With mountain resorts, unique attractions, kid-friendly amusement parks, and exciting mountain coasters, Gatlinburg is one of the best places for a family trip. Whether young or old, your kids will love all the fun things to see and do, such as exploring an aquarium, playing in a water park, and flying down the mountain on an alpine coaster. However you plan to spend your time, you can do it all in Gatlinburg. Discover the 15 best family activities in Gatlinburg to plan your trip.
1. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a must-visit kid activity in Gatlinburg. The massive aquarium boasts sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, penguins, and other marine life. You’ll find several different zones displaying global marine life, including the Ocean Realm, the Shark Lagoon, and the Tropical Rainforest. The kids will like the penguin encounters and other experiences like a glass-bottom boat tour, turtle experiences, live animal shows, and sleeping overnight near the shark tank. Another unique experience is a tour that takes you on a moving footpath along the ocean floor where you encounter stingrays, tarpons, sharks, and sea turtles.
2. Have fun at Anakeesta
Anakeesta is an exciting mountaintop amusement park that’s fun for the whole family. The ultimate spot for adventurers, Anakeesta offers a treetop skywalk with connected bridges suspended above the landscape, an observation tower with views of the mountains, and zip-lining races. You could also visit the park’s botanical garden, Vista Gardens, which boasts thousands of plants, flowers, and sculptures. Within the garden, you’ll find TreeVenture, an obstacle course where you climb, slide, and crawl through a treetop challenge course. The park also has a single-rail alpine coaster, the Rail Runner mountain coaster, for a little adrenaline rush.
3. See the mountains from the Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Gatlinburg Space Needle is an incredible observation tower that offers panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg. The tower stands at 407 feet and you ride in a glass elevator to reach the top, so you’ll see the landscape every step of the way. In addition to seeing the views from the tower, the base of the Gatlinburg Space Needle also has an arcade with games, an escape room, and a magic show theater for the kids.
4. Explore the Hollywood Star Cars Museum
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a fascinating museum that’s sure to delight the kids. The museum has exhibits of famous movie and television cars from the last 50 years, all on detailed, recreated sets with lights and sound. You’ll find many nostalgic vehicles like the Batmobile from the 1966 television show, the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” and the Jalopy from “Beverly Hillbillies. You’ll see the Drag-u-la from “The Munsters,” the Ecto-1 from “The Ghostbusters,” and the DeLorean from “Back to the Future.” The museum also displays famous cars from the music industry, such as the Beach Boys’ 1955 Thunderbird.
5. Ride the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster
The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is a must-visit attraction when looking for family things to do in Gatlinburg. Riding down the mountain is one of the best experiences you can have in Gatlinburg. The coaster is family-friendly but still offers plenty of thrills and excitement. You can choose between an intense ride down the mountain for an adrenaline rush or opt for a ride that gives you control of the speed for a more relaxing experience. If you have young kids, you can double up in the coaster to share the ride experience with them.
6. Get a rush on the Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster
Rowdy Bear Mountain adventure park boasts a range of exciting thrill rides in the mountains, the best of which is the Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster. The coaster is a gravity-propelled alpine coaster that reaches a speed of 35 mph in the woodlands of the mountain. With the unique design, you control your speed to tailor the experience. You can ride single or double, so it’s the perfect choice for families with kids. Another unique attraction at Rowdy Bear Mountain is the Mountain Glider, a hang-gliding, single-rail coaster that soars over the treetops.
7. See the views from the SkyBridge Gatlinburg
SkyBridge Gatlinburg is a towering suspension bridge over the mountains that gives you a unique view of the landscape. The bridge stretches 680 feet across from the mountaintop SkyDeck and stands 150 feet at the midpoint. Take your time walking across the bridge and enjoy the views before walking back. In the middle, you’ll walk across glass floor panels that give you a daring view of the distance to the ground. The SkyBridge is wide enough for people to walk across in groups, so you can enjoy the experience with the whole family.
8. Explore oddities at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is an exciting attraction that the kids are sure to love. The Odditorium features over 600 exhibits of curiosities you won’t see anywhere else, such as a Jimi Hendrix portrait made from Rubik’s cubes, a space shuttle made from jelly beans, and a dragon sculpture made from recycled scrap metal. You’ll also see genuine shrunken heads, a 19th-century vampire-killing kit, and the National Anthem created entirely out of license plates. The Odditorium has some additional Gatlinburg kid activities, such as the Moving Theater 5D, miniature golf, a go-kart track, and an arcade.
9. Cool off at Wild Bear Falls Water Park
The Wild Bear Falls Water Park is a heated indoor water park with a mountain theme. The park is open year-round, so you can find family fun in Gatlinburg in the middle of winter. The water park oasis features a retractable roof and heated water in the lazy river, giant waterslides, and interactive treehouse. While the kids play at the treehouse and slides, you can relax in Moonshine Hollow or Grotto Falls, both of which offer warm soothing water in a spa-like environment.
10. Test your bravery at the Mysterious Mansion
The Mysterious Mansion is one of the spookiest attractions in Gatlinburg and a must for the thrill-seekers in your family. The haunted attraction is a grand, turn-of-the-century themed Victorian home with secret passageways, darkened corridors, and winding staircases. As you walk through the house on your self-guided tour, you may encounter the home’s ghostly residents. The haunted attraction is a fun-filled theme experience with lots of scares and some mild gore, so it may be best for older children.
11. Enjoy a round of Hillbilly Golf
Hillbilly Golf is a quirky miniature golf attraction that’s one of the most unique and unusual Gatlinburg family activities. The themed attraction features an incline coaster and 2 18-hole golf courses with country-themed obstacles, such as an old John Deere tracker, moonshine stills, and rundown outhouses. You’ll also come across rock walls and lush native plants that provide stunning scenery for your game.
12. Take a ride on Ripley’s Moving Theater
Ripley’s Moving Theater is one of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium attractions. Fun for the whole family, the Moving Theater offers a selection of 2 family-friendly movies you can see with a 5D experience that stimulates the senses. While you watch the movies, the chairs twist and turn along with the action of the screen. The ride also pulls you into the environment with simulations like wind, rain, or snow.
13. Explore the Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum
Gatlinburg is home to many remarkable attractions, but the Salt & Pepper Shaker Museum may be the most unique. The museum features over 20,000 sets of salt-and-pepper shakers from all over the world. Curated from an archaeologist’s studies and interest, the shakers in the museum span from ancient times to the present day, showcasing the way the changes in society influenced the designs. The shakers also show incredible creativity from artists and artisans, such as shakers modeled after political figures, mythical creatures, film characters, animals, and popular architectural styles or aesthetics.
14. Find the way out of Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze
Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze is a fascinating and challenging Gatlinburg family activity. The elaborate maze is constructed entirely of mirrors with LED lights, giving you a much greater challenge than a typical maze. Appropriate for all ages, the maze disorients you with near-infinite reflections and many ways out. To make the maze more difficult, you can opt for the rainbow glasses that distort your vision even further.
15. Glide down the mountain at Ober Gatlinburg Snow Tubing
If you want a break from skiing and snowboarding, snow tubing is a great way to enjoy time in the snow with the kids. Ober Gatlinburg, one of Gatlinburg’s top ski resorts, offers snow tubing on the mountain. Snow tubing takes place in sunshine, rain, and snow throughout the winter season. Children 6 years and older can ride alone, but children ages 3 to 5 must ride with an adult. Each session lasts 90 minutes, so you’ll have plenty of time to glide down the mountain for a memorable family experience.