Gatlinburg, Tennessee is known as the gateway to the Smoky Mountains, with its close proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, it is so much more than that. It is a place with a long and storied history, a place of true southern wonder and romantic cabins, and a destination with endless entertainment opportunities. You can enjoy one of the best theme parks in America, wander the gorgeous mountains, indulge in the delicious cuisine, watch awesome performances of the song, dance and comedy, and so much more. Any visit here will be one filled with sights, sounds, and experiences that will last a lifetime. Plan your perfect day in Gatlinburg with this list of amazing places to visit.
Breakfast in Gatlinburg
For the absolute best breakfast in Gatlinburg, you can do no better than Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. Named for the famed David “Crockett” Maples, they specialize in good old-fashioned home-cooked meals. From waffles to omelets, griddle cakes to steak and eggs, each and every item on the menu is hearty, delicious, and cooked just the way you want it. Their signature sweet corn pone is a particular favorite.
Option 1: Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country
One way to spend a perfect day in Gatlinburg is to spend the whole day at one of the theme parks. Dollywood (and its accompanying water park, Dollywood Splash Country) is a theme park named for entertainer Dolly Parton. It features a plethora of rides, shows, and restaurants, showcasing both the history and the beauty of the Smoky Mountain area.
Dollywood is full of unique, thrilling rides, like the Firechaser Express. Speed out of the frying pan and into the fire when you climb aboard this dual-launch coaster. Styled after a fire engine and filled with moments of excitement, this amazing roller coaster sends you flying both backwards and forwards. Don’t miss out on this one!
After you’ve had your fill of fighting fires on the Firechaser Express, cool off with one of Dollywood Splash Country’s epic water slides. The Raging River Rapids sends you and your family along a wet and wild ride down a streaming flume. Have all the fun of white water rafting without any of the work.
Travel back in time and take in the wonder of Tennessee’s natural beauty on the Dollywood Express. Hop aboard an authentic steam engine as it takes you on a tour of the Smoky Mountains. As it winds its way through the foothills, you can take pictures, breathe in the fresh air, or simply relax and enjoy the sights. Perfect for unwinding after a long day of roller coasters and water slides.
You can really work up an appetite in Dollywood. Between the shows, rides and everything else, you’ll want to take a break and re-energize before more exploring. There’s no place better to do so than Aunt Granny’s Restaurant. This all-you-can-eat buffet is chock full of southern goodness, with everything from fried chicken to corn bread, a salad and desert bar, and so much more.
Option 2: Great Smoky Mountain National Park
For all you outdoorsman, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park may be more your speed. It is the most visited national park in the US, and also one of the largest. The grandeur and majesty of the Smoky Mountains is truly a sight to behold, and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the best place to take it all in. With various flora and fauna in the surrounding area, you’ll never be wanting for something to see. And of course, there are many seasonal activities to partake in while you’re there.
How to Spend Your Day in the Smoky Mountains
There are numerous hiking trails and amazing destinations around the Smoky Mountains. Endless forests, sparkling waterfalls, and animals of all shapes and sizes can be found. Take your time and find magical places of natural wonder. Such fantastic trails as Rainbow Falls, Alum Cave Bluffs, and Chimney Tops provide experiences you won’t soon forget.
If you’d prefer to let someone else do the walking, you can opt for a horseback ride along the trails of the park. Lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours, you can take in the scenery in fun and relaxing fashion. Additionally, you can a carriage or wagon ride, or even bring your own horse to the park. Horseback riding is available from mid-March through late November.
Break for lunch and enjoy your meal among nature at one of the many picnic areas around the park. You can grill out, gather around the picnic tables and recharge for more exploring. Picnic pavilions are also available for an extra charge, so you can bring the whole family (and then some) to the party. Just make sure you clean up afterwards!
Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster
After lunch, you can inject a little excitement into your Smoky Mountain experience at the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. This unique roller coaster is great for the whole family. It winds its way through the trees and along the mountainside, providing both the exhilaration of a thrill ride and the spectacular views of a sight-seeing hike. You can take things at your own pace, in either a single or double car, making this ride an ideal choice for families with children.
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
For the most breathtaking, unbeatable views in all of Gatlinburg, you need to look no further than Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. First opened in 1954, the SkyLift was fully renovated and updated in 2017. It is a 500-foot chairlift that takes you to the top of Crockett Mountain.
Once there, you’ll find many photo opportunities and incredible scenery. You can take a stroll across the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, a nearly 700-foot suspension bridge that stretches across the valley below. Here, you can take in the stunning vistas below and create memories you’ll never forget. Then, you can return to the SkyDeck, home of an expansive outdoor seating area, more photo-op spots, and the SkyCenter. It’s the ideal place to relax and enjoy time with the family or your friends. The SkyCenter features a gift shop, snack bar with pizza and ice cream, and a second-floor seating and bar area.
Dinner in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is well-known for its entertaining and dynamic dinner shows. You’ll be able to find knee-slapping comedy shows, bombastic musical numbers with incredible production values, and everything in between. For a family-friendly evening filled with fun and great food, you should definitely check out one of Gatlinburg’s famous dinner shows. Popular shows include the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show, the Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show Pigeon Forge, and The Comedy Barn.
End of the Day
The perfect end to a perfect day in Gatlinburg can be spent relaxing in the luxurious cabin you’ve booked for your trip. Bask in the satisfaction of a full day of fun while soaking in your hot tub, kicking back with a glass of wine, or snuggling up next to the fireplace. Having the best accommodations is the cherry on top of any perfect vacation. So take it easy, rest up and prepare yourself for another day of making memories and enjoying all the amazing food, fun, and fantastic sights that historic Gatlinburg has to offer.