The Best Things To Do in Gatlinburg

There’s no shortage of family attractions in Gatlinburg. Here are the top things we’d visit if we were visiting for the first time.

This list has our favorites, and some things you should skip. It’s not a complete list of every possible attraction, because we always try to find things unique to the local area. Also see our guide for Pigeon Forge.

Things You Should See

Anakeesta

anakeesta chair lift
Anakeesta Ski Lift. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

This mountaintop destination offers a variety of activities, including the ride itself to the top.

It can get crowded, but it’s one of our favorite places to go in Gatlinburg.

anakeesta pathway with landscaping
Path at Anakeesta. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

You ride a ski lift (a truck shuttle is also available) from downtown to the top of the mountain, where you can explore big playgrounds, gardens, and hanging bridges.

Keep an eye out for black bears on the mountain while riding the ski lift up.

As there’s not much shade at the top of Anakeesta, early morning is the best time for this attraction during summer.

anakeesta playground
Anakeesta Playground. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

Skylift to the Gatlinburg Skybridge

gatlinburg skybridge ski lift station
Gatlinburg SkyLift Base Station. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park Chairlift Ride is a great way to take in the views of Gatlinburg.

It is a one-mile ski lift ride to the top of the mountain, with some great places to take photos. Many aerial views of Gatlinburg you’ll see are taken from this spot.

While we thought the prices were high for what was offered when we visited, we posted in an April 2024 article that they had been lowered by 30% since then, due to construction at the end of the bridge.

gatlinburg skybridge
Gatlinburg SkyBridge. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

It’s not somewhere with as many things to do as Anakeesta (though more is under construction), but it’s worth visiting once for the views.

At the top, you can take in the view from the observation deck, enjoy a snack at the Sky Lift Cafe, or the main attraction: walking the Gatlinburg Sky Bridge!

gatlinburg skybridge
Gatlinburg SkyBridge. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

The Gatlinburg SkyBridge is North America’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge, 680 feet across the Great Smoky Mountains valley.

The bridge even features glass panels if you’re brave enough to walk across.

For thrill-seekers, a Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is a must-try. This coaster zips through mountain scenery.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

roaring fork motor trail
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

Just a couple minutes from Gatlinburg is some of the best scenery in Great Smoky Mountains: the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

This scenic one-way one-lane road is a 5.5-mile loop with great views of streams, forests, and historic buildings.

roaring fork overlook
Overlook from Roaring Fork. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

There’s two overlooks offering great views. It’s also a great place to spot some black bears.

Roaring Fork is closed during winter, and it’s a narrow road, so no RVs or other trailers.

roaring fork river under a bridge
Stream Through Roaring Fork. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

There’s some hiking trails along Roaring Fork too, like Rainbow Falls.

Maybes

These aren’t our favorites, but we’ve visited them, and depending on when you visit, they may be a good option for you.

Ripley’s Aquarium Of The Smokies

gatlinburg aquarium
Ripley’s Aquarium. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

One of the busiest attractions in Gatlinburg, the aquarium makes a good activity when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

We have a full review of the aquarium here. Although we enjoyed it and there are some unique things here, it’s expensive for the size of the aquarium.

Speaking of expensive, you’ll also want to see our guide to things that are free in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Ober Gatlinburg

ober gatlinburg's ice skating and bumper car combination rink
Ice Skating / Bumper Car Combo Rink. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

Ober Mountain is one of Gatlinburg’s oldest and most famous attractions.

You can ride the Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway, one of the United States’ longest tramways (over 2 miles), in downtown Gatlinburg and ride up the mountain to an amusement park and ski area.

We recently did a full review of Ober Mountain, and while it’s a good option for snow tubing and skiing, it needs some work.

We can’t recommend for its other activities (alpine slide, snow tubing, ice skating, and ice bumper cars. )

What To Skip

Our guide wouldn’t be complete without a couple of things to skip.

Earthquake The Ride

earthquake the ride
Earthquake The Ride Gatlinburg. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

This Gatlinburg classic hasn’t changed much since it was built, and that’s not a good thing.

Steer clear of this earthquake simulator; it gets a 1-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Gatlinburg Space Needle

gatlinburg space needle
Space Needle Gatlinburg. Photo by Ashley @ TheSmokyMountains.com

The Gatlinburg Space Needle isn’t a terrible attraction, but its tall observation tower is much shorter than the town’s surrounding mountains.

So, while it’s taller than most everything else in town, we recommend spending the money on a ski lift to Anakeesta or the SkyBridge instead.

The space needle looks tiny from the top of the mountains!

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