Category Archives: Things to Do

Reviews, tips, discounts and more of the best things to do in Gatlinburg, TN

5 Reasons You Need to Visit the Gatlinburg Sky Lift

Gatlinburg is a great vacation destination for you and your family. There are so many great places to visit during your trip to Gatlinburg. It may be hard for you to choose which ones will make the cut during your trip. One must see attraction is the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. You may be thinking, “but I am afraid of heights,” or “it does not look safe”. However, both those things are not issues when you are traveling up the mountain on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. Continue reading 5 Reasons You Need to Visit the Gatlinburg Sky Lift

5 Can’t-Miss Attractions on the Gatlinburg Strip

You may be familiar with the Las Vegas Strip, but the Gatlinburg Strip in the Smoky Mountains is quickly becoming just as well known! This is an area that has an amazing number of attractions within a very concentrated area. If you’re staying in Gatlinburg, you won’t have to drive far to find all kinds of excitement and entertainment. The following are five of the most interesting attractions that are right on the Gatlinburg Strip: Continue reading 5 Can’t-Miss Attractions on the Gatlinburg Strip

Scenic Drives in the Smokies

Some days are just meant for driving, especially in the Smokies. If you’re having one of those days let us suggest a couple of great drives through the national park that will keep you on the paved trails, instead of the rocky, and sometimes muddy ones. Lets get started.

Now, if you really want to see the vast plant and wildlife ecosystem that makes up the Smokies, this first drive is as close as one could possibly get to witnessing all these different species.

Newfound Gap Road
Want to see the Smokies? Start at Newfound Gap Road. It’s said that you’d have to travel from Georgia to Maine in order to pass through the variety of forest ecosystems you’ll experience traveling Newfound Gap Road. Starting in Gatlinburg, you’ll find yourself in Cherokee, NC 30 miles later. Besides the vast, wonderous forest ecosystem, motorists will also find other attractions along the way including Sugarlands Visitor Center located just outside Gatlinburg, Clingman’s Dome Road, Ocanaluftee Valley, and Mingus Mill. If those spots don’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty of pulloffs, picnic places, and breathtaking views along the way.

Cades Cove Scenic Drive
This drive will take you right into the heart of the settling of the Smokies. This 11-mile loop traverses the entire cove, which was settled between 1818 and 1821, and you can stop and see old churches, a working gristmill, barns and restored homesteads right off the Loop Road.

There are 159 camping sites, and a trail that takes you up to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top. Take an afternoon and check out the numerous white-tailed deer, maybe even spot a black bear, and you’ll more than likely come upon some wild turkeys if you stay for awhile. Cades Cove is perfect for a drive, a hike, or just about anything.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
This auto way takes its name from the rushing water you’ll hear if you crack your window. This six-mile, one-way loop road starts just a mile outside Gatlinburg. The first stop along the Roaring Fork Nature Trail is Noah “Bud” Ogle’s farmstead where you can get out and take a walking tour then hike to Rainbow Falls. Grotto Falls is also located along this drive.

Directions – To reach the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg at traffic light No. 8 and follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park. Just beyond the Rainbow Falls trailhead you have the option of taking the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (closed in winter). Buses, trailers, and motor homes are not permitted on the Roaring Fork motor nature trail.

Explore the Greenbrier
Wildflower watchers will love this 6 mile road that welcomes auto tours. Places like Porter’s Creek are particularly vibrant in March and April in the Greenbrier area of the park. Once you get there, you might just want to get out of the car and experience the Greenbrier for yourself. If that’s the case, let us suggest taking a four mile hike to Ramsey Cascades – the tallest falls in the Smoky Mountains.

Get Outdoors in Gatlinburg!

You could spend an entire day listing all the things there are to do outdoors in Gatlinburg. Meaning really outdoors, like in the national park and surrounding area. Gatlinburg backs right up to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so naturally there are a number of outdoor adventures, attractions, and escapes awaiting you right when you step out your door. If you’re looking for a vacation destination that will leave your thirst for the great outdoors quenched, look no further than Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hiking in Gatlinburg

Normally, people don’t just go to the national park, turn around and go home. They go to do something. Many go to hike one or more of the over 800 miles of hiking trails found in the National Park. From wildflower hikes to an adventurous climb up Mount LeConte, you can find a trail for everyone from the beginning hiker to the advanced and everything in between.

