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”

Gatlinburg Guinness World Records Museum

The World Record book Come to Life!

As a child we were all sucked into the Guinness Book of World Records (GBoWR).  I can remember being excited every year as a new copy came out and got added to the shelf at the local book store.  The GBoWR was always a part of the school book sales back in the day, at recess you would see children pouring through the book and trying to decide what World Record they were going to break.  In Gatlinburg, TN you can step into the GBoWR at the Guinness World Records Museum.  See representations of people, places and things that have made the record book over the years and relive some of the thrill you had in childhood when you were leafing through the book.

The Guinness Book of World Records originated out of an argument that Sir Hugh Beaver (managing director of the Guinness Breweries) had with friends over what was the fastest game bird in England.  Beaver soon found that there was no book, as of 1951, that contained that information.  Through research, he decided that there had to be discussions about facts in pubs and bars all over the world.  So to that end, he decided that a world record book might be a very popular book, indeed.  Fact finders Norris and Ross McWhirter compiled the first book and it was just released in the British Isles as part of a marketing campaign.  In 1956, the book was released in the US and became a household name by the 70s.  The publishers of the GBoWR soon fell into a pattern of publishing an update every year.  Needless to say the idea of putting in museum dedicated to this tome of knowledge was not far behind the success of the book.

In Gatlinburg, TN the Guinness World Record Museum is located right on the Parkway.  Near the Village and across the street from Fannie Farkles, this is one of those street side attractions, those family attractions, that has been a part of Gatlinburg’s tourist trade for decades.  As a child you would pass the door and hope that this might be the trip where your pleading with your parents got you into the museum to see the weird, the strange and the wonderful.  As an adult, you get to listen to your children as they plead, cajole and pester you to take them into the museum.  Some advice:  take them!

When you go inside the Guinness World Record Museum, you are going to literally find yourself face to face with world records on every wall and surface.  Displays, videos, interactive games and galleries change constantly to bring the newest records to the museum.  If you want to see how the tall the tallest man and woman really were you can stand next to representations of them and see if you measure up to their height.  Stand by the Batcar, see the most tattooed person in the world, check out what the longest fingernails might have looked like, this and much more await you inside the Guinness World Records Museum.  Make the kids happy, brighten your own day, live the book at the Guinness World Record Museum.

Guinness World Records Museum
631 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN
(865) 436-5096

Top 10 Gatlinburg Attractions

Our list of top Gatlinburg attractions.

Looking at a map, it seems Gatlinburg popped up in the middle of a number of large attractions. And although that’s not true at all, it’s kind of funny when you look at the town from above and see that it’s surrounded by things like Ober Gatlinburg and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Top 10 attractions in Gatlinburg. We’ll start out on the slopes at Ober and work our way through town. If you can think of something that we’ve missed, drop us a line in the comment box and we’ll take it into consideration. It’s an evolving list so no worries, we’d love to hear what you the readers think. Let’s get on with the list.

Our Top 10 Gatlinburg Attractions:

