30 Things To Do In Gatlinburg This Summer

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Are you planning to visit Gatlinburg or the Smoky Mountains and wondering what are the best things to do in Gatlinburg this summer?

You came to the right place! Whether you are visiting Gatlinburg for just a day or planning a longer vacation in the Smoky Mountains, this guide should answer all your questions.

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Gatlinburg is a thriving town set in a valley of the Great Smoky Mountains and is a common stopping point for visitors looking to explore the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park.

Somehow it’s really tricky to find a comprehensive guide to things to do in Gatlinburg.

Everyone just tells you how amazing it is, without telling you where to go and what to see, or just mention a few most popular sights without showing what Gatlinburg is truly about.

Thus this guide to Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, not only covers all the main landmarks and must-see places in Gatlinburg but also includes a couple of lesser-known gems in Pigeon Forge.

I also included a few fun things to do that make your trip to Gatlinburg even more special and memorable so keep reading to find out!

Things to do in Gatlinburg

Things To Do In Gatlinburg 

To help you better plan your time in Gatlinburg at the bottom of this article I also included a map indicating all the things to do in Gatlinburg and a suggested itinerary for a one-day trip to Gatlinburg.

To make sure you don’t miss out on anything during your first experience in the Smoky Mountains, we’ve come up with 30 things to do in Gatlinburg this summer for first-time visitors.

Hiking Trails in The Great Smoky Mountains In Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Within its 800-mile trail system, you’ll see the best the park has to offer whether you’re on a short nature trail or a long hike. Here are some of my favorite free things to do in Gatlinburg.

Hiking Trails in The Great Smoky Mountains

There is truly nothing like the majestic beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Its lush green forest line of miles of trails, streams, and roadways in the spring and summer.

Gatlinburg’s Historic Sites

Gatlinburg has a history filled with stories, legends, and colorful characters including the city’s namesake.  Radford C. Gatlin was a controversial figure who opened the village’s second general store where he established a post office. 

Gradually, the village, which was named White Oaks Flats at the time became known as Gatlinburg,  Unfortunately, he was banished from the town around the town of Civil War for his political views.

Gatlinburg's Historic Sites

Centureis before the first Europeans arrived, the Cherokees called the area known as Gatlinburg Shaconage which means "Land of Blue Smoke"'. When Europeans did arrive around the turn of the 19th Century the community they established was known as White Oak Flats. One of the settlers was a man named William Ogle who arrived in 1802. He described Tennessee as "The Land of Paradise".

Best Attractions in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Gatlinburg offers outdoor adventures, kid-friendly attractions, scenic charms that keep families, friends, and let’s not forget romance for couples that keep people coming back, year after year.

Gatlinburg has everything from Downhill snow skiing, Class-IV whitewater rafting, world-class golf and fishing, and 600 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains, horseback riding is just a few of the recommended outdoor activities for your visit. 

Check out my top kid-friendly attractions approved by my daughter Madison.  

Top Attractions In Gatlinburg, Tennessee

If you’re looking for family fun, there’s no place better than Gatlinburg! Take the whole family to the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg, the only combined ski resort and amusement park in Tennessee, or check out our aquarium, water park, ropes course, zip lines, museums and many other fun Gatlinburg attractions.

Guide To Whitewater Rafting In Gatlinburg

Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned expert, regional rivers like the Big Pigeon offer fun-filled whitewater rafting just minutes from Gatlinburg.  Climb in, hang on for breathtaking views and fun your family won't forget in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Smokies feature great whitewater rafting! Read our guide to rafting on the Pigeon River near Gatlinburg. Find outfitters and things you need to know.

Distilleries and Wineries In Gatlinburg

With micro-brewed beer, fine wine, and even some authentic East Tennessee Moonshine, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to quench your thirst no matter what your taste are. Dont leave town without visiting a few of my favorite distilleries and wineries all of which offer tours, samples and shopping.

Best Places To Eat In Gatlinburg

You can work up quite an appetite seeing all of that nature and experiencing all of those attractions. Fortunately, from seafood to BBQ, to southern specialities and Gatlinburgs word famous pancakes. Here are my top dining options in Gatlinburg.

13 Best Shops In Gatlinburg, Tennessee

The words “shopping” and “Gatlinburg” make most people think of outlet malls, but for every brand name store, there are just as many local shops selling rare, one-of-a-kind Smoky Mountain items you just don’t find anywhere else. For a quaint mountain town, Gatlinburg has a ton of shopping options and all are within walking distance of each other.  Explore the shops of Gatlinburg with over 500 stores and galleries.  Chances you will not go home empty-handed! Here is a run down my 15 best places to shop in Gatlinburg.

14 Places To Stay In The Smoky Mountains

Whether you're looking for a simple hotel room on the Parkway or a massive cabin on a mountaintop, Gatlinburg is full of great lodging options.

Top Smoky Mountain Waterfalls Near Gatlinburg That You Have to See

A vacation to Gatlinburg, Tennessee wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that’s right on the doorstep of the tourist town. While there are many hundreds of miles of hiking trails to be explored, some of them lead to beautiful Smoky Mountain waterfalls that are part of this great landscape. Let’s talk about my top must-see waterfalls that are not only stunning but also are an easy drive away from the bustle of Gatlinburg.

