15 Best Family Activities In Gatlinburg To Do On Your Travels

Tucked away in the contours of the mountains, you might be surprised by the fun and excitement that awaits in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The small town hosts a wonder of attractions and has been a popular place for family vacations since the last century.

Discover all the best family activities that Gatlinburg has to offer with this guide! We’ve covered everything from authentic old-fashioned taffy to the best in arcade game technology!

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Best Family Activities in Gatlinburg TN

1. Gatlinburg Space Needle

Enjoy a panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg from the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle.

This isn’t a trip for anyone afraid of heights — the Space Needle observation deck sits an incredible 407’ in the air!

As you ride the glass elevator to the top, you’ll watch the glorious scenery unfurl in front of you.

As well as the view, the Gatlinburg Space Needle offers a chance to learn about the area. It’s a Gatlinburg must-see (as well as the best way to see Gatlinburg)!

2. Ripley’s Aquarium Of The Smokies

You might not imagine a town nestled in the mountains has a great aquarium, but Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies will prove you wrong!

At the Aquarium of the Smokies, you can pat a ray, get nose to nose with a shark, and gawk at the weedy scorpionfish.

Afterward, waddle over to the Penguin Playhouse, and get up close with the penguins as they explore their habitat. For a truly magical experience, families can also book a penguin encounter!

3. Gatlinburg Moonshine Mountain Coaster

The Moonshine Mountain Coaster is a rollercoaster with a bit of a difference. Instead of soaring through the skies at stomach-churning speeds, you can control your own experience, directing your cart through the magnificent mountain trails.

But thrill-seekers will still have plenty to love — the coaster reaches an impressive 30 miles per hour! And if you’re really lucky, you might have a chance to spot a bear. Combining soaring scenery with a soaring cart ride, this is a coaster adventure the whole family can enjoy.

4. Ober Gatlinburg

We couldn’t put together a list of family-friendly Gatlinburg activities and not mention Ober Gatlinburg. Founded in 1962, Ober Gatlinburg is an amusement park/ski resort/shopping center balanced on the top of Mount Harrison.

Visit in winter to discover the only ski resort in Tennessee and glide down snowy mountains. Ober Gatlinburg is your best option for snow tubing in Gatlinburg, Tennesee. But the fun doesn’t stop when the weather warms!

For the rest of the year, Ober Gatlinburg features snowless summer activities, including summer tubing and a scenic chairlift.

5. Arcadia

Over 30,000 sq.ft. of fun awaits you at Arcadia, Gatlinburg. This massive amusement arcade features over 200 games, from the classics to the latest in entertainment technology.

And winners get more than just a plastic mustache! Tickets can be turned into luxury branded goods, including gifts from Xbox and Apple.

The lights, the noise, the games — Arcadia is practically a paradise for children and parents alike. And when you need a break from gaming, you can stop at Slice to grab some authentic Italian pizza.

6. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

You’ll be like a kid in a candy store when you take the family to the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen! Founded in 1950, Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen makes authentic taffy from the same recipe first used when the shop opened.

Now available in 33 flavors, Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen taffy is the perfect gift and an excellent treat after exploring the mountains. All the candy is homemade, and you can often spot some of it being created in-store.

7. Ripley’s Moving Theater

Explore the fifth dimension with a trip to Ripley’s Moving Theater! This family-friendly activity is like watching a movie on a rollercoaster as you twist, turn, and cling to the edge of your seat.

Ripley’s Moving Theater achieves this incredible 5D experience with a combination of surround sound, 3D effects, and a high-tech motion simulator. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world! Children must be at least 43 inches tall to ride the moving seats.

8. Anakeesta Theme Park

There’s magic in the mountains at Anakeesta, a theme park on the edge of downtown Gatlinburg. Families can discover the mountains at Anakeesta, whether via a gondola ride, the 16-bridge Treetop Skywalk, or the pathways of the Vista Gardens.

Looking for a day out with more thrills? Anakeesta can provide them! Book a trip on the Dueling Zipline Adventures course, or fly through the mountains on the Rail Runner coaster. Take a break with an elevated meal at the Cliff Top restaurant, which overlooks the Smoky Mountains.

9. The Village Shops

Inspired by European villages, the Village Shops in Gatlinburg offer a unique and charming shopping experience. With 27 local boutiques, this is the perfect place to go when you want a quiet morning away from the amusement parks and arcades of Gatlinburg!

