Our family has visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee for years. We love the variety of things to do there each season.
Each visit we find that we run out of time before we run out of fun there.
I’m sharing fun things for families to do in Gatlinburg that can be crammed into a weekend visit. If you have more time you can stretch them out during a longer stay.
Spend the Day at Ober Gatlinburg
1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
Our family has experienced adventures at Ober Gatlinburg year-round.
There is something fun for all ages to do at Ober Gatlinburg during every season.
Activites at Ober Gatlinburg
You can go ice skating all season long, ski and go snow tubing in the winter, and ride down water slides in the summer.
In the spring, summer, and fall you can and experience mountain coasters, alpine slides, and amusement rides.
I highly recommend taking the aerial tramway to top from downtown Gatlinburg.
There is a road to the top but it’s really steep and your vehicle transmission will thank you if you opt for the aerial tramway instead, trust me.
Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg
If you visit in the fall, you can also experience the Oktoberfest festivities where you can enjoy German-themed menu items and beer while you listen to live polka music.
The atmosphere is really fun, because who can feel grumpy while listening to polka, and you can even participate during a few numbers if you want to.
Enjoy An Amazing Breakfast at the Pancake Pantry
628 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
You know that a restaurant is REALLY good when it’s got a line out the door…. just to put your name in.
The Pancake Pantry is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
Even though the line was long, I was pretty amazed at how quickly they were able to get customers in the door and seated.
They also offer lunch options including soups that I’ve heard are a local favorite. I’m sure that their soup is good but I always feel like I need to try what a restaurant is known for, especially if it’s their namesake.
At the recommendation of our server, we tried the Wildberry crepes and Sweet potatoes pancakes.
There are A LOT of pancake options to choose from on the menu. They also have traditional breakfast items which makes it really hard to make a decision.
You will definitely not be hungry after a meal there.
We couldn’t finish our plates even though every bite was so delicious!
Getaway For the Day at Anakeesta
Experience the feeling of being in the mountains from the heart of downtown Gatlinburg.
Guests ride the scenic chondola to the top of Anakeesta which means “Sacred place of high ground.”
You can shop, dine, zipline, view the scenic gardens, walk the treetop canopy, ride the Rail Runner mountain coaster, and kids can play at the playground.
Check out this article for a more detailed explanation of why I loved it so much and what to expect when you visit Anakeesta.
Relive Your Childhood at Hollywood Car Museum
914 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
Relive your childhood as you reminisce while viewing over 40 famous cars from movies and television shows dating back over the past 50 years.
A few of my favorites were the Batmobile (classic and newer version), Ghostbusters vehicle, Herbie the Lovebug, Back to the Future DeLorean and Kitt from Knight Rider.
There are some fan favorites where you can actually get a picture inside the vehicle for an additional fee. You don’t have to be a big car enthusiast to enjoy this museum.
Challenge Yourself at the Guinness World Records Adventure
631 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
Get inspired by record-holders young and old.
You can learn fun facts about previous Guinness World Record holders, but the best part is all of the hands-on exhibits and games within the attraction that the whole family will enjoy.
I suggest allowing extra time in your schedule so that your kids don’t feel rushed and have plenty of time to play what they are interested in.
Take a Behind the Scenes Tour at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
If you want more insight into the Behind the Scenes operations at Ripley’s Aquarium, I highly suggest taking a Behind the Scenes tour.
The tour takes you through “staff only” doors where you can see and learn more about what the animals eat, how the water quality is monitored and more during your tour.
Guests can even touch a sting ray during their visit.
The aquarium uses the two-finger touch method to help keep the sting rays safe.
Glass bottom boat tour at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
For an additional fee, you can take a glass-bottom boat tour over the aquarium tank. Spaces fill up quickly so I would recommend making a reservation ahead of time.
The Tails & Teeth educational class is another great opportunity to learn more about sharks in a classroom environment.
One of my favorite features of the aquarium is the 40-foot long glidepath that takes you through an underwater tunnel where you will see sharks and other sea life from below.
The glide path ensures that everyone has an up-close view of the tank.
