Whether you want to view absolutely gorgeous scenery, ski one of the most popular resorts in the country or discover a family-friendly vacation spot the whole gang can enjoy, Gatlinburg answers the call.
Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is an easy destination from nearly any direction. It's only a day's drive from two-thirds of the population east of the Mississippi.
Tennessee's most popular stops – including Nashville, the country-music capital; and Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood – are also within a short drive from Gatlinburg, but this city of only 4,000 residents packs a lot of attraction itself.
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Gatlinburg is conveniently situated within and close to several major highways including US-321 from Nashville, I-75 from Lexington and points north, US-441 from Atlanta and I-40 from Atlanta. Coming from Atlanta, you can take I-40 to US-321 (a good alternate route). Take exit 407 on I-40. Gatlinburg is also served by the McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville.
Ride the Gatlinburg Trolleys all day for $2, or find lots of free and pay parking scattered around the city.
The climate in Tennessee's Smoky Mountain region leans toward the comfortably temperate all year long. Summer highs could climb into the mid-80s Fahrenheit, but winter lows rarely dip below the freezing mark and could reach as high as the 50s … a great break from the bitter cold for visitors from the north.
Comfortable, moisture-wicking layers are your best bet. Whether you're watching the leaves turn in fall or hiking the Smoky Mountains National Park in spring, a light jacket is likely the most you'll need three seasons of the year. Wear supportive walking shoes for city treks and hiking boots on the trails. Rainfall is at its peak during late spring and early summer, so if you're making your way to Gatlinburg for vacation, pack your umbrella.
There's plenty to see and do in Gatlinburg, but you need only glance out the window and upward to realize the biggest attraction of all. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park virtually envelops the town, and you can take in the mountain range's amazing scope and beauty all year round.
Strap on your hiking boots and join an experienced guide – or blaze your own path – through miles of wooded trails that bring you close to nature in a way you never thought possible. No trip to the Smokies is complete without a look at inspiring waterfalls. Walk right up to (and behind) the Grotto Falls off Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, or aim your camera at the 80-foot cascade of Laurel Falls, the most-photographed spot in the Smokies; arrive early in the morning or visit in the off-season to avoid the crowds.
If mountain vistas spark your imagination, take a trek to Chimney Tops or Mt. LeConte. Both of these routes can be steep or rugged, so less-experienced hikers may opt for an easy trail to earn their "land legs." If that's the case, Cave Code Loop Road is a level, leisurely hike that takes you through a wildlife area where you might well spy black bear, coyote, wild turkey and more.
But hikes aren't the only attraction in Gatlinburg – you can also go mountain biking, ziplining, horseback riding and skiing on some of the best slopes in the south. Back in town, the landmarks include family-friendly museums and an aerial tramway that gives you a bird's-eye view of the Smokies.
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Gatlinburg proudly claims the title of "first 4th of July parade." It starts promptly at midnight on Independence Day, which makes for a unique parade-watching experience! A calendar's worth of festivals and events includes Gatlinburg Winter Magic, a fine arts festival and Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales.
From bed-and-breakfasts to hotels and motels, Gatlinburg delivers suitable places to stay for any visitor. You'll find a range of hotels aimed toward affordability with clean, comfortable and modest accommodations, while the town's more upscale choices offer amenities like in-room fireplaces and mountain views.
The Smoky Mountains National Park has a range of campsites occupying backcountry (in park-provided shelters), frontcountry (tents, pop-up trailers and RVs) and equestrian trails.
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The town of Gatlinburg embraces its Appalachian heritage, and that extends to the southern-style home cooking. While you can certainly find lighter fare, breakfasts typically feature hearty southern favorites including pancakes, biscuits & gravy, eggs, sausage and more to get you on your way. You absolutely cannot leave town without trying the region's famous barbecued ribs. You can also find local seafood like crawfish and catfish, vegetarian choices and much more.
In fact, just about every taste gets its due in Gatlinburg; from pizza parlors to sushi bars, you can likely find something to please your palate.
Get a nap in after a day on the trails … you'll want your batteries recharged in time to enjoy Gatlinburg nightlife. Adults can find dinner theater, comedy clubs and karaoke in the downtown district. Kid-ready entertainment includes a wild-and-crazy virtual-reality movie simulator and gaming centers where skill and luck win big prizes.
Gatlinburg is a family-friendly town for all seasons. Come visit today!
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