person.


Part of pondering how much does a trip to Gatlinburg cost includes budgeting for food. Gatlinburg offers several low-cost restaurants, but the best way to save money is by going to the grocery store. Whether you’re camping, staying in a cabin, or at a hotel, buying food and preparing your meals is the cost-effective way to visit Gatlinburg.


It doesn’t get much better than free, does it? When in Gatlinburg, save money and maximize your fun by enjoying these 14 free activities. Plus, the area also boasts inexpensive attractions such as mini-golf courses, go-karts, and more for the whole family.


While Gatlinburg does offer fantastic shopping, plan to skip the stores on a budget-friendly vacation. Instead of spending money on souvenirs, use your funds for memorable experiences such as a day at Dollywood or hiking the Smoky Mountains.

How Much Does a Trip to Gatlinburg Cost

Bring the entire family to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

Average Gatlinburg Vacation

When I was little, my family had a “vacation fund” jar in our kitchen. We were all instructed to put our loose change in the jar, thus making us accountable for our vacation. Looking back, this may have jump-started my love of travel. But more importantly, it taught me how to save for travel. While we never saved enough for a lavish getaway, we always saved enough for a flexible family vacation.

Whether you’ve saved up for months or have money set aside, planning a family vacation to Gatlinburg with an average budget is the way to go!


If home is too far away from Gatlinburg, flying is always an option. Remember to check the price and flight times at larger airports such as Nashville and Atlanta. It’ll require a short drive after, but well worth the savings.

However, I’ll still recommend that you drive to Gatlinburg. You’ll reap the rewards, but you’ll also drive through jaw-dropping landscapes.


Those planning a middle-of-the-road budget Gatlinburg vacation have an abundance of lodging options. Camping is available for the outdoorsy families and multiple hotels and cabins are all within your budget. When looking for Gatlinburg lodging, consider these affordable hotels and cabins:


Remember that when you visit will have a direct effect on hotel and cabin rates.


When asking yourself how much does a trip to Gatlinburg cost, always consider the cost of food. When I travel, I tend to spend the most on food since I want to try it all! In Gatlinburg, you have a whole world of cuisine at your fingertips. Some of the best Gatlinburg restaurants include Cherokee Grill, Wild Plum Tea Room, and of course, Pancake Pantry.

To save money, choose a few meals to prepare ahead of time. For instance, you could pack sandwiches and have a picnic in the Smoky Mountains. Just remember to carry your trash out!


The first item on any Gatlinburg itinerary should be a day (or two) at Dollywood. Remember that if you visit after 3:00 pm on the first day, you can visit again the next day for free!

Since your vacation budget is a bit flexible, be sure to get your tickets to these attention-worthy attractions and shows as well:


You’re bound to find the perfect activity (within your family vacation budget) for your Gatlinburg vacation.


Since your vacation budget has a bit of wiggle room, you could purchase souvenirs for friends and family (and of course, yourself.) From outlets to small souvenir stores, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for in Gatlinburg.

How Much Does a Trip to Gatlinburg Cost

Treat yourself to a luxury Gatlinburg vacation in a log cabin.

Luxury Gatlinburg Vacation

Perhaps you’re looking to go all out on your Gatlinburg vacation. In fact, you’re not asking “How much does a trip to Gatlinburg cost?” You’re saying “Let’s go now!”


Since budget isn’t an issue, flying into the Knoxville airport will be no problem at all. Although, if you want to take your time and enjoy the scenery, a road trip to Gatlinburg is always an option.


If you want to experience the peak of luxury in Gatlinburg, reserve a cabin for your group. These cabins are cozy, feature unparalleled amenities, and often offer gorgeous views of the Smoky Mountains. Check out the available cabins from these rental companies:


Nightly rates depend on the cabin company, the number of nights reserved, and the size of the cabin.


