Gatlinburg, Tennessee is known for its picturesque location along the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But this beautiful setting is only one of the amazing attractions Gatlinburg offers visitors. From VIP winery tours, to the park that pays homage to the great Dolly Parton, Gatlinburg has always delivered, and 2021 is no different. All the businesses listed are taking precautions to protect visitors from COVID-19, and as such their hours and availability may vary. So check their websites before heading out. Here, in no particular order are the top ten must-visit Gatlinburg attractions for 2021.
1. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
No visit to Gatlinburg would be complete without a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the name implies, the park’s greatness is a thing to behold. The 500,000-acre park straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee and is home to historic structures, landscapes, and artifacts. Entrance to the park is free, as are activities such as hiking and enjoying the wildlife, but attractions such as camping and horseback riding charge a fee. As of the writing of this article, the park was undergoing a phased reopening, so check the National Park Service site for frequent updates.
2. Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park
If outdoor adventure is what you’re after, the Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park might be just right for you. The park is home to two of Gatlinburg’s wildest outdoor rides. The gravity-propelled Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster reaches speeds up to 35 mph as it winds through the Rowdy Bear Mountain woods. Their Air Coaster, dubbed the World’s first mountain glider, allows riders to soar through the Rowdy Bear Mountain treetops, combining free falling and hang gliding to provide a thrill a minute. Tickets for all activities are available for purchase online on the Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure website.
3. Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park
Nestled at the top of Mount Harison, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park provides year-round excitement. The family-friendly park includes activities such as ice skating, bumper cars, a Ski Mountain coaster ride, and an alpine slide and scenic chairlift ride. Their shops and full-service restaurant and lounge make taking meals and relaxing a breeze. And, each winter, Ober Gatlinburg offers the only ski area in Tennessee, providing snowboarding, snow skiing, ice skating, and snow tubing. If you’re visiting in the spring or fall, you can enjoy their MayFest or Oktoberfest festivals. Visit the Ober Gatlinburg website for more information.
4. Rocky Top Wine Trail
With five wineries, free tastings, and a wine trail that offers over 75 unique, high-quality wines to choose from, no Gatlinburg must-visit list would be complete without the Rocky Top Wine Trail. In addition to their multiple-award-winning wine provided by their five wineries, Rocky Top also boasts a wine club, a virtual wine trail, and a VIP wine tour experience. Their VIP Wine Shuttle Tours include a private VIP Tour of 3 Wineries, extra samples, and discounts. And, when you visit Rocky Top, you’ll be supporting local farms and enjoying the very best of southern hospitality. It’s easy to see why this unique destination is Tennessee’s most visited wine trail. Visit their website to learn more.
5. Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster
If 2020 wasn’t a wild enough ride for you, grab a seat on the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. This ride is one of the Smoky Mountains’ top experiences. The single and double rider cars make it easy to enjoy a ride with a friend or family member. The ride runs throughout the year, so you can experience the beauty of changing leaves and the crispness of the first winter snow. And, if you want to experience the coaster virtually before taking the leap, the Mountain Coaster website has a great point-of-view video to provide you the thrills without any of the spills.
6. The Gatlinburg SkyBridge
If you’re looking for something with a little slower pace, the Gatlinburg SkyBridge might be just your speed. Located at the top of the iconic SkyLift, the Gatlinburg SkyBridge is North America’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. The bridge stretches 680 feet across a deep valley and guests can take in panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg. To learn more or to purchase tickets online, visit the Gatlinburg Skylift website.
7. Gatlinburg Space Needle
Originally opening in 1970, The Gatlinburg Space Needle, is considered one of the most iconic attractions in Gatlinburg. At a height of 407 feet, the Space Needle offers visitors breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains from a 360-degree platform. The site houses a 25,000 square foot arcade that includes dozens of video games, laser tag, and even a hurricane simulator. To learn more about the attractions, visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle website.
8. The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum
If kitsch is your thing, this small, quirky museum has the spice you’re looking for. This unique Gatlinburg attraction is billed as the world’s only Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum and houses a collection of over 20,000 salt and pepper shakers from around the world. The family-owned spot features a mind-boggling variety of shakers in all shapes and sizes. For hours and entry fee, visit The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum’s website.
9. The Titanic Museum
For a larger museum experience, take a short trip over to The Titanic Museum. The world’s largest Titanic Museum allows “passengers” to walk in the shoes of passengers whose fates were sealed on the original Titanic voyage in 1912. Modern-day guests entering the ship receive boarding passes in the names of the real-life Titanic passengers. Once on board, guests can walk the Grand Staircase, touch a real iceberg, and even try to steer the ship. Visit their website for more information on the Titanic Museum experience.
No Gatlinburg-area must-visit list would be complete without the iconic Dollywood. Ranked by TripAdvisor as one of the best attractions in the world, Dollywood continues to offer families award-winning experiences. Whether you want to ride and slide at Dollywood’s Splash Country or relax in one of Dollywood’s Smoky Cabins, rest assured, Dollywood has all the activities and amenities you’re looking for. To learn more about what Dollywood has to offer, visit Dollywood.com.
If you’ve ever wondered if there was anything to do in Gatlinburg, now you know there are plenty of fun-filled activities for everyone in the family. From nature lovers to thrill-seekers, to those who’d rather kick back and enjoy a glass—or three—of wine, Gatlinburg has you covered. In fact, I bet your only question is where to begin! To keep abreast of all the great attractions Gatlinburg has to offer, visit Gatlinburg.com.