Destination, USA

Tips for a Family Trip to Gatlinburg


Gatlinburg, nestled near the Smoky Mountains, stands as an idyllic destination for families seeking adventure, relaxation, and unforgettable memories. This quaint town, with its picturesque natural scenery and wide array of attractions, caters to all ages, making it the perfect setting for a family trip. From the adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities to educational and entertaining experiences, Gatlinburg ensures every family member finds something to love. As you plan your journey to this enchanting locale, consider the variety of experiences awaiting you, from exploring the great outdoors to diving into the rich local culture and entertainment.

Planning Your Trip

The key to a successful family trip to Gatlinburg lies in thoughtful planning. Opting for a visit during the off-peak seasons—late spring or early fall—can help you avoid the crowds, enjoy mild weather, and sometimes even snag better deals on accommodations and attractions. Researching events and seasonal festivals ahead of time will ensure you don’t miss out on unique local experiences. Additionally, booking attractions and accommodations in advance can save time and stress, allowing your family to focus on enjoyment rather than logistics.

Must-Visit Attractions

Among the top things to do in Gatlinburg, several attractions stand out as must-visits for families. Anakeesta offers an outdoor adventure park experience with treetop walks, ziplines, and breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains, perfect for the adventurous spirit. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies captivates with its interactive exhibits and close encounters with marine life, making learning fun for children and adults alike. For panoramic views and thrilling activities, Gatlinburg SkyPark serves as a scenic playground in the sky. These attractions not only promise fun and excitement but also create lasting memories.

Enjoying the Great Outdoors

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a natural treasure, offers families a chance to connect with nature. With a variety of trails suitable for all skill levels, families can embark on hikes to discover waterfalls, wildlife, and lush forests. For a more leisurely experience, picnicking in designated areas provides a serene setting to relax and enjoy the park’s beauty. Wildlife watching, especially at dawn or dusk, can be an exciting activity for children, offering glimpses of the park’s inhabitants in their natural habitat. Planning visits to popular spots like Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome can also enhance the outdoor adventure.

Theme Park Fun at Dollywood

Dollywood, the famed theme park in nearby Pigeon Forge, promises a day filled with excitement and entertainment. The park features a variety of rides catering to thrill-seekers and families alike, from high-speed roller coasters to gentle carousels. Live shows, featuring music, dance, and storytelling, provide entertainment for all ages, while seasonal festivals throughout the year celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Smoky Mountains. Dollywood also offers educational experiences, making it a well-rounded destination for family fun.

Dinner Shows and Entertainment

Gatlinburg and its surrounding areas are renowned for their dinner shows, combining delicious meals with live entertainment. The Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud brings a humorous take on the famous feud, with stunts, singing, and dancing, all while guests enjoy a Southern-style feast. These shows not only offer a unique dining experience but also a chance for families to engage in the local culture and entertainment, making for an enjoyable evening out.

Exploring the Island in Pigeon Forge

A short drive from Gatlinburg, The Island in Pigeon Forge is a hub of entertainment and shopping that families shouldn’t miss. It’s home to the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, offering stunning views from its enclosed gondolas, perfect for a family photo op. The Island features a variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions like the mirror maze, rope course, and arcade games, ensuring there’s something for every family member to enjoy. Evening fountain shows, synchronized to music and lights, provide a magical end to your visit.

Visiting The Old Mill Square

For a taste of history and a slower pace, The Old Mill Square is an essential stop. Centered around a working gristmill dating back to the 1830s, this area offers a glimpse into the past with its quaint shops and artisan goods. Families can enjoy hearty, Southern meals at The Old Mill Restaurant or pick up freshly ground flour and other local products to take home. It’s a place where kids can learn about pioneer life while adults enjoy the craftsmanship and flavors of the Smokies.

Experiencing Country Tonite Theatre

The Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge presents a show that’s a blend of music, dance, and comedy, suitable for all ages. Recognized as one of the best family shows in the Smokies, it celebrates the rich musical heritage of the region without forgetting to entertain and engage its audience. With performances that include singing, dancing, and patriotic tributes, it’s an uplifting experience that families will talk about long after the curtain falls.

Breathtaking Views from the Gatlinburg Space Needle

Standing over 400 feet tall, the Gatlinburg Space Needle is an iconic part of the skyline and offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains and downtown Gatlinburg. An educational experience as well, with informative displays about the history and ecology of the area, the Space Needle provides a unique perspective on the natural beauty surrounding Gatlinburg. It’s an ideal spot for families to capture the essence of the Smokies from an aerial vantage point.


Gatlinburg, with its blend of natural wonders, thrilling attractions, and rich cultural experiences, stands out as a premier destination for families looking to create lasting memories. Whether exploring the great outdoors in the Smoky Mountains, enjoying the thrills of Dollywood, experiencing live entertainment, or simply taking in the panoramic views, there’s no shortage of activities to fill your itinerary. Each attraction, from The Island in Pigeon Forge to the historic Old Mill Square and the soaring Gatlinburg Space Needle, contributes to the tapestry of experiences that make a family trip to Gatlinburg truly unforgettable. As you plan your adventure, remember that the joy of exploring together as a family is what makes the journey to Gatlinburg not just a trip, but a treasure trove of moments to cherish.

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