  1. Ober Gatlinburg – Outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this wintertime attraction has been bringing in tourists to Gatlinburg for as long as most can remember. The year was 1962 actually. Guests can pick from 9 different ski and snowboarding trails during peak season. Ober’s snow-making machines keep the resort open longer each year, no matter how much real snow accumulates.
  2. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – A Smoky Mountain hot spot, Ripley’s Aquarium features 10,000 sea creatures and was once voted the No. 1 aquarium in the United States by Tripadvisor. Enjoy ocean life as you would were you really diving in the ocean. Get up close to a real coral reef and see some of its unique inhabitants.
  3. Gatlinburg Space Needle – A part of the Gatlinburg sky line since 1970, the Space Needle has been the site of numerous New Years Eve fireworks celebrations. At one time it was the second tallest tower in the state of Tennessee, now it’s the 5th. Come by and ride to the top like so many others have over the years.
  4. Gatlinburg Sky Lift – Travel from downtown all the way up the mountain to Ober Gatlinburg by way of Gatlinburg’s Sky Lift. This ride is like no other in the Smokies. Glide over wooded peaks, pass over Smoky Mountain cabins and chalets, and enjoy the majestic beauty of the area.
  5. Guinness World Records Museum – See some of the world’s most long-standing and impressive feats at the Guinness World Records Museum in Gatlinburg. From life-size statues of the most tattooed person in the world to the tallest, the sites, sounds, and interactive displays at the Guinness World Records Museum will amaze and excite the senses.
  6. Arrowmont – Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is a center for arts education. Arrowmont offers weekend, one- and two-week workshops for the beginner to advanced artist, taught by national and international practicing studio artists and university faculty.
  7. Ripley’s Believe It or Not – If you’re into the weird and the unusual, then Ripley’s Believe It or Not is just for you. Shrunken heads, wax figures, larger-than-life items all make this museum of oddities.
  8. Mysterious Mansion – Many people have come through this downtown Gatlinburg attraction and have left scared out of their wits. This house of horrors set the standard for haunted houses in the area and continues to this day.
  9. Ripley’s Mirror Maze – Don’t run into yourself too many times in Ripley’s Mirror Maze. This house of reflective walls and never-ending hallways is downtown favorite.
  10. Nantahala Outdoor Center – Plans call for hiking or exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Stop by the Nantahala Outdoor Center for some outdoorsy advise, or just pick up a new pair of hiking boots.

Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze

Maddeningly Marvelous Mazes

I recently had the opportunity to go to Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze.  As this was the first mirror maze that I had been to, I didn’t quite know what to expect.  We parked the car on River Road near the Mysterious Mansion and walked through one of the shopping complexes to get to the Parkway, near Ripley’s Mirror Maze.  We (my wife and I) approached the ticket booth and paid for our admissions.  The young lady that was working the booth told us that our stay in the maze could take as long as we wanted it to but most people found that it took 30-45 minutes to make your way through the maze.  She also gave us gloves to wear so that we didn’t leave finger prints in case we ran into one of the mirrors with our hands.  I thought to myself: “I think I will know before I run into a mirror.”  I was wrong.

We stepped into the maze area and we were both amazed.  I knew the concept and that I would be in a room full of mirrors but I was unprepared for how disorienting it would be.  You are literally lost once you step away from the light coming through the main entrance.  As the door shut we were all of a sudden left to figure our way through a maze where we saw images of the same thing and of mirrors reflecting the image of other mirrors.  The lights are low, the mirrors and some of the walkways are framed with faux-stonework that seems to repeat forever.  As you begin to work your way into the maze you get a sense that you are in a much bigger place then you really are.  The illusion of size and of extra passages is held up the entire time you are in the Mirror Maze.

You are also in the maze with other people.  You will round a corner, at least what you think is a corner, only to find yourself face to face with another person.  You both decide to turn away from each other and try another route only to find that your next turn puts you back face to face with that person again.  We determined very quickly that this was not going to be as easy as we thought.  We found that we were hopelessly disoriented and lost. The feeling of not knowing your way out, was exhilarating and exciting.  We quicken our pace and found that we were only getting more and more lost.  After 25 minutes of roaming through the maze, running into mirrors and scaring ourselves when we ran into mirrors, and ourselves we finally found our way out.

I recommend taking the whole family to Ripley’s Mirror Maze.  The kids will love it, the adults will love it and you will find that you all have the same sensation of being lost and the joy of helping each other find a way out.  Tell the kids not to worry because it is dark and to just have fun trying to find the exit – we did.

Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze
623 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium

Ripley’s Odditorium is located in the heart of Gatlinburg and brings joy to children of all ages with every visit.

Believe it… or not

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Oddirorium is the most centrally located of all the Ripley attractions in Gatlinburg, and also one of the most fun.  Walking through the museum that is the Odditorium is like walking through the mind of Robert Ripley: a little spooky, a little creepy and a lot of fun.

