Let’s face it: when it rains, it pours. And if you just got to Gatlinburg expecting a warm, sunny vacation but the forecast is showing you otherwise, we’ve got some good news for you: there’s plenty to do in eastern Tennessee on rainier days – or even rainy hours.
The Smokies receive an average of 55 inches of rain in its lower regions and up to 85 inches per year around the beautiful Clingmans Dome – that’s a lot of rain!
There’s a high chance you’ll experience at least some rain during your visit with those kinds of stats, but much like the Pacific Northwest, this rain is exactly what makes the Smokes such a lush and vibrant playground for the soul.
We’re willing to make that kind of trade-off!
Whether you’re visiting a museum, sipping on warm drinks in a cozy coffee shop, spinning around on a mountain-bound roller coaster, or drinking your way through the Gatlinburg area, there’s plenty to do on a wet day.
Alright, go grab your umbrella and let’s spin through ten of our favorite rainy day activities as we explore what to do in Gatlinburg when it rains.
What To Do in Gatlinburg When It Rains – Top Picks
- Experience Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
- Sip the Day Away With Moonshine
- Visit One Of Gatlinburg’s Cozy Coffee Shops
- Ride A Rain-or-Shine Coaster Around the Mountains
- Take A Drive Through the National Park
- Swim Around In An Indoor Water Park
- Enjoy Gatlinburg’s Unique Museums
- Eat an Ogle Dog at Fannie Farkle’s
- Support Local Art on the Arts & Crafts Loop
- Embrace the Rain
1. Experience Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
There’s really nothing like a museum or aquarium on a rainy day, huh? We’ve got all the love for this Ripley’s aquarium that makes rainy Tennessee days more palatable and entertaining.
Much like the national park, there’s so much vibrant life happening at the Aquarium of the Smokies at all hours of the day – over 10,000 exotic sea creatures!
A favorite for kids of all ages is absolutely moving along the Under the Shark Tank path, a great way to immerse yourself in the thrill of sharks without the probability of a bite – although it’s safe to say these sharks are far more interested in their own food than you.
You’ll also find magical opportunities to hang out with stingrays, penguins, mermaids, and more varieties of colorful fish than we even know how to process (The ocean is a big place!).
We’ve got to admit: a lot of people may have the same idea as you, so you might want to get there early, but we need to protect this museum at all costs because it’s a true rainy day – and sunny day – treasure. Go get your shark selfie!
2. Sip the Day Away With Moonshine
Bring your pup along for this one! There are plenty of opportunities to wile away in Gatlinburg with your friends and loved ones on wetter days, but our favorite spot to kick one back is at The Holler, Gatlinburg’s Ole Smoky headquarters.
They’ll hit you with numerous samples, live bluegrass music, and an innovative Tennessee experience. (Ask for a Spicy Pickle Margarita or a Moonshine Spritzer – yum!)
If moonshine isn’t your thing, we’ve enjoyed our experiences at local breweries, wineries, and cider houses. We know not everyone drinks, so if buzzy kombucha is more your vibe, head over to Whole Earth Grocery & Cafe for a rainy day kombucha, wellness shot, and Lentil Burger Wrap. Namaste!
3. Visit One Of Gatlinburg’s Cozy Coffee Shops
Is there anything better than a cozy coffee shop to sink into on a rainy day – or even better, a coffee shop to lounge in as the warm summer rain passes? (We don’t think so!)
One of our favorite places to grab a cup of Joe and read a book is Coffee and Company, a locally owned spot tucked away from the main strip. The folks at Coffee and Company offer straight, blended, and flavored java to keep those sleepies away, but we recommend their Caramel Macchiato for a real Gatlinburg treat. Chef’s kiss!
For an even more enlightening experience, check out Gatlinburg Grind, a local establishment big on bold flavor, delicious desserts, and warm customer service.
We love their signature Shark Bite, but they’ve also got an incredible dirty chai and plenty of herbal and low caffeine tea options for those of you trying to curb your caffeine addictions.
As an added bonus from some locals, check out Maddi Mae’s Cafe & Creamery in the Village Shops arena, another great spot to do some rainy day souvenir shopping. Their ice cream can take any rainy day blues away!