With a flexible budget, there are no limits when it comes to dining on vacation. For the finest cuisine in Gatlinburg, make reservations at these top restaurants:

  • Peddler Steakhouse
  • The Restaurant at Buckberry Creek
  • Buckhorn Inn Restaurant



Since you have a larger budget to work with, your Gatlinburg vacation can include a multitude of activities! Whether you want extreme thrills or elegant tours, there’s an activity for every traveler. Consider adding these activities to your luxurious Gatlinburg vacation for the ultimate vacation:


Don’t forget to get your tickets for Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, too!


With a flexible budget, feel free to shop until your heart’s content!

So, How Much Does a Trip to Gatlinburg Cost?

Whether you’re ready to splurge on an elegant vacation or would rather save your money and explore the mountains, there’s a Gatlinburg trip for everyone. Choose the budget that suits your vacation style and start planning your Gatlinburg vacation today.

Families planning a vacation can often run into a budget crunch.  Mom and Dad’s everywhere want to get the most of their hard-earned money, which is all the more reason a vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee makes sense.  Both economical and entertaining, the Smoky Mountains can be the place where you get away from it all without having to spend it all. I’ve outlined some budget friendly Gatlinburg vacation tips to help you save while you play.

Gatlinburg vacation tips

1) Arrive Late at Dollywood

The first of our five Gatlinburg vacation tips features Dollywood. At this Smoky Mountain theme park you can spend two days for the price of one.  How to take advantage of this benefit? Simply enter the park after 3pm and you can come back the next day with the same ticket for no additional charge.  This is a great way to fully explore Dollywood, especially if you want to see all the unique shows performed at the park.

2) Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Free

America’s most visited National Park is absolutely free to visit!  In fact, families can easily spend several day in the Smokies and only spend money on gas and picnic supplies.  Plus, the National Park Service frequently hosts free programs and activities.  Be sure to stop by one of the visitor centers, such as the Sugarlands Visitor Center, for a schedule of things to do during your vacation.

3) Take the Trolley for Cheap Travel

The price of gas seems to always get in the way of vacation fun.  All the more reason to take the Gatlinburg Trolley. It offers free rides during the summer and only a 50 cent regular fare.  As a result, it’s super budget-friendly to hop aboard to travel from one Gatlinburg attraction to the next.  Plus, there is a connection between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg making each destination easily accessible.

4) Take Advantage of Direct Deals

Reserve your show and attraction tickets in advance on Reserve Gatlinburg for exclusive savings.  Many things to do in Gatlinburg offer discounts so you can save while you play putt-putt, visit interesting museums and even whitewater rafting.  Be sure to check out the Gatlinburg Direct Deals page for the latest money-saving deals. As far as Gatlinburg vacation tips go, this one is sure to stretch your budget.

5) Rent a Cabin

You may think a cabin cost more than you can afford.  However, when you break down the price you can actually save money by doing so. One reason being you can stock up on snacks and food instead of constantly needing to dine out.  Many people don’t necessarily want to cook on their vacation, but if you’re a family traveling its can be a real money-saver to have a kitchen on hand.  Plus, most Gatlinburg cabins have grills so you can barbeque, relax in your cabin’s hot tub and truly have a relaxing night in the Smoky Mountains.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Gatlinbug to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Filled with endless activities, shows, restaurants, and of course, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s no wonder Gatlinburg is such a popular vacation destination. While visiting Gatlinburg will provide you with lifelong travel memories, there are a few things you need to know before you go.


Gatlinburg Has Something for Everyone

Whether you’re on your honeymoon or traveling to the Smoky Mountains for a vacation with the kids, everyone will love spending time in Gatlinburg. Be sure to enjoy one or more of these iconic activities and attractions while visiting Gatlinburg:

Outdoor Activities in Gatlinburg

If you love the great outdoors, then a vacation in Gatlinburg is exactly what you need. When planning your Smoky Mountains vacation, make sure these outdoor activities are part of your plans:


Of course, this is only a handful of the exciting outdoor adventures that await you in Gatlinburg!

