Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is a charming resort town that offers many activities and attractions for visitors.
According to Statista, Great Smoky Mountains Park welcomed over 14 million visitors in 2021 alone, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the southeastern United States. And it’s not hard to see why: with its breathtaking mountain views, world-class dining, and endless entertainment options, Gatlinburg has something to offer visitors of all ages and interests.
With only a weekend to spare, deciding what to do and see can be challenging, but fear not! In this article, we’ve compiled a 2-day itinerary of things to do that will make the most of your weekend.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
Where To Stay
Deciding where to stay is one of the most crucial steps toward ensuring a relaxing and safe weekend. Gatlinburg offers various accommodation options for visitors, but we suggest staying in a cabin to get the full experience of being close to the Great Smokies.
You might think staying in a cabin would mean sacrificing space and amenities, but you’d be wrong. Cabins provide visitors with a full kitchen, game rooms, private pools, and fitness centers.
Moreover, if you’re on a romantic retreat, you can book Gatlinburg cabins for 2. You’ll have access to stunning mountain views, a kitchenette, and a hot tub or fireplace. We also suggest booking your cabin a week before your visit to ensure availability.
1) Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
You can start your weekend by visiting the most visited national park in the United States; the Smoky Mountains National Park offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy, including scenic drives, hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
With over 800 miles of trails and 700 miles of streams, the park offers endless opportunities to explore and connect with nature. Visitors can also learn about the park’s rich cultural history by visiting one of its historic buildings or attending a ranger-led program.
2) The Gatlinburg Skylift
The SkyLift takes you up 500 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain, where you’ll experience breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding mountains. The ride is a fun and exciting experience as you glide up the hill in an open chair lift.
Once you reach the top, you can explore the SkyDeck, which offers even more stunning views. There’s a gift shop and food stalls to check out.
3) Explore the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community
This 8-mile loop features over 100 shops and studios showcasing the work of talented artists and craftspeople. From handcrafted pottery and ceramics to paintings, jewelry, and woodworking, there is much to see and experience here.
You can watch artists at work and even try your hand at some crafts. Many shops offer demonstrations and classes, allowing you to learn more about the traditional techniques used in these crafts.
4) Have Lunch at The Pancake Pantry
This beloved breakfast spot has been serving fluffy pancakes and other breakfast favorites since the 1960s and is a must-visit if you’re in Gatlinburg.
The menu features a variety of pancake options, from classic buttermilk to more creative offerings like Swiss chocolate chip and Caribbean pancakes. But pancakes aren’t the only thing on the menu – there are also omelets, waffles, crepes, and sandwiches.
The decor is charming and cozy, with wood paneling and vintage accents, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.
5) Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
The aquarium features over 10,000 sea creatures and interactive exhibits that will captivate visitors of all ages. You’ll see everything from giant sea turtles and stingrays to playful penguins and jellyfish.
The highlight of the aquarium is the Shark Lagoon, where you can walk through an underwater tunnel and watch as sharks and other predators swim above you.
There are also touch tanks where you can interact with various marine animals, dive shows, and feeding demonstrations throughout the day.
6) Take A Scenic Drive through Cades Cove
On Day 2 of your weekend in Gatlinburg, take a scenic drive through Cades Cove, an 11-mile loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This breathtaking drive offers stunning views of the mountains and the opportunity to see wildlife such as black bears, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys.
Along the loop, you can stop at historic structures such as log cabins, churches, and mills to learn about the area’s history and culture. Be sure to bring a camera to capture the picturesque scenery and wildlife sightings.
7) Go Shopping and Dining In Downtown Gatlinburg
Explore the bustling downtown area filled with over 400 shops and restaurants. Stroll down the main strip and peruse the unique boutiques and specialty stores, from handmade soap and jewelry to outdoor gear and souvenirs.
There are candy shops, fudge stores, and ice cream parlors. Refuel at one of the many restaurants, ranging from classic southern BBQ joints to gourmet burger bars and seafood eateries.
8) Visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a must-visit attraction that offers unparalleled panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains and downtown Gatlinburg. The observation tower standing 407 feet tall, provides stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding area from its observation deck.
The ride to the top of the tower is in a glass elevator that gives visitors a thrilling experience while ascending. The observation deck also features interactive exhibits and a souvenir shop where visitors can purchase unique gifts and mementos.
9) End the Day With A Show At Dolly Parton’s Stampede
This dinner theatre features an action-packed show with incredible horsemanship, thrilling stunts, and stunning special effects. You’ll be transported back to the Wild West as cowboys and cowgirls show off their skills with horses and other animals.
The show also includes live music and comedy, all while you enjoy a delicious meal with your family or friends.
Spending a weekend in Gatlinburg can be a delightful experience with various activities and attractions. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, shopping, dining, or entertainment, this charming resort town has it all.
From exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and taking in breathtaking views from the Gatlinburg SkyLift to shopping for local art and crafts and enjoying a show at Dolly Parton’s Stampede, there’s no shortage of things to do in Gatlinburg.
So, if you’re planning a weekend getaway, add Gatlinburg to your list and experience the beauty and fun of this unique destination.