Gatlinburg is a located in Eastern Tennessee, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which was opened in 1934, and has grown from a town with only six houses in 1912 to be able to accommodate up to 9 million visitors heading to the park each year. Though it may seem rather urban for a town that serves as a gateway to a nature resort, this also means that it has plenty of accommodation, restaurants and entertainment options on offer for visitors seeking something to do off the nature trail. There are a number of festivals held during the year; the Smoky Mountain Springfest runs from March to June, the Harvest Festival from mid September to late October and the Winterfest from November through until February. In mid May enjoy the festivities at the Gatlinburg Scottish Festival and Games, and the Fine Arts Festival, and in Fall take part in the old fashioned hayrides, the Craftsmen´s Fair and the Chili Cook-off!
- Gatlinburg hosts more weddings than any other American city after Las Vegas!
- The town was initially known as “White Oak Flats” due to the many white oak trees that grew in the area.
- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the United States.
- There are an estimated 1,600 bears living in the national park.
- A Gatlinburg tradition is to head Tennessee´s oldest pancake house, the Pancake Pantry for some very tasty crepes and pancakes.
- Ober Gatlinburg is a major attraction in Tennessee and the state´s only ski resort.
Things to Do
Most visitors to Gatlinburg come here to enjoy the beautiful scenery and wildlife found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take a hike along the Appalachian Trail, easily accessed by car, from where you hike along the trail for as many miles as you wish. The whole trail spans across 14 states and is 2,184 miles long! About a 40 minute drive from Gatlinburg lies Cades Cove, which is a beautiful place to visit and drive through to see all the wildlife the park as to offer. The speed limit here is 20 m.p.h. Back in Gatlinburg, there is no shortage of entertainment to counterbalance the scenic nature opportunities. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies has the world´s longest underwater tunnel and features over 10,000 aquatic animals, such as sharks, sea horses, cuttlefish, as well as hourly dive shows and educational programs. If you are into wines, the Smoky Mountain Winery gives complimentary tours and wine tastings. Get a great view from the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, and head to the Guinness World Records museum to view their 1,200 amazing exhibits. The Hollywood Wax Museum on Parkway is the only wax museum totally dedicated to celebrities and gives you the opportunity to pose for photos with very life-like wax replicas of your favorite stars. The Gatlinburg Sky Lift is a great and exciting way to get to the top of Crockett Mountain for some more amazing views.
Gatlinburg´s Food Delights
Gatlinburg has a good selection of hearty American fare on offer, and there is something here for every budget. Head over to the aforementioned Pancake Pantry for some delicious pancakes at a good price, but expect queues at the weekend, as it´s very popular! If you want to rock out while eating your burger or steak, the Hard Rock Cafe on Parkway is the place for you. It is also the only Hard Rock Cafe to feature a wedding chapel! The Smoky Mountain Brewery has the look of a ski lodge and the feel of a Bavarian beer hall and has sandwiches, snacks and beers on offer. For something more upmarket, there is a great steakhouse called The Peddler over on River Road. Guests can choose from several cuts of steak which are then cooked over a hickory fire to give them a lovely smoky flavor.
The best way to reach Gatlinburg from the North is via Pigeon Forge from the US 441. From the West, take the US 441 from Knoxville or the US 411 and US 321 from Marysville. From the South, arrive from the direction of Cherokee and from the East, the I-40 from North Carolina links up directly with the US 321. Once in Gatlinburg, there is a trolley service which takes visitors around the town. This is a great way to avoid the heavy traffic that can build up in the peak season. If you are on your way to the National Park by car, it is best to use the by-pass, which also offers some great views of the surrounding area.
Accommodation and Apartments for Rent in Gatlinburg
There is a quite an assortment of accommodation available in Gatlinburg, ranging from hotels and motels to bed & breakfasts, cabins and campgrounds! Due to the city´s stunning location great views are easy to come by, but if you want to also have a great local experience of the area, get yourself a self-catering or bed and breakfast option with Wimdu. There are apartments for rent, cottages, chalets and studios, so something for every budget really!