Tag Archives: Things to do in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade at Midnight

Come see the first 4th of July parade of the year in Gatlinburg, TN! Every year, the parade starts at midnight, and it’s the first 4th of July parade to kick off in the entire country!

The parade starts at midnight on the evening of July 3rd. The 37th annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade at Midnight is expected to bring over 100,000 spectators! The the city of Gatlinburg expects that it will continue to grow each year, too!

The streets will be closed to vehicles at approximately 11 p.m. on July 3rd so plan to get there early. You will want to pack a chair for your evening, so you can relax and wait on the parade to pass! You can see the parade anywhere from downtown on the main strip, so don’t sweat it too much if you have trouble finding a spot in the middle of downtown! You’ll see the same parade at the beginning and end of the route, so just find a place where you can be comfortable!

During the parade, there will be a tribute to the 5 military branches – a major highlight of the parade and rightfully so.


Also, Gatlinburg will be having a fireworks show around the same time as the Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade, which will begin about an hour after sundown. The display can be seen along most of the Parkway. The fireworks show is supposed to last around 20 minutes, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Tips for Visiting the Gatlinburg 4th of July ParadeFireworks to celebrate the 4th of July

  • Arrive early to get the best spot!
  • Pack snack and drinks so you don’t have to leave your spot!
  • If you spend the day in Gatlinburg, stop by one of the amazing restaurants in the area to grab an early dinner before the parade begins.
  • Take a few folding chairs and blankets to make you comfortably while you wait.
  • Don’t forget your camera!

If you won’t be in Gatlinburg, you can check out the 4th of July fireworks in Pigeon Forge. The Pigeon Forge event will have free concerts on July 4th. The Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge events are both free and will be a great time for the entire family! We can’t wait to see you soon!

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.

The Smoky Mountains Fireflies Event

If you want to see a true “wonder of nature,” a beauty that can only be seen in a two known places in the whole world, then you need to make a plan to see the Smoky Mountains fireflies. They are a rare species of firefly that seem to coordinate their blinking into a Smoky Mountain show around mid-June (approximately the 6th through the 13th) each year.

There’s only one other place in the world, Southeast Asia, where this phenomenon can be seen. This species of fireflies has an internal “sensor” that let’s them know when a nearby firefly has lit, in which they respond with their own light as quickly as possible. It may take a minute for them to get in sync, but all of a sudden that start performing together with flashes that last as long as six seconds. This, in turn, presents an amazing wave of blinking lights that is truly astonishing. Of course, it’s a mating ritual among the fireflies, but it’s actually one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see in the Smokies.

What to Expect at the Smoky Mountains Fireflies Event

The show begins at dusk, usually around 9:30 p.m. and tickets/parking passes are required.

Starting at 7 pm, visitors may board the Gatlinburg trolley from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Trolleys will run every 20-25 minutes. It will take you to the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont. The last trolley back leaves at 11 p.m. No private vehicles will be allowed into the Elkmont entrance after 5 p.m. – the trolley is the only transportation in and out unless you are a registered camper at Elkmont. You won’t be able to simply drive up into Elkmont to experience this; you must either be camping in Elkmont or ride the trolley.

Bring a blanket or a small lawn chair to sit on, a flashlight or two (cover them with red cellophane to minimize white lights), and a backpack with refreshments. The only amenities available are portable toilets.

Park rangers and volunteers will be available in various locations for questions, guided walks, and assistance.

No pets or alcoholic beverages allowed.

More information about the Smoky Mountains fireflies (or lightning bugs), click HERE.

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.


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.

Spring Means Plenty of Guided Hiking Tours Around Gatlinburg!

FREE hikes in the Smokies and tours of Gatlinburg are just a part of the town’s efforts to get visitors and locals alike out and about, and enjoying Spring in the Smokies.

Take a Guided Hike
Locate some of the most beautiful spring wildflowers or take an afternoon and do some bird watching. These are just a few of the things you can do on a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. For the first 3 weeks of April, Gatlinburg is offering people the chance to go out with their very own hiking guide on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Jennie Burke will lead a “Walk with a Naturalist” on Thursdays at 2 pm at the Cove Hardwood Nature Trail in the Chimneys Picnic area.  Former Park Ranger, Ray Sellers will lead 2 walks: Old Sugarlands Trail and Trillium Gap Trail at 2 pm on the first and third Tuesdays (April 2 & 16). Former National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, Keith Watson will lead a bird walk at 9 am on the second Tuesday (April 9) on Rainbow Falls Trail. These hikes are FREE to anyone who wants to get out into nature, but guests are asked to sign-up ahead by calling Jennie (865) 436-0505. Space is limited! For a list of the hikes, click here.