Shopping in Gatlinburg

Those visiting Gatlinburg for the first time need to take advantage of the prime shopping opportunities. Browse through these shopping malls during your trip to the Smokies:


If you’re looking for a handcrafted gift or work of art, head over to the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community where you’ll find shops such as:


Gatlinburg Attractions

When visiting Gatlinburg, there are specific attractions that you must experience in order to have a true Smoky Mountain vacation. In addition to exploring the magnificent national park, make sure these top-rated Gatlinburg attractions are part of your itinerary:


Whether you want to see the Gatlinburg landscape from high in the sky or your children want to play mini golf, there’s something for everyone in Gatlinburg.

Shows in Gatlinburg

Lastly, you have to reserve seats for one of the many jaw-dropping shows. From the mesmerizing production quality to the side-splitting humor, the shows in Gatlinburg and just next door in Pigeon Forge are a must-see. Get your tickets for one of these phenomenal shows:


From the great outdoors to show-stopping performances, Gatlinburg has something for everyone in the family to enjoy.


Where to Stay in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg offers visitors a wide range of lodging options. Visiting Gatlinburg is a breeze when you stay at one of the many hotels, cabins, resorts, or camping sites.

The hotels in Gatlinburg are second to none. With luxurious amenities and comfortable rooms, every type of traveler will enjoy staying at one of these top hotels:


For those who want a more laid-back vacation when visiting Gatlinburg, consider staying at one of the premium cabins available. Cozy cabins are located all over the Smoky Mountain region, so you can find one near the specific attractions and activities you’d like to experience. Reserve a cabin for your family with one of these cabin companies in Gatlinburg:


Perhaps you prefer the all-inclusive route when on vacation. The Smoky Mountain region offers several different resorts to choose from, including the Resort at Governor’s Crossing and RiverStone Resort and Spa.

Of course, if you want to rough it in the wilderness, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers plenty of campsites. Follow all rules, regulations, and guidelines laid out by Park Rangers and the National Park Service. Also, be on the lookout for wild animals such as bears. Should you choose to go camping when visiting Gatlinburg, make sure you understand what to do if you encounter a bear!


Where to Eat in Gatlinburg

Now to the most important part of any vacation — the food. Gatlinburg is home to a wide assortment of restaurants, distilleries, breweries, cafes and so much more. Trust me, you won’t regret visiting or dining at any of Gatlinburg’s top food and drink spots:


From a home cooked meal to sampling moonshine, you won’t be disappointed with the food choices when visiting Gatlinburg on vacation!

Visiting Gatlinburg

Tips for Visiting Gatlinburg for the First Time

Once you know what to do, where to stay, and where to eat, it’s time to answer your Gatlinburg vacation questions

When Should I Visit?
As you might have guessed, the Gatlinburg area can become extremely congested during the peak seasons, which are:

  • Early January
  • June through August
  • October
  • December


For fewer crowds, visiting Gatlinburg during the months of February, March, April, May, September, and November is your best bet.

How Bad is the Traffic?
Brace yourself for the infamous Gatlinburg traffic. No matter when you decide to travel to Gatlinburg, you will encounter traffic. One way to avoid this is to utilize the Gatlinburg Trolley. Not only is it a great way to see the area, it also eliminates parking fees and pesky traffic.

Also, driving through Gatlinburg at off-peak times of the day will help you combat traffic. Try driving in the middle of the morning or afternoon, rather than at typical rush hour times.

What Should I Pack?
The Gatlinburg area experiences all four seasons, so pack accordingly! Even if you plan on visiting Gatlinburg in the summer, you’ll want to have a sweatshirt or two on hand. It tends to be chilly during the evening and early mornings in the mountains.

In addition, don’t forget to bring:

  • Sneakers
  • Hiking Boots
  • A Swim Suit
  • A Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Weather Appropriate Clothing


Will Visiting Gatlinburg Break the Bank?
With so many activities, attractions, and shows, it may feel as though visiting Gatlinburg will break your vacation budget. Not true! Thanks to discounted tickets and lodging rates at Reserve Gatlinburg, and free activities such as hiking in the Smoky Mountains, visiting Gatlinburg is incredibly affordable.

