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Heading up to Gatlinburg is a ticket to amazing natural wonders, nights around the fire, nature walks, zip lines, ice skating, great food, cozying up in a Gatlinburg cabin rental and so much more! Before you head the Great Smoky Mountains, we’ll share with you some things you are not to do – some of these are just not to be missed!

1. Don’t forget the Smokies can be fun for adults and kids, as well as just the adults.

Whether you like museums, miniature golf, scenic helicopter rides, arcades, go carts, snowboarding, or ziplining, you’ll have tons of fun for kids of all ages in Gatlinburg.

Firstly, check out events at Ober Mountain where winter wonders happen all year long. Ober Mountain Amusement Park and Ski Resort is a “mountaintop of fun, excitement and beauty.” Little and big kids alike AND all the adults can find adventures and entertainment at Ober – outside or warm and cozy inside. In winter, there’s skiing, snowboarding and tubing. Ober Mountain has 10 trails from beginner to advanced, including a freestyle Terrain Park. There are seven lifts to get you there.  Check out the Slope report and the live webcams. One camera points at the activities going on. The other camera is the Mountain Valley view.

There’s also ice skating and ice bumper cars, a mountain coaster, food, beverages (for adults and kids) and incredible views year-round.

Then, board the Aerial Tramway in downtown Gatlinburg and avoid the drive up the mountain while taking in, arguably, the best views as you soar above Gatlinburg for more than 2 miles. The cable car has been taking passengers from downtown Gatlinburg to the Ober amusement park and ski area since August 1973. Check out this video for a taste of what you’ll experience!

For more adventure check out recommendations for ziplining and white water rafting.

For more winter fun, check out our blog posts on Winterfest and winter hiking tips.

Just the adults?

There’s plenty for adults to do in Gatlinburg – from driving UTVs  and sky-high bars – including Anakeesta  The Bar at the Top of the World – that have the most amazing views to nighttime walks and daytime adventures from hikes to ziplining.

2. Don’t miss the leaves

The Great Smoky Mountains’ beauty is exponentially increased as it peaks into the fabric and hues of fall colors. In fall, the mountains are awash in brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds as the fall leaf season brings glorious color to Gatlinburg and east Tennessee.

Stretching over 500,000 acres into both North Carolina and Tennessee, these mountains are home to thousands of species of plants and wildlife that have been thriving and diversifying for millennia, as one of the world’s few International Biosphere Reserves.

Maybe you’ll want to take a drive along one of the scenic highways, or perhaps travel down one of the 800 miles of trails or just sit on the deck of your American Patriot Getaways cabin and enjoy the trees as they change their summer canopy into a crazy quilt of flaming reds and coppery oranges. Read about the best places to see fall colors in our blog post.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park stretches across more than 800 square miles of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The park is home to amazing wildlife, breathtaking views all year long and some of the oldest mountains in the world.

While you are leaf peeping, enjoy great peaks, trails and waterfalls. The crest of the Great Smokies that runs in an unbroken chain of peaks that rise more than 5,000 feet for more than 36 miles. Elevations in the park range from 876 to 6,643 feet – at Clingman’s Dome.

The Top 10 Peaks (elevation in feet)

Clingmans Dome – 6,643
– Mount Guyot – 6,621
– Mount Le Conte (High Top) – 6,593
– Then, Mount Buckley – 6,580
– Mount Love – 6,420
– Mount Chapman – 6,417
– Old Black – 6,370
– Luftee Knob – 6,234
– Mount Kephart – 6,217
– Mount Collins – 6,118


Ample rainfall (85″+ per year) and elevation gradients in the Smokies are the perfect recipe for waterfalls. Sizes and flow can range from small trickles found on most streams, to cascades and waterfalls up to 100 feet high. Some of the most popular waterfalls are:

Abrams Falls
Grotto Falls
Laurel Falls
Lynn Camp Prong Cascades
Mingo Falls
Mouse Creek Falls
Rainbow Falls
Ramsey Cascades

Looking to take a hike to these impressive falls yourself?  Check out our blog post about the best family waterfall hikes in the Smokies, and check out our Gatlinburg hiking guide.

3. Another “Not To Do” – Don’t skip Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a favorite destination for many people visiting the Smokies.  If Cades Cove was its own National Park, it would be the third most visited national park in the country. More than 11 million people coming through the Smokies each year, and nearly 4 million of them choose a trip to Cades Cove.

The 11-mile, one-way road through Cades Cove makes a scenic drive through an amazing valley.  If you need to stretch your legs a bit more t, there’s no shortage of hiking trails. If you’re looking for something short and gentle for all ages in the family, check out the Cades Cove Nature Trail. This 0.8 mile walk is a loop hike gaining only 210’ in elevation.  Pass over creeks through the dense forest and enjoy the valley.

If you’re looking for a different way to experience nature in Cades Cove, you could give horseback riding a try!  Cades Cove Riding Stables is the only park-authorized stable for Cades Cove and is a great way to spend the morning or even an entire day.

Cades Cove is known by many to be the best place in the Smokies to view wildlife, including its most famous resident – the black bear. They are most active dawn to dusk. Be sure to look up in the trees! Read more about Cades Cove and its hiking trails.

4. Don’t feed the animals

Speaking of animals, If you do spot wildlife nearby, drive slowly and always make sure to pull out of the roadway as a courtesy to others if you are stopping to get a better look. However, if you see wildlife close to your car, do not approach the animals. Furthermore, do not feed the animals!  The National Park Service recommends a distance of AT LEAST 50 yards (half a football field, or 150 feet) to watch.  Why is this one on our list of what not to do? Well, remember – animals in Cades Cove are wild and not domesticated, which means they are unpredictable. Never feed or approach wildlife whether in our car, on a walk or while in our cabin.

The park is home to many animal species including black bears, elk, white-tailed deer, turkeys, salamanders and hundreds of native and migratory birds. Cataloochee Valley and Cades Cove offer great opportunities for viewing wildlife. But, don’t feed the animals or try to interact with them, and remember, these are WILD animals!

5. Don’t forget the great food for people!

From pancakes, country ham and fried green tomatoes to pulled pork, pizza, trout and dry-aged steaks, Gatlinburg has something for everyone.

Breakfast is for pancakes and as the pancake capitol of the world, there are tons of spots to choose from.  In addition to buttermilk pancakes, there’s blueberry, strawberry, pumpkin, baked apple, peanut butter, chocolate chips, southern pecan, buckwheat, sand dollar, and just about anything you can think of!

If you’re wondering what’s for lunch, you’re in luck. When you’re on vacation – you probably start talking about lunch (dinner as it is called in the South) while you are having breakfast or out on an early walk in the Great Smoky Mountains during your Tennessee trip. Check our suggestions for unique, fun and tasty options.

Next up is dinner, and oh, do we have options! From outdoor spots (Anakeesta’s The Bar at the Top of the World) to best new restaurants (The Appalachian) where there’s everything from fine dining to smoked chicken, brisket, pizza and wings.

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

When you are ready to book your cabin rental, it may seem simple enough. Find your cabin, then hit “book”. However, before you take the plunge, and before you make the trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. Check out our blog post about choosing a cabin.

There is so much to look forward to in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains! Also, 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, so book today and let us know how you plan on spending time in the Great Smoky Mountains!

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.

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

Come join us in Gatlinburg and book your cabin today!

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