Ever since I was a child I vividly remember our family vacations, some to explore new destinations and some to visit family. My parents would pack up the car and we’d be off on our road trip adventure before the sun came up. One of our favorite places to visit was Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in America. The popular town of Gatlinburg, which is nestled at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains, was one of our family hot-spots. Recently, my daughter and I took a weekend trip to Gatlinburg where we experienced fabulous places to eat (not to mention desserts and snacks galore!), tons of shopping (Gatlinburg is known for their craftspeople and artists along an 8-mile loop), and attractions that will boggle the mind.
Here’s what we enjoyed most during our fall weekend at one of America’s greatest mountain resort destinations:
From down-home southern cooking to simple American favorites, Gatlinburg offers over 100 places to enjoy a great meal at any time. Whether you are in the mood for spicy southern bar-b-que, ethnic cuisine, or a stack of flapjacks from a mountain mill, Gatlinburg has it all. Here are a few of our favorite dining spots, though I’d have to say my daughter held The Pancake Pantry at the top of her list:
There were no shortage of places to buy snacks – giant pretzels, cupcakes, frozen lemonade slushies, spicy grilled sausage and onions, smoothies, hotdogs, gelato, fudge, KarmelKorn, chocolates, taffy treats – the list goes on and on!
Everyone enjoys walking the Downtown Parkway, which runs from one end of town to the other. At the corner of East Parkway and Glades Road at Traffic Light #3A, you will find the start of the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, the largest gathering of independent artisans in North America. It’s a good thing my daughter and I brought along comfortable shoes for the weekend as we walked many miles to shop, of course.
You will never run out of things to do in Gatlinburg. Families, couples and kids will find endless fun things to do literally around every corner. There are unique museums, miniature golf courses, motion simulators and even go-carts. You can go ziplining, whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and even snowboarding.
Do you enjoy heights? If so, hop on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift or Aerial Tramway. Unfortunately this trip, my daughter and I did not get to ride either of these attractions. However, as a kid, my family and I rode these popular attractions every time we visited.
One museum my daughter and I did get to see was Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum. This is one of the most visited museums filled with odd, unusual, and unbelievable items. Ripley’s also features an aquarium, mini golf, a mirror maze, haunted adventures, a moving theater and a fun zone.
Gatlinburg offers lodging at out-of-the-way places as well as rooms right in town and you will find plenty of options for every budget. You can stay in mountainside chalets, bed & breakfasts, condos, hotels and cabins. Or if you love the outdoors, you can pitch camp at a nearby campground. My daughter and I stayed at one of my favorite hotels, Hampton Inn Gatlinburg, which is right on the main street at 967 Parkway. It is located
in a great down town spot, has private balconies, creek or mountain view, offers a free breakfast bar, heated pool and fitness center.
Gatlinburg attracts more than eleven million visitors a year and has a population of 40,000-plus on any given day. Tourists come from all over the world for adventure, fun and memory making. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Gatlinburg this fall and I know my daughter did as well as when we were leaving she asked if we could come back for her birthday in December.
Have you experienced the beauty of Gatlinburg, TN in the Great Smoky Mountains?