Gatlinburg and its sister town, Pigeon Forge, are packed full of family-friendly attractions, putt putt golf courses, arcades, and old-time photo shops. First-time visitors might get overwhelmed at the choices of entertainment. Here’s our top recommendations, each of which have enough activities to last an entire day.
1. Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
See the bizarre and unique at multiple Ripley's attractions under one roof. The Odditorium features shrunken heads and a vampire-killing kit. You can touch sharks and stingrays at the Aquarium of the Smokies. See a movie with digital effects and motion seats at the 5D Moving Theater. And tour a spooky mansion at the Haunted Adventure.
2. All Things Dolly Parton
Another franchise with multiple attractions is co-managed by country-music superstar, Dolly Parton, and Herschend Family Entertainment. The singer’s hometown is in the Pigeon Forge area, so the town was already an attraction for her fans. Today the Dolly experience includes a theme park, a water park, a lumberjack dinner show, and a horsey music review. Beyond the attractions, Dolly’s name is also on a resort and a community of vacation cabin rentals.
Related story: Dollywood’s Roots in the Great Smokies
3. Titanic Museum
Totally unexpected in a tiny town in a land-locked state is the world’s largest Titanic museum attraction. Experience what it must have been like to walk the famous luxury liner. Visitors get a passenger experience that includes touching a real iceburg, standing on a frighteningly sloping deck, and sitting in a lifeboat.
4. Ober Gatlinburg
This popular wintertime ski area with ice skating and snow tubing, also features year-round attractions. Board the scenic tramway in Gatlinburg and watch the mountain landscape from up high. At the top, ride the Ski Mountain Coaster and visit Ober’s Wildlife Encounter. While no wild animals were captured for this licensed zoo, you can view rescued or zoo-born black bears, bobcats, river otters, and other animals up-close.
Related story: Ride the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway
5. Hollywood Wax Museum
A tribute to the film industry, the wax museum is a fun place to pose with your favorite movie stars and view a Hollywood version of Mount Rushmore. Make your family’s visit competitive by using the museum’s movie-star quiz as a scavenger hunt list. After browsing the lifelike sculptures, stop next door to the entertainment center for attractions such as a mirror maze, horror house, and a moving-chair movie experience.
Of course we feel that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most grand attraction of all. Be sure to balance the glitzy of town with some natural fun. The Gatlinburg entrance gives you easy access to Laurel Falls and Cades Cove.