Now that you know everything about visiting Gatlinburg for the first time, start planning your vacation!

Can hear those sleigh bells ringing? The holidays are right around the corner, and you can celebrate with festive things to do in Gatlinburg during Christmas. To discover all that’s happening in this Smoky Mountain town this season, read on.

Things to Do in Gatlinburg during Christmas

Trolley Ride of Lights
Through January 31, 2017, you can hop aboard a Gatlinburg Trolley to see the Winter Magic Light displays.  The guided, enclosed excursions leave from traffic light #5. Then, they travel through downtown and Highway 321. Multiple tours leave nightly at 6:30pm, 7:30pm and 8:30pm. Cost is $5 per person.

Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
Bundle up for the 41st Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade in Downtown Gatlinburg. The larger-than-life parade features dozens of marching bands from Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, George and Alabama, whimsical balloon characters, more than 100 floats, and, of course, Santa Claus. The parade is held December 2 at 7:30pm. Generally speaking, it’s best to arrive early for a prime viewing spot.

Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival
Over four million lights decorate Dollywood. Accordingly, park goers can enjoy a breathtaking display of holiday lights, along with spectacular holiday entertainment. During your visit, watch Carol of the Trees, which dazzles with synchronized lights and holiday music to transform Rivertown Lake into a seasonal symphony. Then, enjoy The Parade of Many Colors. Featuring floats adorned with bright lights and interactive characters, this nightly parade quickly wins over the heart of visitors.  You can also meet Rudolph and Friends at Holly Jolly Junction, and watch spectacular shows like It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas in the Smokies.

Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland
Known as the “world’s largest drive-through, fully synchronized, LED Christmas light and music show,” this experience is a highlight of the Christmas season. Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland is located at the Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium at 3540 Line Drive. The light display is open from November 4, 2016 through January 8, 2017 from dusk to 10pm every night (later on weekends).

Biltmore Candlelight Christmas Evenings
Experience the grand tradition of the holidays at Biltmore Estate. The Christmas at Biltmore Celebration is scheduled for November 4, 2016 through January 8, 2017. America’s largest home is decorated with dozens of Christmas trees, hundreds of wreaths, bows and poinsettias, as well as miles of evergreen garland and thousands of ornaments. In addition, there is a massive 35-foot Fraser Fir tree will be adorned beautiful ornaments and presents.

Christmas Shows
Get into the spirit of the season with Gatlinburg Christmas shows. Family-friendly productions like Dixie Stampede ChristmasChristmas at Lumberjack Adventure and Hatifeld & McCoy Christmas Dinner Disaster are all popular holiday dinner shows. Likewise, Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry is a stunning show featuring the area’s largest living nativity, dancing elves, flying sugar plum fairies, Santa Claus and so much more. However, these are only a few of the shows that will delight your family this holiday season in Gatlinburg.

Ober Gatlinburg
Visiting Ober Gatlinburg is a an easy choice for things to do in Gatlinburg during Christmas. The Gatlinburg attraction is your home for all ski sports with tubing and skiing available. Furthermore, there’s an on-site ski rental shop and instructors on site. As a result, Ober Gatlinburg is able to cater to every visitors needs ensuring they have a spectacular time on the slopes.

Make these things to do in Gatlinburg during Christmas part of your holiday plans. The Smoky Mountains are waiting!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Gatlinburg to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

Are you one of the many people who’ve set their sights on a vacation in Gatlinburg? Millions of visitors flock to this mountain hamlet to explore The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, quirky downtown Gatlinburg and neighboring towns such as Pigeon Forge. If you’re short on time, though, and only have a weekend in Gatlinburg, I’m here to help.

