Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a gorgeous town located in the heart of the Great Smoky mountains and such an underrated place to visit! I didn’t even know it existed until a few months ago, but I couldn’t be happier that I went. My family and I like to do random little trips every so often and this time we decided to spend a couple of days in Gatlinburg right before Thanksgiving break. This was really the perfect time to visit because the weather was nice and cool and the leaves were beautiful shades of red, orange, and gold, which made the mountains look even more beautiful. As someone who lives in Florida (where it feels like we only have two seasons: summer and slightly colder summer), seeing mountains and fall colored leaves is so exciting on its own. However, I was surprised to see that there’s actually a lot more to do in Gatlinburg than admire the scenery! With only two full days there we didn’t get to do a large amount of things, but we did enough to leave with amazing memories and a promise that we would return and see more one day.
Edit: Unfortunately, just a few days after returning home from Gatlinburg, wildfires spread across parts of the city and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I actually had this post up and ready to go the day I found out the news, so I decided to unpublish it and add my support before publishing it again. Gatlinburg (and nearby Pigeon Forge) is really such a wonderful place that I’d love to see again and my heart goes out to those affected by the fires. I really hope that this beautiful little city makes a strong and speedy recovery. If you’d like to help the people of Gatlinburg, I found a link with different ways you can help here .
Sugarlands Riding Stables
There’s nothing like riding a horse through the Smoky Mountains in the fall. This was actually my very first time horseback riding and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! I’ll admit I was a little nervous about it because as much as I love animals, I had the irrational fear of the horse kicking me off. A few minutes into the ride I realized that the horses here really do know what they’re doing and I was able to relax and take in the views and believe me, they were incredible. At Sugarlands Riding Stables you have an hour to ride your horse up and back down part of the Smoky Mountains where you get to see the other mountains surrounding you, beautifully colored trees, and babbling creeks. This was probably my favorite activity in Gatlinburg and I guarantee that every nature lover would really enjoy this experience.
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine
It doesn’t get more Southern than drinking moonshine in Tennessee. At Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine you can actually sample shots of several flavors of moonshine like coffee, pumpkin pie, margarita, peppermint, and more and you can also buy bottles of the flavors you liked. Of course, they check your I.D. so I couldn’t try any myself (about 4 more months to go!), but my parents loved them and this is something I’d really like to experience first-hand when I come back.
Arts and Crafts Fair
I just happened to stumble upon this fair while walking around the town and it was a really cool experience. This craft fair had a lot of different handmade items from bath bombs and body butters to Christmas decorations and wind chimes. The people at the stands were really friendly and there were a lot of really cute, unique things to buy, like candles that can be used as lotion when melted. Something I didn’t know until I left and researched Gatlinburg craft fairs is that Gatlinburg has a really strong arts and crafts community which I think is awesome because I really love seeing the things that other people create.
I think that the best possible way to take in the scenic town of Gatlinburg is by taking a ride on a sky lift. This is an open-air chair lift ride that goes up to 1,800 feet over the Smoky Mountains with a perfect view of Gatlinburg. It was breathtaking to say the least. I’m still in awe of the fact that such a beautiful place exists. In fact, during the sky lift ride I couldn’t help but get that overwhelming feeling that I get when seeing a new place that I love, that feeling that reminds me (as if I really need reminding) why I love traveling. Basically, the feeling of “wow, the world really has some beautiful places”. I’ve been saying “beautiful” a lot in this post, but that word especially sums up the sky lift. It’s a little difficult to get good pictures when going up the lift, but once you reach the top you’re able to get off and take pictures and also shop at a little gift shop before going back down and taking in the view again.
Blaine’s Grill and Bar
One thing I really love about traveling is eating food. Okay, maybe eating food is one of my favorite things in general. When it comes to the United States, one kind of food I really enjoy is Southern. Blaine’s Grill and Bar is a great place in Gatlinburg to have authentic Southern and BBQ food. I ordered a fried chicken sandwich with bacon, lettuce, and tomato with a side of potato salad and a lemonade. I couldn’t even finish it because it made me super full, which is unfortunate because it was delicious. The service there is great, too. The food didn’t take too long to be served and despite me accidentally spilling my lemonade (oops), the waitress was all smiles. Even though the food is mostly Southern and BBQ type food, the restaurant looked a lot like an Irish pub which was interesting. Definitely would recommend.
This isn’t exactly located in Gatlinburg, but in Pigeon Forge (just literally a few minutes away) is a street known as Arcade City. This street is filled with all kinds of bright neon light covered arcades. Arcade City was our last activity of day one and the perfect way to end the night. We chose to go to just Rockin Raceway Arcade (though I think “arcade hopping” around the street would be a cool idea). This arcade works kind of like Dave n’ Busters in the fact that you get all of your points for prizes on a card and you can come back and use this card as much as you want. There were all kinds of games here, from classics like Dance Dance Revolution and ball throwing games to a giant Connect 4 game and a zombie shooting game that you win or lose by how much you get scared (it measures your pulse to check). We decided to go with the 50 dollar card deal, which between 4 people still got us a lot of games. I don’t know exactly when we’ll be back in Gatlinburg, so we didn’t save our points and ended up getting a pink dolphin pool floatie, nerf gun, ball, and some candy with them.
Make sure to check out part two of this post: Exploring Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Day Two!