When you go through the turnstile at the Odditorium, you will take in the enormity of the museum from the get go.  Each and every square inch of the walls are covered with facts, parts of the collection, the odd and the bizarre.  From the unusual to the macabre, from the weird to the historical, there is something for everyone in the Odditorium.

Robert Ripley spent his life traveling around the world collecting pieces of other cultures for his collections.  At the Gatlinburg Odditorium, you get to see part of that life time. Each of the Ripley museums around the country house different parts of the Ripley’s archive.  At the Odditorium in Gatlinburg you get to see nature run amok with the bizarre animals from around the world, you get to experience different cultures (from headhunters to Europe) and you get to see some Robert Ripley history as well.

A stroll through the Odditorium is like taking in Ripley’s Believe It or Not TV show in real life.  You will find yourself face to face with the Fiji Mermaid.  You will find your self standing mere feet from an actual electric chair.  You can see the death mask of John Dilinger. But not everything is frightening.  You will get to see creations made out of matchsticks, stroll along the rooftops of a Victorian era English city or explore the world of optical illusions.  One of the highlights for any first time visitors is the worm hole.

At the end of your journey through the Odditorium is an enormous man-sized worm hole.  You get to walk in the track of a giant earthworm that spins around you as you walk through.  Though it is very disorienting, it is also beautiful and wonderful to walk through.  Children especially will spend lots of time walking back and forth through the revolving tunnel.

Pay a visit to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium the next time you are in Gatlinburg.  This is one of the longest running attractions in Gatlinburg.  Many people an remember seeing it when they came with their parents when they were children. Now you have the opportunity to let your kids step into the world of the bizarre and ask if they believe it… or not.

Ripley’s Beleieve It or Not Odditorium
800 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

6 Reasons to Visit Ober Gatlinburg in the Summer

For over 50 years, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort has been a staple in the area for family-fun activities. However, the fun found here isn’t limited to only during the winter. In fact, you may be surprised by all the exciting things to do you can find there during the summer as well. Continue reading “6 Reasons to Visit Ober Gatlinburg in the Summer”

FREE, and Fun Things To Do in Gatlinburg

Whenever someone says FREE, you can bet that a few ears will start perking up. When it comes to the word “FREE” and Gatlinburg, look out! With so many people coming into town on vacation each year, you can do quite a lot of business by just offering up something for free, or a free gift when you leave, or a buy one get one free.

There are so many FREE offerings in downtown Gatlinburg that many people don’t even consider, or even know about. The next handful of paragraphs mention just a few of the fun, FREE things to do on your next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, specifically Gatlinburg.

Take a stroll with your family down the Parkway. There are more than 200 unique shops, dozens of restaurants, and attractions for all ages found here. From homemade taffy pulling to caramel apples being dipped, the list goes on. Experience the world’s largest underwater aquarium tunnel at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, or ride America’s largest aerial tram to Ober Gatlinburg ski resort. There is plenty to do downtown.

The eight-mile Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community loop is the perfect way to introduce yourself and others to Smoky Mountain crafts. You’ll see the artisans themselves in their own shops whittling, carving,  sewing, weaving and sculpting all kinds of materials into masterful works of art. This is the largest group of independent artisans in North America gathered in one place. We’re talking about close to 100 shops, studios, and galleries.

How bout a Smokies auto tour? The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail includes stops at a number of historical sites including the Noah “Bud” Ogle family homestead. The Roaring Fork Cemetery is also highlighted on this tour, as well as the remains of a village that supported some 24 families in the Smoky Mountains more than 150 years ago. It’s an 8-mile adventure through the heart of the Smokies. You’ll also pass, and be able to stop at a number of trailheads along the route if you’d enjoy a Smoky Mountain hike to break up the trip.

The Smoky Mountain gem known as the Greenbrier is located just a few miles from downtown Gatlinburg. This area provides for a number of outdoor activities in the Smokies like tubing, swimming, picnicking, hiking, or just sitting back and taking in the area’s natural beauty. The Ramsey Cascades Trail Head can be found here. It’s one of the more popular and picturesque Smoky Mountain waterfalls.

