Gatlinburg Sky Lift

One of the best views in Gatlinburg can be seen from the Gatlinburg Sky Lift!

There is one great way to take in the entire city of Gatlinburg from one attraction, and that attraction is the Gatlinburg Sky Lift.  You have seen it if you have driven through Gatlinburg.  About halfway through town, you will see rows of yellow chairlifts rising into the air on the righthand side and then descending down the mountain on the left.  Go find a place to park and get ready to see one of the best views of Gatlinburg, this side of the Space Needle.

When you get to its location on the Parkway, make sure everyone pairs up! The Sky Lift chairs hold two adults at a time or an adult and a couple of small kids.  The chairlift is a nice slow ride up the mountain.  The yellow chairs are as much a part of the skyline of Gatlinburg as the Aerial Tramway that is located right down the road. The chair comes around, you sit down as it continues to move and you start your ascent. On the way up the mountainside, you get to check out Gatlinburg, including the Christ in the Smokies Museum and Mysterious Mansion located on River Road. After you have been to the top of Crockett Mountain, you will get back on the chairlift and start your way back down. This is where you get the best view! You get to take in Gatlinburg from the air. You get to see all that Gatlinburg has to offer and the opportunities to snap as many pictures as possible while you are on the lift.

The Gatlinburg Sky Lift was established in the 50s. It is one of the oldest continuing attractions in the Smoky Mountains and has become a staple in Gatlinburg. While other attractions in Gatlinburg are constantly reinventing themselves, the chairlift remains a constant. They don’t have to try anything new as the scenery of the mountains and the beauty of Gatlinburg are the draw for this attraction. That being said, they have added things at the top of the mountain.

At the top of the mountain, you get to walk around and explore the top of the mountain. They have a gift shop and concession stand for refreshments, too. You can get a soft drink and a snack or some ice cream while you take in the views. You can also purchase your souvenir photo that was snapped of you while you traveled up the mountain!

Gatlinburg SkyLift
765 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Mysterious Mansion

Mysterious Mansion has been an attraction on River Road in Gatlinburg for years. Bring the family and have them properly scared.

A Haunting Experience… If You Dare!

Since 1980, the Mysterious Mansion in Gatlinburg has been properly scaring people.  Located on River Road in Gatlinburg it is off the beaten path but one of the cornerstones of the attraction industry in Gatlinburg.  This is a walk through attraction—you start out in one room of the mansion and you journey through the creepy, the dark and the spooky as you roam from room to room.  But don’t worry, even though you are going to get nervous, scared, maybe even terrified you are going to have a great time and be safe the whole way through.

The Mysterious Mansion is located on River Road.  This is the road that runs in front of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, parallel to the Parkway.  If you take the turn onto River Road in front of the aquarium, keep a look out for Edgewater Hotel.  Right past Edgewater, on the right is Mysterious Mansion.  You might be able to find a place to park in front of the attraction itself but if not find a parking lot or garage and walk to the mansion and get ready to be scared.

Part of the draw of the Mysterious Mansion is the exterior.  The design of the exterior of this attraction is perfect.  If you close your eyes and try to imagine a haunted house, you would picture something like the Mysterious Mansion.  Looking completely out of place between the hotels along the road, take the walk up to the front door and begin your journey – if you dare.  You will start your journey in one of the rooms on the main floor of the mansion.  From there, you start to wind your way through other dark rooms, down to the basement, up to the attic, around twisting, creaky staircases, looking for a way out.  As you walk, the tension will build.  You will break out in a cold sweat as you doubt your ability to get out of the mansion.  And along the way you might even might some of the darker denizens of the mansion.

Now, all of that being said, this is an attraction, a family attraction.  Nothing is going to happen to you at the Mysterious Mansion.  Their atmosphere is perfect and you will feel a definite sense of apprehension as you walk around in the dark.  The quality of the attraction will ‘suck’ you in.  You will start to believe that you are in a haunted house and that you might be in danger, but you aren’t – you are in an attraction in Gatlinburg, TN and the people that run the attraction are doing exactly what you asked them to do – scare you!

Visit the Mysterious Mansion on your next trip to Gatlinburg. Take your family and get them good and properly scared.  Everyone enjoys a good haunted house and the mansion is not only a great haunted house but it is a landmark in Gatlinburg.  Small haunted houses are disappearing around the country. Step into one that is done right, get your scare on and enjoy the fright of your life.

Mysterious Mansion
424 River Rd
Gatlinburg, TN
7 Days a Week 2pm – 10pm
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Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade at Midnight

The 4th of July Midnight Parade in Gatlinburg, TN is held every year as the “first 4th of July Parade” in the nation. Get the details on when it happens and where to before the Fourth of July in Gatlinburg, Tennessee!

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 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!

Stargazing in the Smokies

There is a pervading thought that says when the sun sets, there is nothing to see in the Smokies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Stargazing in the Smokies is a wonderful way to spend an evening of your Smoky Mountain vacation.

