Do you love to find unique experiences when you visit a popular destination?
If so, you can mix up your next visit to Gatlinburg, TN by crossing off these hidden gems and unique things to do that are fun for the whole family.
Thanks again to the Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau for hosting a portion of our visit. This article contains affiliate links.
Explore Anakeesta During the Day and at Night
576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
There are so many things to do at Anakeesta outdoor theme park, which is one of Gatliburg’s most popular attractions.
You could easily spend a whole day there if you plan on ziplining and dining during your visit.
The following are a few unique highlights at Anakeesta:
- Take the Ridge Rambler to the top of the mountain. (This is a great alternative for anyone who is scared of heights and doesn’t want to ride the scenic chair lift.)
- Ride the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster for a scenic drive through the mountains.
- Walk the Treetop Skywalk during the day and come back to walk across it at night.
- Take in the views from downtown Gatlinburg’s highest point on top of AnaVista Observation Tower.
On a clear day, you have views of more than 50 peaks and mountain ranges in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky from the observation deck.
765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
The Gatlinburg Skybridge is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Guests walk across the 5-foot wide walking path that spans 680 feet.
The 30-foot glass bottom panel is located at the bridge’s highest point.
During your walk across the bridge, which is 1800 ft above sea level, you’ll experience incredible views of downtown Gatlinburg and the Smokies. You might even see black bears!
At the midpoint of the SkyBridge, you’ll be 140 ft high and 500 ft above Gatlinburg.
Your admission ticket gives you all-day access in case you want to make multiple trips to the top.
I would personally recommend experiencing the bridge around sunset so that you get both daylight and nighttime views of the bridge lit up at night.
There are plenty of areas at the top to observe the bridge from the SkyDeck without crossing it or just relax in a rocking chair to enjoy the rest of your evening.
*The only way to access the top of the mountain is by riding the scenic chair lift to the top that starts in downtown Gatlinburg at Gatlinburg Skylift Park on the main road/strip.
Our GPS originally took us off the beaten path up the mountain, but that was incorrect.
Luckily, the detour wasn’t a waste of time because we saw a black bear walking along the side of the road from the safety of our vehicle!
Make Your Own Pottery at Fowler’s Clayworks
1402 East Pkwy Suite 12, Gatlinburg, TN
It’s no secret that the skills and artistry found within the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community are pretty incredible. Customers can learn how to make their own unique piece of art with a class from Fowler’s Clayworks.
Pottery classes are for ages 5 and up and you can make a bowl or a mug as a more advanced class.
Your pottery is dried, glazed, and shipped to you.
The Make Your Own Pottery experience is an adventure that you need to BOOK AHEAD of time.
Classes are typically booked out four weeks in advance so make sure that you plan ahead and book your class when you know you will be in town.
Take the Aerial Tramway to the Top of Ober Gatlinburg
1001 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
There is an assortment of unique things to do at Ober Gatlinburg year-round.
Experience incredible views of downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains as you travel to a 1472-foot rise in elevation 2813 feet above sea level.
The cable car starts in downtown Gatlinburg and takes a 2.1-mile ride to the Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area.
The Aerial Tramway is 300 feet off the ground at its highest point and can hold up to 120 passengers.
This is the best way to get to the Amusement Park and Ski Area, but if anyone in your party prefers to avoid the tramway, they can drive up the mountain instead. (1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN)
Race Down the Alpine Slides at Ober Gatlinburg
Your adventure starts by riding the scenic chairlift to the midway point. You can only get off at the midway point on the way up the mountain. It’s not an option to get off on your way down from the top of Mount Harrison.
Riders control their own speed on the sled with a push/pull lever as they race side-by-side down the 1800′ parallel tracks.
You can go as fast or as slow as your comfort level allows but make sure that you pay attention to the signs along the way when they tell you to slow down for the curves.
It’s also important to note that the heavier you are the faster you go. Keep that in mind if you see a kid in front of you on the tracks.
*Kids ages 6 and under must ride with an adult.
Ride the Ice Bumper Cars at Ober Gatlinburg
You can’t help but smile as you attempt to drive your ice-bumper car in a straight line without success or bump into another driver.
