Top 10 Things You Have to Do on a Gatlinburg TN Family Vacation

anakeesta in gatlinburg
January 9, 2024

Gatlinburg sees millions of visitors every year, and many of them are families coming to the area for a vacation. You may be wondering what everyone does when they are in town for a Gatlinburg TN vacation, and we want to share some of the most popular activities with you! Check out these 10 things you have to do on a Gatlinburg TN family vacation:

1. Go for a Hike

Gatlinburg sits on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are 850 miles worth of hiking trails throughout the park property. When you explore this park you will be treated to Appalachian history, views of these beautiful and old mountains, and may even some native wildlife. Some popular destinations in the park include Mt. Leconte, the Chimney Tops, Cades Cove, and so much more! This is one of the best things to do in Gatlinburg and absolutely a must do!

2. The Village Shops

The Village Shops in gatlinburg

The Village is like a mini town inside of Gatlinburg with European architecture and style. It’s full of unique stores and shops, that offer a one of a kind experience. The Donut Friar, located inside the Village is a favorite among locals and visitors! They freshly bake their goodies each morning!

3. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Who knew you could explore under the sea while in the Smoky Mountains! Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies has over 10,000 marine creatures living inside its walls. You will be able to walk through the shark tunnel which goes under the largest tank in the aquarium! You can watch penguins play and even purchase art made by them! Diving shows happen throughout the day, and there tons of interactive exhibits to see!

4. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

smoky mountain candy kitchen

If you have a sweet tooth, the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen can give you your fix! All of their candy they make themselves, and they have it all! From gummies, to chocolates and brittles, to the original taffy logs! They have two locations on the Parkway in Gatlinburg, and at both locations you can watch skilled workers make their incredible taffy. You’ll get to see the entire process of the taffy being stretched, rolled, and wrapped up individually! This is the perfect sweets shop to find a treat for everyone on your Gatlinburg TN family vacation!

5. Smoky Mountain Brewery

Searching for a great casual spot to dine? Smoky Mountain Brewery makes for a great casual date night or a family dinner during your Gatlinburg TN vacation! The have delicious, fresh American style food. Pizza and wings being some fan favorites. The two unique draws for the Brewery is the upstairs dining location, and their handcrafted beer! Even your pickiest eater will love their pizza!

6. Pancake Pantry


The Pancake Pantry has one of the prettiest building exteriors in Gatlinburg and some of the best pancakes! Everything on their menu is made from scratch including the whipped cream that goes on top! You won’t find a wider pancake variety, fresher ingredients, or a more unique and authentic experience than at the Pancake Pantry!

Tip: Please keep in mind, during busy seasons in Gatlinburg the wait can be kind of long, so arrive early.

7. Gatlinburg Bypass

The Gatlinburg Bypass is a 3.6 mile long road that goes up and around Gatlinburg. It connects from US 441 S (or the Spur) to inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Bypass offers great views of the Smoky Mountains and of Gatlinburg. The road has several pull off locations so you can take in the views and snap a few pictures.

8. Anakeesta

treetop skywalk at anakeesta

One of the best mountaintop attractions you have to visit on your Gatlinburg TN vacation is Anakeesta. Take a chairlift or enclosed gondola to the summit of Anakeesta, and once there you will get to explore their treehouse-themed village. If you’re scared of heights, ride in the Ridge Ramblers instead, adventure vehicles that drive you to the top of the mountain. You can shop, dine, zip line, walk in a tree canopy that’s more than 50 feet in the air, and more! There’s also a splash pad, two mountain coasters, gem mining, and various play areas. Anakeesta is a great way to spend some time with the family and see beautiful views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains.

9. Ober Mountain

Do you enjoy snow tubing, or ice skating, or pretty views? Ober Mountain is a ski resort and amusement park located on Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg. It offers seasonal winter sports like snowboarding or tubing during the winter months, but ice skating is offered year round. You will also find restaurants to dine in, shopping, a wildlife habitat to visit, and some fun thrill rides up here. This makes a great must-do for a Gatlinburg TN family vacation.

10. Gatlinburg SkyPark

gatlinburg sky lift

Another popular mountain-top attraction you should visit on your Gatlinburg TN vacation is Gatlinburg SkyPark. Ride the famous Gatlinburg SkyLift to the top of the mountain, where you’ll be greeted with stunning mountain views and plenty of opportunities to relax and have fun. Walk across the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in. North America, or go for a stroll along the SkyTrail! Both offer incredible views of the mountains and the city of Gatlinburg. Then, you can cool off and grab a drink or snack in the SkyCenter before riding the Gatlinburg SkyLift back down to the heart of Gatlinburg!

Want to know more about this mountain town? Learn about Gatlinburg history here!

Where to Stay for Your Gatlinburg TN Vacation

There is no better place to stay for your family’s Gatlinburg TN vacation than our cabin rentals! We have a great selection of Gatlinburg cabin rentals that can accommodate families of all sizes and come with everything you need and more for a great stay. Choose from cabins with home theaters, game rooms, full kitchens, fire pits, and even swimming pool access! Plus, you’ll be just a short drive from all of these fun things to do in town.

Ready to start planning? Take a look at all of our Gatlinburg cabins and find the perfect cabin for your Gatlinburg TN family vacation!