Gatlinburg is a premier tourist destination, which means there is an abundance of activities for anyone looking to visit.
We will take a look at the best things to do in Gatlinburg, including tours and free events, to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
Top Things to Do in Gatlinburg
- Gatlinburg: Zipline Canopy Tour
- Gatlinburg: Ghosts of the Smokies Haunted Walking Tour
- Gatlinburg Haunts Thrilling Dark History Walking Ghost Tour
- Pigeon Forge: Helicopter Tour of Gatlinburg
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self-Driving Tour
- Hidden Cascade Hiking Tour in Great Smoky Mountains from Gatlinburg
- Top Rated Wine and Shine Walking Tour
- Gatlinburg City Scavenger Hunt by Operation City Quest
- Impossibilities Magic Show at the Iris Theater
- Moonshine Mountain Coaster Ride
- Best Things to Do
- Anakeesta Mountain
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium
- Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies
- Gatlinburg Space Needle
- Ober Gatlinburg
- Mysterious Mansion
- Hillbilly Golf
- Hollywood Star Cars Museum
- Earthquake the Ride
- Sugarlands Riding Stables
- Alpine Axe House
- Arcade City
- Gatlin’s Rugged Ropes Adventure Course
- Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
- Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
Make sure you also check out our articles on the best places to stay on the Gatlinburg strip!
10 Best Tours In Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is full of exciting tours for all kinds of travelers, whether your idea of fun is ziplining through the forest or exploring haunted landmarks. Here are the most highly rated tours in Gatlinburg:
1. Gatlinburg: Zipline Canopy Tour
Perfect for travelers who love a thrill, the Zipline Canopy Tour takes place at Family Adventure Island and is one of the best things to do in Gatlinburg, TN.
The tour offers participants the chance to fly up to six feet in the air on six ziplines and two sky bridges. On the way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Pigeon River, and the surrounding flora and fauna.
Expert instructors will remain on hand throughout the hour to brief all participants on the necessary safety procedures.
Children over five years can enjoy this tour too, and each guest is provided with their own helmet and full-body harness.
2. Gatlinburg: Ghosts of the Smokies Haunted Walking Tour
If you’re feeling brave, the Ghosts of the Smokies Haunted Walking Tour will take you through the town to visit some of the most haunted local locations after nightfall.
Along the way, your guide will tell you spine-chilling tales of the vengeful spirits who roam the town and, hopefully, help you spot some of them.
Guides will also share their own experiences with the supernatural in the town. Each tour runs for around an hour and is available for all ages.
3. Gatlinburg Haunts Thrilling Dark History Walking Ghost Tour
Similar to the Ghosts of the Smokies tour, the Gatlinburg Haunts tour focuses on delivering the fascinating, eerie historical facts behind some of the town’s most famous destinations.
Your guide will regale you with creepy tales of cannibalism, witchcraft, and tragic deaths that have taken place at landmarks like White Oak Flats Cemetery and the Gatlinburg Space Needle.
The tour takes one hour and, despite some of the scarier stories, is appropriate for all ages. On average, each tour group contains no more than 15 people. The tour departs outside the Space Needle and does not include entry to the monument.
4. Pigeon Forge: Helicopter Tour of Gatlinburg
The best way to see Gatlinburg is from above!
This helicopter tour is ideal for those who want to take in the whole city at once, and with each session running for only around 12 minutes, is perfect for travelers who are strapped for time.
Along the way, you’ll also get a rare view of downtown Sevierville, the Pigeon Forge Parkway, and one of Tennessee’s highest mountains, Mount LeConte.
Each guest will receive a headset so they can communicate with the pilot, who will provide information about the most iconic destinations in Gatlinburg.
The tour departs from Sevierville, TN, and also includes a full safety briefing with the pilot.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park Self Driving Tour
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the greatest destinations to visit in the region, and this self-driving tour that departs from Gatlinburg is a great way to see it.
Through the Action Tour Guide app, participants will receive fascinating narrations of the local legends and history of the park, including Cherokee folklore.
The app will also help participants find points of interest in the park on a flexible route that they can take at their own pace.
Participants can enjoy animated videos through the app too, which provide imagery from different centuries and interior rooms that are off limits in the real world.
6. Hidden Cascade Hiking Tour in Great Smoky Mountains from Gatlinburg
One of Gatlinburg’s most highly rated tours, this hiking adventure departs from Gatlinburg and takes you to the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The tour guides are professional naturalists and certified Wilderness First Responders, so they can keep you safe while filling you in on everything from the local ecosystem to the interesting history of the park.
Each hike lasts for four hours, during which you’re likely to spot wildlife roaming the park and witness stunning views from some of the best vantage points. There’s a maximum of 11 people per group and the tour is limited to those over eight years old.
7. Top Rated Wine and Shine Walking Tour
Once banned in Gatlinburg, moonshine is now offered at distilleries right throughout town—and that has to be worth celebrating!
Travelers can taste various makes and flavors of the homemade, unaged whiskey on this moonshine walking tour, which will take them to some of the best distilleries in Gatlinburg.
Each walking tour runs for three and a half hours, during which your guide will tell interesting stories on the history of the drink and its legacy in Tennessee today.