Riders have 1/3 of the ice skating rink to roam, glide, bump each other, or spin in circles as quickly as possible.
To ride a bumper car alone riders must be at least 7 years old. Ages 3-6 must ride with an adult and be 36″ tall to ride.
Snow Tubing, Skiing, or Snowboarding at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area
The 90-minute snow tubing sessions are a fun adventure for ages 3 and up. The snow tubing hill is 350 feet long with a 50-foot drop and the moving sidewalk makes the trips back up the hill easier.
In addition to snow tubing, Ober Gatlinburg offers ski and snowboard rentals with beginner, intermediate, and advanced ski trails.
Ober Gatlinburg has rental jackets, pants, equipment, and helmets available on a first-come, first-served basis if you need gear during your visit.
*Snow tubing, skiing, and snowboarding are not available during the summer months, but several other outdoor activities are such as the water slides, a climbing rock wall, the Bike area, and Jump Pillow,
Ride a Mountain Coaster in Gatlinburg
There are several tourist attractions in Gatlinburg, TN that have mountain coasters. The ride is smooth and you can control your own speed to your comfort level on the way down the track by pushing or pulling the lever.
There are Mountain Coasters at the following attractions in Gatlinburg:
Soar on the World’s First Mountain Glider at Ripley’s Mountain Coaster
386 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
Ripley’s Mountain Coaster is home to North America’s first mountain coaster AND the World’s first mountain glider.
The attraction is open Friday- Sunday and the best value is as an add-on after riding a mountain coaster.
The Mountain Glider is an in-air coaster designed for guests to feel like they are doing a combination of hang gliding and free falling. The single rail is very smooth and doesn’t pick up in speed until the very end of the ride.
This is a great introduction for someone who is normally timid with heights. The harness allows riders to remain seated the whole time and there is a handlebar for your hands to grip during your ride.
*Riders must be a minimum of 75 lbs. to ride the glider and a maximum of 280 lbs.
Take a Glass Bottom Boat Ride at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
With an upgraded add-on to your admission ticket, you can experience the Shark Lagoon from above in a guided tour on the glass bottom boat.
The glass bottom boats launch every 20 minutes from 10am to 9pm daily, with the exception of 11:40 am-noon, Monday- Friday. The boats hold a maximum of 10 people per tour.
There are 3 inches of glass between guests and over 8500 aquatic animals swimming below, representing more than 75 different species.
The most thrilling observations will be traveling over 12-foot sharks, sawfish, and “Sally” the green sea turtle.
The boat tours are led by the Adventure Crew who educate guests about the animals in the aquarium and daily operations.
Touch a Jellyfish at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
In an ocean environment, you would want to avoid being near the jellyfish but the jellyfish in the Aquarium’s Discovery Center are safe to touch without the sting which makes it a unique wildlife encounter.
In this interactive exhibit, you can learn more about jellyfish from the staff while touching the jellyfish with two fingers.
Touch or Feed Stingrays at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Several aquariums have where you can touch a stingray included in your admission but Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies also has an opportunity for you to feed them.
Guests pay a fee for the fish and are provided a hook to lower the fish into the water. Next, you wait for the stingray to come and eat the fish from your hook.
Ride the Incline for a Round of Mini Golf at Hillbilly Golf
340 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
This mini golf course is truly one-of-a-kind and the perfect place for the entire family to show off their skills!
Guests ride the incline from the bottom of the mountain to the top, then choose one of two mini golf courses. Once you complete your round of mini golf you ride the incline back down the mountain to street level.
The course is themed with several photo ops along the way and there is dedicated free parking for Hillbilly Golf guests too.
Visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
461 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, TN
Take a trip down memory lane at the Salt and Pepper Museum featuring more than 20,000 shaker sets of salt and pepper shakers from around the world.
Children 12 and under are FREE and the $3.00 admission fee collected per adult goes towards the purchase of any salt and pepper shaker in the gift shop.
See the Quirky and Unusual at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium
800 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
The interactive museum covers 12,600 square feet and has 500 artifacts and exhibits in 16 themed galleries on 3 floors. Many of the things that you see inside the museum make “unusual” an understatement.
