Gatlinburg is home to so much beauty and unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else.
1. The Mountains, of Course!
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.
The crest of the Great Smokies 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
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
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. Don’t feed the animals or try to interact with them. These are WILD animals, remember.
The Smokies are home to as many as 1 million wildflowers. Take a walk on any given spring day and you’ll be amazed.
Check out this video
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:
Looking to take a hike to these impressive falls yourself? Check out our blog post about the best family waterfall hikes in the Smokies!
2. Sky Bridge
Billed as North America’s largest pedestrian suspension bridge – Sky Bridge is 680 feet from tower to tower. There are long-term plans for some attractions on the other side, but for now, the bridge in Gatlinburg is an experience all its own – with fantastic views.
To get to the Sky Bridge, take the Skylift up to Skylift park. The lift takes visitors up and down the mountain for spectacular 360-degree views. Visitors get off at the new 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.
A $20 ticket gets one adult a round-trip on the SkyLift and all-day access to the SkyCenter and the Sky Bridge. Tickets are available at the SkyLift ticket office in Gatlinburg or online in advance.
3. Pancakes! Pancakes! Pancakes!
Oh boy, do we love pancakes in the Smokies, and there is no shortage of places to get the sweet, fluffy breakfast cake – most any time of day.
Did you know that pancakes are an ancient food? According to National Geographic, “the ancient Greeks and Romans ate pancakes, sweetened with honey; the Elizabethans ate them flavored with spices, rosewater, sherry, and apples. They were traditionally eaten in quantity on Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day, a day of feasting and partying before the beginning of Lent. Pancakes were a good way to use up stores of about-to-be-forbidden perishables like eggs, milk, and butter, and a yummy last hurrah before the upcoming grim period of church-mandated fast.”
For those keeping track, today is that last day before Lent – it’s Fat Tuesday, and the 40 days of Lent, start tomorrow – Wednesday! Get yourself out to one of these spots to celebrate!
Atrium Pancakes, 432 Parkway, Gatlinburg, serves a baked apple pancake that is truly different. They also serve Caribbean pancakes with bananas and coconut – and much more!
Log Cabin Pancake House, 327 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, has 12 kinds of pancakes plus seven kinds of Crepes (French pancakes)! From old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes to wild blueberry pancakes; butterscotch chip pancakes to pigs in a blanket; and blackberry crepes to peach crepes, Log Cabin Pancake House has many flavors to offer in the restaurant with the wagon on top.
Pancake Pantry, 628 Parkway, Gatlinburg, was Tennessee’s first pancake house when it opened in 1960. Located in a hard-to-miss building with a majestic slate roof, gables and large windows, the pancake house continues to make everything from scratch. With 26 pancake and crepe choices on the uniquely designed menu, it could take you a while to decide! There are sweet potato pancakes, corn meal pancakes, pecan pancakes and sugar and spice pancakes among the options.
Little House of Pancakes, 807 E. Parkway, Gatlinburg, serves “all you can eat” pancakes for $8.25. They are served with whipped butter and homemade hot syrup. Fillings or toppings may be added for a charge – and there are many to choose from – strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, pecan, peach, apple, cherry, banana, chocolate chip … YUM!
Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin has three locations in Gatlinburg alone: 146 Parkway before Traffic Light 1; 956 Parkway after traffic light 8; and 478 E. Parkway, highway 321 before traffic light 1A.
Flapjack’s is home of the sticky bun pancake – Cinnamon swirled pancakes, blended with pecans and topped with cream cheese icing. Also on the menu are Reese’s peanut butter pancakes and cinnamon harvest pancakes. And of course, traditional buttermilk pancakes plane or with toppings!
After filling up in town, you might want to try pancakes in your Smoky Mountain cabin. Get creative! Here is the recipe Southern Living calls “The Best Pancake Recipe Ever”
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
Stir together flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and eggs; gradually stir into flour mixture. Gently stir in butter. (Batter will be lumpy.) Let stand 5 minutes.
Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot (350°) buttered griddle.
Cook pancakes 3 to 4 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked. Turn and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Place pancakes in a single layer on a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200° oven up to 30 minutes.
Located in nearby Pigeon Forge, Smoky Mountain Cat House has been a mountain destination for cat lovers from around the world for more than 30 years. Established in 1985, by Cheryl and Phil Anderson as a warm and welcoming place for “cat people” as well as the curious shopper visiting the Smokies.
