We’re always telling you what to do in the Great Smoky Mountains, but we have some things for you not to do!

a man and woman drinking beer at Anakeesta

1. Don’t think Gatlinburg is just for kids

There are so many grown-up things to do here – from driving UTVs and sky-high bars with the most amazing views to nighttime walks and daytime adventures from hikes to ziplining.

UTV Rentals: If you’ve been to Gatlinburg in recent years, chances are you’ve seen a UTV.  Rental agencies popped up all over town and create a unique way to see the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.  Pack a picnic and head to a local favorite swimming spot:  Greenbrier.  Drive the primitive roads in your UTV and choose a picnic site at the picnic area.  Of course, for the more adventurous, you can always pull right up next to the stream and splash around in the river on a hot summer day! Or throw in a fishing line (make sure you have a license). Or sit at Cades Cove watching for wildlife – just don’t feed them!

Rentals across town range from hourly to daily – you’re only limited by your imagination.

skybridge at sunset

Skylift Park

For an adventure where sky’s the limit, take the Skylift up to Skylift park, then stroll across the Sky Bridge. The lift takes visitors up and down the mountain for spectacular 360-degree views. Visitors get off at the Skydeck, where they can sit outside, buy a beer and do some shopping.

The SkyCenter at the SkyDeck on Crockett Mountain, overlooking Gatlinburg offers up “sweeping panoramic views” of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Two floors include a gift shop, a snack bar with pizza, salads, wraps, and ice cream treats, along with a second floor with an enormous seating area and bar with those amazing views day or night.

While you’re at the top of Crockett Mountain, wander over to the Sky Bridge for a little adventure.

Billed as North America’s largest pedestrian suspension bridge – Sky Bridge is 680 feet from tower to tower. What is on the other side of the 140-foot-high suspension bridge? There are long-term plans for some attractions on the other side, but for now, it’s an experience with fantastic views.

Anakeesta

Anakeesta is a theme park located on 70 acres of forested land in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg with plenty of adult fun and relaxation offerings.

dueling ziplines at anakeesta

Anakeesta’s Dueling Zipline Adventure has its visitors zipping through the treelines high over the forest floor. The three zips offer beautiful views of the Smokies while zipping down side-by-side with a friend, partner, spouse. Along the way, are two challenge stations where rappelling off platforms in a controlled descent is an option. “Zipline guests end their journey via a short downhill path to our Chondola mid-station and ride the Chondola back to the summit of Anakeesta.

Take in the scenic views of the Smokies and Downtown Gatlinburg. Stroll along meandering trails in the lush botanical Vista Gardens Walk. Learn about the history and nature of Anakeesta at the Memorial Forest Walk. Enjoy the fire circle while listening to storytellers or live music.

Food and Drinks

At the top of Anakeesta is The Bar at the Top of the World, part of The Cliff Top Grill & Bar.

Here, visitors take in the beautiful scenery, have a beer or a cocktail – try Karen’s Sweet Tea, and maybe snack such as the southern favorite Fried Green Tomatoes or a ½ pound char-grilled Smoky Mountain burger that comes with your choice of unique toppings. Check out the menu.

Visit the oldest winery in East Tennessee, Smoky Mountain Winery, and taste award winning wines that keep customers coming back year after year. The Smoky Mountain Winery is located at 450 Cherry St Ste 2, Gatlinburg. It is part of a string of wineries in the area. Take a day and tour them all! There are shuttles to take you along the Rocky Top Wine Trail!

2. Don’t forget the kids (you can bring them!)

The Smoky Mountains are known for their majestic beauty. Even your littlest ones can appreciate the wonder of nature as you take a leisurely stroll. Be sure to check out of the area’s dozens of hiking trails, many of which are perfect picks for kids. The National Parks Services website has a list of family-friendly trails. To save you some time, we’ve highlighted our favorites.  For instance, Porters Creek is a great opportunity to teach your kids about history. The area was originally part of a European settlement, and many remnants of the small town remain.

And if your little ones get fussy, no worries! The trail is around 2 miles to Porters Flat, the highlight of the trail.

You can also visit Abrams Falls if you’re feeling a bit adventurous. After all, nothing is more fun for kids than adventuring and exploring nature.  The falls themselves are about 20 feet tall, but it’s a bit of a hike to get to the scenic view. If you’re worried about grumpy kids, stock up on snacks and water bottles and make a day of it.

Dollywood

No list of Smoky Mountains activities is complete without a mention of Dollywood. It is, after all, one of the area’s most famous attractions. And for good reason!

For decades, Dollywood has provided families a place to spend some time together. In fact, there’s so much to do that you may want to split your trip to Dollywood into two days.

For starters, you’ve got the traditional theme park. Kids and adults alike are sure to love the awesome thrills of the many rides. The  park has everything from roller coasters to log flumes to our favorite, bumper cars.

Finish off your day (or days) with dinner at Dolly Parton’s Stampede. It’s dinner and a show with a fun, family-friendly twist! Guests of American Patriot Getaways can purchase discount show tickets for this amazing dinner show!

Ripley’s

Visit the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum Located in the heart of Gatlinburg, this museum is dedicated to all things odd.