4. Ride A Rain-or-Shine Coaster Around the Mountains
The cool thing about the Moonshine Mountain Coaster is its innate flexibility. Sure, you can get on their exhilarating roller coaster through the mountains on a warm, sunny day, but they’re one step ahead of you.
This coaster company’s sleds – we’ll just call them that, okay? – have been uniquely engineered with personal rain shields to keep you dry in wet weather.
Bring your rain poncho if you’d like, but you’ll be safe, secure, and dry on this wild ride! Or if anything, there’s always Dollywood, the real most magical place on Earth!
5. Take A Drive Through the National Park
We know – it seems counterintuitive to head into nature on a rainy day, but listen. Especially when the rain is sporadic, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park transforms into a misty, gorgeous place complete with rainbows, lush and vibrant forests, and water-dripped mountain trails.
And we don’t need to remind you about the best part: rainier days draw fewer people to the park, meaning more room for you and the bears to appreciate its natural beauty.
We suggest putting on your favorite album and taking a drive, looking out for waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and one of their many walkable trails. (Hint: The Lumineers work great here!)
6. Swim Around In An Indoor Water Park
This indoor water park with a genius retractable roof will get the rainy day crazies out for anyone feeling cooped in, and in our experience, it’s great for both families and couples. We’ll just call it what it is: an oasis.
Our favorite spot to land is Grotto Falls, complete with a bubbling hot tub for all ages, but if you want to take it one step further, Westgate also has a luxurious spa to consider.
Don’t forget to get some grub at The Roaring Fork on the second floor; we love their nachos, pizza, and burgers!
7. Enjoy Gatlinburg’s Unique Museums
Good news: Gatlinburg has a plethora of educational and entertaining museums to visit rain or shine. As a sibling to the many Ripley’s attractions in town, we love the always weird Ripley’s Odditorium, especially its albino giraffe and strange shrunken heads.
But we’re also huge fans of the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, which showcases some of the most iconic vehicles used in film and entertainment over the years. (The Batmobiles and Paul McCartney’s animal-friendly Cadillac are worth the price of admission alone!)
For something even more niche, check out The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, which features more than 20,000 pairs of salt and pepper shakers from around the world.
This one is weird, y’all, but it’s totally worth it, especially on a rainy afternoon.
8. Eat an Ogle Dog at Fannie Farkle’s
To our mind, there really isn’t anything more comforting than a rainy day treat at Fannie Farkle’s, a quirky local establishment that serves delicious corn dogs called Ogle Dogs, cheesesteaks, and more while helping you get your jitters out with games.
Ogle might sound like a strange name for a foot-long corn dog, but you’re eating a piece of local culture: the Ogles are considered the founding family of Gatlinburg. (Now you’re going to see the name everywhere – sorry!)
Don’t forget to wash it down with some locally brewed Tennessee Sweet Tea!
9. Support Local Art on the Arts & Crafts Loop
Every day is a good opportunity to support local art, right? Venture out to the Arts & Crafts Community and hop around to the many talented artisans (over 100 of them!), from basket weaving to metalworking to paintings.
One of our favorite spots is Smoky Mountain Dulcimers, where you can learn how to play this beautiful string instrument often used in Appalachian tunes and popularized by Joni Mitchell. Or, keep traveling along this 8-mile loop to visit The Wood Whistlers, a proud local institution that has been creating art from nature since 1944.
And if seeing all this beautiful art inspires you to want to make your own, we’re happy to recommend one of our favorite local spots to create your own pottery, Fowler’s Clay Works. They’ve got a great balance of skilled artisans you can watch work, and opportunities to try your hand at the pottery wheel. Get your hands dirty – it’s good for you!
10. Embrace the Rain
And of course, last but not least, we want you to enjoy your time in Gatlinburg to its fullest by embracing the rain!
Get caught in a downpour? Well, we hope you brought your umbrella or rain jacket, but even if you didn’t, use this as an opportunity to mark another experience off your list: playing in the rain!
Who knows? Surrounded by the symphonic Smoky Mountains, you might even be inspired to write the next big country song about dancing in the rain. Enjoy your time in Gatlinburg!