Enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains during Spring Break – wildflowers, hikes, rollercoasters, Dollywood opening and much more!
Whether you want to get physical in the outdoors; play; be entertained by amazing artists; eat and drink fun and interesting foods; or just relax with spectacular views, the Great Smoky Mountains has what you are looking for this spring.
Spring hikes and wildflowers
There are more species of flowering plants in Great Smoky Mountains National Park than in any other U.S. national park – more than 1,500. Flowers and spring are themes for many events throughout the area for the next three months.
The park’s 73rd Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is April 26-29. The nonprofit event “features professionally guided walks, exhibits, and other learning opportunities to explore the region’s rich natural and cultural resources.”
Pilgrims from more than 40 states and several countries make the pilgrimage each year to learn more about fungi, ferns, wildflowers, trees and shrubs, medicinal plants, insects (terrestrial and aquatic), salamanders and snakes, birds, mammals (bats to bears), journaling, art and photography, and park history. Check out the schedule and register here.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for its displays of mountain laurel, rhododendron and flame azaleas. From late March into early May, a flush of spring ephemeral wildflowers takes advantage of the sunlight to brighten the groundcover under the Smokies’ hardwood canopies before they’ve leafed out.
In March, bloodroot, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Sharp-lobed hepatica, Spring beauty, Trout-lily and Violets are in bloom. Then, in April, Dutchman’s Breeches, Fire Pink, Foam Flower, Large-flowered Bellwort, Little Brown Jugs, Purple Phacelia, Squirrel Corn, Trout-Lily, Violets, White Fringed Phacelia, White Trillium, Wild Geranium, Wild Ginger, Wood Anemone and Yellow Trillium make their presence known. In May, Yellow Lady’s Slippers, Bleeding Heart, Blue Phlox, May Apple, Mountain Laurel and Flame Azaleas brighten the landscape.
The jack-in-the-pulpit has a large striped, folded-over sheath called a spathe that forms the “pulpit.” The trout-lily brandishes an ornate yellow flower and mottled green leaves suggestive of a trout’s pattern. Dutchman’s breeches and squirrel corn both have white, lobed blooms and intricate foliage.
Check out the National Park Service’s site for specifics on blooming patterns for different flower species.
Here are some favorite hikes to see these wildflowers:
- Little River Trail
- Kanata Fork Trail
- Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail
- Porters Creek Trail
- Chestnut Top Trail
- Lead Cove Trail/Spence Field
For professionally guided hikes, check out the park’s 73rd Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage April 26-29.
Anakeesta is celebrating the flowers of spring with Blooms & Tunes April 14 – June 5.
Anakeesta is a theme park located on 70 acres of forested land in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. Blooms and Tunes is a brand-new event to heighten the anticipation of the season with larger-than-life, spring-themed art installations, live music four days a week, chef-inspired seasonal menu items and thousands of new blooms at Vista Gardens.
Artistry will be on full display with whimsical sculptures scattered around the park designed to celebrate the beauty of nature.
Anakeesta Music and Dining
Putting the tunes in Blooms and Tunes, Anakeesta will feature live music four days a week by local bands at Black Bear Village. Free with admission, bands will perform every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Spring will be on the menu at each of Anakeesta’s four dining venues. Enjoy seasonal cocktails infused with the flavors of spring and chef-inspired dinner specials including the Bleu Ridge Ribeye, the Creole Burger and Smoky Mountain Short Ribs.
The park comes to life at night with twinkling lights and colorful light displays throughout Vista Gardens. The Treetop Skywalk transforms into Firefly Forest with lights projected above and below the canopy giving the sensation of being surrounded by thousands of shimmering fireflies!
With St. Patrick’s Day in the middle of spring, Anakeesta has a celebration planned for that too!
Anakeesta’s Luck of the Irish joins Magic in the Mountains for Anakeesta’s Shamrock Celebration! The Shamrock Celebration kicks off March 10 and will run through March 19. Guests will get to experience the magic in the mountains with a twist! Its villages will be decked out in Irish-themed St. Patrick’s Day décor, Celtic music will fill the air and guests can enjoy live entertainment all day long. Live acts will include The Crossjacks, Wild Blue Yonder and bagpiper Kelly Shipe. Participating food and beverage locations will be serving green beer for the entire celebration.
Dollywood amusement park opens March 11 for its 38th season and a celebration the 50th anniversary of one of Dolly’s biggest hits, I Will Always Love You. The festive celebration – a new event this year – will commemorate the art of songwriting and the stories behind the songs. Look for special park décor, limited-time merchandise and more.
Hear Live Country Music, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. March 11 – April 8.
Dollywood’s always popular Flower & Food Festival is April 21 – June 11. Wander through larger-than-life plant sculptures adorned in more than half-a-million colorful flower blooms, dance under the picturesque Umbrella Sky and indulge in a menu of garden-fresh flavors from Dollywood chefs.
From Dollywood: “New springtime surprises are in bloom at Flower & Food Festival. A proud peacock has appeared among our iconic Mosaicultures, showing off his blossoming plume made of live plants and fresh flowers. “Bee” on the lookout for another new living plant sculpture: A busy beekeeper and his hive working hard among the blooms to collect honey for our new springtime treats, including an adorable beehive sugar cookie. Stroll among more than 500,000 vibrant flowers, blooming in brilliant hues of purple, pink and yellow. See them stretch as far as the eye can see.”
