Unique Adventures to Try in the Smoky Mountains

My family has visited the Smoky Mountains region around and near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, many times, over the years.

Each time we visit the Smoky Mountains, we run out of time before we run out of fun.

There is ALWAYS something new to discover there…along with many family favorites we try to visit each time we are in town.

I’m sharing more of my top unique adventures to try in the Smoky Mountains.

The Apple Barn and Cider Mill

Some adventures were hosted by Visit Gatlinburg, while others were not. As always all opinions are my own. This article contains affiliate links. 

Stop for a Sweet Treat at the Apple Barn

230 Apple Valley Rd, Sevierville, TN

The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store in Sevierville is one of our favorite first stops when we visit the Smoky Mountains for a fried pie and an apple cider freeze.

donuts and fried pie at The Apple Barn

The cider donuts are pretty amazing too.

The warm, fried pie is even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s even if you happen to be there around breakfast time.

Wander around the complex and you will find a celebration of all things apple.

There are also two more restaurants, a winery, a candy shop, and a gift shop within walking distance of each other.

zorbing at Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge

An Unforgettable Adventure at Outdoor Gravity Park

203 Sugar Hollow Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN 

Outdoor Gravity Park (Pigeon Forge, TN) is the only zorbing park in the US where you can try zorbing year-round!

Thrill seekers roll down a hill inside a ball within a larger ball.

Outdoor Gravity Park

There are 3 zorbing tracks to choose from, a fast track, an extreme track, and a combination track.

The extreme track must be ridden solo but you can ride the other two tracks with up to 3 riders.

Reservations are recommended in advance and you can receive a discounted rate if you book in advance online.

Zigzag track outdoor gravity park

Walk-ins are welcome but are subject to availability because sessions can sell out.

zorbing in Pigeon Forge

Warm water up to 95 degrees or cold water is pumped inside the ball, depending on the time of year.

You’ll want to bring a change of clothes and a towel because you get very wet. There are also changing rooms on site.

outdoor gravity park

Zorbing is for ages 5 years old and up. 5 year olds must ride with an adult and ages 6 and up can ride solo.

There is no height or weight minimum to go zorbing, but there’s a maximum weight of 275 lbs per rider.

YouTube video

Watch my reluctant husband as he goes down the ZigZag track with the sound ON. His reaction is PRICELESS!

Fowler's Clayworks (Gatlinburg- Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community)

Create One of a Kind Pottery with a Local Artisan at Fowler’s Clayworks

1402 East Pkwy Suite 10, Gatlinburg, TN 

Fowler’s Clayworks is the PERFECT adventure for someone who enjoys making things and wants a one-of-a-kind souvenir to remember their time in the Smoky Mountains.

Fowler's Clay Works Gatlinburg

You learn about the process of making pottery and experience hands-on learning from owner Mike Fowler and his staff.

Mike Fowler of Fowler's Clayworks (Gatlinburg- Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community)

The “Make a Mug” pottery experience allows you to connect with a local artisan passionate about sharing their craft with others.

*The minimum age for this pottery class is 8 years old.

Clay Throwing at Fowler's Clayworks (Gatlinburg- Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community)

Mike was a great teacher and very patient while we were learning what to do. He intentionally let us be the main ones creating the mug and guided us when we needed it.

Even my husband said that he really enjoyed making his mug.

glaze options for pottery at Fowler Clayworks

You get to choose the colors for your glaze for your masterpiece.

pottery experience at Fowler Clayworks

The first time I visited Fowler Clayworks I created a mug and the second time I made a bowl.

pottery bowls made at Fowler Clayworks

Your Pottery Can Be Mailed to Your Home

Each of us selected the color for our glaze and a few weeks later we received our mugs in the mail.

They were secured with plenty of bubble wrap so that they arrived safely.

pottery mugs made at Fowler Clayworks

Each mug had the name of its creator on the bottom along with the year.

I absolutely LOVE how they turned out.

This was a wonderful souvenir and keepsake from our adventure spinning clay on the wheel.

You can purchase videos from their GoPros for an additional fee so you don’t miss the footage from this unforgettable adventure.

Zorbing is an unforgettable experience if you’re looking for an extreme adventure.

Cades Cove Trading Biking Pigeon Forge, TN

Take a Self-Guided Bike Tour of Cades Cove

10035 Campground Dr, Townsend, TN 

Cades Cove is a popular 11-mile trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park known as a scenic drive to look for wildlife.

bike view Cades Cove

We rented bikes from Cades Cove Trading located next to the camp store at Cades Cove.

Their bike rentals are first come, first serve so you’ll want to arrive early.

