Travel Guide to Gatlinburg and Its Best Attractions

This little known Tennessee town has only unexpected surprises and happy comforts

Hopper Editors - Oct. 26, 2017

Gatlinburg is so much more than log cabins and rolling mountains. Sure, there are indeed a not-insignificant number of cabins, and the majestic peaks of the Smoky Mountains are a constant mainstay from any view in Gatlinburg, but the rich logging history and a centuries-old mountain community only provide more reasons why Gatlinburg is unlike most other Tennessee towns. For one – skiing, and a heart-stopping aerial tramway up the mountains. Hiking opportunities abound, as well as all kinds of game fishing. Moonshine, for the traditionalists to keep warm, and tons of kid-friendly attractions. So come visit Gatlinburg, less than an hour’s drive from Knoxville, to see a different part of Tennessee, while never having to stray too far from the barbecue sauce.

Hit the slopes at Ober Gatlinburg!

Photo by Wisata dan Pendidkan via Flickr.

Discover a winter wonderland right in Tennessee. The locals have been bringing their families to Ober Gatlinburg for decades – kids learn tricks on the mountains, couples playfully push each other into the snow and elders enjoy a sweet cup of cocoa in the Loft Lounge. This large ski resort offers three dining options, boutique stores, an indoor skating rink, a ten-track tubing course, and, of course, a ton of ski trails. Grab the kids and pack the sweaters, fun on the hills is just a quick aerial tram ride away!

Make friends with the fish at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Photo by Kathy Van Torne via Flickr.

Hailed as one of the best aquariums in the United States, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is made up of larger-than-life wildlife displays full of exotic fish, penguins, sharks and more. Visitors can immerse themselves in the Tropical Rainforest display, which houses more than 2,000 species of fish; or the Gallery of the Seas, home to such exotic classes of octopi, sea stars, corals and jellies, or go nose-to-nose with a penguin in their interactive display. For a family friendly, informative way to play with exotic animals, spend a day at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.

Catch some of the best views of Gatlinburg from above on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway

Photo by cpudoktr via Flickr.

Soar through the trees and over the rolling green hills leading from Gatlinburg to Ober Gatlinburg, the resort which offers skiing in the winter and an indoor skating rink, wildlife adventures and water raft slides in the summer. Built in 1972, the aerial tramway was built as a safer means of getting up Mt. Harrison (rather than having the residents precariously drive up the icy mountain roads). Now it offers some of the best views in the entire area, no matter the season. It’s a mode of transportation, but the tram has become a destination in its own right – 2.1 stomach-lurching miles up and over gorgeous foliage and the Smoky Mountains fading over the horizon.

Find tender cuts of meat smothered in some of the best bottled barbecue sauce in the country at Calhoun’s

Photo by Jerry Sutphin via Flickr.

Calhoun’s takes themselves seriously when they say they’re the real taste of Tennessee, and their clientele can’t help but agree. For over thirty years, they’ve been slinging their all-dressed burgers, light and fluffy cornbread muffins, expertly grilled steaks and fall-off-the-bone ribs from a growing number of locations across Tennessee. There’s a religious following of Calhoun’s famous BBQ sauce; some visitors stock up on two or three bottles at a time just so they can bring a taste of Tennessee home with them. For an unpretentious, down-home meal of meaty deliciousness, look for Calhoun’s.

Find a secluded mountain resort with all the comforts of home at the Park Vista

Photo by onthefly350yards via Flickr.

The Gatlinburg Park Vista offers all the standard luxury amenities as any other Doubletree by Hilton hotel, but with the added benefit of a secluded location nestled in the Smoky Mountains, just a stone’s throw from miles of winding hiking trails, trout and fly fishing, and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which starts just outside the front door. The cylindrical design of the hotel ensures that every window from their variety of suite and guest room options is blessed with a view of the surrounding mountains.

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