There are trailheads to be found from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove just outside Townsend, TN that put you right in the national park.

Fishing in the National Park

The Little Pigeon River flows straight through downtown and the national park is crisscrossed by so many mountain streams you’d easily lose count. As far as dropping a line or casting a fly, take your pick of rivers and streams. Literally hundreds of miles of streams are stocked annually with brown and rainbow trout, as well as the beautiful brook trout. Even large mouth bass can be found in these waters. Fishing is permitted year round in the park, and Gatlinburg hosts an annual trout tournament where contestants compete for over $10,000 in cash and prizes.

Camping in the Smokies

If you’re idea of the perfect Smokies getaway is parking your RV or camper around Gatlinburg, there are plenty of spots to choose from. And most offer electricity, water, cable TV, hot showers and pools. In Cades Cove or Elkmont, you can pitch a tent and rough it for a few days in the wilderness. Most Smoky Mountain campgrounds are accessible first come, first served.

Whitewater Rafting

Class III and IV rapids can be found for miles on the Big Pigeon River as well as other nearby rivers, and several outfitters like Raft the Smokies and the Nantahala Outdoor Center offer wildwater adventures and assistance in planning your rafting trip.

Bicycling

The Cades Cove Campground Store is a great place to rent a bike if you aren’t planning on bringing one yourself. It’s also the perfect place to bike in the Smokies. The 11 mile Loop Road is a hot spot for cyclists wanting to get out in the park. From the historic buildings to all the wildlife roaming the Cove, it’s a nature-lover’s paradise.

Ripley’s Aquarium, Dinosaurs: When Giants Ruled

A 10-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex at an aquarium? It’s not the first thing you’d expect to see on a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. However, the T. Rex is the new centerpiece of the aquarium’s “Dinosaurs: When Giants Ruled” exhibit that just recently opened.

The “Dinosaurs” exhibit is there through 2013. It’s the aquarium’s big spring exhibit. Each year they seem to get bigger and better.

Now, T. Rex isn’t alone. He and four other animatronic dinosaurs fill the 2,000-square-foot exhibit space. You’ll think that you’ve back to the land that time forgot. There’s even a 7 ½-foot, man-made volcano.

There is an Apatosaurus, which for those of you asking “What is an Apatosaurus?”, it’s a 30-foot-long, green-skinned dinosaur that moves its long neck and turns its head in the exhibit. Meanwhile, the horned Chasmosaurus parent and child also turn their heads, open their mouths, roar and squeal at the passersby. Finally, you’ll find that the model Mosasaurus, a prehistoric marine reptile, is suspended in the exhibit’s ocean display.

There’s even a sand display that kids can dig through as they search for dinosaur bones. This interactive exhibit incorporates nine iPad dinosaur-themed, children-oriented “Dino Challenge” applications with the more old-fashioned technology of a dig pit.

“Dinosaurs: When Giants Ruled” also spotlights fossils of actual dinosaurs unearthed over the years including a Triceratops horn dug up in South Dakota, an arm and hand bone of a two-legged Gallimimus found in Mongolia, and a Stegosaurus skeleton found in China in the ’90s.

Ripley’s General Manager Ryan DeSear said an aquarium hosting an exhibit about dinosaurs “just kind of fits. We have a marine dinosaur back there called a Mosasaurus, where you can kind of see the evolution of sharks. So there is a fit there. It’s maybe a bit tenuous but it’s still there. And people love dinosaurs. They just do.”

Laurel Falls

Want to get off the beaten path without actually leaving the path next time you’re in the Smoky Mountains? Take a hike to Laurel Falls and be amazed at the true majestic beauty of the Smokies.

The 80-foot high Laurel Falls descends from Laurel Branch in the Great Smoky Mountains. It takes its name from the mountain laurel that grow in the area, especially along the trail that leads to the falls. It can best be seen by hikers during the month of May. A walkway intersects Laurel Falls, which is made up of an upper and lower portion. The walkway crosses the upper section. Laurel Falls is undoubtedly one of the most popular and picturesque locations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Laurel Falls Trail is the route you take to get to the falls, obviously. The trailhead can be reached just outside the Sugarlands Visitors Center in Gatlinburg. As you’re coming into town traveling south from Pigeon Forge, turn toward Cades Cove on Little River Road and drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead. There is parking available at the trailhead but it fills up quickly on a nice day and especially on weekends.