Follow this guide touting what to do and where to go for a memorable weekend in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Happy male traveler showing thumb up in summer mountains at sunset, point of view shot

Day 1

Explore the National Park

My absolute favorite thing to do in the Smoky Mountains? Explore the great Outdoors. With the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Gatlinburg’s doorstep, it’s a prime location for doing just that.

IMG_3296 Crockett Camp RSZ

Breakfast: Start your day with breakfast Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. This restaurant serves hearty portions sure to fuel your day of activity.

I recommend stopping by the Sugarlands Visitor Center to pick up any hiking maps and auto-tour guides (and maybe a souvenir or two!). Afterwards, it’s time to begin exploring.

Auto-Touring: At over 800 square miles, there’s a lot of ground to cover in the Smoky Mountains National Park. Accordingly, auto-touring is one of the best ways to see the sights. There are plenty of overlooks to stop at, providing pristine views of the park. Below are a few of the most popular auto-touring routes.

  • Cades Cove Loop Road
  • Cataloochee Valley
  • Newfound Gap Road
  • Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail


Dawn in the Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA.

Lunch: While you’re out exploring the National Park, there aren’t many places to stop for a bite to eat. I recommend picking up a to-go lunch so you’re not lost in the woods without a snack. Calhoun’s Restaurant will box up barbeque to-go. Alternatively, you can also stop by the local grocery for sandwich fixings, or hit up Subway.

Hiking: So many trails, so little time. This is always my struggle while at the National Park, as I want to do it all. When you only have a weekend in Gatlinburg, I’m sure you’ll think the struggle is real too. So, to make the most of your time I’ve highlighted a few of the most rewarding hikes in the Smoky Mountains.


Dinner: After a busy day of exploring, your belly will be rumbling. Treat yourself to one of the finest dinners in Gatlinburg at the Peddler Steakhouse. The food is superb, and the scenery is sublime.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA townscape in the Smoky Mountains.

Day 2

Experience Gatlinburg Attractions

On day 2 of your weekend in Gatlinburg, it’s time to experience some of Gatlinburg’s best attractions.

Breakfast: A visit to Gatlinburg isn’t complete without a pancake pit stop. For breakfast, dine at the Pancake Pantry. Just be prepared for a wait, as this place is very popular.

people are going on horse through forest

Horseback Riding: Sugarlands Riding Stables hosts guided trail rides through the Smoky Mountains, which is a unique way to see the sights just like the early settlers did.

Gatlinburg Sky Lift: For a bird-eye-view of the scenery, take an open air chair lift ride with Gatlinburg Sky Lift. As you ascend 1,800 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain, you’ll gain access to some of the most breathtaking views of Downtown Gatlinburg.

Lunch: For a quick and delicious lunch, you can’t beat the Smoky Mountain Brewery. From calzones to burgers, this Alpine lodge-style eatery will win your taste buds over. Likewise, if you didn’t pick up a to-go lunch from Calhoun’s the day before, you should stop in for lunch today.

Gatlinburg Sky Lift RSZ (11)

Ripley’s Aquarium: Home to a variety of exhibits exploring life under the sea, families can spend hours viewing tropical fish, coral reefs and interactive displays. There’s even penguins living here!

Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster: Up next is a ride aboard the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. Relatively new to the Gatlinburg attraction scene, this mountain coaster puts you in the driver seat—literally. You control how fast you go on this silent track, which twists and turns through scenic forests and wilderness.

Loco Burro Facebook RSZ

Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina/Facebook

Dinner: Loco Burro is a lively place to eat at night, especially if you can score a table on the rooftop. Twinkling lights, fire pits, live music and views of the Parkway set the scene. Of course, the large portions of fresh Mex and strong margaritas are a big draw too!

After dinner, be sure to visit a distillery or two for samples of moonshine. Ole Smoky Moonshine and Sugarlands Distillery serve some of the finest ‘shine this side of the Mississippi! Then, finish the night by going to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle. From it’s vantage point, the entire hamlet of Gatlinburg twinkles.

