Dubbed the Gateway to the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is a picture-perfect alpine town nestled at the foothills of Mt. LeConte. Surrounded by cascading waterfalls, rolling hills, and verdant wildflower meadows, this enchanting town beckons families and travelers with abundant indoor and outdoor recreation.
This mountain resort town is home to over 100 scenic hiking trails, scrumptious cuisine, state-of-the-art amusement parks, and rich historical heritage. Families with children have much to rejoice in, for Gatlinburg is home to innumerable child-friendly attractions. Children are bound to fall in love with the Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ripley’s Aquarium, while Dollywood delights everyone.
Two days aren’t nearly enough to experience this delightful destination and all the attractions it offers. But if you must set priorities, we advise loading up your itinerary with must-have experiences to witness the best of Gatlinburg. Read on to explore some iconic attractions and experiences to make the most of your 2-day Gatlinburg getaway.
Hiking Adventures in the Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smokies are home to breathtaking natural beauty and striking diversity. One can hardly return from a weekend getaway in this spellbinding region without connecting with Mother Nature. The trails originating from Gatlinburg will lead you deep into the park, lined with spruce-fir forests, cascading waterfalls, and wildflower meadows.
We advise reserving an entire day for outdoor excursions and choosing trails that align with your skills. The Great Smokies are home to over 100 scenic trails, including beginner and child-friendly nature walks. You can start the day with a scrumptious breakfast in Gatlinburg, feasting on local specialties like biscuits with sawmill gravy and cornmeal. Then, pack a picnic basket with local treats and set out on a 3.5-mile roundtrip through the park.
The hike begins at Clingman’s Dome, the park’s highest point, covering the most enchanting section of the legendary Appalachian Trail. As you make your way through the spruce-fir forest, you will reach Andrew’s Bald in about 2 to 3 hours. Andrew’s Bald is a mesmerizing spot to enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of the entire valley.
This trail is brimming with fragrant meadows and heaps of picnic spots where you can munch and click insta-worthy moments. Depending on your interests, you can explore a wealth of other trails that may seem more rewarding. For instance, hikers interested in exploring the heritage of early Cherokee hunters should embark on the Indian Gap Trail.
Some other rewarding walks include the Abrams Falls Trail, Alum Cave Trail, Laurel Falls Trail, and the Trillium Gap Trail.
Dine, Shop, and Unwind at The Village
End your hiking adventure in downtown Gatlinburg’s most exciting destination: The Village. Infused with old-world charm and contemporary comforts, The Village features 27 boutiques, restaurants, and galleries to dine, shop and relax. Adults and children adore the hustle and bustle of this vibrant destination, brimming with decadent treats and local artisanal fares.
You can spend time shopping at trendy boutiques, feast your eyes on local art, and shop for prized antiques and artisanal crafts. The Village is modeled after a quintessential European village with adorable brick pathways and lush greenery. Strolling through the walkways is soul-satisfying, with picturesque views of alpine waterfalls and rolling hills.
Sign up for Gatlinburg’s Iconic Theatrical Dinner Show
Gatlinburg’s themed dinner shows are world-famous and a brilliant strategy to combine dinner with a gripping theatrical performance. If you’re looking to save money, this experience is a stellar combination of unpretentious fun and multi-course meals. You can choose your show from various options featuring unique entertainment and cuisine.
The Hatfield and McCoy Family Feud is ideal for comedy lovers who want to dance, sing and laugh the night away. The acts are downright hilarious, and the menu is brimming with indulgent country classics, like fried chicken and pulled pork.
Dolly Parton fans would love Dolly Parton’s Stampede – an action-packed performance that pays tribute to the country music legend. The Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show is indeed Gatlinburg’s most iconic dinner show, with rip-roaring performances and beautifully choreographed action sequences. The show takes place in full-sized pirate ships surrounded by a magical indoor lagoon.
Guests can enjoy a rich four-course meal featuring pan-fried chicken, herb-based potatoes, Buccaneer biscuits, and sugar-cured ham.
Guided Tours, Sightseeing & Indoor Attractions
We advise reserving Day 2 for guided tours, sightseeing escapades, and the innumerable indoor attractions that complete the Gatlinburg experience. Children adore visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, a wondrous site to discover rare aquatic wonders. Families and visitors can interact with the animals, feed sea turtles, and waddle with penguins.
Automotive aficionados must visit the Hollywood Star Cars Museum – home to 40 cars from iconic Hollywood movies and TV shows. This museum features two Batmobiles, General Lee’s cars, and multiple vehicles from the Fast and Furious franchise.
Paranormal enthusiasts must sign up for the famous Gatlinburg Ghost Tour, which starts from the Holiday Inn Resort. This nocturnal tour will lead you through Gatlinburg’s spookiest streets, introducing you to sights of famous hauntings. On this mile-long tour, you will discover some of Gatlinburg’s most popular ghosts and spirits and explainable ominous occurrences. Needless to say, this tour is not recommended for the weak of the heart.
History buffs can visit the Historic Ogle Log Cabin, the residence of Martha Jane Huskey Ogle – Gatlinburg’s first residence. This lovingly preserved cabin will transport you to the 19th century with its traditional architecture and well-maintained fixtures. The surrounding woods are brimming with local plantations and early settlements where one can learn fascinating details about the heritage.
Parents eager to find an interactive learning experience should take their little ones to the Gatlinburg Space Needle. This 400-foot tower offers sweeping panoramic views of the valley from its observation deck.
The Anakeesta outdoor adventure park is another incredibly rewarding destination for families, with immersive attractions for adults and children. You can embark on a thrilling ziplining adventure through the mountains or enjoy the vistas on a mountain coaster. Anakeesta is home to the majestic Vista Gardens – a botanical garden featuring immersive exhibits.
Attractions and experiences are abundant in Gatlinburg, and one really has to set priorities when planning a 2-day itinerary. We advise extensive research into the local attractions to find experiences that align with your core interests. First, you need to identify the activities that constitute your bucket list in Gatlinburg.
For instance, if hiking is a pursuit you wish to prioritize, then conduct research to find the right trails. Likewise, if you want to explore the historical heritage and plantations, then find the spots that will enrich your vacation.