It’s an affordable set of attractions that’ll be plenty of fun for kids. The Ripley’s museum has split off into a variety of activities, so here’s a briefing on what you’d be remiss to skip.

The Odditorium is the central figure of the Ripley’s attractions and features a massive collection of oddities. From shrunken heads to the infamous vortex tunnel to a robot sculpture, your kids will be amazed!

Ripley's Believe it or Not at night

And since the museum is spread over 3 floors, you can easily spend an entire day checking out the museum.

If your children are a bit older, they’re sure to enjoy Ripley’s Haunted Adventure. With live actors and a fun, but chilling atmosphere, your kids will be scared silly. A word of warning, however, children must be at least 6 or older to enter.

If you’re just looking for some good fun, there’s the Ripley’s Mini-Golf attraction. Teach your kids a thing or two about putt-putt while you play up to 54 holes on a variety of themed courses.

Finally, we absolutely love the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – consistently voted the #1 Aquarium in America. Children of all ages will love the aquarium. This massive aquarium gives you the chance to walk under tunnels and see marine life in massive habitats.

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies

The Aquarium has become a staple in Gatlinburg, so we suggest making it your priority.

Be sure to check out the multi-attraction discount to save some cash.

The aquarium also has sensory-friendly nights for a quieter experience – perfect for those families of children who experience autism or other sensory processing disorders.

Looking for kid-friendly food? Check our blog on just that – here.

3. Don’t be surprised if you see a bear

Don’t be surprised if you see a bear seeing a black bear on your trip to the Great Smoky Mountains is a bucket list experience for many.  With more than 1600 black bears in our area, your chances of seeing one are pretty high!  While it’s always exciting to see a black bear in the Smoky Mountains, everyone wants to be safe while doing so.  Luckily, we’ve got plenty of bear safety tips to keep you and your family – as well as Smoky himself – protected during your encounter.black bear snacking on flowers in a field

  • Keep your distance – 150 feet. If a black bear changes their behavior, you more than likely are too close to that bear.  Behavior changes can include charging, swatting at the ground, and making loud noises.
  • Keep Food Away from Bears. When bears learn humans provide food, they lose their fear of people.  It is critical for humans to never approach or feed bears for their safety, as well as ours.
  • You finally spot that black bear – congratulations!  So, now we know not to get too close and to not feed the bear.  What do you do if you see one?  The number one thing you can do if you’re properly distanced from a bear is to enjoy the experience.  Don’t forget to take a photo – or 10!
  • If you’re driving, pull off the road and park your vehicle to let other cars pass.  Don’t block traffic to catch a glimpse of a wild animal.  Don’t get out of your car to get closer either.

For the best places to see bears, check out this blog post!

4. Don’t let the weather get you down

Sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t always take our plans into account. The Smoky Mountains are considered a temperate rainforest, with the high elevations of our mountains seeing more than 80 inches of rain per year! Don’t let a little precipitation put a damper on your vacation.  There’s still plenty to do in the Smokies, even in the rain. Check out our list of fun activities to do indoors in the Smoky Mountains.

Indoor Golf Course at Crave Golf Club in Pigeon Forge, TN

Indoor the candy-themed Minigolf at Crave Golf Club .

Wonderworks of Pigeon Forge

If you’ve got kids who love to run, jump, and play Wonderworks is the perfect destination!  With so many hands-on exhibits to engage the senses, kids can learn and have fun on their spring break.  Six different WonderZones of discovery encourage kids to run at the speed of light, stomp aliens back to their home planets, and even give kids the chance to crawl into a replica of a one-man spacecraft.

Dinner Shows

Do we have dinner shows! Check out our blogs to read all about Pirates Voyage, the Grand Majestic and more dinner theaters.

Check out TopJump Trampoline & Extreme Arena, Ice Skating and Ice Bumper Cars YEAR ROUND at Ober Gatlinburg.

Take a Scenic Drive or see Sugarlands Visitor Center

Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A classic scenic drive through the clouds of the rainy weather up to Newfound Gap or Clingman’s Dome will give you a whole new view of this temperate rainforest.  A trip to Cades Cove in the rain will mean fewer visitors and an opportunity to see wildlife in the smoky, rainy meadows.

The Sugarland’s Visitor Center makes a perfect rainy-day activity.  Home to an expansive natural history exhibit, you can see replicas of hellbender salamanders, Smokies flora, and learn a little

5. Don’t forget to book a cabin for your stay

There is so much to look forward to in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains! When you book one of our Gatlinburg cabins , you’ll be close to all the action, excitement, and new attractions the area has to offer.  Book today and let us know how you plan on spending time in the Great Smoky Mountains in 2021!

A cabin in front of a blue sky called Family Tradition

Give American Patriot Getaways a call at 800-204-5169. Let our experts help you find the right cabin and all the right fun, food and entertainment for an adult vacation that will have you wanting to come back as soon as possible.

See our Pinterest board Gatlinburg Luxury Cabins. For more adventures, go to our Smoky Mountain Travel Guide.

If you need more help planning your Smoky Mountain Vacation, be sure to check out all our vacation guides, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Leave a comment