I’d recommend calling a few weeks in advance if you want to reserve a bike rental on a Wednesday.

Cades Cove loop is closed to automobile traffic on Wednesdays from the first Wednesday of May to the last Wednesday of September each year making it a popular day to rent bikes.

A payment is required for reservations in advance by phone for bike rentals on Wednesdays.

The scenic loop can feel like a long traffic jam filled with vehicles when the national park is filled with tourists during peak season.

Boys biking Cades Cove loop in TN

There are fewer visitors in the park early (before Memorial Day) or later in the season (after Labor Day.)

I recommend experiencing the loop by bicycle on a vehicle-free day if you can plan ahead, otherwise, you’ll just need to be mindful of the vehicles while you ride.

Seriously, riding vs. driving Cades Cove was a game-changer!

You have the freedom to stop at points of interest along the way and there are two turnoffs where you can make your ride shorter if you don’t want to bike the full 11-mile loop.

Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane at the Salt & Pepper Museum

461 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, TN

The Salt & Pepper Museum (Gatlinburg) has over 20,000 sets of salt and pepper shakers on display!

Salt and Pepper Museum Gatlinburg TN

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time if you recognize pieces similar to ones that may have been found in your grandma’s kitchen.

Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers in Gatlinburg

The salt and pepper shakers are grouped together in cases by likeness and even flow with their coloring which is a merchandising feat in itself!

Salt & Pepper Museum

Find Your Favorite Salt and Pepper Shakers

As you walk through the museum, take in all the details and discover your favorite salt and pepper shakers.

Each case also shares more information about some of the shakers in the display case.

The museum is FREE for kids under 12 and admission is only $3 for adults.

The cost of an adult admission goes toward salt and pepper shaker purchases in the gift shop.

If you want your kids to engage more with the displays, make it a challenge for them to find a specific shaker in each case. (Ex. “ISPY” a shaker with two eyes and a beak)

This collection over 25 years, is a labor of love that covers the globe.

This is a gem to visit!

Hillbilly Golf

One of a Kind Mini Golf in Gatlinburg at Hillbilly Golf

340 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 

There are many places where you can play miniature golf in the area, but Hillbilly Golf is a family favorite because it’s so unique.

Hillbilly Golf

This Appalachian-themed mini-golf course is one of a kind starting with how you get to the course.

incline at Hillbilly Golf

You take an incline up to the top, play mini golf on the mountain, and then take the incline back down to the bottom when you’re finished.

incline ride Hillbilly Golf

You’ll ride up the mountain on the incline facing backwards from the track on the way up and forward facing on the way back down.

 Hillbilly Golf mini golf

There are two hillbilly-themed mini golf courses with plenty of photo ops along the way.

Gatlinburg Inn

Sleep at a Legendary Hotel in Gatlinburg

755 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

The Historic Gatlinburg Inn is the oldest hotel in Gatlinburg and has hosted many famous people for overnight stays.

Another claim to fame was that the famous song “Rocky Top” was written in room 388 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant in 1967.

Gatlinburg Inn

The decor of the rooms is like a time capsule to the past with a few modern touches like Serta Perfect Sleeper Beds and a 42″ flat screen TV.

They keep it authentic with actual keys for your door locks.

The hotel has a complimentary full hot breakfast and free WIFI.

Gatlinburg Inn

We found the hospitality very welcoming and the central location on the strip was extremely convenient. 

The rocking chairs by the outdoor fireplace were a welcomed sight after a long day on our feet.

Compare Hotels and Airbnbs Around Gatlinburg

One of my favorite options for families downtown is the Greystone Lodge on The River.

Save on Booking your Stay at Greystone Lodge on The River Here
Bush's Visitor Center

Learn About Beans at Bush’s Visitor Center

3901 US-411, Dandridge, TN 

Bush’s Visitor Center is perfect for a rainy day or as a lunch or early dinner option at the Bush’s Family Cafe onsite.

I know that it might sound like a bit of an odd stop, but it was more interesting than I anticipated.

exhibit at Bush's Visitor Center

You can learn more about the production of distributing beans from the ground to your table.

exhibit at Bush's Visitor Center

The visitor center has a variety of interactive displays housed in the original A.J. Bush & Company general store, founded in 1897.

general store at Bush's Visitor Center

You’ll find lots of one-of-a-kind gifts in the general store.

 Bush's Family Cafe

Try Pinto Bean Pie at Bush’s Family Cafe

Make sure that you try the Pinto Bean pie at Bush’s Family Cafe!

I wouldn’t normally think of beans when it comes to pie but Bush’s Pinto Bean Pecan Pie will change your mind in a good way.