Another area that kids will love is the penguin exhibit where kids or brave adults can climb through a tunnel and see the penguins above or below for a closer view.
Or you can just watch a penguin feeding instead.
If your kids need to burn off some energy there are plenty of hands-on exhibits and a large indoor playground for them to explore.
More Ripley’s Attraction Fun & Savings
Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze
623 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
If you plan on doing more than one activity during your visit, you can save money by purchasing a Ripley’s Combo Pass that gives the option of an Aquarium ticket and 2 or up to 7 Ripley’s Attractions.
A few of our other favorite Ripley’s Attractions are the Mirror Maze and the Mini Golf.
Take a Hike to a Waterfall at Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains
Laurel Falls is a great place for families who love connecting with nature and experiencing the beautiful outdoors.
We participated in a guided group hike with Andrew from Smoky Mountain Guides to Laurel Falls who gave us more insight into the ecology and local wildlife.
During our tour, we were encouraged to ask questions as they came to mind.
The Only Paved Hiking Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Laurel Falls has the only paved hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The trail is a very family-friendly hike at 2.6 miles round trip. This is a wonderful trail for younger families or if someone needs to use a wheelchair or stroller.
The Laurel Falls trail takes you to the perfect scenic spot via a bridge that crosses over the upper and lower falls.
The Lower Falls
If you are feeling extra adventurous you can hike down for another perspective of the lower falls.
If you don’t want to climb down to the lower falls, you can easily get a great group shot in front of the upper falls.
Cross Off Your Need for Speed With Indoor Go-Karts
At Cooter’s Place in Gatlinburg, you can challenge your family to a race around the track.
Even though the race track is smaller than a typical outdoor track, the smiles are non-stop. The indoor track is also a great option for a rainy day.
If you are a Duke’s of Hazzard fan you will enjoy all of the memorabilia featured throughout the gift shop.
There is even an indoor Dukes of Hazzard themed mini golf on the second floor.
A Great Place to Stay in Downtown Gatlinburg
I’ve previously stayed at the Greystone Lodge and I was really excited to return for another stay.
Located a short walk from Ripley’s Aquarium, Greystone Lodge is located centrally on the strip.
You can park at the lodge for free and avoid paying for parking in downtown Gatlinburg. The breakfast buffet is included in your stay which also helps reduce costs.
The room design is great for families offering more privacy for the parents in the main bedroom with a balcony. We had 1.5 bathrooms in our unit which made it a lot easier for our group to get ready in the morning.
Kids will love the cozy area with tv viewing for the bunk and the full-size bed.
Families can also save on meals with the microwave, mini-fridge, and dining table in the room.
I love the balcony views where you can enjoy your morning coffee and listen to the rushing water from the nearby creek.
A New Unique Glamping Option Near Gatlinburg
1015 Laurel Lick Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN
During our visit, we had the opportunity to tour the newest glamping site in the Smoky Mountains located 10 miles from downtown Gatlinburg called Under Canvas.
Under Canvas is located 3 miles from the Smoky Mountain Zoological Park and 8 miles from the Laurel Falls Trail. This is a great option for guests seeking a more rural overnight experience.
You can choose your comfort with airy permanent tents. The tents are designed with safari-chic decor, wooden floors, en-suite bathrooms, wood-burning stoves, and private decks.
You also have the option to go more basic with fewer amenities in your sleeping quarters
Under Canvas is a great option if you want an elevated camping experience.
My favorite feature was the sky view over the bed in one of the canvas bedrooms.
There is food service on-site if you want to grab a bite to eat during your stay and don’t feel like driving into town.
Cute Photo Ops Around Gatlinburg
You can always find great photo ops no matter the season when you visit Gatlinburg.
If you visit in the fall, make sure that you get a few pictures with the adorable pumpkin characters. You’ll find the pumpkins located throughout the downtown.
In the spring, the flowers are a gorgeous sight to see. If you visit during the winter the streets are filled with beautiful Christmas lights.
No matter the season, you can find family fun and adventure in Gatlinburg year round!