Pigeon Burg Work Trip (1021)

Day 3

If you’re lucky enough to have a 3 day weekend in Gatlinburg, it’s worth taking some time to hop over to nearby Pigeon Forge. The towns, while similar, offer different ways to experience Appalachian culture. Highlights of Pigeon Forge include:

The Island: Home to the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, Margaritaville, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen and over 30 other rides and attractions.

Dollywood: A family-friendly theme park with over 40 rides and attractions.

The Old Mill: A fully operational 1830s grist mill anchors the Old Mill, which is home to multiple shops and a one-of-a-kind homestyle restaurant.


Where to Stay

During your weekend in Gatlinburg, I recommend staying near the Parkway. This way, you’ll never be far from all the fun! Below are some of the best places to stay in Downtown Gatlinburg.

  • Bearskin Lodge on the River
  • Old Creek Lodge
  • Hilton Garden Inn

Get Ready for a Wonderful Weekend in Gatlinburg

With this helpful guide detailing what to see and do in Gatlinburg, you’re ready for an action-packed weekend in Gatlinburg. Be sure to check out our events calendar to take advantage of seasonal events and festivities. You never know what might be brewing in the Smokies!

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Gatlinburg to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” This famous John Muir quote always reminds me of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The quaint town is surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and has a charm all its own. If the mountains are calling your name, it’s time to start planning a Gatlinburg getaway. Find out how to make your vacation in Gatlinburg even better with these five easy-to-use tips.

Gatlinburg Sky Lift RSZ (16)

The Gatlinburg Overlook

1) Stay in Downtown Gatlinburg

While it’s nice to stay in a cabin when you visit the Smokies, I prefer to stay near the Parkway. Gatlinburg is a walking town, and hotels in Downtown Gatlinburg make accessing shops, attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium, distilleries and restaurants super easy. Plus, you won’t have to search for a place to park your car and pay those pesky parking fees (which can really add up!). Traffic can get pretty thick during peak season, too. Avoid all those hassles by staying at Old Creek Lodge, Bearskin Lodge on the River, Historic Gatlinburg Inn or Hilton Garden Inn.

Sugarlands Visitor Center_RSZ

Sugarlands Visitor Center

2) Go to the Sugarlands Visitor Center

No matter how many times I trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I always start at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There are a wealth of resources at this Center. You can pick up a park map or newspaper, have your questions answered by a ranger, and purchase books and guides to the park. I generally have an idea of the hikes I’m planning to do, but stopping here for trail guides and maps is a must. In addition, the shop here has some of the best Smoky Mountain souvenirs, ranging from historical books to picture-perfect postcards.


Rainbow Falls

3) Hiking in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Okay, this one might seem like a no-brainer but, with the Park sprawling over 500,000 acres there’s a lot of ground to cover. Every season brings highlights, from wildflower hikes in the spring to fall foliage expeditions in autumn. Some sights, though, are brilliant all year long. A few of my favorite hikes include Laurel Falls, a relatively easy 2-mile roundtrip paved hike to a cascading waterfall; Rainbow Falls, a rather strenuous 5.8 mile roundtrip hike to an 80 foot waterfall; and Abrams Falls, a moderate 5 mile roundtrip hike to the most voluminous waterfall in the park. (I may have a thing for waterfalls.) Other hikes that should be on your radar include Andrews Bald, Clingman’s Dome, Alum Cave and Porter’s Creek. There are so many places to hike in the Smoky Mountains, each beautiful in their own unique way.



4) Venture to Pigeon Forge

With only a 10-minute drive separating Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge, I highly recommend spending at least a day or two exploring this neighbor town. Pigeon Forge has an atmosphere distinctly different from Gatlinburg: it’s bigger, more touristy and offers a wide selection of family-friendly attractions. One of the best is Dollywood, a theme park with high-flying coasters, splashtastic water rides, county fair-style rides for little ones, entertaining shows, demonstrating craftsmen and so much more. Two newer Pigeon Forge attractions that are a total blast include The Coaster at Goats on the Roof and Outdoor Gravity Park.