When night falls in the Smokies, the National Park seems to empty.  The people vanish, the cars vanish and most of the animals seem to disappear.  There are few times that the drive from Gatlinburg to Cherokee is a lonesome drive but after the sun goes down you can find yourself going for half an hour at a time without seeing a car.  The thought is that since the sun has set, there is nothing to see in the Smokies.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Stargazing in the Smokies is a wonderful way to spend an evening of your Smoky Mountain vacation.

After sunset a whole vista of celestial ‘wildlife’ pops out.  Stars that you never knew existed hangout among familiar constellations.  Extra stars seem to accessorize Orion’s belt.  Ursa Major and Ursa Minor seem to fill out more and you can see why ancient people may have named them what they named them, instead of looking like a dipper it might actually resemble a bear.  Our view of the sky, usually inhibited by city lights, is opened up as you leave the vestiges of civilization and climb higher into the mountain.  Newfound Gap Trailhead, the parking area for one of the most hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail, is one of the best places to stargaze in the Smokies.

Due to the fact that there are no street lights at Newfound Gap Trailhead, there are no cities close enough to see and the fact that at night most of the cars in the parking lot are left by overnight hikers.  This leaves the parking lot vacant and the passing cars don’t add enough light to affect your night vision.  Once you get to the parking area, go to the furthest end of the parking lot, turn off all the lights in your car and wait for your eyes to adjust.  Once your eyes are used to the dark you will start to see some amazing sights in the night sky.  Remember that you are above 6,000 feet in this parking lot, so you may want to bring a coat in the spring or fall because it ill be cooler then it is in the valley areas.  If it is 60 in Pigeon Forge, it will be at least 10 degrees cooler on the mountain.

Another thing to keep in mind is the moon.  If the stars are brighter in the Smokies, then the moon is ten times brighter.  A full moon on top of the mountain is a glorious thing to behold but if your planning on seeing stars keep the phase of the moon in mind.  The perfect time to view stars by the millions is during the new moon.  With the moon out of the way, you will have an unobstructed view of the stars and your stargazing trip to the Smokies will be complete.  If you want to see an amazing moonrise, then get to the summit early during a full moon and it will bright enough to read by.

Because of the lack of lights on the mountain it is possible to take pictures of this starry expanse.  You will need to turn the flash off on your camera and you will have to use fairly long exposures.  Long exposures (one and half to two minutes minimum) will produce star lines on the exposure.  The Earth’s constant movement in relation to the unmovable positions of the stars causes the star lines. This is what you want.  Lots of light into the camera and giving the camera enough time to absorb the light you are letting it will make the outline of the trees hazy and the stars will be small streaks in the sky.  You’ll need to use a tripod to eliminate movement of the camera.

If you are looking for an after-hours opportunity for your family to enjoy something they may not get to see anywhere else, get out of the cabin or hotel room, pack up the cool weather gear and head to the top of the Smokies, or a place like Cades Cove.  Put a sleeping bag on the hood of your car, lean back and enjoy the view.  Instead of looking at the gorgeous mountains below the heavens, turn your eyes upward and look at the stars.

Hillbilly Golf

Right as you go into Gatlinburg, if you are coming from Pigeon Forge, you are going to see a sign for Hillbilly Golf on the left hand side of the road.  Hillbilly Golf is a staple of Gatlinburg attractions and has been a min golf destination for years.  When you give Hillbilly Golf a once over you are going to wonder where the miniature golf course is but that is because you are not looking at the right spot.  Stand in  front of the ticket booth and look up.  You will notice an incline rail system that seems to go up and out of sight, that is where the course is – that is where the fun is.

Get your ticket and jump on the rail car.  You will take a brief ride up the mountain, the 300 feet only takes a few minutes but it does give you a great view of the Parkway as it threads its way into Gatlinburg.  You ride backwards up the mountain to both of the course.  Each one is a full 18 holes and both are delightfully decorated and fun to play.  But of course, half the fun is the fact that you are playing on the mountain.  The courses are built into the mountainside, into the very rock with trees and plants growing all around.

Not only are the courses chiseled into the ground and rock of the Smoky Mountains but they are decorated with a detritus that has taken years to accumulate.  Pieces of mountain history, pieces of the past decorate the courses.  The obstacles that you shoot and putt around are the very articles and things of the past that you might have seen doting the front yard of any mountain person in the Smokies at the turn of the century. Outhouses and stills are part of the course, as are native plants and rock walls that came to symbolize the mountain yards of the homesteads in the Smokies.  Some of these items have been out on these courses since Hillbilly Golf opened years ago.  Golf balls have been shot through and around these pieces of Americana for years and you might even find that you are still trying to putt around the same still that you had trouble with as a kid. Try both courses while you are there, spend plenty of time on the side of the mountain and experience the thrill you had when you rode the incline railway up the first time you took it years ago.

Hillbilly Golf
340 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN

Smoky Mountains Synchronous Fireflies

Find out when and where to see the world famous synchronous fireflies in Gatlinburg, TN. This amazing event in Gatlinburg, Tennessee takes place once a year in the Great Smoky Mountains…don’t miss it!

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 lets 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 is 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.

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.


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.