Another great way to take in Gatlinburg is from the two overlooks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Countless people have come here over the years to take that perfect vacation photo of town. It’s also a popular place to watch the sun rise. So grab your cameras and head up to Gatlinburg Overlook and enjoy the view!

If you’re planning on being here during the summer, enjoy the Smoky Mountains Tunes & Tales festival. Meet characters, hear mountain music and learn about life in the Smokies on the streets of Gatlinburg. Enjoy storytellers, musicians and cloggers performing along the Parkway every evening during this annual summer time event!

Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is one Gatlinburg’s premiere attractions, part of the Gatlinburg skyline and helps ring in the New Year in the old town.

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is one of the premier attractions in Gatlinburg.  It is also a part of the Gatlinburg skyline and something that people look for in this busy little mountain town.  The Space Needle has become a landmark but it has also become its own destination with plenty of attractions to offer visitors.  The Space Needle is a perfect stop on your trip to Gatlinburg.

In 1970, The Gatlinburg Space Needle became the second highest tower in Tennessee, and though the tower has slipped to the 5th tallest, it is still bringing in lots of visitors each season.  Since 1970, the Space Needle has become more than part of the scenery.  It has become a landmark and people use it to place other businesses in town.  If you are looking for Bubba Gump’s, people are going to tell you to head toward the Space Needle.  Plus, people use it to point people to the center of town.  Add to that the fact that people hover around the Space Needle at the end of each year for the New Years Eve ball drop and the fireworks and you will recognize that the Space Needle is engrained into the mind set of visitors and locals alike.

One of the best things about the Space Needle is the view.  Once you have gone to the top of this 407’ tower, you have a 36 degree view of the surrounding area, including Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The ride to the top is accomplished in a glassed-in elevator so even the ride up is nice and scenic.  While you’re at the top of the tower, make sure to work that camera so that you can impress your family and friends back home with the spectacular view behind you.

While you are at the Space Needle, take in some of the other attractions around town as well.  Play Lazer Tag in the arcade (named Arcadia) with the whole family.  You can also learn more about Gatlinburg and the mountains that surround it while you ride in the elevator in their newest attraction called Higher Learning.  This system teaches you about the Smokies and Gatlinburg through a multimedia experience.  The good folks at the Space Needle also offer live entertainment in the form of a hypnotism show starring John Dee.  This show is full of comedy and hypnotism and plenty of family fun.

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a tradition in the Smokies.  Not only is it a part of the skyline of the Gatlinburg, you are also going to be involved in a lot of extra attractions that they have in their venue.  Ride to the top of the elevator, view the town, take some pictures but make sure that you don’t leave without a trip to the arcade or taking in one of the shows.  The Space Needle is a stop that you have to make at least once when visit Gatlinburg in the Smokies.

Space Needle
115 Historic Nature Trail Rd
Gatlinburg, TN

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

If you are looking for a different kind of auto tour while you are in the Smoky Mountains, why not try Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (RFMNT).   Roaring Fork is located above Gatlinburg so it is easy to get to and it is a completely different experience than visiting areas like Cades Cove and Cataloochee.  Whereas those areas were valley communities, the Roaring Fork community was a mountain farm town.

The people that made their homes in the Roaring Fork area were a hardy bunch.  Instead of choosing the easier life in the valleys –Cataloochee and Cades Cove – the people that settled these areas were looking for homes in the woods on top of the mountains.  They built their community along the streams where the rushing water could be harnessed and used to power water wheels that would grind grains and help with cutting lumber into usable boards.  They had full service farms that were designed to keep their family going but they also had other industries that keep them busy during the off times of the year.

