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

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.

Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

With two locations in Gatlinburg, it is no wonder that people have been stopping for decades at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen to pick up their favorite candy or sweet treat while they walk the Parkway in Gatlinburg.

Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen has locations in the middle of Gatlinburg and at the front entrance of The Village.  You will be able to smell the candy and chocolate from feet away before you enter the wonder that is a professional candy kitchen, complete with people making candy in the front window and a taffy puller and wrapping machine that will make you stand for hours watching the wrapped taffy fall into a wicker basket.  Homemade chocolate, taffy, brittle and much more cover every shelf and every side of the counter at both locations of the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen.  Let’s look at their chocolate first.

The counter itself is a mountain of chocolate.  Covering everything from cherries to peanuts, made into bark and flavored with mint and all manner of flavorings, the chocolate chefs at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen produce mouthwatering mounds of morsels just waiting to be purchased and eaten.  Fudge of every flavor and of course, chocolate in milk, dark and white varieties.  Chocolate, to be piled into bags and eaten as you roam further down the parkway looking in the windows of the shops.

And, if you are not a chocolate fan, then you can always jump on the brittle.  Peanut brittle of course but there is also something different:  cashew brittle.  A personal favorite of mine, the cashew brittle, is something unusual and though I have seen it in other places since first having it here, I still think the cashew brittle at Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is the best.  You can buy it in small bags or if you are like me, you know that the bag is not going to satisfy your thirst for brittle so just buy a tub of it and much as you walk.

Half the fun though of coming to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is watching them make their mouthwatering fare.  The cooks, dressed in their whites are going to be in the window making fudge, candy apples and taffy.  You can watch them load the ropy mess of taffy onto the puller, see then add the flavorings and the colorings and then they will put it on the wrapping machine.  Everyone that visits this traditional stop in Gatlinburg has whiled away the hours watching the taffy get first stretched then cut and finally wrapped in simple wax paper and dropped into a basket.

If you have never been into the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen you are missing one of the most fun stops in town.  Stand right outside the door and take a deep whiff of the air.  Let the smell of freshly made candy invade your nose.  Step through the door and wait for the split second before your mouth starts to water.  Make the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen part of your Gatlinburg vacation tradition.

Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
744 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway

One of America’s largest aeriel tramways, Gatlinburg’s has been in operation since 1973. Take the Ober Gatlinburg Tram next time you’re in town.

There is nothing like soaring above a town in a tram car. Attached to a cable that runs from the middle of town up the mountain is the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway, one of America’s largest aerial tramways. This landmark attraction has been part of the Gatlinburg skyline since August 5, 1973. Until that point skiers had to visit Ober Gatlinburg via twisting mountain roads, up and down the sides of Mt Harrison. With the addition of the Ober Gatlinburg Tram the cold mountain winters no longer deter skiers and Ober Gatlinburg has flourished ever since. A ride on the Aerial tramway is one of the best ways to see Gatlinburg and one of the most fun ways to get to Ober Gatlinburg itself.

The Ober Gatlinburg Tram’s downtown hub is located on Gatlinburg’s west end. The downtown hub is full of gift shops and information about both the ski resort and the other attractions at Ober Gatlinburg’s mountainside location. The booth for buying tickets is located towards the back of the building. After you get your ticket you walk up the ramp and join the queue that is waiting for the next tram to arrive. During the winter months the wait can be lengthy. Skiers in all of their gear are standing in line eager to pile onto the tram stack up in the queue. During the summer months those wishing to take in the best view of Gatlinburg are eager for that same ride.

And the view of Gatlinburg is spectacular. As you leave the tram hub in Gatlinburg and start ascending the mountain you are treated to the reason for Gatlinburg’s popularity. You get to take in the quaintness of the town. You get to peak at the small mountain town that now wears the trappings of the tourist city. You can see the tops of the buildings and the layout of the city itself. As you ride up the wire to the top of the mountain you are treated to the cabins and chalets that line the mountainside, some only viewable from the tramway or the street they reside on. Gatlinburg takes on a whole different perspective from the bottom of the mountain to your final destination: Ober Gatlinburg itself.

