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.

Toast the town by visiting one of the wineries, breweries and distilleries in Gatlinburg. Try a fresh, handcrafted beer or sample a fine wine made in Gatlinburg. You can even try white lightning, also known as moonshine, if you’re up to the challenge. Stop by for a sip, sample or full beverage at one of the Gatlinburg locations to enjoy a taste of the Smoky Mountains.

Wineries, Breweries and Distilleries in Gatlinburg

Bootleggers Wine FB1

Bootleggers Homemade Wine/Facebook

Bootleggers Homemade Wine

903 Parkway Suite 108
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 221-1589

The finest Appalachian wines are created at Bootleggers. Local fruit and small-batch recipes perfected long ago create their signature wines.

Ole Smoky Whiskey FB1

Ole Smoky Distillery/Facebook

The Ole Smoky Barrelhouse

650 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 325-1111

This whiskey is made in the Great Smoky Mountains using premium local grains and age-old techniques to make the finest small batch whiskeys. Gatlinburg Barrelhouse is an extension of Old Smoky Moonshine, but focuses on mountain-made whiskey.

Doc Collier Moonshine FB 1

Doc Collier Moonshine/Facebook

Doc Collier Moonshine Distillery

519 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 325-1468

Doc Collier’s original recipes are made using only fresh English Mountain Spring Water straight from the source. Stop in to try craft corn whiskey and flavored moonshine like sweet tea, peach, watermelon moonshine brandy.

Ole Smoky Moonshine FB2

Ole Smoky Moonshine/Facebook

Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery

903 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 436-6995

Celebrate the rich history of moonshine in the Smoky Mountains at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, where they make genuine moonshine on-site. Sample flavors like Pineapple, Blackberry and Apple Pie.

Smoky Mountain Brewery FB 3

Smoky Mountain Brewery/Facebook

Smoky Mountain Brewery

1004 Parkway Suite 501
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 436-4200

A large selection of handcrafter brews and delicious food is available at Smoky Mountain Brewery. Try the Mountain Light and Appalachian Pale Ale – they’re two favorite mainstay microbrews.

red wine pouring in a restaurant

There’s always time for wine

Smoky Mountain Winery

450 Cherry Street Suite 2
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 436-7551
Toll Free: 1-888-765-9463

Come Visit East Tennessee’s oldest producer of premium wines.  Located in Winery Square, Smoky Mountain Winery offers complementary wine tastings on internationally award winning wines.

Sugarland Cellars FB1 RSZ

Sugarland Cellars/Facebook

Sugarland Cellars

1133 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 325-1110
Toll Free: 1-855-228-5217

Enjoy Gatlinburg’s rich history along with a selection of fine gifts and handcrafted wines. Tours and free wine samples are available at this Gatlinburg winery.

Sip and stroll through downtown Gatlinburg to taste the unique flavors these wineries, breweries and distilleries create. You might even find a favorite worth taking home! Distilleries in Gatlinburg are extremely popular. Visit today to see why!

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.

If you want an authentic taste of the Appalachian Mountains, make sure you include a visit to the Ole Smoky Moonshine distillery to your vacation plans. Ole Smoky Moonshine is a family business, paying homage to the whiskey making made famous in the backwoods and mountains of the Gatlinburg area.

As the first federally licensed distillery in the history of East Tennessee, they have the privilege of showcasing the art of mountain-made moonshine.

Located along the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, the distillery is easily accessible and a great after dinner stop. During my last vacation in Gatlinburg I stopped by after dining at nearby Smoky Mountain Brewery (try the calzone!) to try out their selection of homemade spirits.

The moonshine is available in a variety of flavors:

  • Original Moonshine
  • White Lightnin’
  • Moonshine Cherries
  • Apple Pie Shine
  • Grape
  • Peach
  • Hunch Punch


I sampled, in very small doses, all of the flavors and the Apple Pie Shine was definitely my favorite. They all have a unique flavor, though, and the Moonshine Cherries are a party in a jar as they are soaked through with moonshine. Go easy with these party-starters as they taste delicious but pack a punch!

Know Before You Go

– Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler is located at 903 Parkway, Traffic Light # 8 in Gatlinburg, TN.

– They are open daily from 10 am to 10 pm, with Sunday moonshine sales available noon-7pm.

– Samples are no longer free. There is now a charge of $5. Visitors who pay that fee will get a coupon worth $5 off of a future purchase at Ole Smoky Distillery.

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.

Just five years ago, Gatlinburg sold its first legal jar of moonshine. Now, distilleries line the Parkway and have created big business for the vacation destination. In a town once known for its handmade crafts and rustic souvenirs, Gatlinburg moonshine tourism has added an extra bolt of white lightning to the mix.


Sippin’ shine is a group experience! Ole Smoky Moonshine / Facebook

The first moonshine distillery to open was Ole Smoky Moonshine. As it became one of the most popular hotspots in Downtown Gatlinburg, other distilleries followed suit. Davy Crockett’s Tennessee Whiskey opened their doors in 2011, and both Sugarlands Distillery and Doc Collier Moonshine began serving ‘shine in 2014.