If you’re visiting Gatlinburg in the holiday season, then the Village Shops is a must-see. For a start, you’ll be able to pick up most of your gifts from unusual and unique boutiques. Plus, the Village Shops are decked out for the season, with fun decorations creating an unforgettable effect.

10. Wild Bear Falls Water Park

Expect thrills, spills, and plenty of laughs with a trip to the Wild Bear Falls Water Park in downtown Gatlinburg.

Get the blood pumping with a ride down Laurel Falls, a 300-foot-long enclosed slide with unexpected twists and turns. Or take a relaxing trip along Cades Cove, a lazy river that runs across 900 feet of the park.

Even better, you can visit Wild Bear Falls Water Park year-round! The retractable roof and heated indoor water ensure comfort throughout the year, whatever season you choose to pay Gatlinburg a visit.

Read this article for more ideas about the Best Family Indoor Activities To Do On Your Travels.

11. Mad Dog’s Creamery

Mad Dog’s Creamery was a Pigeon Forge favorite, and in 2016 it added a Gatlinburg location, bringing donuts and hand-dipped ice creams to hungry customers.

Sweet toothed-families should swing by and try the exceptional sundaes and delicious donuts, and there are even pet-friendly treats for dogs!

Mad Dog’s Creamery is open early every day of the week, so you can stop by in the morning for a donut and head back in the evening to relax with an ice cream.

12. Amazing Mirror Maze And Circus Golf

You won’t want to find your way out of the Gatlinburg Amazing Mirror Maze as you explore the state-of-the-art light and music show that accompanies the mirror walls.

But once you’ve made your way through the (surprisingly tricky) maze, the circus golf course ensures the fun can continue. Combining a fun house with an 18-hole mini golf course, it’s golf like you’ve never played it before.

And if that somehow wasn’t enough, the location is also home to a 7D Shoot Em’ Up Cinema!

13. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium

You know what to expect at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! — the unexpected! Especially if you’re taking a trip to the Odditorium in Gatlinburg. Discover the strangest, most unusual artifacts Tennessee has to offer, and marvel at the wonders the world can produce!

The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium is fun for every member of the family. If you want to save money and see more, you can bundle entries for various Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg.

14. Gatlin’s Escape Games

Put your critical thinking and imagination to the test with a trip to Gatlin’s Escape Games. With puzzles to solve and challenges to overcome, Gatlin’s Escape Games force families to work together to find their way out of a locked room.

Escape Games can be fun for all ages, but we recommend Gatlin’s Escape Games for parents with older children and teens. You can get stuck into the mystery and solve the clues to free you from your room!

15. Great Smoky Mountains National Parks

Gatlinburg is known as the “Gateway to the Smoky Mountains,” Therefore, we’d be remiss not to mention the exceptional national park on the town’s doorstep.

Many hikes and trails run through the Great Smoky Mountains, with tours for adults and families alike. The area is ideal for taking a family camping trip during warmer weather or going snow tubing with kids during the winter.

Is Gatlinburg Good For Families?

Gatlinburg is an excellent place to take the children, with many of the best attractions aimed at families. Enjoy amusement arcades, aquariums, water parks, and the dry slopes of Oder Gatlinburg!

Is Pigeon Forge Or Gatlinburg Better For Families?

Both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are amazing destinations for families interested in staying in the Smokies!

Pigeon Forge is better if you want some distance from the crowds, but Gatlinburg offers an authentic Smoky Mountain experience. The famous Dollywood Parks and Resort are located nearby, in Pigeon Forge, and offer plenty of fun for the whole family.

What Can Families Do In Gatlinburg?

Families visiting Gatlinburg will find plenty of activities to keep them amused! Explore the wildlife with mountain coasters, watch the view unfold from the Gatlin Space Needle, or discover the thrills of Ripley’s attractions.

Final Thoughts

Gatlinburg offers an authentic experience of the Smoky Mountains, with numerous attractions for families. From old-fashioned candy stores to thrilling amusement parks, there is plenty to keep the family entertained.

For more about family travel, check out these posts:
River Tubing in Asheville NC with Children
Fun Things to do in Asheville NC with Kids
The Complete Guide To Traveling With Children
Multi-Generational Travel Ideas For Families
Snow Tubing in Tennessee for Families: Popular Indoor and Outdoor Locations
15 Best Family Activities In Hilton Head To Do On Your Travels

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The BE Family Travel Team writes articles to help parents travel with children.