Traveling has looked very different over the last 2 years thanks to Covid and the pandemic. We have stuck close to home for the most part but this winter we decided it was time for another family vacation. We packed our vehicle and hit the road traveling through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennesee. We had the best family time! We’re sharing all the fun things to see and do in this Gatlinburg Travel Guide.
3 Day Gatlinburg Travel Guide
After a long road trip, it’s best to start with an activity that will stretch your legs. Thankfully, there’s quite a bit to do in downtown Gatlinburg. There are a few hotels located downtown, but we preferred an Airbnb a short distance away so we had plenty of room to spread out, plus it offered free parking. This is the way to go if you want to save a little money as parking downtown is $20 for each visit! You can also save by using the free Trolley transportation.
Gatlinburg Travel Day 1:
At the top of my family’s wishlist was Gatlinburg’s Skylift Park. The entrance is located downtown so you can easily walk to it. The line to enter may be long, but it moves quickly! At Skylift Park you can ride the iconic yellow SkyLift chairs 1,800 feet above sea level. At the top, you can take in the serene views of the Smoky Mountains as well as all of downtown Gatlinburg.
Things to do at Gatlinburg Skylift Park include the SkyTrail, multi-story Tulip Tower, and walk across the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America SkyBridge. The SkyTrail is a leisurely stroll with panoramic views. Along the trail, you will come across Tulip Tower, a 70′ steel tower accessible by two rope bridges. At the other end of the trail is SkyBridge – a bucket list for many! Want to know what it’s like to walk it? Check out our video!
By this point, you’ve worked up an appetite or need a drink – or both! Most of my family has a fear of heights (me included) so SkyLift Park was a BIG win for us! The restaurants located along the main stretch of downtown Gatlinburg will run an hour+ wait so be prepared! Add your name to a list or two, then head out for free wine and moonshine tastings while you wait.
Little Bear Winery offers 4 free wine samples or a steal of a deal. You can sample 14 wines (12 regular, 1 freezer wine, and 1 mulled wine) for just $5! You don’t need a reservation, just walk up to a bar and get started. The tasting takes approximately 20 minutes.
Ole’ Smokey Moonshine offers 7 samples for just $5 but you get a $5 off/$5 coupon to use in their store so it’s basically free! You won’t believe the number of moonshine flavors they have and the merchandise store is huge too.
Gatlinburg Travel Day 2:
Ober Gatlinburg opened its slopes for the winter season in January 2022′. You can take the aerial tramway up to the mountain playground to enjoy activities like skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, snow tubing, ski mountain coaster, alpine slide, and much more. If visiting Gatlinburg during warmer months you can still enjoy the many attractions available year-round except skiing and snowboarding.
Anakeesta is Gatlinburg’s newest theme park with everything from coaster mountain rides to ziplining, gem mining, shopping, several dining and beverage options, and more gorgeous views!
If you’re looking for something slower-paced and less crowded, take a hike at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. An entrance to the park is located at the end of the downtown parkway. You’ll need your vehicle for this activity, however, it’s completely free to enter and park.
There is street-side parking available at the GSMNP sign, as well as, the Gatlinburg trail for a short walk along the streaming water. From there you can head further into the GSMNP for a casual drive through the mountains with several turn-offs for picture-perfect moments.
You can also make a stop at the popular Laurel Falls trail about halfway through the GSMNP. This trail takes about two hours to complete. Anyone with good balance can walk this mostly paved mountainside trail. You may spot a deer or bear along the way, as well as many of nature’s other creatures. At the end of the trail, you’ll see one of the most beautiful waterfalls! We really enjoyed this nice hike.
If you continue driving through the GSMNP you’ll wind up in Townsend which is a quaint little area. Or you can head back towards the Gatlinburg entrance if you want to return to downtown. There are many other hikes within the GSMNP like Cades Cove and Clingman’s Dome which are two more popular stops.
If you plan to do several stops, we recommend bringing water and snacks to tide you over. Afterward, you will be quite hungry!
Once returned to your hotel or Airbnb, take the free trolley over to nearby Pigeon Forge just 6 miles away. The Island Pigeon Forge has a variety of fun activities to explore as well as shopping and dining. We recommend Paula Deen’s restaurant – it’s delicious!
Gatlinburg Travel Day 3:
Depending on how much time you have before heading home, there are a few options we recommend. Dollywood theme park/splash park is another adventure option if you’re family is up for it. We’ve been told by the locals it has short lines year-round (unlike popular Disney theme parks).
Another option is strolling downtown Gatlinburg for the many other attractions you may have missed on day 1. You can try free samples of taffy, cookies, and fresh fudge.
Lastly, you can head over to nearby Sevierville to visit the famous Apple Barn and Cider Mill which serves up southern favorites in addition to having a general store with loads of souvenirs.
We hope you and your family enjoy these Gatlinburg Travel Guide recommendations and have a great stay!