This tour is limited to travelers 21 years and older and also offers participants the chance to purchase their own moonshine at a discounted rate.
8. Gatlinburg City Scavenger Hunt by Operation City Quest
The beauty of a scavenger hunt in Gatlinburg is you can explore the ins and outs of a city while challenging yourself to earn points.
This tour uses an app through which you can submit photos of items you find around Gatlinburg. It also issues challenges that you can undertake—in whatever order you prefer-to earn more points and rank on the app leaderboard.
Included in the tour is help from a remote host who will be available to chat throughout the hunt. The hunt lasts for two hours and groups of up to 10 people can participate together.
9. Impossibilities Magic Show at the Iris Theater
The Iris Theatre, located in the lobby of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, is home to the town’s most beloved magic show: Impossibilities: An Evening of Magic, Mindreading, and Mayhem.
All ages are welcome to attend the popular show, which stars experienced magicians Chris Collins and Erik Dobell.
Impossibilities involve exciting audience participation where guests are invited to take part in some of the magic themselves, and guests are also encouraged to snap lots of shots of the entertaining show!
10. Moonshine Mountain Coaster Ride
Though strictly speaking not a tour, the Moonshine Mountain Coaster Ride is one of the most popular ticketed attractions in Gatlinburg.
Both a thrill ride and one that’s fun for the whole family, the coaster has been standing in Gatlinburg since 2014.
The ride features a unique track and brake system that allows participants to completely control the ride. The tubular rails also ensure that the ride is smooth and comfortable as it passes through natural forest terrain.
There are also night-ride options, however, the ride may be canceled due to poor weather, in which case the ride will be rescheduled or a refund will be given.
15 Best Things To Do In Gatlinburg
1. Anakeesta Mountain
It’s not every day that you come by a theme park in the mountains. Anakeesta is one of the most fun things to do in Gatlinburg and is home to a range of exciting outdoor activities, from the iconic Chondola to the soaring AnaVista Observation Tower.
The park also boasts an eclectic range of dining outlets where guests can kick back in the seriously cool mountain setting, enjoying pristine views of the surrounding terrain.
Other attractions in the park include the Dueling Zipline Adventure and the Treetop Skywalk.
2. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium
Ripley’s has a strong presence in Gatlinburg, and one of the most popular attractions is the fascinating auditorium.
Most of the exhibits inside the museum need to be seen to be believed, like the crystal-covered car and the authentic shrunken heads.
All in all, there are 16 themed galleries over three floors in the museum, so there’s enough here to keep the entire family entertained all day.
3. Ripleys Aquarium of the Smokies
Another Gatlinburg Ripley’s attraction, the Aquarium of the Smokies features two floors of educational marine fun.
Explore Shark Lagoon, get your hands wet in Touch a Ray Bay, and learn all about underwater life at the Coral Reef.
The aquarium regularly hosts live shows and events, including encounters with penguins and turtles and even breakfast with a mermaid!
There is also a glass-bottom boat adventure that takes guests over Shark Lagoon, where they’ll witness 75 species of aquatic animals.
4. Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Gatlinburg Space Needle is one of the town’s most recognizable highlights. The observation tower stands 407 feet and overlooks the downtown area, as well as provides picturesque views into the nearby Smoky Mountains.
Guests can ride the glass elevators up to the observation deck, where they’ll be treated to the most amazing vistas in town.
The Space Needle is also home to the Iris Theater and, for those who work up an appetite on the observation deck, the Slice Pizza Bakery.
5. Ober Gatlinburg
If you’re wondering what to do in Gatlinburg, TN, during the winter, Ober Gatlinburg is the only answer you need. The amusement park and ski area offer fun for all ages, with both summer and winter activities on offer.
During the cold months, you can enjoy snow sports such as skiing, snow tubing, and ice skating, while summer brings the chance to experience activities like rock climbing and water rafting.
There’s also a range of dining and retail outlets at the park, both on the mountain and downtown. Guests can either drive to Ober Gatlinburg or access the mountain escape via the aerial tramway.
6. Mysterious Mansion
Gatlinburg has a spooky history, and out-of-towners can learn all about it at Mysterious Mansion, the town’s “most terrifying haunted attraction”.
The mansion runs self-guided tours where groups of up to six people venture slowly through the house and uncover the creepy surprises along the way.
Children are invited to join in the fun, but they must be accompanied by a parent. The mansion also hosts events throughout the year, especially in October leading up to Halloween!
Just be sure you want to enter before you buy your ticket, as the mansion doesn’t hand out refunds for those who are too scared to continue…
7. Hillbilly Golf
Hillbilly Golf offers a unique mini-golf experience perfectly suited to the mountain town of Gatlinburg: on the side of a natural hill!
Guests ride an incline to the top of the hill and then have a choice of two 18-hole courses to play. The many obstacles and the downward slope of the hill make Hillbilly Golf a challenging course, but the numerous decorations and novelty set-ups make it worth it.
This is a particularly great attraction for kids visiting Gatlinburg!
8. Hollywood Star Cars Museum
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a must-visit destination for all automobile enthusiasts and is also super entertaining for those who have even a vague knowledge of pop culture.