A few examples of quirky, fun things to see include the world’s tallest man’s shoe, artwork of the Last Supper made out of lint and a picture of Jennifer Lawrence made out of peanuts.
See Iconic Movie and TV Cars at the Hollywood Star Cars Museum
914 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a great place to take a trip down memory lane because they have famous cars and vehicles from movies and television spanning the last 50 years. This museum is one of the best places for car enthusiasts young and old.
Here are a few of the many famous car highlights in the Hollywood Star Cars Museum:
- 1966 TV Show Batmobile and Batman Returns Batmobile
- The Ghostbusters Ecto-1
- The Munster Drag-u-la
- Michael Jackson’s Mercedes-Benz 500
- Back to the Future DeLorean time machine
- General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard
- The Beverly Hillbillies’ Jalopy
- Fast and the Furious vehicles
- Dolly Parton’s 1997 Cadillac D’Elegance
Enjoy the Views from the Gatlinburg Space Needle
115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN
Check out the views of downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains from the 407-foot-tall observation deck.
The 360° panoramic views are beautiful both day and night from the Gatlinburg Space Needle and this attraction is open 365 days a year.
For a good time, families can also play a wide variety of pinball machines and arcade games at the entrance to the Space Needle.
Unique Adventures Within Great Smoky Mountains National Park
As you enter the park, make sure you pull over for a picture with the iconic Great Smoky Mountains National Park sign.
It’s fun to compare photos from the same spot with family and friends over the years.
Bike the Cades Cove Loop Instead of Driving It
Avoid the vehicle traffic jam on the Cades Cove 11-mile scenic loop by biking it instead of driving it.
You have the freedom to stop when you want, where you want while connecting with nature in the great outdoors at a slower pace.
For the best experience, bike the Cades Cove loop on Wednesdays between the first Wednesday of May to the last Wednesday of September each year when the loop is closed to automobile traffic.
You can bring your own bikes or rent bikes from Cades Cove Trading Company. If you plan on renting a bike you want to get there EARLY. They start renting bikes at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays and payment is required for reservations.
Hike to Laurel Falls Waterfall
With easy access from Little River Road, Laurel Falls offers guests a paved hiking trail option within the Great Smoky Mountain 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, although there are a few places where the pavement has degraded over time.
Laurel Falls waterfall is an 80-foot waterfall and has an upper and lower section of the falls.
Allow for around 2 hours to hike to the waterfall and back and keep in mind that this is a VERY POPULAR hiking trail.
Enjoy the Views from Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Fun Fact: Half of Clingmans Dome is in Tennessee and the other half is in North Carolina.
Clingmans Dome is 22.8 miles, 47 minutes, without traffic, from downtown Gatlinburg, TN.
This mountain has some bragging rights. Clingmans Dome has an elevation of 6,643 feet.
It’s the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the highest point in the state of Tennessee. It’s also the highest point along the 2,192-mile Appalachian Trail.
(You can hike a bit on the AT on your way up or just get a pic by the sign. No one has to know how long you hiked!)
The .5 uphill paved hike to Clingmans Dome Tower is steep so take your time and know that the views are totally worth it!
One of the best things about climbing to the top of Clingmans Dome is going back down because it makes you appreciate how far you’ve gone.
Sleep in the Hotel Room Where the Song “Rocky Top” Was Written at Historic Gatlinburg Inn
755 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
The oldest hotel in Gatlinburg has hosted a large number of famous people.
One of the Historic Gatlinburg Inn’s claims to fame was that the famous song “Rocky Top” was written in room 388 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant in 1967.
Sleep in a Game-Themed Mansion at Go Lodge
The 17-room game-themed mansion sleeps 20 and is so much fun for adults and kids. The Go Lodge is one of the best places to stay if you have a large, multi-gen group that loves games of all types.
The Go Lodge, encompassing over 6,000 square feet, is located within close proximity to the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community and the drive to downtown Gatlinburg takes less than 15 minutes.
Go Lodge doesn’t have an outdoor pool or hot tub but there are attractions in the area where you can cool off.