In their own words, the Anderson’s say: “The Cat House is a place to relax, were you can be yourself and show off your favorite cat pictures or share a story with like-minded cat lovers. We feature the ‘thing’ that make us and our cats happy, but most of all we hope to be your home away from home where you can pet and play with a cat when you’re away from your own!”
Find the Cat House at 3327 Old Mill Street – Pigeon Forge, (865) 428-6133
5. See the Beautiful Birds at Parrot Mountain
Parrot Mountain and Gardens is set to open for the season in March in Pigeon Forge on four acres of landscaped gardens. Billed a paradise for “hundreds and hundreds of beautiful tropical birds and thousands and thousands of flowers and plants and trees.”
Visitors to the park can see the bird garden where about 70 birds hang out on open perches and visitors can feed them seed and have pictures taken with them. A stroll past the bird garden, takes visitors to the Lory Aviary where they can feed the multicolor lories nectar from a cup.
Check out Parrot Mountain at 1471 McCarter Hollow Road, Pigeon Forge. Definitely call first – (865) 774-1749.
When you book one of American Patriot Getaway’s Cabins at Hidden Springs Resort, you’ll stay super close to Parrot Mountain. Check out all our offerings in the resort community, which features a year-round indoor swimming pool!
If you are looking for live action and comedy, check out Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre. Now in its 44th season, the historic theater produces outrageous musical comedies in a Vaudeville-Carol Burnett Show-Monty Python kind of style. Visitors can expect silly humor, hilarious antics and audience participation in this unique theater.
Find Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre at 461 Parkway, Gatlinburg, (865) 436-4039.
Started by an archaeologist who fell in love with the history behind salt and pepper shakers after she and her husband and son went looking for a pepper mill – just for practical purposes. That was 25 years ago. From then until 2001, Rolf, Andrea and their children just collected salt and pepper shakers, and Andrea started photographing them in the 90s, she writes on the museum Website.
By 2001, the couple had moved to the Smoky Mountains from Texas and were overrun with boxes of salt and pepper shakers. They decided to open a museum. The collection stands at more than 20,000.
“One of the main purposes of the museum is to show the changes in a society that can be found represented in shakers. As you walk through the museum you can see the changes from ancient times to the 1500’s, 1800’s, 1920’s, 40’s, 60’s all the way to present time
“Another purpose of the museum is to show the variety and the creativity that can be found in salt and pepper shakers. Who were the people and the artists creative enough to come up with all these amazing different shapes?”
See the entire collection at 561 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, (865) 430-5515.
8. Synchronized fireflies (lightning bugs for us southerners)
This is an experience of a lifetime – and takes some planning.
Each and every year in the Smoky Mountains, for a magical few nights in June, One of the 19 species of fireflies in the park – the Photinus carolinus – synchronize their flashing pattern.
The National Park Service holds a lottery each year to allow a certain number of cars and people to go to the best viewing area where the insects are known to flash in unison. This year’s lottery opens April 24 and ends April 28.
Check out our blog on synchronized fireflies.
9. Go Glamping – in a tent or in a treehouse!
Just because you want to spend some time in nature doesn’t mean you have to “rough it.” You can Glamp!
Under Canvas offers safari-style canvas tent camping that offers luxury under the stars from April 2 – Nov. 30.Visitors stay in a tent on a 182-acre camp minutes from the national park. Tents come in several sizes and include bathrooms with running water and showers. Glamping packages are 2, 3 and 4 nights and include daytime adventure options such as Smoky Mountains hiking and driving tours, helicopter tours, fly fishing, ziplining and whitewater rafting.
There’s coffee service, daily housekeeping, meals, fire pits, s’mores and camp activities. This isn’t your childhood camping!
Contact Under Canvas at 1015 Laurel Lick Road, Pigeon Forge, 865-263-1006.
Prefer four walls? Sleep in a treehouse! American Patriot Getaways has treehouse options that are fun and have hot tubs!
BOOK YOUR TREEHOUSE OR CABIN
No matter what unique adventures you choose in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll want a cozy place to relax, hang out lay your head. Whether you want a treehouse experience or one of our many beautiful cabins, American Patriot Getaways can help you decide.
Book a Gatlinburg Cabin with a hot tub so you’ll have the perfect place to unwind under the stars. Be sure you check out all our amazing featured deals so you can get the best price for your synchronized firefly vacation or your pancake extravaganza!
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 your perfect Smoky Mountains vacation.