Gatlinburg, Tennessee lies along the east-central border of the state and is surrounded by forest-covered mountains and the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Native Americans called the region home for hundreds if not thousands of years before Europeans arrived in the middle of the 18th century. Today, the destination serves as a popular vacation resort town from the historic downtown area to the wealth of family-friendly activities and Gatlinburg attractions.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
The aquarium remains one of the most popular Gatlinburg attractions. The facility provides visitors with the opportunity to glimpse the mesmerizing world that lies beneath the sea. Tanks holding close to 1.5 million gallons of water serve as replicated homes to more than 350 species of marine life. Gaze in awe while strolling through the 345-foot tunnel in the Shark Lagoon. Here, nurse, sandbar and sand tiger sharks glide through the water along with an array of colorful tropical fish. See jellyfish gracefully float up and down. Greet the comical, friendly penguins in their iconic tuxedos. The Discovery Center offers all the chance to hold horseshoe crabs and touch the velvety soft bodies of the stingrays.
Gatlinburg Sky Lift
The sky lift enables guests to get a bird’s eye view over the spectacular terrain. From Gatlinburg, the lift makes the gradual 1,800-foot ascent toward the peak of Crocket Mountain. Along the way, majestic fir trees stand tall. Babbling brooks glisten as they flow among the rocks. Keep on the lookout for mountain wildlife. After arriving at the summit, visitors enjoy exploring the mountain. Get a close-up look of the surroundings through one of the viewers. Browse through the gift shop and indulge in some ice cream before taking the ride back down to Gatlinburg.
Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
Your Gatlinburg visit is not complete unless you take the time to explore the eight-mile loop named the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Approximately 120 artisan shops are located along the way. Many of the crafts presented are time-honored traditions of the mountain folk. You will encounter everything imaginable from candle-making and wood carving to basket weaving, ceramics and pottery. Handmade brooms, dolls and jewelry along with leather work and silversmithing are also among the masterpieces found here. The location additionally features a series of cafes, restaurants, soda fountains and tea rooms.
Sweet Fanny Adams Theater
The shows presented at the theater are unique and fun for the entire family. The cast of performers has delighted audiences for more than three decades with a number of musical comedies presented throughout the year. The live, comedic antics also encourage spectator participation. Relax, sit back and be prepared to laugh.
Ole Smoky Moonshine
Nothing says mountain tradition like real moonshine. The Ole Smoky Moonshine distillery depicts local heritage and remains one of the must-see Gatlinburg attractions. Upon approaching the facility, mountain music performed by local musicians fills the air along with the aroma of processing grains. Come face-to-face with a real working still. Inside, guests are encouraged to tour the museum, which tells the tale of the moonshine legend. Stop at the sampling bar and taste the varieties of 100 proof beverages. You will also learn a little about the historic process, which creates each flavor. Choose from the original recipe, white lightening, apple pie or cherry.
Hollywood Star Cars Museum
Whether you are an automotive enthusiast or a nostalgia buff, the museum is sure to entertain. Over the years, the facility compiled a collection of more than 40 vehicles, which were featured in memorable Hollywood movies or popular TV shows. Some once belonged to famous celebrities. The museum owners continually add to the collection, so the exhibits are always changing. Some of the many attractions include:
• Eleanor-the authentic vintage 1967 Mustang Shelby GT 500-”Gone in 60 Seconds”
• General Lee-”The Dukes of Hazard”
• Batmobile-”Batman Returns”
• Herbie-”The Love Bug”
• Delorean-”Back to the Future”
Sugarland Riding Stables
What better way to visit Smoky Mountain National Park than by an old-fashioned horseback ride? Never fear. You need not be an experienced equestrian to enjoy the adventure. The guides are experienced and patient while the horses are well-trained and gentle. Your journey takes you through breath-taking scenery of mature, tree-lined paths, bubbling streams and the forested hills beyond. While off the beaten path, there is a good chance to encounter wildlife. Along the way, your guides offer a bit of information to make the trek that much more interesting.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Stop at the visitor’s center and get a guide for the five-mile journey. Travel along the Roaring Fork Stream while enjoying the forest views, hills and mountains along with historic buildings. Breathe in the fresh air while hearing the birds in the trees and the sun glistening through the branches. Take the 1.2-mile hike to Grotto Falls.
Two 18-hole miniature golf courses are the ideal way to spend some time having whimsical but challenging fun. The Gatlinburg attractions make a gradual descent down the mountainside. Each hole features a unique backwoods theme nestled within the picturesque forested terrain. Play around and through covered wagons, moonshine stills, outhouses and tractors along with hillbilly mountain folk and other obstacles. Getting to the location simply requires a scenic tram ride up the side of the mountain.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium
Robert Ripley spent his life finding some of the strangest and most unique exhibits on the planet. The tradition continues at the Odditorium. The facility is perfect for a rainy day activity and is sure to amaze, intrigue and intellectually stimulate all who enter. See mind-boggling illusions, hear shocking stories and witness nature’s oddities. More than 600 exhibits are on display to entertain guests of all ages. Memorable exhibits include a rope spanning more than 6,000 feet in length and made entirely of bubble gum wrappers. See a replica of the space shuttle created using jelly beans. Be amazed at the portrait of Jesus Christ made from scripture passages.