For a retreat into the wilderness without leaving behind the comforts of home, take a vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee! Gatlinburg's residents are known for their friendliness and for being happy to share their strong cultural heritage. Because Gatlinburg is in the mountains and is one of the entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it's a favorite for nature-lovers everywhere. It's also a popular resort town, since the Ober Gatlinburg, a great ski resort/amusement park, is just up the road. If you're willing to brave the great outdoors, you can easily fill your time exploring Gatlinburg. With its quirky attractions and local artists, Gatlinburg has a lot of personality you won't want to miss. Do you have ideas on how we can improve our Gatlinburg travel guide? Share them with us.

Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

salt-and-pepper.jpgGatlinburg is an outdoor-lover's paradise. Whether you go into the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or just step outside the front door of a Gatlinburg cabin, you'll soon find out what makes Gatlinburg such a popular vacation destination. From fishing and rafting to hiking and biking, you'll stay busy in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Go horseback riding around the mountains, camp in the wilderness, or see why bird watchers love to come to here. If you like your outdoors a little more tame, Gatlinburg offers great golfing as well.

Escape rainy weather or get out of the sun and experience Gatlinburg's many unique and even quirky attractions. Where else can you find a Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum? Local active arts community means you'll have a chance to check out art galleries and craft fairs no matter what time of year you visit. And the attractions don't stop there:

  • Ripley's, which includes the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum, Gatlinburg Sky Lift and Aerial Tramway.
  • Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park, with an alpine slide, indoor ice skating, and a display of black bears in their habitat.
  • Hollywood Wax Museum, a fun tour through historical figures and celebrities brought to waxy life.
  • Camp Thunder Fun Center, where your family will stay busy with laser tag, arcades, and 3D movies.
  • Guinness World of Records Museum, a great place to learn about wacky facts.

photo by Blake Arledge

What to See in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg vacations are full of exciting sights to see. If you make it out to Gatlinburg, you can't miss the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Considered to be one of the finest national parks in the country, this park is also America's most visited national park. Don't miss out on the chance to hike through gorgeous mountain wilderness and view wildlife in their natural habitat from afar. Rent a Gatlinburg vacation cabin and you'll be able to tumble into a comfortable bed after your long day hiking.

If you're a history or culture buff, check out the Tennessee Heritage Trail that runs through Gatlinburg. The trail has been split into three parts, so you can pick the one that most interests you or tour them all: the Arts and Crafts Trail, History Trail, and Music Trail.

Where to Shop and Eat in Gatlinburg

If you visit Gatlinburg, you'll quickly discover that pancake houses are everywhere. These popular restaurants serve "mountain breakfasts" all day long, perfect for feeding a hungry family before or after a long day's hike! The Pancake Pantry has plenty of history (it was the first pancake house in Gatlinburg) and is a local favorite, but more importantly, it has delicious food made from fresh ingredients. If the popular Pancake Pantry is a little too crowded, duck into the Log Cabin Pancake House for shorter wait times and pancakes that are considered by many to be just as good.

The Best Italian Cafe and Pizzeria is often overlooked, but don't make that mistake yourself. Despite its unassuming name and its location tucked in the back of a strip mall, this is one of the best places to eat in all of Gatlinburg, with authentic NY style pizza and excellent pasta dishes for a reasonable price.

pancakes.jpgIf you're trying to save money and stick to a budget, stock up on groceries because most Gatlinburg vacation rentals have full kitchens, so you can prepare your own meals. If you're smart about cooking for yourself, you can even save up enough to splurge once or twice on a really nice meal out. In that case, check out either the Peddler Steakhouse or the Park Grill. These sister restaurants both serve up steaks and fish to order, but they each have their own specialties. Try the prime rib at the Peddler Steakhouse or the moonshine chicken at the Park Grill, and if you go to the Park Grill, don't miss out on the amazing salad bar.

Travel along the Parkway and downtown to enjoy Gatlinburg's one-of-a-kind shopping experiences. The best of the stores here showcase Gatlinburg's rustic frontier origins, with old-fashioned village buildings and quirky stores (only in Gatlinburg can you find a store dedicated to 100,000 magnets or 1,000 varieties of hot sauce)! Handmade goods and goodies are everywhere to be found, so you can bring home authentic souvenirs that really capture the feel (or taste) of being in Gatlinburg. If you want to pick up something absolutely unique and handmade, stop by any of the shops or marketplaces set up by local arts and crafts communities, especially the Southern Highland Craft Guild's market.

When to Visit Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg's peak vacation time is over the summer, and the town can become very crowded then with tourists and travelers wanting to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a popular season for a reason, though, with outdoor-adventure-friendly weather and everything open to cater to visitors! If you want to make the most of your trip, you may have to brave the crowds – but plan early and you can avoid a lot of the headaches. Book Gatlinburg vacation rentals early enough and you'll have your pick of places to stay, though many rental owners will accommodate last-minute rentals as well. The Ober Gatlinburg ski resort has a shorter season than many ski resorts, generally from mid-December through early March, so keep that in mind if you want to go skiing in Gatlinburg.

What to Bring to Your Gatlinburg Cabin Rental

Since Gatlinburg's biggest draw is its closeness to the wilderness, chances are that while you're in town, you'll want to take a hike at least once while you're here. Pack a good pair of walking shoes and you can save yourself a lot of pain in the future. Read our article on what to bring on a hike and you won't be unprepared! Don't forget your ski gear if you come in winter. Even if you're not skiing, know that the area around Gatlinburg gets very cold, so pack accordingly. Summers tend to be wet, or at the very least unpredictable, so pack an umbrella and rain gear for yourself and the kids. Many Gatlinburg log cabins come with extra supplies, though, so you may not need to pack as much as you think.

Gatlinburg's Local Services

Gatlinburg is a smaller town, but you can find many places you will need to have a comfortable stay, like car rental services, grocery stores and more. There are even local concierge services that will stock your cabin's kitchen or cater special meals to your family if you want. And since Gatlinburg is such a great location for outdoor adventuring, here you'll find outfitters who will prepare you for backcountry exploration. And don't forget... if you're coming here to get married, there's the popular Gatlinburg Wedding Chapel and Gatlinburg honeymoon cabins, too. Finally, make sure to stop by a tourist center and see if Gatlinburg coupons on top attractions are available.

Getting to Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Fly into Knoxville, Tennessee, or take one of many highways into Gatlinburg (it's conveniently located near many major highways, no matter where you're coming from). Plan for traffic, especially around holidays and in peak season. Although I-40 is the most direct route, you should look into an alternate route to avoid traffic on the most popular path into town. Once you're in, you'll still have to deal with traffic, so take advantage of Gatlinburg's trolley system. Fares are low and take you all around town and even to Pigeon Forge. Choose a centrally located condo and you can walk or ride to just about anywhere you need.

Why Gatlinburg Vacation Rentals?

Gatlinburg vacation rentals offer so much more than local hotels, from the price to the space to the convenience. Gatlinburg rentals give you many more options, whether you need a honeymoon cabin for two or one with an indoor pool and enough space for the whole family. If you're going into the backcountry and need a place to store your gear between trips, no problem – Gatlinburg vacation rentals have all the space you'll need and more. And what could be better than saving money in a single rental home instead of renting multiple hotel rooms for a larger group? Whatever the case, you'll save money and enjoy a lot more space with Gatlinburg cabins; indoor pool, luxury living, and savings, here you come!