5 Things I Loved About our Trip to Gatlinburg, TN
1. The Mountain Views
Well naturally, the very best part of the Gatlinburg area of the Smokey Mountains is the beautiful view of the mountains! Whether in a hotel, cabin or in downtown Gatlinburg scenic vistas are only steps away. Several attractions in the Gatlinburg area offer unique viewing opportunities as well including the Gatlinburg Sky Lift, Space Needle or a trip to Ober Gatlinburg.
2. The Shopping
There are lots of fun shops in downtown Gatlinburg as well as in the surrounding areas. Gatlinburg offers wares from mountain-themed merchandise such as knives - to wine, jewelry, clothes, gourmet food items and national chain stores.
Nearby Pigeon Forge also offers outlets and The Island. The Island is a unique shopping experience with many shops to choose from, a hotel, musical fountain, restaurants and fun activities for children including a ropes course and ferris wheel.
3. The Park Vista Hotel
We spent a few nights of our trip in the amazing Park Vista hotel which is a 15-floor hotel that sits high on the mountain near the town of Gatlinburg providing a wonderful scenic view of the Smokies. We were able to stay on the 15th floor and selected the "mountain view" room which did not disappoint! Another perk of staying at this hotel and others in or near the town is the access to the Gatlinburg hop on and off trolley service which provides an easy and economic way to see the town and leave your car behind. The trolley is 50 cents each way or $2.00 for all day unlimited rides. You can buy your trolley tickets at the front desk of the hotel.
Our family loved the Park Vista hotel. It is a Double Tree brand hotel from the Hilton line. Its location offered beautiful scenery and a natural feel without being far from town. It actually is possible to walk to town in about 15 minutes from the hotel (which we did once) but it is up a very steep hill without much space on the side of the road if you were to meet a car coming up or down. It isn't a bad hike for adventurous and fit adults but would be hard with young kids. You are able to drive to downtown in a few short minutes but parking is pricey in downtown Gatlinburg so I recommend the convenient trolley service which comes by the hotel every 30 minutes or so. This trolley service makes stops at multiple hotels and attractions in town as well.
This hotel also has a great outdoor themed pool with waterslides. This is one of the most amazing and unique pools and waterslides I have ever had at a hotel.
Since you are a steep hike away from town, it is also nice that this hotel has a restaurant and bar that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
4. The Food
When we first embarked on exploring the downtown Gatlinburg area, my son made the comment "This place smells like pancakes and peppers!" I thought this was an amusing and accurate description! There are many breakfast dining options in the Smokey Mountains and several in Gatlinburg. My favorite is the Pancake Pantry.
The Pancake Pantry claims to be Tennessee's first pancake house and serves a wide variety of pancakes as well as many other breakfast items in an atmosphere that gives that old world mountain feeling. They also serve lunch after 11:30. Important to note, this restaurant is cash only but they have an ATM inside.
On this occasion, we were seated at a window adjacent to the candy factory next door and were able to watch them making taffy as we dined. After you eat, go next door to The Village which is a small shopping area with old world style decor and architecture.
Our other favorites this trip were the Smokey Mountain Brewery for burgers and pizzas, The Peddler Steakhouse for steaks (and a massive salad bar) and the kids loved Bubba Gumps for a fun seafood option.
If you are in the mood for Mexican food, try Loco Burro. The food is good and if you ask for rooftop seating you have a nice view of downtown Gatlinburg with the mountains in the background. The kids will love the escalator that takes you up to the main level of the restaurant and seeing the mechanical bull.
- Welcome to Pancake Pantry
Since 1960 when the Pancake Pantry became Tennessee's first pancake house, visitors to Gatlinburg have made dining with us a tradition
5. The Attractions
When we arrived in the Smokey Mountain area the kid's eyes got wide at all the lights and attractions. From mini-golf and mirror mazes to Ripley's Odditorium and Haunted House there is seemingly no end to the attraction options in Gatlinburg.
We enjoyed many a tourist trap! Our favorites in Gatlinburg were the Headcase escape games and the Guiness Book of World Records Adventure.
In nearby Pigeon Forge at The Island we loved the 7D Dark Ride (makes me think of a more maturely themed Toy Story Mania ride).
There are also attractions that offer great views such as the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. It triggered my semi-fear of heights for sure but the views were amazing. People recommended the view at night, and we did love watching the lights of the town twinkling far below us. I would think it would be especially amazing at sunset.
A surprise to us was Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies which is definitely worth your time for a visit. This small aquarium surprised me on how it is full of quality ocean life, shows and exhibits. We loved the glass tunnel where you ride a slowly moving conveyer belt as you watch the fish swim above you. A new feature this year was a glass bottom boat ride over Shark Lagoon where you can watch the sharks swim beneath your feet! I have been to other larger aquariums which are wonderful but this small jewel packs a large punch without exhausting you.
There were so many fun things to do we could not get to them all! We have heard endless rave reviews about Dollywood however and things like the Dixie Stampede from our friends.
On a previous trip we toured Cade's Cove - a nearby area of wildlife and natural beauty you can drive through. We have also been to Ober Gatlinburg which offers many attractions on the top of a mountain that overlooks Gatlinburg.
**Tip: If you are going to do several Ripley's attractions consider buying a bundled ticket for multiple attractions which is offered at each location and offers you a discount.
- Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies | Gatlinburg, TN
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is an amazing family attraction – State of the art facilities with over 10,000 exotic sea creatures in 10 themed galleries.
Gatlinburg was a great destination for a family vacation with something for everyone of all ages!