Gatlinburg is a resort town located in eastern Tennessee. It is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Downtown Gatlinburg may come as somewhat of a shock for those on their way to a nature getaway in the national park — from the Space Needle to the amusement rides, the town hasn't necessarily chosen to embrace its "nature" side. That said, there is plenty of lodging, restaurants, and other amenities to make this town a useful base for exploring the park.
The town's development is closely tied to that of the national park, which was opened in 1934. While in 1912 the town had only six houses, by 1935 over 500,000 visitors were passing through the town each year, and today over 9 million people each year visit the park. The town grew quickly to accommodate the influx, but has had to deal with issues of urban sprawl and air quality as a result of the huge numbers of outsiders that pass through. Gatlinburg is a typical tourist town, with many attractions and quirky shops lining the Parkway.
From the south, US 441 passes through the heart of the Smokies, bringing in traffic from Cherokee, NC. It is about 35 miles from Cherokee to Gatlinburg, but the high volume of tourist traffic on the road can make the trip at least an hour long.
From the east, US 321 brings in traffic directly from I-40 coming in from North Carolina.
Gatlinburg is a very popular resort town, which can be a nightmare for drivers during the peak summer months, especially on weekends. If you are headed to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park it is best to use the Gatlinburg Bypass to avoid the traffic delays. Once you are in town, there are several short cuts to get you through town and off the main drag!
Gatlinburg offers a trolley that takes tourists around the town without fighting the traffic. There are several park-and-ride locations: the Gatlinburg Visitor Center has free parking and access to the purple route; the Gatlingburg Mass Transit Center (located behind the Ripley's Aquarium) offers pay parking and access to all trolley routes. The Gatlinburg By-Pass allows traffic heading into the National Park from the north to bypass the Gatlinburg business district. There are scenic vistas along this road as well.
Most visitors to Gatlinburg are here due to the close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the surrounding outdoor adventures, but for those who want to escape from nature there are a vast number of attractions in town, ranging from interesting to educational to tacky & bizarre.
- Cooter's Place. Dukes of Hazzard store and museum.
- Gatlinburg Sky Lift. Ride up Crockett Mountain for panoramic views
- 1 Gatlinburg Space Needle. Observation tower and arcade.
- Guinness World Records Museum. 1,200 exhibits.
- Hollywood Star Cars Museum. Big star cars collection.
- Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Located at traffic light number 5, 1-865-430-8808. Open 365 days a year: 9AM-11PM Memorial Day through Labor Day, Su-Th 9AM-11PM and F,Sa 9AM-11PM the rest of the year. Ripley's Aquarium has the world's longest underwater aquarium tunnel; over 10,000 sea creatures including sharks, jellyfish cuttlefish, sea horses; hourly dive shows; other exhibits including Touch-A-Ray Bay; and educational programs. Adults $22.29, ages 6-11 $12.25, ages 2-5 $5.56, under 2 free. Annual passes available with various benefits.
- Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. 500 exhibits of incredible artifacts.
- [dead link] Smoky Mountain Winery. Complimentary tour and wine tasting.
- Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre. Lively music and top notch performers. Gatlinburg's only alternative to country shows.
- Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers, 561 Brookside Village Way, ☏ .
Visitors to town will likely spend their days in Great Smoky Mountains National Park enjoying activities such as hiking along the Appalachian Trail, but for those looking for adventure rides, arcades, water parks, or other diversions there is plenty to choose from in town.
- 1 Ober Gatlinburg. Includes an aerial tramway, alpine slide, bear habitat and ski resort.
- Wild Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark. The largest indoor water park resort in the South and the 5th largest in the country.
Festivals & Events
- March-June Smoky Mountain Springfest
- April 12 White Blaze Day benefiting The Appalachian Trail Conservancy ~ held in the parking lot of The Happy Hiker from 10am - 6pm. Free live Blue Grass, lots of food, - all proceeds benefits The Appalchian Trail Conservancey (the folks that maintain the AT).
- Mid April Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Easter Show
- Mid April Ribfest & Wings
- Late April Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
- Mid May Gatlinburg Scottish Festival & Games
- Mid May Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival
- Early July 4th of July Midnight Parade
- Early July River Raft Regatta
- September 1-December 31 Old Fashined Hayrides
- Mid September-Late October Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival
- Late September Taste of Autumn
- Early October Gatlinburg Heritage Days
- Early-Mid October Gatlinburg Craftmen's Fair
- November-February Smoky Mountain Winterfest
- Early November Winterfest Kickoff & Chili Cookoff
- Early November-Late December Gatlinburg Trolley Ride of Lights
- November 11 Veterans Day Celebration
- Late November Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Holiday Show
- November-December Old Fashioned Hayrides
- December 1 Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
- Early December Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Christmas Show
- December 31 New Years Eve Ball Drop and Pyrotechnic Show
- The Happy Hiker, 905 River Road (21 feet from the park entrance), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This store provides hiking supplies and food for park visitors.
