My family has visited the Smoky Mountains region around and near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, many times over the years.
Each time we visit, we run out of time before we run out of fun.
There is ALWAYS something new to discover there…along with many family favorites that we try to visit each time we are in town.
Thanks again to Visit Gatlinburg for assisting us with our visit. This article contains affiliate links.
Stop for a Sweet Treat at the Apple Barn
230 Apple Valley Rd, Sevierville, TN
One of our favorite first stops when visiting the Smoky Mountains is a visit to The Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store (Sevierville, TN) for a fried pie and an apple cider freeze.
The cider donuts are pretty amazing too.
The warm, fried pie is even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top…even if you happen to get 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.
An Unforgettable Adventure at Outdoor Gravity Park
203 Sugar Hollow Rd, Pigeon Forge, TN
Our last stop during our visit was at Outdoor Gravity Park (Pigeon Forge, TN) to fulfill an adventure that has been on my bucket list for YEARS!
This is the only place in the US where you can try zorbing all year round!
Warm or cold water is pumped inside the ball, depending on the time of year and up to 3 people can ride together on the straight paths.
The zig-zag path is for single riders.
If you don’t have a change of clothes with you, they are available for purchase.
There are also changing rooms on site. GoPros are available to use to make sure that you don’t miss the footage from this unforgettable adventure.
Zorbing is an Unforgettable Adventure
For a good laugh, watch my reluctant husband go down the ZigZag track with the sound ON. His reaction is PRICELESS!
Take a Bike Tour of Cades Cove
10035 Campground Dr, Townsend, TN
Our next stop was Cades Cove located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We rented bikes from Cades Cove Trading located next to the camp store at Cades Cove.
We took in the scenery of the popular 11-mile Cades Cove loop by bicycle instead of our vehicle.
Our experience biking Cades Cove was unanimously one of our family’s top 3 adventures all weekend…and that says A LOT!
Seriously, riding vs. driving Cades Cove was a game-changer!
Sleep at a Legendary Hotel in Gatlinburg
755 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
After a few hours at Cades Cove, we made our way back to downtown Gatlinburg to our hotel, the Gatlinburg Inn.
The oldest hotel in Gatlinburg has hosted a large number of famous people.
Another claim to fame was that the famous song “Rocky Top” was written in room 388 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant in 1967.
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 even still keep it old school with actual keys for your door locks.
In the mornings, we took advantage of the complimentary hot breakfast buffet offered during our stay.
We found the hospitality to be 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.
A Unique Dining Option at Fox and Parrot Tavern
1065 Glades Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
For dinner that evening we decided to visit a local favorite about 15 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg called Fox and Parrot Tavern.
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 very good.
You can’t go wrong with their Fish and Chips or Shephard’s Pie.
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane at the Salt & Pepper Museum
461 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, TN
On Saturday, I crossed another attraction off the list.
The Salt & Pepper Museum (Gatlinburg) was on my bucket list because it’s so unique.
There are over 20,000 sets of salt and pepper shakers on display!
You will seriously feel like you stepped back in time when you recognize pieces from your grandma’s kitchen.
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!
Find Your Favorite Salt and Pepper Shakers
Make sure that you walk slowly and really take in all of the detail.
Each case also shares a little bit more information about some of the specific items of interest.
The museum is FREE for kids under 12 and admission is only $3 for adults.
What’s even more amazing is that the cost of the adult admission goes toward and salt and pepper shaker purchase 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.
This collection over 25 years, is a labor of love that covers the globe.
This is a gem to visit!
Watch a Local Artisan in Action at Sparky’s Glass Blowing
517 Glades Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
(Gatlinburg- Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community)
Our next stop was Sparky’s Glass blowing to watch glassblower and owner/namesake, Sparky in action while he created one of a kind piece made from glass.
Sparky is full of energy and life.
It was so fun to watch him in action while he was blowing glass and telling stories.
You’ll have a greater appreciation for the intricate details on display after you watch one being made.
Try Pinto Bean Pie at Bush’s Visitor Center
3901 US-411, Dandridge, TN
Next, we headed to Bush’s Visitor Center (Chestnut Hill, TN).
I know that it might sound like a bit of an odd stop, but it was really interesting.
Bush’s Visitor Center is also perfect for a rainy day or as a destination for lunch or an early dinner.
You can learn more about the production of distributing beans from the ground to your table.
The visitor center has a variety of interactive displays housed in the original A.J. Bush & Company general store, which was founded in 1897.
You will find lots of one-of-a-kind gifts in the general store.
Stay for a Meal at Bush’s Family Cafe
Make sure that you try the Pinto Beans pie at Bush’s Family Cafe!
I know that sounds really odd but it tastes like pecan pie. I would also recommend trying a few more of the pies.
They are WONDERFUL and homemade.
My husband’s coconut creme actually took a little longer because it just came from the oven.
The few extra minutes were worth it because he loved it!
Scenic Waterfalls and Thrill-Seeking Adventures at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park
3757 Thomas Ln, Sevierville, TN
Our afternoon adventure was at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park (Sevierville, TN) for an ATV Tour.