Rafting in the Smokies

5) Be Adventurous

Where better to be adventurous than the Smoky Mountains. The gorgeous natural landscape makes activities like horseback riding, ziplining and white water rafting even better. For horseback riding, Sugarlands Riding Stables and Five Oaks Riding Stables will get you saddled up. Ziplining opportunities are vast, but the best views are found at Legacy Mountain Ziplines, Foxfire Mountain Adventures and Adventure America Ziplines. White water rafting in Gatlinburg is highly recommended, even for novices, as the trips include a good mix of Class III and IV rapids without being pee-your-pants scary. There are also rafting trips with Class I and II rapids only, ideal for families. Outfitters like Rafting in the Smokies and Smoky Mountain Outdoors offer knowledgeable guides and excellent experiences, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the Gatlinburg rafting operators.

See how much fun a vacation in Gatlinburg can be? Put these tips to use and you’ll soon discover this mountain town is the perfect escape from the everyday.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Gatlinburg to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

The quaint town of Gatlinburg is known for its family friendly fun. Between the outdoor activities available at The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and attractions teeming with entertainment it’s easy to please the whole family on your vacation–including your children. If you’re searching for the best things to do in Gatlinburg for kids read on.


Explore the Smoky Mountains

There are over 500,000 acres to explore in the Smokies, and almost as many ways to make the experience uniquely yours. Several easy hikes, such as Laurel Falls, give you a glimpse of the beauty of the mountains while not being too strenuous for the kiddos. Plus, they usually have more energy that mom and dad anyway! You can also hitch a ride on a horse at outfits like Sugarland Riding Stables. Giddy up and take to the trails on a gentle mare to see some of scenic sights of the Smokies.


Make a Splash Rafting or Tubing

You might think white water rafting is too much adventure for your kids. Don’t worry, though, as Gatlinburg rafting companies offer a trip on the lower Pigeon River perfect for families. The 5 ½ mile rafting trip runs about 50 class I and II rapids, with one class III at the very end. With calm waters, and just enough rapids to make a splash, kids ages 3 and up can go on the lower Pigeon River float. Another leisurely way to spend the day in the Smokies is tubing the river. River Romp and River Rat offer affordable ways for families to enjoy the old-fashioned fun of river tubing. Along the way you’ll find swimming holes and rope swings, adding even more activities to your day on the river.

DW Kids Ride


Families with kids of all ages will find something to love at Dollywood. There are roller coasters like Wild Eagle ideal for big kids, and traditional fair rides for little ones at the Country Fair section of the park. Make sure you visit during the Great American Summer Festival for even more kid-themed fun. The Smoky Mountain theme park has extended operating hours during this festival and features nightly fireworks, special shows and fun geared just for kids.


Dollywood’s Splash Country

Cool off during your vacation at the only waterpark in the Smoky Mountains. Add aquatic adventure to your day on attractions like RiverRush or take it easy and lounge in the lazy river. From mild to wild thrills, Splash Country is a place where families can dive into summer fun.

Sugarlands Visitor Center_RSZ

Become a Junior Ranger

Kids ages 5-12 can become a Junior Ranger on their Gatlinburg vacation. Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at any park visitor center. Complete the activities in the booklet then return to the visitor center, talk to a ranger and receiver your Junior Ranger badge. The Junior Ranger badge is available any time of year, but in every season but winter your can also take part in Junior Ranger programs designed especially for children.


Ripley’s Aquarium

Immerse yourself in the aquatic wonders of Ripley’s Aquarium. Even though you might be miles from the sea this attraction deftly navigates the waters of our world, highlighting a variety of species and exotic sea creatures. My favorite element is the Shark Lagoon, which includes a 340-foot underwater tunnel. Hop on the glidepath through the tunnel and gawk at the stingrays, sawfish, tarpons, sharks, eels and more. Interactive and educational exhibits challenge children while keep their interests. Be sure to touch a stingray and pose with a penguin during your trip.



