Gatlinburg is one of the most beautiful cities in the US. With views of the surrounding Smoky Mountains, there’s no doubt that a trip to Gatlinburg is the experience of a lifetime. But that’s not all that the city offers. It’s also home to a rich culture of comforting Southern food, mesmerizing wildlife, and cozy lodgings.
It’s safe to say that there’s a lot to learn about this city if it’s your first time visiting. You’ll need to keep certain tips and tricks in mind to make the most of your trip to Gatlinburg. Luckily, we’re here to tell you all about those tips, so keep reading!
1. Plan Ahead
Spontaneity is all fun and games, but the only way to make the most of any trip is by planning ahead. With so much to see and do, having a well-thought-out itinerary ensures you don’t miss out on the highlights of the city. Before you pack, research all the things you can do in Gatlinburg. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone has over 800 miles of hiking trails. If you’re into nature, we recommend exploring Clingmans Dome, Alum Cave, or Laurel Falls. Meanwhile, the downtown area will give you a glimpse into the small-town charm you’ve been looking for.
2. Book Accommodations in Advance
While we’re still planning ahead, you should also book your accommodations in advance. Not only will this get you discounted prices and peace of mind, but it will also guarantee that you get exactly what you’re looking for. For example, if you’re looking for cabins in Gatlinburg TN with an indoor pool, researching your options beforehand will ensure you don’t have to compromise. But if you’re looking for a luxury hotel, Gatlinburg has plenty of those too. Remember to look at the provided pictures on the listing to ensure the amenities and aesthetics are as you imagined. We also recommend reading customer reviews to learn about their experiences during their stay.
3. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Of course, your trip to Gatlinburg is incomplete without visiting the surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is an oasis of scenic views, adventurous hiking trails, fascinating wildlife sightings, and educational tours. We especially recommend visiting this place in the fall, when the mountain’s foliage is changing colors. If you’re a fan of hiking, trails like the Alum Cave Trail, Clingmans Dome Trail, and Laurel Falls Trail are must-visits. You can also enjoy scenic drives on the Newfound Gap Road and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
4. Consider Seasonal Variations
Gatlinburg experiences distinct seasons, each offering unique opportunities. That means you can visit the city any time of the year and still find something new to love about Gatlinburg. Still, there’s no doubt that fall is the best time to visit. Not only is the foliage mesmerizing, but hiking during this time is an experience like no other. While a lot of Gatlinburg is closed during the winter, the snow blanketing every aspect of the city is definitely a sight to see. Meanwhile, spring is the best time for photographers to visit, and summer allows for fishing, rafting, and picnicking during your visit.
5. Be Mindful of Peak Seasons
As a gateway to one of the most sought-after national parks in the US, Gatlinburg can get pretty crowded at times. If you want to avoid long queues and increased prices, it’s best not to visit during the city’s peak seasons. If you prefer a more peaceful and less bustling experience, consider planning your visit during the shoulder seasons. That’s typically during the fall and spring. This way, you can still experience most of the city without having to deal with big crowds or unpleasant weather.
6. Try Local Cuisine
Located in the heart of Tennessee, there’s no doubt that Gatlinburg is home to rich Southern cuisine. If you’re looking for a trip full of comfort food, it’s definitely the place to go. Southern fried chicken is a must-try, often served with coleslaw, biscuits, mashed potatoes, and gravy. You’ll also find delicious BBQ in this city, with many restaurants serving pulled pork, beef brisket, or smoked chicken. If you’re seeking comfort in a plate, don’t forget to try out the meatloaf, country-fried steak, and macaroni and cheese.
7. Explore Downtown Gatlinburg
Many come to Gatlinburg for its classic charm, which is best found in the city’s downtown area. It’s a bustling hub of activity and a must-visit destination during your trip. You’ll find endless shops, boutiques, and artisanal stores to keep you occupied during your visit! From handcrafted jewelry and artwork to specialty goods and clothing, there’s a lot you can take home to your friends and family. Plus, the street performers, musicians, and various entertainers add even more to the lively downtown vibe.
8. Utilize the Trolley System
You may be planning to rent a car or call Uber during your stay at Gatlinburg, but did you know about the city’s trolley system? Not only is it the best way to get around, but it’s also an incredibly fun experience. Whether you’re hoping to get to downtown, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or nearby attractions, the trolley system will take you there. It’s most helpful in peak seasons when parking is limited in popular tourist spots.
9. Check for Local Events
If your itinerary is looking a little empty, don’t forget to check for local events on the town’s website. Gatlinburg’s events calendar is filled with festivals celebrating everything from music and arts to food and culture. There’s always something to enjoy for everyone! You’ll also find seasonal events like Winter Magic and Christmas celebrations.
10. Respect Nature and Wildlife
Most importantly, you have to remember to respect the nature and wildlife of Gatlinburg. It’s the only way to preserve the natural beauty of the city and its surrounding mountains. That means you can’t feed the wildlife as it can severely impact their health and behavior. Other than that, you must stay on marked trails, dispose of trash properly, and never get too close to the wildlife.
Gatlinburg offers a delightful escape into the lap of nature. If you want to make the most of this trip, there’s a lot you need to know about its activities, downtown area, local cuisine, wildlife, and accommodations. If you’ve read our guide, you’re prepared to explore the wonders of Gatlinburg.
This page may include affiliate links or sponsored links. If you click on one of our affiliate links and complete a purchase, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.