Spring Into Dollywood
Spring at Dollywood also means a new attraction. Big Bear Mountain will be the longest coaster at Dollywood, taking guests of all ages on a family-friendly expedition in search of the Big Bear. Circling Wildwood Grove for nearly two minutes on 3,990 ft. of track, this gigantic coaster is a first of its kind at Dollywood with onboard audio, including music and announcements from Ned Oakley himself.
Dollywood’s Splash Country opens in May. When the temperature rise, Splash Country is a great way to cool off. Explore towering slides, sparkling pools, and family-friendly splash zones. Enjoy fun foods and treats too!
More Dolly Parton fun can be found at dinner shows including Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Pirate’s Voyage and Hatfield & McCoy
Smoky Mountain Springfest
During the three-month Spring-fest celebration that begins in March and continues through the second week in June, visitors watch the transformation into spring when city streets overflow with baskets of beautiful blooming flowers and plants. Pansies, daffodils, tulips, mandevillas, bougainvilleas, lantanas, scaveolas and wave petunias are among the many varieties of flowers seen throughout the towns surrounding the national park.
Live entertainment along the sidewalks of downtown Gatlinburg fills the air with music and many events are part of the celebration.
New and exciting things Spring-Fest in 2023 include:
- Bungee Jumping
- Indoor Skydiving
- Go Kart Racing
- Zip Lining
- Horseback Rides
- ATV Tours
Rafting season starts March 4 – check out our blog post on rafting, kayaking and tubing.
Fishing In The Smokies
Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament is April 1 and 2. The 23nd Annual Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament is fun for all – adults, children, tourists and locals. More than 10,000 trout will be stocked in over 20 miles of streams prior to this 2-day event with more than $10,000 in cash & prizes!
Year-round fly fishing is permitted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can start fishing thirty minutes before official sunrise but must finish up no later than thirty minutes after official sunset, either way, it’s a sure way to avoid crowds in the Smokies. Here are a few other fishing facts worth knowing:
Fishing is allowed in all streams in the Tennessee section of the Park, except for Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong. Detailed information, including a complete list of regulations and a map of fishable park waters, is also available at any visitor center or ranger station.
You will need a valid fishing license or permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina to fish in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. No trout stamp is required. While licenses and permits are not available for purchase in the Park, they can be obtained in many nearby towns or online. Special permits are required for fishing in Gatlinburg and Cherokee.
Arts & Crafts
Easter arts & Crafts Show is April 5-8.
The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts showcases hand-made gifts created by artisan members of the community at the annual Easter show at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
This free-to-the-public show is filled with handcrafted work of demonstrating local artisans and featuring guest craftspeople from all around the USA. Unique handcrafted gifts and products produced by members of Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community are placed on display and offered for sale. Demonstrations by the artisans are part of the show.
May 5 – May 7, Hands On Gatlinburg is part of the annual Arts & Crafts Weekend in the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community.
Aspiring & Experienced Crafters
More than a dozen studios will offer 30 different workshops geared to aspiring and experienced crafters.
Arts and crafts lovers can learn techniques and traditions from expert crafters while discovering how to craft beautiful pieces of artwork that will be treasured for years to come. An abundance of do-it-yourself style workshops will be offered to festival goers, from jewelry-making, gourd birdhouse painting, watercolor, glass fusing, basket weaving, candle making, chair seat weaving and more.
Space is limited for these unique classes. Those interested in signing up for workshops are encouraged to get their tickets early to insure their chances of learning from an expert crafter.
Easter Sunrise Service April 9
Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area & Amusement Park Annual Easter Sunrise Service is a 30-40-minute mountain service that begins just before sunrise. Led by local pastors of the Gatlinburg Ministerial Association, the service is a local tradition. Free tram rides to the mountain top begin at 5:45 a.m. and continue in 15-minute intervals until the service begins. Complimentary parking at the resort is provided for those who prefer to drive. A breakfast buffet will be waiting and available at the Ober Gatlinburg Restaurant from 7-11 a.m.
Speaking of breakfast, did you know the area is known for its 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.
Here are some of our favorite spots to eat the delightful pancake:
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!
And More Pancakes
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. Plus, they serve blackberry crepes to peach crepes at this Log Cabin Pancake House. There are 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.
More events and adventures!
Ober Mountain Wildlife Encounter is home to a black bear family, including Minnie, BJ, Holly and Chief; River Otters that play at the underwater viewing area, beautiful Bobcats, Fox and Birds of Prey in an enclosed aviary. The Nocturnal House includes various species of native Smokies wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, flying squirrels, turtles and snakes.
The Wildlife Encounter at Ober Mountain is a privately funded, municipally sponsored zoo, licensed by the U.S.D.A. as an exhibitor.
Pigeon Forge Spring Rod Run | April 13 – 15
MayFest at Ober Gatlinburg | Mid-May | historical displays, Maypole dance, crafts, kids’ activities, and a Biergarten
Chuck Wagon Cookoff Competition | March 3-5 | cowboy cooking by wagon and plenty of fun
Annual Mountain Man Memorial March | April 21-22 | march and run honoring our heroes
Check out more of our blog posts: museums, outdoor dining, fun for adults, hikes for kids, kid-friendly restaurants, mini golf
Book Your Stay
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