As the weather starts to cool off in October, Gatlinburg transforms into an entirely different place. The smell of smoky barbecue fills the air and leaves start to turn red and orange. Fall brings new activities to Gatlinburg, making it an exciting time to visit this beautiful town.
From being chased by man-eating squirrels at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure to watching live theater at the Smoky Mountain Opry, you can make the most of your trip by planning!
Read on for our 10 can’t-miss things to do in Gatlinburg in October for a delightfully spooky time for the whole family.
Top Things to do in Gatlinburg in October
- Visit the Smoky Mountains to See the Fall Foliage
- See the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
- Don’t Miss out on Oktoberfest in Ober Gatlinburg
- Get Spooked at Ripley’s Fright Nights
- Take a Scenic Drive and Enjoy the Fall Outlook
- Attend the Autumn at Anakeesta
- Try Moonshine and Explore Distilleries Around Town
- Get Halloween Ready at the Trick or Treat Kick-Off Karnival
- Visit the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival
- Autumn Adventures at Gatlinburg Skylift Park
1. Visit the Smoky Mountains to See the Fall Foliage
October is the perfect time to see the stunning fall foliage in the Great Smokies; temperatures begin to cool down, and the leaves start changing color and falling from the trees.
This is the time of year when you can see some of the most beautiful fall colors. Soon, the mountains will be full of red, orange, and yellow leaves that have just fallen off the trees!
The best way to see fall foliage in Gatlinburg is by going on a hiking trail through the mountains or taking a scenic drive along one of those winding roads that take you past all kinds of beautiful views of waterfalls and streams.
In addition to seeing this fabulous view from above, there are many great places where you can stop off for picturesque views such as caves and waterfalls along the way!
You can witness these spectacular views from various spots around Gatlinburg like the Ober Aerial Tramway and Gatlinburg SkyLift that take you more than 500 ft above in the air and give you the best location to enjoy the striking fall scenery!
2. See the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair
The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is a must-visit if you’re in Gatlinburg during October! It’s an event that brings people from all over the nation together to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery and arts and crafts. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon with your family, friends, or coworkers.
The fair is held in early October every year, and it is open to the public. This incredibly popular event is spread over 150,000 square feet of Gatlinburg’s Convention Center downtown and features highly talented craftsmen and artisans from all over the country!
The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair offers visitors many entertainment opportunities. Many different events are happening throughout the weekend, including live music performances, craft shows, lectures, and much more.
Here you will find everything creative from carefully crafted pottery pieces to local candy makers paired with contemporary country music. Visitors can expect to find lots of fun things for them and their children to do at this event.
The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is one of those special occasions where you can truly enjoy yourself with family or friends in the beautiful Smoky Mountains!
This year the event will take place from October 13th to 30th, so don’t forget to clear your schedule and visit this fantastic fair at least once!
3. Don’t miss out on Oktoberfest in Ober Gatlinburg
Oktoberfest is a German-inspired event that has become a locals’ favorite in Gatlinburg. The event originally took place in Munich which marked the nationwide celebrations of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig I with Princess Therese of Bavaria.
Fueled with German cuisines, music, and entertainment, Oktoberfest takes place every October to honor the lifelong traditions of the actual event in Germany.
The exciting event kicks off with some traditional Bavarian music and authentic German cuisine. If you always wanted to try German Bratwurst, then this is your chance! The delicious cuisines are paired with live music by local bands and musicians that pay homage to the Germans on their special day.
The weather is perfect for a thrilling event like this and it gives you a chance to explore the new traditions and festivities. Of course, any German-inspired event would be incomplete without some great beer, dancing, and yodeling, so be prepared to have a hangover the following morning!
The fest takes place at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, which is the perfect location that combines the thrilling festivities with awe-inspiring views of the Smokies.
The best way to reach the event is by the Aerial Tramway, which takes you through the stunning display of fall colors dotting the mountains and making the views even more special!
4. Get Spooked at Ripley’s Fright Nights
Ripley’s Fright Nights is a unique and exciting event in Gatlinburg that features haunted attractions and live entertainment.
Each year, the event draws thousands of visitors from all over the country who come to experience this scary Halloween event. It’s like an adult version of those “scary movie” nights at the movies, except this time you get to be scared by real people!
Ripley’s Fright Nights is a special event organized by Ripley’s Haunted Adventure that takes place every Friday and Saturday night during October. It’s a great combination of concerts, carnival rides, and haunted houses. Some great food vendors also serve up some delicious treats.
The main attractions of the event are the zombies, ghosts, goblins, and witches that will leap on you from any dark corner and send shivers down your spine.
The event is for the brave-hearted people who are not scared of all the twisted dark mythical creatures lurking around the path. The horror event will even give you some insight into the dark side of Gatlinburg which is full of real haunted stories!
While it’s a fun and exciting event for adults, children might get spooked by it so it’s advised to not bring kids under 6. The event is a must-visit for all fearless individuals who aren’t afraid of jumpscares!
5. Take a Scenic Drive and Enjoy the Fall Outlook
Fall is the perfect time to take a scenic drive around the Smoky Mountains and enjoy the Fall colors. The mountains are shrouded in forest and mist, making for an enchanting experience! You won’t have to worry about crowds or traffic because there’s nothing like driving through the mountains in fall!