Kids of all ages find WonderWorks to be engaging, entertaining and educational. Dubbed an amusement park for the mind, the attraction lets you experience an earthquake and hurricane, design your own roller coaster, explore outer space, ride an extreme 360 bike and so much more. There’s even a ropes course and laser tag course where families can challenge each other.



Are any of your kids Harry Potter fans? Then MagiQuest is for them. Using a magic wand visitor’s journey through an interactive magical adventure. Various challenges, puzzles and brave feats let you advance through levels, gaining skill and knowledge along the way. Plus, you can purchase your wand and keep it for return visits to MagiQuest locations across the nation. It remembers everything you accomplish so you can keep playing for years!

Add these popular things to do in Gatlinburg for kids to your plans for a vacation filled with smiles.

Ashley is Reserve Direct’s travel expert, visiting Gatlinburg to find the best travel tips, money-saving deals and insider information. With over 10 years of experience in first-hand-travel adventures, she shares her stories, advice, and current events to help you stay in the know.

october_eventsCheck out these Gatlinburg events planned for October 2015:

October 1-31:  Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival
Enjoy fall in the Smokies with autumn displays around the county and special events all month long in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, and Townsend.

October 1-November 2:  Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg
Hear the Bavarian Fun Makers Band and get a taste of Bavarian-style food and drink during Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg. Enjoy special beers along with German wurst, schnitzel, strudel, and more.

October 2-31: Dollywood’s National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration
Dollywood will feature four weeks of southern gospel music along with handmade displays from craftsmen. All concerts are included with regular park admission and take place throughout the park.

October 8-24: Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
Art, crafts and music lovers can find almost 200 booths featuring some of the nation’s finest work. Artisans and craftspeople are on hand to demonstrate their skills, answer questions and offer their unique art for sale. Live Country & Bluegrass entertainment.  Admission is free.

October 13: The Back Porch Concert Series featuring Bumper Jacksons
From 7-10pm, listen to The Bumper Jacksons. They paint America’s story from New Orleans’ brothels to Appalachian hollers. Unafraid to scrap together new sounds from forgotten 78’s, the Bumper Jacksons boldly and elegantly balance paying homage to the traditions while fashioning their own unique, DIY style. Located at Sugarlands Distilling Company.

july_eventsMark your calendars for these July 2015 Gatlinburg events:

July 1-August 2: Great American Summer at Dollywood
Make more time for summertime with extended park hours and shows for the entire family, including nightly fireworks displays, the Great American Country Show and Gazillion Bubbles Show during Great American Summer at Dollywood.

July 3-4: Fourth of July Midnight Parade
For the 40th year, Gatlinburg will host a 4th of July parade that begins at midnight, making it the first celebration in the nation. Members of all military branches will appear along with vintage military vehicles, public safety agencies, and more. Grab a spot early as tens of thousands of spectators are expected.

July 4: “Stand Here” Fireworks Finale
A fireworks display will light up downtown Gatlinburg beginning at 10pm. This fireworks show has been designated a Top 20 Event by Southeast Tourism Society.

July 4: River Raft Regatta
The annual River Raft Regatta will begin at noon on the Little Pigeon River in downtown Gatlinburg. Enter the competition for free beginning at 10am at the Christ in the Smokies bridge on River Road. There are two categories: Trash (not hand-made) and Treasure (hand-made). Awards will go to the top three in each category. Call 800-568-4748 for more info.

July 6-11: Smoky Mountains Family Camp
Spend your family vacation in the Smoky Mountains hiking, swimming, exploring, and studying wildlife. Lodging and meals are included in the cost.

July 17-26: Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
Over 150 booths will be filled with arts and crafts of all kinds. Artisans will be on hand to give demonstrations and answer questions about their craft. There will also be live country and bluegrass music. Fair is open daily from 10am-6pm and on Sunday from 10-5 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.