Just so you know and can plan accordingly, the round trip hike to Laurel Falls is 2.6 miles. Give yourself about 2 hours to hike to the waterfall and back, more if you plan on staying awhile which most people do.

This is a paved trail, but it’s a trail that has been traveled by many so to say it is completely even would be a falsehood. Some parts can be slippery in wet weather, especially the steeper parts. Be wary of children at all times, your own and others who may be hiking in. Those who wish to bring strollers or wheelchairs are highly discouraged to do so because of the grade of trail at points and also the worn condition.

Please refrain from climbing on rocks around the waterfall. A fair warning, several people have fallen to their deaths over the years and many others have suffered serious injuries from climbing on rocks near waterfalls or along the riverbanks. These rocks are slippery due to mist and algae.

Also, carry drinking water with you. Pets and bicycles are both prohibited on the trail.

Spring is Packed With Things To Do in Gatlinburg!

With temperatures steadily rising, the views getting greener around town, flowers in bloom, it’s no wonder Gatlinburg is a popular place during the Spring. The town is trying to capitalize on its natural beauty this year with a bevy of events geared toward getting people out and about, enjoying the old town.

Things have already gotten kicked off with a number of new guided hikes and downtown Gatlinburg tours. Take a wildflowers tour or go bird watching on a hike in Smokies. Hikes take place Tuesday and Thursday. All tours are free to the public, but guests are asked to sign-up by calling Jennie (865) 436-0505 or reserve here.

Always a favorite, Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales cast includes bluegrass bands, strolling folk singers and storytellers who play to the delight of anyone passing along the Parkway during the evening. Tunes and Tales begin weekend performances on Friday and Saturday in April until mid-June when performers are out nightly on the streets of Gatlinburg through August.

Around here, Earth Week is celebrated to its fullest! It’s a family event. Gatlinburg’s Earth Week Celebration takes place from April 21-28 throughout town. You want to learn about easy green practices, enjoy some great live music, participate in green-related activities and games, crafts, food and more? Come to Gatlinburg’s Earth Week in late April. There will be a Disc Golf Tournament, you can attend a Go Green Seminar, or you can help in the Spur Clean-up, participate in the Earth Day Festival or run in the Earth Day 5K. During Earth Week in Gatlinburg, there is something for everyone who is interested in improving our natural environment.

Again, Earth Week kicks off with the Go Green Disc Golf Tournament at Mills Park on Sunday April 21, from 12:30pm – 4:00pm.  The 9-hole recreational course will feature tips on how to “go green” provided by Keep Sevier Beautiful. On site registration begins at 12:30pm and there is a small fee. Participants get an Earth Week t-shirt.

The Spur Clean Up takes place on Tuesday, April 23. Come join in as we pick up trash along a stretch of the National Park between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, known as The Spur. To participate, bring a pair of gloves and meet at Gatlinburg’s Spur Welcome Center at 9 am.

One of the more popular ways to get out and enjoy the Smokies is taking part in the 63rd Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage, April 23-27. Every year this program gets bigger and bigger due to ever-growing response. Over 150 programs make up the annual Wildflower Pilgrimage which includes instructional walks and tours, demonstrations, and guest lectures. Download the 2013 activity brochure and register online at www.springwildflowerpilgrimage.org.

The Second Annual Earth Day 5K Run/Walk in downtown Gatlinburg will take place on Friday, April 26 at 10 pm. All age groups are welcome and encouraged to participate in this USA Track & Field-sanctioned event. Early registration is encouraged to guarantee your shirt size! Race day registration begins at 9 pm at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

One other brand new event that will be taking place this year is the Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Winefest. For all you wine lovers out there, stop by Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies on Saturday, April 27 anytime from 1-6 pm. You’ll  sample wines from more than a dozen Tennessee Wineries and small dish fare from the best restaurants in the Smoky Mountains.  Wine talks and food pairing demonstrations will also presented in the Jules Verne Room. Participants must be at least 21- years old and pay a $20 admission fee.