Today, you can ride through this history filled area of the Smokies.  You get to pass, cabins and other structures that once made up this community.  You even get to see a tubmill.  The tubmill is driven by the flow of the water on a horizontal wheel instead of the more traditional, vertical wheel.  The tubmill was a more efficient form of water power and it was easier then having to build a water chute.  These tubmills were located in many of the communities around the Smokies and there are still several in the boundaries of the GSMNP that visitors can visit and admire.  This, in and of itself, is worth the trip along this auto tour but you also get to see plenty of waterfalls and cascades.  In fact one of the most popular cascades areas in the national park is known as the Place of a Thousand drips and it is located near the exit of this one way road.

To find RFMT, head to Gatlinburg.  Drive along the Parkway until you find Historic Nature Trail Road.  If you have been coming to the area for quite a while you will know that this road used to be known as Airport Road.  Turn onto Historic Nature Trail road and head up the mountain.  You will pass the Space Needle and other Gatlinburg attractions as you go up the hill.  Once you come to a stop sign, you will go straight across his road and follow the signs and Cherokee Orchard Road around the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Old Settlers Trail

The Old Settlers Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not for the weak at heart. It’s a 15.8 mile trail that takes hikers from the Ramsey Cascades Road to the trail’s junction with the Maddron Bald Trail. And while it may see daunting length-wise for some people, it makes up for it with the number of historic Smokies sites found along the way.

Simply put, if you’re into history, and especially the history of the Smoky Mountains, the Old Settlers Trail is one not to miss.

To reach the Old Settlers Trailhead, travel east from Gatlinburg on U.S. 321 and turn onto Greenbrier Road at the national park entrance. You’ll pass the picnic area and ranger’s station, then cross a bridge toward the Ramseys Cascade Trailhead. The Old Settlers Trailhead will soon come up on the left.

Standing chimneys and old rock walls are commonplace on the Old Settlers Trail and give hikers a glimpse at mountain life before the Smokies were designated a national park. You’ll also pass over more than a dozen creeks during the hike. If you’re backpacking the trail, it’s a relatively enjoyable two-day trip if you decide to use backcountry campsite No. 33.

The trail starts out along the Little Pigeon River on fairly level ground as you make your way through what was the Greenbrier community. A couple general stores and churches made up the area in the early 1900s and supported hundreds of farming families at one time. Records also show that 250 children were educated at the community school. The communities were removed when land was sold to make way for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bird Branch is crossed 0.3 miles in before climbing and descending a ridge. Moving along, you’ll reach Copeland Divide where you can see Greenbrier Pinnacle to the east. After a short hike along the ridge, you come to Copeland Creek which flows to the Little Pigeon, and which you must cross. Snakefeeder Branch is crossed a few times as you keep moving on the trail and you’ll notice a standing chimney at a point. Soak Ash Creek is also crossed a number of times during this part of the hike. Its tributaries make their way through and around the Old Settlers Trail.

The trail forks 5 miles in, take to the right up to Evans Creek. More rock walls and chimneys are passed as you move along Evans Creek before you reach backcountry campsite No. 33 – a heavily used site. From here, you descend along the trail to Ramsey Creek. You’ll cross the creek at a beautiful rock chimney that’s a popular place for photo opportunities. You’ll cross the creek four more times as you notice old homesites and the like along this portion of the trail.

Next, you’ll turn right at a roadbed 8.9 miles in to keep on the Old Settlers Trail, hiking along Noisy Creek and traveling upward. Points along the trail titled Tumbling Branch and Chestnut Ridge are hiked through. Here, forests and creeks are passed as you explore the depths of the Smokies. You’ve also now reached the highest point along the trail. From here, it’s a downward hike to Texas Creek at 10. 7 miles in. You’ll notice as many as four home sites following the creek crossing and a number of small waterfalls that develop.

Bear to the right at the fork in the trail at mile 11.7. One of the better rock walls you’ll encounter on the Old Settlers Trail is at mile 12.5 and it eventually borders the trail on both sides. You’ll follow the Webb Creek from here and pass a number of home sites along the creek.

Hiking on, Indian Camp Creek is passed over by way of a newly erected foot log. You’ll soon rock hop Maddron Creek – the final creek crossing before coming to the Maddron Bald Trailhead and the finale of the Old Settlers Trail. Happy hiking!