Sugarlands Shine FB 1

Sugarlands Distilling Company / Facebook

In Gatlinburg, there’s more to moonshine than just alcohol. There’s a long heritage associated with the drink, as it has been embedded in Appalachian culture for decades, if not centuries. Now visitors can taste the history and heritage of the Smoky Mountains through homemade, secret moonshine recipes. Each distillery has their own unique spin on the beverage, from classic white lightning to flavored options like Apple Pie and Blackberry offered. Some, like Ole Smoky Moonshine, concentrate strictly on moonshine while others, such as Davy Crockett’s, focuses more on Tennessee Whiskey. At Sugarlands Distillery, a full moonshine experience is presented from tastings to back porch entertainment. The latest distillery to open, Doc Collier Moonshine, is linked to the great-grandchildren of William “Doc” Collier who was a famous moonshiner in these hills in years gone by. Their blueberry moonshine brandy is one-of-a-kind and just one of the jars visitors scoop up once sampled.

Doc Collier Moonshine FB 1

Doc Collier Moonshine / Facebook

Many thought moonshine tourism in Gatlinburg would sully the family-friendly atmosphere. That’s not the case. Any night of the week, families still stroll the Parkway, popping in and out of attractions, shops and eateries. Now, there’s a little bit more for adults to do and with more distilleries continuing to open, it seems they approve.

Get a taste of Tennessee culture while in the Smokies at any Gatlinburg moonshine distillery. Each has their own distinct style, flavor and recipe, so a favorite is sure to be in the mix.

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 romance of the mountains makes Gatlinburg a perfect place for couples to get away from it all. The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee have long been a retreat for romance. Enchanting cabins and chalets offer a sweet escape, while romantic restaurants, outdoor havens and engaging attractions add to the charm of this Gatlinburg.

If you’re planning a couple’s vacation to the Smokies, use this list of ideas to create your couples getaway to Gatlinburg.

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Reserve a Rustic Retreat: Seclude yourself with the one you love, and bask in the ambience of a Gatlinburg cabin rental. Cozy and comfortable, all cabins provide an oasis for romance. However, I recommend renting one with a hot tub on the deck, as well one with fantastic views. As you toast your sweetheart, soak up the backdrop of cascading mountains and feel the love between you. Once you’re ready to go inside you can warm by the fire and see what else ignites!

Sip and Stroll the Parkway: Over the last several years Downtown Gatlinburg has turned into a hotspot for wineries, breweries and distilleries. Spend an evening strolling the Parkway, stopping in at places like the Sugarlands Distilling Company, Ole Smoky Moonshine and Sugarland Cellars. Free moonshine samples are available in flavors like apple pie and blackberry, while wineries offer locally infused blends you can’t get anywhere else. If you time, do a full tour of the Smoky Mountain Winery one afternoon. Peak at the behind the scenes production, mingle with mine makers and try the wineries different varieties at the tasting room. Buy a bottle of your favorite liquid concoction to enjoy back at the cabin or when you return home.


Take in the View: When you visit the mountains, the view is half the allure. Gatlinburg attractions offer several ways to gain an aerial view of the area. Two trams – the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway and Gatlinburg Sky Lift – are affordable ways to see the sights. During the fall and winter months, the enclosed gondola-style Ober Gatlinburg Tram is preferred, while I like to ride the open-air ski-lift with my sweetheart during the summer. When you hop on the tram, you’ll travel 2 miles via sky to the top of Mountain Harrison. On the Sky Lift snuggle up in the seat made for two, let your feet sway and marvel at the scenery as you climb 1,800 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain. Another approach is the Gatlinburg Space Needle, a 400 foot observation tower and deck. If you really want to splurge, book a helicopter tour with Scenic Helicopter Tours. Fly high above the mountains and get a true sense of the wonder of this magnificent landscape.

Romantic Dinner for Two: Unique dining establishments with an inviting atmosphere are dotted throughout this Smoky Mountain hamlet. Gatlinburg restaurants appeal to couples not only for their ambiance, but their scrumptious menus as well. Dine at The Peddler Steakhouse to surround yourself with views of the Little Pigeon River while eating Filet Mignon or Fresh Rainbow Trout. Pick a selection from their extensive wine list, clink your glasses and enjoy the company of your loved one. Another romantic choice is The Lodge at Buckberry Creek Restaurant. The Restaurant offers exquisitely prepared food and one of the only fine dining experiences in the Smokies. The chef-designed menu, prepared with fresh local and seasonal ingredients changes daily. Views from the restaurant are spectacular too, as the Lodge face Mt. LeConte and Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Explore the Outdoors: Make memories with your sweetheart on a Gatlinburg hike. You’ll conquer the landscape with each other, and then enjoy a sweet reward like a waterfall or panoramic vista. A few recommendations include Laurel Falls, Rainbow Falls, Mt. LeConte and Andrews Bald. Another way to see the Smoky Mountains is via horseback. Gatlinburg outfitters like Smoky Mountain Riding Stables provide guided one or two hour trail rides. Go at sunset, if possible, to make your saddle-up experience even more romantic.

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.