The museum displays some of the world’s most famous cars, including the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, Sir Paul McCartney’s Cadillac, General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard, and several vehicles from The Fast and the Furious franchise.
Oh, and visitors will also get to see two Batmobiles!
9. Earthquake the Ride
Located in Downtown Gatlinburg near the Ripley’s Aquarium, Earthquake the Ride is a thrill for the senses.
The ride simulates an earthquake disrupting a subway train, and passengers will be treated to the sounds, sights, and motion of a live-action disaster (without the real devastation, of course!).
You can ride the doomed subway daily from 10 a.m., and kids and adults are both welcome.
10. Sugarlands Riding Stables
One of the most popular riding stables in Tennessee, Sugarlands takes travelers of all ages on horseback riding tours through the surrounds of Gatlinburg.
Friendly and experienced guides lead the tours up the windy and scenic mountain trails where riders can soak up the stunning views of the Smokies.
The horses at Sugarlands are known for their gentle nature and the stables also specialize in riders who have never ridden before, so this is a great activity for the whole family.
11. Alpine Axe House
If you’re wondering what to do in Gatlinburg, TN, that’s not run-of-the-mill, the Alpine Axe House may be for you!
The axe-throwing business is located in the heart of town and offers multiple games that participants can play.
There are projected target systems at the end of every lane that help participants aim their shot, and it’s easy to book a lane with the axe house’s online reservation and pay system.
12. Arcade City
Looking for some old-school fun in Gatlinburg? Arcade City has a large collection of top-end arcade games that will keep the whole family entertained.
There are several claw machines and similar entertainment systems that make it easy to score tickets, so the kids will always walk away with a prize.
13. Gatlin’s Rugged Ropes Adventure Course
Located at Gatlin’s Fun Center in Downtown Gatlinburg, the Rugged Ropes Adventure Course is perfect for those looking for a challenging adventure.
Guests will be harnessed in an overhead track and then they are free to climb three stories in the air, where they’ll face a series of exciting challenges including suspended ropes and swaying bridges.
For those who aren’t up to the challenge, Gatlin’s also has several other activities on offer in Gatlinburg, including escape rooms, mini golf, laser tag, bumper cars, and a laser maze!
14. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
If you’re a sweet tooth wondering what to do in Gatlinburg, Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is a must. Established in 1952, the family-owned business is renowned for its homemade taffy.
You can buy 33 varieties of delicious taffy, along with other treats like candy apples, fudge, truffles, and praline.
The open-style kitchen allows guests to observe as the candy-makers work their magic in the store’s two Downtown Gatlinburg locations.
15. Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
For those who come to Gatlinburg seeking outstanding views of the mountains, look no further than SkyLift Park.
There are several activities on offer that provide entertainment for the whole family, from walking the intimidating yet mesmerizing SkyBridge, hiking the SkyTrail, and climbing the Tulip Tower to absorb the views from the SkyDeck.
Shopping is also available in the SkyCenter. Events are held at SkyLift Park throughout the year too, including live music performances during the summer.
Free Things To Do In Gatlinburg
While you could easily spend endless money exploring the wonders of Gatlinburg, there’s also plenty on offer for those on a budget. Check out some of the best free things to do in Gatlinburg below:
1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Nature enthusiast or not, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an iconic landmark that any visitor to Gatlinburg will love.
There are endless things to do in the park, from fishing, to viewing wildlife like black bears and elk, to hiking and bicycling the hundreds of miles of trails, to exploring the many historic buildings still standing on the grounds.
Guided horseback riding and camping are also available in the park, though these come with a fee.
2. Gatlinburg Trolley
The Gatlinburg Trolley is one of the best ways to get around town, and it happens to be free!
The trolley system was first established in 1980 with only six trolleys; now, there are more than 20 trolleys operating on a daily basis.
Trolleys stop at the Mass Transit Center at the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, in addition to multiple other points around the city. Visitors can use them to get around or simply to ride and take in the colorful sights of Gatlinburg.
3. Moonshine Distilleries
The traditional moonshine drink is a Smoky Mountains tradition. While it costs money to take a moonshine walking tour or sample moonshine, you can still explore the many distilleries around town free of charge.
Several distilleries offer tours of the premises for free, while others will allow you to go on free self-guided tours.
Some of the best to look out for include Ole Smoky Moonshine, Sugarlands Distillery, and Tennessee Shine Company as the best distilleries to explore.
4. Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community
If you appreciate arts, crafts, and homemade goods, take a stroll through the Arts and Crafts Community of Downtown Gatlinburg.
While it’s not free to buy souvenirs, it doesn’t cost you anything to simply walk through the community and admire what’s on offer. Browse through everything from glasswork to leather goods.
5. Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill
Wondering what’s in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for history buffs? The Mountain Farm Museum and Mingus Mill is an open-air museum that’s completely free to enter.
Here you’ll find a selection of authentic preserved buildings from bygone eras, including a house, a barn, a smokehouse, an applehouse, and a springhouse.
The museum is also home to a visitor center and runs frequent demonstrations of historic gardening and agricultural practices.