Exploring Waterfalls In Gatlinburg

2021 Summer and Fall Events in Gatlinburg


May 24
Family Fest in the Smokies
Location: Gatlinburg Convention Center
Website: http://gaither.com/tour/family-fest


Early June
Synchronous Fireflies at Elkmont
Location: Park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and ride the trolley to Elkmont (parking pass required).
June 19-23
Details: In the first part of June, an amazing display of synchronous fireflies can be found near Gatlinburg at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s one of the only places in the world to see synchronous fireflies.


July 3-4
4th of July Gatlinburg Midnight Parade
Location: Gatlinburg Parkway
More info: click here
July 4
4th of July Gatlinburg Fireworks
Location: Gatlinburg Parkway


Aug 1-3
Gatlinburg Square and Round Dance Convention
Location: W. L. Mills Conference Center
Gatlinburg Gathering 2021
Location: Gatlinburg Convention Center


Late Sep – Early Nov
Fall Colors in the Smokies
During the fall, the Smoky Mountains transform into a beautiful palette of colors as leaves begin to change.
While the timing can never be predicted precisely to a specific day, we provide a fall color forecast for the Gatlinburg area to provide tips on the best time to visit to see the best possible colors!
Location: Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg Oktoberfest at Ober
Location: Ober Gatlinburg
Phone: 1-800- MUCH FUN


Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff
Location: Downtown Gatlinburg
Great Smoky Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show
Location: Gatlinburg Convention Center
Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show
Location: Gatlinburg Convention Center


Gatlinburg Winter Magic
Location: Gatlinburg
More info: click here
Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show
Location: Gatlinburg Convention Center
Gatlinburg Christmas Parade
Location: Downtown Gatlinburg along the Parkway
Time: 7:30pm
December 31
New Year’s Eve Ball Drop And Fireworks Show
Location: Around the intersection of Parkway and Historic Nature Trail at the base of the Space Needle
Time: Late Evening

How to Get to Gatlinburg, TN

Air Transportation

Knoxville’s McGhee-Tyson Airport is only 35 miles away and is served by seven airlines: Delta; Northwest; USAir; American Eagle; United/United Express; TWA and ComAir.

The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge Airport, seven miles from Pigeon Forge, has complete airport facilities for small private aircraft.

Miles To Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Atlanta, GA 205 Dayton, OH 375
Birmingham, AL 296 Indianapolis, IN 394
Charlotte, NC 197 Lexington, KY 240
Charleston, WV 316 Memphis, TN 426
Chicago, IL 578 Nashville, TN 220
Cincinnati, OH 323 New Orleans, LA 661
Dallas, TX 947 St. Louis, MO 549
Daytona Beach, FL 572 Washington, D.C. 508

Driving Directions

If traveling from: Consider this route:
Northern regions
such as Lexington, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, or Louisville
Take I-40 East from Knoxville to Exit 407, turn right onto State Route 66, continue until the first major intersection in Sevierville and turn left onto U.S. 411, follow U.S. 411 to State Route 416, turn right onto State Route 416 and follow until reaching U.S. 321, turn right onto U.S. 321 and continue until you reach Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg.
Eastern regions
including Richmond, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem or Charlotte
Consider I-40 West to Foothills Parkway Exit 443, turn onto U.S. 321 and continue until you reach Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg.
Southeast regions
including Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Spartanburg, Asheville, Jacksonville, Miami or Daytona Beach
Consider I-26 to I-40 West to Foothills Parkway Exit 443, turn left onto U.S. 321 and continue until you reach Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg.
Memphis or Nashville Consider I-40 East to Exit 364 at State Route 95, then U.S. 321 East continuing through Maryville and Townsend, then Highway 73 to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg.
Tampa, Montgomery, Birmingham, Macon, Atlanta or Chattanooga Consider I-75 to exit 81 at State Route 95, then Highway 321 East continuing through Maryville and Townsend, then Highway 73 to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg.

No matter the season, Gatlinburg offers a wide variety of attractions and activities. In the summer and fall, adventurers can hike, bike, and horseback ride through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In the winter, visitors can ski and snow tube at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort.

Year-round, this mountain town offers plenty of unique diversions you won’t find anywhere else, including moonshine tastings and an 8-mile loop of galleries and boutiques featuring Appalachian arts and wares like wood-carving and broom-making.

For a bird’s-eye view of the city, take the elevator up to the observation deck of the Space Needle or hop on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tram.

Conclusion of Best Things To Do In Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is a charming destination nestled at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Millions of families visit the Smoky Mountains each year.

While the town’s population is just under 4,000, Gatlinburg has a nice mix of small-town charm and a busy tourist destination. 

Experience southern hospitality, attractions, waterfalls, creeks, and local shopping that reflect true mountain living. BOOK YOUR GATLINBURG VACATION TODAY!

Ready to plan your trip, grab my FREE  Vacation Planner to help you plan your trip in the time it takes to watch your favorite TV show!

If you would like to donate to Passports and Grub click here! 

Travel Guide

Additional Articles For Exploring The Smoky Mountains

Christmas In The Smoky Mountains

4 Ultimate Water Parks in Tennessee

5 Best Places For Fall Vacation

Do any of my top things to do in Gatlinburg Tennessee peak your curiosity?  Is Gatlinburg on your summer bucket list? I would love to hear your thoughts, so leave me a comment on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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