We’ve previously visited Foxfire and found that the property offers a lot of options for families from hiking to zip-lining or just enjoying the views on-site.
You can read more about our previous visit for a zipline adventure at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park.
Our ATV tour took us to various scenic stops located throughout the property with opportunities to get out and take pictures.
The boys enjoyed testing their skills on the rope climb on one of the mountains during a stop.
I was really impressed by our guide, Jason, who handled tight, steep turns with ease and was the perfect blend of being adventurous and safe.
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!
There are 17 game-themed rooms in the Go Lodge perfect for game lovers of all ages.
One of a Kind Mini Golf in Gatlinburg at Hillbilly Golf
340 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
After our ATV tour, we decided to play miniature golf at a family favorite, Hillbilly Golf (Gatlinburg).
I love this Appalachian-themed mini-golf course because it’s so one of a kind.
You take an incline up to the top, play on the mountain, and then take the incline back down to the bottom when you are finished.
If you look closely at the picture above you will see a tree with a horseshoe nailed to it in the right corner.
It’s at the edge of the mini-golf course and is a visual reminder of luck because the course was not greatly impacted by the wildfires.
Create Art with a Local Artisan at Fowler’s Clayworks
1402 East Pkwy Suite 10, Gatlinburg, TN
Sunday morning, we visited Mike Fowler at Fowler’s Clayworks (Gatlinburg- Great Smoky Mountains Arts and Crafts Community) to “make a mug.”
This is the PERFECT adventure for someone who wants to try something unique during their visit.
It’s also a great way to personally connect with a local artisan who is passionate about sharing his craft with others.
You learn about the process of making pottery and experience hands-on learning.
Mike was a great teacher and very patient while we were learning what to do.
He was very intentional in letting us be the main ones creating the mug and guiding us when we needed it.
My husband said that making the mug was one of his favorite experiences of the weekend and all of us really enjoyed it.
Your Mug 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.
Each mug had the name of its creator on the bottom along with the year.
I absolutely LOVE how they turned out!
You’ll notice that one of the mugs below has two handles because my son said that two reminded him of a trophy.
This was such a wonderful souvenir and keepsake from our adventure spinning clay on the wheel.
Enjoy the View of Downtown Gatlinburg at the Gatlinburg Space Needle
115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN
We took some time for a few final views of Gatlinburg from 342 ft. above at the Gatlinburg Space Needle observation deck followed by lunch at Old Dad’s General Store.
There are a few tables available inside or you can get your meal to go and take a picnic to the National Park.
This is a great stop for a burger or deli sandwich.
Walk Across the Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge in North America
765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN
Enjoy incredible views of the Smoky Mountains as you walk across Gatlinburg Skybridge which spans 680 feet. 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 so that you can experience the bridge during the day and when it’s lit up at night.
Take a Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1420 Fighting Creek Gap Rd, Gatlinburg, TN
We also made one last visit to explore a few trails near the Sugarlands Visitor Center at The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is a short distance from the entrance of the park near Gatlinburg.
The regrowth in the areas affected by the wildfires will continue to grow back even greener and also produce unique wildflowers that only occur during these conditions.
You will see areas affected by fires but overall, you will find the National Park to still be what you’ve remembered from previous visits.
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 and the highest point in the state of Tennessee.
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!
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 the 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.
Additional Adventures Around the Smoky Mountain in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
The ultimate list of unique things to do in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Learn more about the extreme outdoor adventures in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge including zipling, white water rafting and more.
Family-friendly ideas for a weekend visit to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
Learn more about family-friendly adventures to try in Gatlinburg
Learn more about how you can bike the scenic Cades Cove loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Discover why Anakeesta is a relaxing and adventurous attraction for families of all ages.
The best indoor attractions to visit during a rainy day in Pigeon Forge, TN.
Discover the family-friendly outdoor adventures at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park.
Discover why you will want to stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center when you enter the Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.
Three family-friendly outdoor adventures that you can try with Rafting in the Smokies.
Discover why Gatlinburg Fall Resort is a great lodging option for your next Smoky Mountain Vacation.
Learn why the Greystone Lodge on the River is a great option for travelers who want to stay in downtown Gatlinburg.
20 thoughts on “Unique Adventures to try in the Smoky Mountains”
Hello Nedra McDaniel,
I have loved reading this early today. The Salt and Pepper Museum is worth a visit any time. Good musings there.
Wonderful information on smoky mountains.
THanks for the post! We head out tomorrow! I think we will try the HillBilly Mini Golf!
Great and informative article!
Hi Lynda- I spoke with a rep from Visit Gatlinburg and these are her suggestions.
Check Gatlinburg.com 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.
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.
Hi Christine- I found some rooms for under $100 using my affiliate partner booking.com Here is the referral link secure.booking.com/s/17_8/nedra981
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.
Thanks so much Marc! I appreciate your kind words.Taking pictures is definitely my favorite part of what I do.
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.
Those are both great for kids.
Not since kids have been in the picture 🙂
Have you been to Ripley’s Aquarium and Ober Gatlinburg?
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? 🙂