I would also recommend trying some of their “bean-free” homemade pies.

My husband’s coconut creme pie took a little longer because it had just come from the oven and the few extra minutes were worth it because he loved it!

Sparky's Glass Blowing

Watch a Local Artisan in Action at Sparky’s Glass Blowing

517 Glades Rd, Gatlinburg, TN

(Gatlinburg- Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community)

Sparky's Glass Blowing

Watch glassblower and owner/namesake, Sparky in action while he creates a one-of-a-kind piece made from glass at Sparky’s Glass Blowing.

Sparky's Glass Blowing

Sparky is full of energy and life.

We watched him in action while he was blowing glass and telling stories.

Sparky's Glass Blowing

You’ll have a greater appreciation for the intricate details on display after you watch one being made.

swinging bridge at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park

Scenic Waterfalls and Thrill-Seeking Adventures at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park

3757 Thomas Ln, Sevierville, TN 

Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park offers both scenic and thrill-seeking options for families onsite.

Zipline tour at Foxfire Mountain Adventure

Guests can book a zipline tour, walk across the swinging bridge, explore the hiking trails to Lost Mine Waterfall, play on the playground, challenge themselves on the ropes course, and more.

Free Parking Room at Go Lodge

Stay in a 6,000 Game-Themed Mansion at Go Lodge

This game-themed mansion is only 15 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg and sleeps 20!

Stay in a Game Themed Mansion at Go Lodge in Gatlinburg

There are 17 game-themed rooms in the Go Lodge perfect for game lovers of all ages.

Save and Book Your Stay at Go Lodge Here
Fox and Parrot Tavern

A Unique Dining Option at Fox and Parrot Tavern

1065 Glades Rd, Gatlinburg, TN

Fox and Parrot Tavern is a local favorite about 15 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg.

This British-themed pub has been around for 20+ years and prides itself on being the region’s only Authentic British Pub.

The atmosphere is lively, but still, kid-friendly, and the food is made to order using traditional British recipes.

You can’t go wrong with their Fish and Chips or Shephard’s Pie.

view from Gatlinburg Space Needle at night

Enjoy the View of Downtown Gatlinburg at the Gatlinburg Space Needle

115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN 

You can enjoy views of downtown Gatlinburg during the day or at night.

Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Gatlinburg Space Needle observation deck is 342 ft high and offers 360-degree viewing of the surrounding area.

Gatlinburg Skybridge

Walk Across the Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge in North America at Gatlinburg SkyPark

765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

Enjoy incredible views of the Smoky Mountains as you walk across the Gatlinburg Skybridge which spans 680 feet.

Gatlinburg SkyBridge

At the highest point of the bridge, there is a 30 ft glass bottom panel to walk across.

Your admission ticket gives you all-day access to experience the bridge during the day and when it’s lit at night.

A walk in the woods

Take a Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

1420 Fighting Creek Gap Rd, Gatlinburg, TN

If you’re exploring the National Park without a guide, I highly recommend stopping by Sugarlands Visitor Center first. It’s always our first stop to help plan our day efficiently.

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is a short distance from the park entrance near Gatlinburg.

woman by sign for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Of course, no visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is complete without taking a picture by the sign on the side of the road.

Sugarlands Discovery Center building

The park rangers can provide you with a map of the park, trail recommendations based on your interests and time, and any trail closures that you need to be aware of.

There are a few short hiking trails near the Sugarlands Visitor Center with a waterfall.

scenic view of Laurel Falls waterfall

The trail to Laurel Falls is another very family-friendly hike that’s paved and around 2.6 miles round trip.

Parking is limited and this is a very popular hike.

Smoky Mountains

Guided group hikes are a great option to learn about the local ecosystem and lesser-known trails.

Clingman's Dome

See An Incredible View From Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome has an elevation of 6,643 feet making it the highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s also the highest point, in the state of Tennessee.

Clingmans Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The .5 paved trail to the observation area is pretty steep so dress in layers and bring some water.

The views are totally worth it once you reach the top!

Treetop Skywalk at night at Anakeesta

Spend Hours Adventuring at Anakeesta

576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

Anakeesta is one of my favorite places to visit in downtown Gatlinburg.

chair lift and chondola at Anakeesta

You start your journey to the top on the strip in downtown Gatlinburg and the chairlift or the Ridge Rambler truck takes you to the top of the mountain.

Once you reach the top you’ll feel like you’re hours away from the crowds below and you’ll find plenty of areas to spread out and explore in beautiful and peaceful surroundings.

aerial view of Anakeesta from the top of AnaVista

There are so many things to do at Anakeesta including ziplining, a mountain coaster, dining, a treetop trail, an observation tower, gorgeous gardens, and more.