- Alamo Steakhouse & Saloon, 705 E. Parkway, ☏ .
- Bennett's Pit Bar-B-Q, 714 River Rd.
- Blaine's Grill & Bar, 812 Parkway Suite 105.
- The Brass Lantern, 710 Parkway.
- Calhoun's, 1004 Parkway.
- Cherokee Grill, 1002 Parkway.
- Coffee Loft, 1420 E. Parkway.
- Greenbrier Restaurant, Newman Rd off US 321 N.
- Hard Rock Cafe, 515 Parkway.
- Howards Restaurant, 976 Parkway.
- Smoky Mountain Brewery, 1004 Parkway, ☏ . Daily 11:30AM-1AM. A cross between a ski lodge and a Bavarian beer hall, this pub offers sandwiches, snacks and beers, with televisions and an enclosed deck.
- Texas Roadhouse, 1019 Park Way, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-12AM. A chain restaurant that features steaks. $15-$25 per entree.
- The Peddler, 820 River Road, ☏ . A great steakhouse which allows patrons to view and choose from several cuts of steak before being cooked. Steaks are cooked over hickory for a nice woody flavor. Much better than chain steakhouse steaks. $15-$40 per entree.
Bed & Breakfasts
- The Foxtrot Bed & Breakfast, 1520 Garrett Lane (Garrett Lane is the second right off of Garrett Road. The Foxtrot B&B is the third house on the right approximately 2.8 miles from traffic light #10), toll-free: . Four guest rooms with private baths and views of Mt. Leconte and the Great Smoky Mountains. The balconies overlook Gatlinburg. $145-$185.
Hotels & Motels
- Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, 135 Reagan Dr (Behind the Space Needle and Ripleys Believe it or Not Museum, 1/2 Block from the Parkway), toll-free: . Downtown Gatlinburg Hotel offering 57 rooms and suites including jacuzzi suites, balcony rooms and fireplaces. All rooms have microwave, fridge, iron, ironing board, hair-dryer, coffee maker, free wifi and continental breakfast.
- River Terrace Resort and Convention Center, 240 River Rd, toll-free: . Offers private balcony views from king or double queen rooms with mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker. Amenities include two pools, a restaurant, lounge, and 25,000 square feet of meeting space that includes a ballroom, breakout rooms and a conference center. Bus parking available.
- Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, 915 Westgate Resort Rd. Family friendly resort hotel offering studio and one bedroom suites. Property includes swimming pools, a spa, a lounge, restaurant, arcade, walking trails, kids club and more. Also the home to the largest indoor water park in the south, Wild Bear Falls.
- Elk Springs Resort, 1088 Powdermill Rd (Glades Road to Powdermill in the Arts & Crafts Community), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Resort offering 1-5 bedroom cabins with hot tubs, Jacuzzi's, Saunas, pool table and other amenities. Free wireless internet.
- Cabins of the Smoky Mountains (Gatlinburg Falls Resort), 653 Hidden Valley Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 330 luxury cabins featuring amenities such as kitchens, game rooms, home theaters and hot tubs.
- 1 Cabins USA Gatlinburg, 849 Glades Rd. Unit 1A1, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. This local company offers cabins and chalets. Rentals range in size from honeymoon cabins to large group lodges that sleep over 20 guests.
- 2 Pioneer Rental Management, 4375 E. Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (US Hwy 441 into Gatlinburg, TN, then head East approximately 7 miles on US Hwy 321), ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM Eastern, check-out: 11AM Eastern. Cabins and chalets ranging from small honeymoon cabins to large group lodges that as many as 15 guests or more $.
- Camping in the Smokies.
- Leconte Vista RV Park & Campground 1739 Parkway.
- Twin Creek RV Resort, 1202 E. Parkway.
To the north, Pigeon Forge offers a wide array of shops and attractions including Dollywood. To the south, across the Great Smoky Mountains, the town of Cherokee is an interesting Indian village and casino gambling.
|Routes through Gatlinburg|
|Lenoir City ← Pigeon Forge ←||S N||→ Newport → Johnson City|
|Knoxville ← Pigeon Forge ←||N S||→ Great Smoky Mountains N.P. → Athens|