Go on a Guided Tour of Gatlinburg
Go in depth about Gatlinburg’s past and present during the guided downtown Gatlinburg tours on Fridays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. for the first 3 weeks of April. Tours are FREE to the public, but guests are asked to sign-up ahead by calling Jennie (865) 436-0505. Space is limited!

Sign up for one of these hikes or tours here or call (865) 436-0505.

BEST Hiking Trails in the Smokies

In no way is this a scientific study, it’s just our opinion of the hiking trails found in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s actually a list of our favorites in no certain order. Following years and many miles of trail study, we’ve put together a short list of BEST hikes found in the park and within close proximity to Gatlinburg.

Alum Cave Trail

A moderately difficult hike, the trail to Alum Cave Bluffs is 4.4 miles round-trip as you make your way to the 80 foot tall, 500 foot long bluff. Prior to reaching the cave, look east toward the Eye of the Needle and see peregrine falcons nesting on the outcroppings. The views from the cave also attract many a weekend photographer. Locals and manufacturing companies once mined Epsom salts from Alum Cave.

Forney Ridge Trail

This is a fairly easy hiking trail in the Smokies that begins at the Clingmans Dome parking lot and travels 1.7 miles to the top of Andrews Bald. The elevation does gradually climb over 900 feet on this trail despite it easy nature. Those of you who do decide to take the Forney Ridge Trail must be aware of the rocky path as loose rocks can appear in all shapes and sizes. Once you’ve reached Andrews Bald you realize how it got its name. It’s an open, grassy area that people flock to for pictures and various outdoor activities year round. Also, the views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the Bald are unbelievable.

Mt. Cammerer

This 12 mile round-trip hike is not for the weak at heart or the novice hiker. Over the course of the trip, the trail climbs 2,500 feet from its beginnings at the Low Gap Trailhead in Cosby to its finale at the summit of Mt. Cammerer. The views here will simply take your breath away. If you feel up to, climb the stone fire tower that provides a full 360 degree view of the area.

Porters Creek

The Porters Creek hike is a pretty easy 4 mile round-trip jaunt beginning in the Greenbrier area of the park. This is a great hike for viewing old Smoky Mountain homesteads, and you might catch a waterfall too. Wildflowers are prevalent here during the spring. The old John Messer farm is located about a mile from the trailhead down a side path. The old homestead features a cabin and a cantilevered barn.

Rocky Top

Another rather strenuous trail that remains pretty famous in these parts due to its name, the Rocky Top Trail is 12.5 miles of Smoky Mountain hiking from the Anthony Creek trailhead, located in the Cades Cove picnic area. Hikers will cross Spence Field as they make their way along the trail. This is an area that is a must stop for photogs on sunny days. During the spring, this area turns into a pink and white blanket of laurel flowers.

The Jump-Off

Starting at the Newfound Gap parking lot, this trail is 6.5 miles round-trip and travels 2.7 miles down the Appalachian Trail before turning onto the Jump-Off path. The Jump-Off features a 1,000 foot cliff, which represents the northeastern flank of Mt. Kephart.

Motion Ride Movie Theater

Next time you get a hankerin’ to go see a movie, you might just want to venture down into Gatlinburg and experience the Motion Ride Movie Theater. This isn’t your regular flat-screened cinema that you’ll find at any local multiplex.

Once you leave a movie at the Motion Ride Movie Theater in Gatlinburg, you’ll have been tossed over a cliff, experienced the g-forces of soaring close to space, been turned around, twisted and thrown for a loop – all while sitting back in your seat. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget and will make other films seem like a walk in the park.

The Motion Ride Movie Theater has six adventures movie-goers may pick from. That’s quite a lot compared to other similar theaters found mostly at large theme parks. The movie Smash Factory takes you through underground tunnels at some of the highest speeds you’ll not really experience, get it? Glacier Run takes you through a winter time paradise. Astro Canyon Coaster is great for the kids who want to explore different landscapes they may not be familiar with. Slot Car Boogie is another high speed driving movie that will leave you wind blown and on the edge of your seat. Or if you are from the mountains of West Virginia and your grand pappy was a coal miner, choose a movie to honor his memory, The Volcano Mine Ride.

What makes this simulator experience different than other simulators you may have tried before is that your seat will not be the only thing moving. The movie screen actually moves with the seats creating a much more realistic experience.

The Motion Ride Movie Theater opens at 10am every day except Christmas. It costs $10.99 for one movie or $13.99 for two movies, but the real bargain is to be had when you purchase a ticket to watch them ALL for only $15.99. If you are in the military, be sure and let the vendor know so that you can receive your discount.

This exciting Gatlinburg attraction is located at the Reagan Terrace Mall on the Parkway between lights #6 and #7.