The high elevation of the Smokies means that temperatures are cooler than in most other parts of town. The fall colors are spectacular here, and they’re worth seeing before they’re gone for another year. You’ll see reds, golds, yellows, and oranges all around you.
One of the most popular spots to enjoy the panoramic vistas is the Cades Cove Loop, an 11-mile loop road that takes you on a journey through sparking peaks and historical buildings, with a beautiful backdrop of the Smokies.
The best time to take a drive here is around early evening so you get to see the magical sunset and even spot some wildlife on the way!
Other great routes that you can explore with your family and friends are the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, featuring 5.5 miles of a patient drive along the flowing streams of Roaring Fork mountains, and the Little River Road, a one way 18 miles marked road where you will find abundant waterfalls and can even take a short hike with the family!
6. Attend the Autumn at Anakeesta
Autumn at Anakeesta is an annual fall festival organized by Anakeesta theme park, and it brings together a unique combination of thrill-packed theme park rides paired with gorgeous views of the fall-spired backdrop!
This is the best event to enjoy together with the family and visitors are welcomed with delicious food and drinks, lively entertainment, and exciting games and rides! The festivities take place throughout October and it’s the best spot to kick off the Halloween celebrations together.
Thrill-seekers can take a zipline through the forest covered with leaves of unique shades of orange, red, and yellow or if you’re feeling even more adventurous then you can take the Rail Runner Mountain Coaster, an unforgettable ride down a mountain!
Bring the venturesome day to an end with some energetic live music in Black Bear Village or enjoy delicious autumn-themed dishes and drinks near the impressive sights of the Vista Gardens!
Anakeesta is one of the most incredible all-in-one spots in Gatlinburg where you can find entertainment for the entire family.
7. Try Moonshine and Explore Distilleries Around Town
Moonshine is a local favorite, but it’s also one of the most popular tourist attractions in town. Moonshine is a mysterious spirit with a dark history that makes it even more unique and attractive to visitors!
Gatlinburg has distilleries all around town that offer fantastic tours and moonshine tasting opportunities.
The tours take you through the entire facility, where you learn about how moonshine is made, as well as all the different varieties of moonshine that can be found in Tennessee. You’ll even get to sample some and find out what flavor suits you the best!
Popular distilleries like the Ole Smoky and Sugarlands often get a visit from the local bands and musicians, so if you’re lucky you might even get to attend one of these exciting live performances while sipping on the classical liquor!
8. Get Halloween Ready at the Trick or Treat Kick-Off Karnival
The best part about visiting Gatlinburg in October is that you get to attend all the fun and exciting Halloween-themed events that take place throughout town.
One of these amazing events takes place in the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Plaza, featuring everything you need to prepare for the spooky season in style!
At the Trick or Treat Kick-Off Karnival, you will find everything from games, costumed characters, and pumpkin contests to candies, food and drinks, and costume contests for people of all ages.
This is your chance to dress up as your favorite character and take part in this stirring event alongside the incredibly friendly locals. You can also go trick or treating later with the entire clan.
The festivities take place on October 31st and run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is especially popular among families who want to celebrate Halloween most excitedly and make unforgettable memories along the way!
9. Visit the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival
Fall is a majestic time to be in Gatlinburg, with charming fall decorations and the stunning backdrop of the Great Smokies adorning the town!
To welcome the season of changing colors, Gatlinburg holds the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival from September to November. Along with delicious food, games, music, and live entertainment, the festival has a very important highlight.
During the festival, the entire community takes part in decorating the town with the most dramatic displays featuring scarecrows and other Halloween-themed characters. Visitors are then invited from all over the country to observe and take notes of all their favorite displays and decorations, voting for the best one in the end.
This is a fun and friendly competition for the Best Harvest Decorations and gives the Gatlinburg community a chance to represent its love and dedication for arts & crafts!
10. Autumn Adventures at Gatlinburg Skylift Park
Autumn Adventures is a newly introduced event at Gatlinburg Skylift Park, featuring a plethora of entertainment and recreational fall activities for families visiting Gatlinburg.
Here you will find everything exciting from sunrises, live music, lavish fall decorations, and trick-or-treat parties to exhilarating views of the fall foliage of the Great Smokies!
The park is also home to the longest pedestrian bridge in North America, Gatlinburg SkyBridge. Take a stroll on the bridge and don’t get scared if you see the glass flooring right in the middle of the span. You can also treat yourself to the VIP tickets and enjoy the privilege of watching the striking sunrise over the Smoky Mountains.
The park also hosts a special event dedicated to families with kids, the Spooktacular Smokies. In this Halloween-inspired event, you will find storytelling, Halloween lights, and a spooky backdrop to keep the kids entertained and on their toes!
Free Things to do in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg’s fall colors are one of the best things about visiting this area of Tennessee. The colors are so vibrant and beautiful that it’s easy to forget that it’s still summer.
Here are some of the most exciting things you can do in Gatlinburg in October that are free of cost.
- Take a hike in the mountains or along the river. There are many trails in Gatlinburg, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is just a few hours away from the city. You can also explore other areas of East Tennessee like Townsend or Pigeon Forge.
- Go apple picking at one of the many farms around town. Many of these farms offer hayrides, farm animals, and even corn mazes for kids!
- Go fishing at any of Gatlinburg’s lakes or rivers such as Little River or LeConte Creek – they’re all close by and offer great fishing opportunities too!