Gatlinburg is a gorgeous mountain town in Eastern Tennessee, and it’s one of the best places you can pick for a trip, and rightfully so. There is no shortage of things to do and places to see while you’re there.
So whether you want to explore The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, take a walk through Ripley’s Aquarium, or ride the Space Needle, you’re bound to have a grand time. Although, it can be very overwhelming to plan a trip when you’re visiting for the first time.
Keep reading to find out how you can make your trip to Gatlinburg as amazing as possible!
Table of Contents
1 – Choose The Right Season
You’ve decided to go to Gatlinburg, but when exactly should you plan the trip? Well, since this city is known for its beautiful scenic views, it makes sense to visit during a season that’ll only elevate the experience.
The most popular times to visit are fall and summer. A major reason for this is the fall foliage that starts around mid-September and reaches its peak in October. It’s a gorgeous sight to witness, and the weather is pretty amazing. But if you’re looking to avoid the traffic and rush of peak tourist season, you can visit in winter, between November and February.
2 – Find The Perfect Place To Stay
Where you’re staying plays a big part in how well your experience goes on the trip. The most popular choice is the Gatlinburg cabins, which are essential to the experience of this mountain town.
Gatlinburg has incredible cabin options that offer breathtaking views of the mountains, home theaters, gaming rooms, and hot tubs. There’s something for everyone based on your budget, so be sure not to miss out on it. However, if you want to stay somewhere that gives you a more personal taste of the city, you can book a hotel in downtown Gatlinburg.
3 – Pack Accordingly
Your packing depends on the weather in town, so check it before you begin packing for the trip. You’ll also need to keep in mind the elevation. For winter, go for warmer options like coats and sweaters.
Though September is still on the warmer side, October will bring the cold with it. Pack a few off-season pieces regardless of when you’re going because weather changes are frequent.
For summer, some basic shorts and t-shirts are the go-to. Although if you plan on hiking, a pair of long pants will be helpful. Hiking boots are also a must, regardless of the season. No matter your plans, you will end up walking a lot, and hiking boots are a choice that will save you from a lot of pain.
4 – Skip Breakfast At Home
Gatlinburg is well known for its breakfast options, and you don’t want to miss out on their most popular item – pancakes! Not only that, but they also serve very generous portions that are sure to give you the energy you need for the day. If you’re not an early riser, no worries.
Breakfast spots in Gatlinburg tend to serve breakfast all day long. You can explore the city and go for what seems the most appealing, or plan and visit the best-rated spots. For example, you can check out Pancake Pantry, Tennessee’s first ever pancake house, which has been around for decades.
Though there is quite a rush, the wait isn’t nearly as long as you’d expect. There is no shortage of options, so you definitely won’t go hungry or unsatisfied.
5 – Book A Tour
Since it’s your first time, it might be a bit hectic to try and tour the city and all it offers by yourself. You might also miss out on many incredible sights because you didn’t know or couldn’t fit them into your schedule.
If you want a typical tour showing all the scenic views in the city, there are tons of great options. However, if generic tours aren’t something you’re interested in, some specific ones are super cool.
For example, you can try out a Haunted Gatlinburg Tour, where your guide will give you a tour of all the haunted spots in the city, starting downtown. Of course, if you’re there around the Halloween season, that’ll only elevate the experience.
Other than that, if you have a taste for adult beverages, you can tour the Ole Smokey Moonshine Distillery, where you can explore and try out their famous moonshine. Make sure to bring your ID, though.
6 – Take A Trip Downtown
Once you’re done with the major sites and tours, take some time to explore downtown Gatlinburg on your own. Make sure to visit some of the popular eateries and do some shopping.
Some places you should check out are the Village Shops that give off a lovely old Europe vibe, complete with small alleys and brick streets. If you’re a bit of a history nut, you can check out the Historic Ogle Cabin, which has existed since Gatlinburg’s earliest days.
If you’re looking just to let loose or have kids with you, check out Gatlin’s Fun Centre, which has a variety of activities from golf to bumper cars and a laser maze. That’ll make Gatlinburg a favorite vacation spot for the little ones.
7 – Consider Parking Fares
If you plan on getting around downtown Gatlinburg in a car, prepare beforehand to spend quite a lot on parking. It can cost around $10 to $20 to park for a day, depending on how long you’re visiting, which can be a significant amount. So it’s best to walk for shorter distances or quick trips.
If you’re not in a position to walk a lot, you can utilize the Gatlinburg Trolley. Not only will you get to sit back and enjoy the city, but you can also avoid paying unnecessarily. It is especially helpful if you’re only in the city overnight and don’t want to spend a lot.
So, here are our tips on how you can make the most of your first trip to Gatlinburg. It can be a bit overwhelming since there is a lot to do but plan well and leave some time to explore on your own.
Don’t feel forced to go to a spot just because it’s popular, and visit the places that are most interesting to you. Have a great trip!
Erin is the mother of identical twin girls and their slightly older brother. She is a domestic engineer, and previously had a career leading customer service teams for a major HVAC company. Cleaning without harsh chemicals, and cooking easy and usually healthy meals are part of Erin's daily life. She volunteers with youth leaders, and genuinely wants to help others win. Erin has a degree in Communications, with a focus on Broadcast Journalism.