Anakeesta mountain coaster in Gatlinburg

You’ll want to plan your visit around being there during the daylight and at night because it’s a wonderful experience in both settings.

Dolly Parton Statue in downtown Sevierville

See the Dolly Parton Statue in Downtown Sevierville

125 Court Ave, Sevierville, TN

You can get your picture with a life-size bronze statue of Dolly Parton Sevierville.

Dolly Parton Statue in downtown Sevierville

The statue by sculptor Jim Gray has been in the downtown square since 1987.

ride at Dollywood

Plan A Visit to Dollywood

2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 

Dollywood appeals to Dolly Parton fans, families, and thrill seekers.

The family theme park has more than 50+ rides, live shows, and delicious dining options.

Cinnamon Bread at Dollywood

Make sure that you try their homemade cinnamon bread!

Chasing Rainbows at Dollywood

You can also learn more about the park’s namesake “Dolly Parton” through interactive exhibits around the park.

Purchase Discounted Dollywood Tickets Here

Aerial tramway to Ober Gatlinburg

Unique Experience at Ober Gatlinburg

1339 Ski Mountain Rd, Gatlinburg, TN

Ober Gatlinburg has a LOT of unique adventures!

Alpine slide at Ober Gatlinburg in Tennessee

A few unique adventures at Ober Gatlinburg are the aerial tramway, mountain coaster, chairlift to a scenic view, summer tubing, and the Alpine slides.

Ice bumper cars are another adventure that you can experience year-round.

In the winter there is downhill skiing, snowboarding, or snow tubing. You could easily spend several hours at Ober Gatlinburg.

If you plan on trying multiple activities the wristband is the best value.

heart shape view of Smoky Mountains at Anakeesta

Make Memories in the Smoky Mountains

We once again took back so many wonderful memories from our visit.

The Smoky Mountain region has a special place in our hearts.

The people in this community are resilient and the more we come back to visit the area, the more we are helping them with their comeback story.

Check out some more hidden gems and unique things to do in Gatlinburg.

Unique Adventures to Try in the Smoky Mountains BINGO
creek near downtown Gatlinburg TN

More Things to Do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN

15 thoughts on “Unique Adventures to Try in the Smoky Mountains”

  1. Hello Nedra McDaniel,

    I have loved reading this early today. The Salt and Pepper Museum is worth a visit any time. Good musings there.

  2. Hi Lynda- I spoke with a rep from Visit Gatlinburg and these are her suggestions.

    Check for complete travel information to Gatlinburg. Also, download or request a hardcopy of the Gatlinburg Vacation Guide. When in the market, get the Gatlinburg app for details on the fly. Also, the Visit Gatlinburg Facebook page always provides updates on events and daily photos of the mountains.

  3. Hi, there, I’ve been doing a lot of looking around for fun and inexpensive activities to do in the Smokey Mtn area. You have certainly given me lots to add to our list of options. I’ve not seen any of these ideas on other links and sites. This looks like so much more fun than just doing the touristy things. We are planning a BIG family vacation first week of June. We will have a total of 20 people!! 10 adults, 10 children (14 – 1). We have our lodging already reserved and we plan to rent jeeps for one day, but other than that we just really want to enjoy our time together and the surrounding area. But, I know better to think they will just want to hang out at the house, so with a group that size what you have suggested sounds like it could entertain our crew. I just want to thank you for sharing your travels and experience from a family’s perspective, not a vacation pamphlet. We are all so excited. The one thing I am having a hard time finding is a calendar of events for the area, like festivals or farmer’s markets. Do you know where I could find that information? Appreciate your help and again, thanks for all your wonderful suggestions. Blessings.

  4. Hi Christine- I found some rooms for under $100 using my affiliate partner Here is the referral link

  5. Good morning! I love the smokies. It’s my favorite place. I haven’t been in years. My husband and I are planning a trip this summer. Can you give me an idea on the price per night at the inn? I know it changes depending on what’s going on at the time. Thanks! Loved the info and pics.

  6. Thanks so much Marc! I appreciate your kind words.Taking pictures is definitely my favorite part of what I do.

  7. What a great entry! I love your photography. It is a fine line between great travel pictures with personality and just showing your vacation pictures. Love the adversity of what you did too. Fun read.

  8. Looks like you had a lot of fun and unique adventures! What activities and restaurants would you put on the top of the list for a family taking a 1.5 and 4.5 year old this May? 🙂

Leave a Comment