You sit or stand in a tramway gondola. These Ober Gatlinburg Tram cars were replaced in April of 2007. Each car can transport 120 people up the mountain but the new cars provide 15% more viewable glass area. Since the tramway opened the two tram cars have transported more than 18 million people. Many of those visitors have traveled back and forth year after year enjoying the gentle swaying of the gondolas as the climb the mountain. Skiers stay year after year ready to take the slopes after they have ascended the mountain and then looking forward to the light show that is Gatlinburg as they head back down after a full day. The Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is one of the greatest ways to see Gatlinburg and an experience in and off itself, make sure to make it part of your next trip to the Smokies.

The Village

The village is one of the premier shopping areas in Gatlinburg. Thousands of people each year come to walk through the shops and window shop at the windows that point out into the courtyards. From galleries to small boutique clothiers, The Village has a full selection of shopping opportunities. You can even grab something to eat or one of the best cups of coffee that you will ever find.

Shops in the Village

  • Best Gift Idea Ever: BGIE specializes in LETTER ART, photographing everyday objects to find natural “letters” within the image.
  • Cartoons and Toys: Largest selection of Hello Kitty, John Deere, Darda Race Sets, Groovy Girls, Care Bears, and much more.
  • Celtic Heritage: Fine gifts imported from Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
  • Coffee & Company: Gatlinburg’s oldest roasting coffee shop. Serving handcrafted cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolates and more…
  • God’s Corner: A unique Christian shop with a wonderful selection of Christian music.
  • Life is Good: Life According to Jake is your source for “Life Is Good” products and apparel.
  • Master’s Editions: A fine art gallery dedicated to pairing clients with the perfect piece of artwork.
  • Pepper Palace: Pepper Palace carries everything for the spicy food lover. Hot Sauce, Salsa, BBQ Sauce, Marinades, spices, rubs…
  • Tervis at The Village: Lifetime Guaranteed insulated tumblers that keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold.
  • The Candle Cottage: Downtown Gatlinburg’s largest and most complete candle shop.
  • The Cheese Cupboard: Gatlinburg’s premier cheese shopfeaturing a large array of imported and domestic cheese, unusual crackers and wonderful chocolates.
  • The Day Hiker: if your plans include day hiking, don’t hit the trails unprepared.
  • The Donut Friar: Open 5 a.m. daily. Experience the taste of freshly made donuts, cinnamon bread, and pastries.
  • The Hayloft Comfort Footwear: Step into some comfort. Make your feet happy with shoes from Born, Naot, MBT, Sanuk, Keen, Soft, and others.
  • The Hayloft: A Gatlinburg tradition with a large selection of Moccasins for men, women and children.
  • The Honey Pot: A delightful collection of hand thrown pottery, Russian dolls, flags, Fenton, and many other unique gift items
  • The Lamplight Gallery: Two-story art gallery that features the works of master artists as well as rare artwork.
  • The Lazy One: Comfy and funny pajamas and lounge wear.
  • The Silver Tree: A whole shop dedicated to the true silver lover! Affordable, contemporary sterling jewelry for all ages.
  • The Sock Shop: The Sock Shop has a huge variety of fun, crazy and cool socks.
  • The Spice & Exchange of Gatlinburg: Offering food lovers, chefs and tea enthusiasts a unique shopping experience filled with culinary delights.
  • The Village Cafe & Creamery: An old fashioned soda shop offering hand-dipped ice cream and gourmet coffee.
  • U Name It: A large selection of purses, duffle bags, diaper bags, baby blankets, baby bibs, and much more.
  • Verbenas at The Village: Family-owned specialty boutique specializing in products for the body, bath, home, and soul.
  • Zi Olive: Taste the finest gourmet extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world.