If you’re looking for a fun outdoor vacation for your family without the stress of backcountry camping and keeping up with the wilderness, then Gatlinburg, Tennessee, might just be the perfect place for you. 

One of the smallest towns in Tennessee with a population of just 4,000, Gatlinburg is a popular vacation spot for families. It’s also home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited in the US. From novelty museums to outdoor activities, Gatlinburg has you covered. 

Gatlinburg offers so much more than just souvenir shops and your typical tourist traps. Let’s take a look at what makes this town one of the best places to visit.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

Surrounded by majestic mountains more than 6,500 feet high, you can take your family both hiking and biking at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With 900 miles of hiking trails to discover, you’re sure to cover long distances as you take in the magnificent views. The park has over 1,500+ flowers in full bloom all year round. White-tailed deer, black bears, and coyotes are some of the animals that can be found in the area. 

The park’s flora consists of mountain magnolias, wild azaleas, mountain laurels, orchids, and rhododendrons. You can snap photos of the colorful flowers whilst hiking since the park is also open to the public all year long. Hikers and mountain bikers tend to visit the park during spring, summer, and fall—while skiers come in winter. 

There are numerous campsites and cabin rentals to choose from should you wish to stay. It’s the perfect place to spend time with the family comfortably while communing with nature.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

Enjoy the refreshing one-hour drive from downtown Gatlinburg as you embark on a journey to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. At 6,643 feet, the tower is one of the highest points in Tennessee. With breathtaking views stretching as far as 100 miles on a clear, bright day, the best time to visit would be at sunrise and sunset.

The Observation Tower was built in 1959. You can also see several different US States from here, including Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

If you’ve had enough of the outdoors for a while, you can visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The marine park features plenty of exotic aquatic animals. There’s even a submerged tunnel that you can go down into to observe sharks and other ocean predators up close. Interactive exhibits are there to entertain younger children. 

For an exciting experience that will guarantee you brownie points from the kids, you can sign up for different fun adventures. These include the chance to pet the penguins, swim with the stingrays, or go on a boat ride with a glass-bottom. 

Don’t fret if you’ve got older children, as there are attractions designed for teens as well. Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Odditorium is sure to keep the older kids entertained with its collection of creepy shrunken heads, medieval torture instruments, and fun mirror maze.

The Sugar Lands

For photographers, the Sugarlands is a must-see destination. The valley is named after the area’s sugar maple trees, and taking a day trip to the Sugarlands will guarantee you enough Instagram content to last you for months. 

Popular among hikers (especially in October when the leaves change color), the valley’s most famous hiking trail is called the Old Sugarlands Trail. It’s open to both hikers and horseback riders. If you’re looking for a chilled out and romantic hike with your partner, you might want to check this spot out.

Cades Cove

This remote destination is one of the most popular spots in Gatlinburg, attracting over two million visitors per year. Its rural meadows, well-preserved pioneer homesteads, and even more incredible mountain views have tourists flocking to Cades Cove. 

It’s also famous for its waterfalls, such as Abrams Falls and Laurel Falls. If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, you can view bigger beasts like deer and black bears in their natural habitat.

Downtown Gatlinburg

After enjoying everything it has to offer, the busy town of Gatlinburg provides the warmth and comfort of a home away from home to happy yet tired travelers. Once you’ve had your fill of exploring the mountains, there’s nothing better than relaxing in a warm bed after a long, action-packed day. You have a good number of lodges, hotels, and vacation rentals to choose from.

If you enjoy a nighttime wander, you may want to explore downtown Gatlinburg while you’re there. Parkway is the place to be. Mom-and-pop stores and restaurants are located here.

There are also numerous attractions such as arcade-style museums, theater shows, and aquariums to entertain the kids. 

The Bottom Line

If all of these spots sound right up your alley, you may want to visit this historic and picturesque town. With cozy and accommodating hotels and other vacation rental homes, you’re sure to be comfortable while having back-to-back adventures in Gatlinburg. It’s the perfect spot for fun outdoor activities and wholesome family fun.