96 Hours of Things to Do in Gatlinburg Over a Summer Trip

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg is a great spot to enjoy a nature-filled family getaway or bring a big group of friends to enjoy a giant cabin in the woods. There are a lot of things to do in Gatlinburg: world-class hiking, a vibrant downtown area, and excellent accommodations are juxtaposed for a memorable summer adventure.

Things to do in a Smoky Mountains cabin

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Thursday Group Activities in Gatlinburg

11:00 a.m.: When you get into town, head to your vacation rental and drop off your bags. Have everyone claim their bedrooms, and take your first look at the view from the balcony.

1 p.m.: Head into town for lunch. Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina has a great rooftop where you can enjoy tacos, margaritas, and pleasant weather.

3 p.m.: After lunch, it’s time to take in the best view of the Smokies you can find: the Gatlinburg Space Needle. Ride the glass elevator up more than 400 feet, and step out onto the 360-degree viewing deck. You will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Did you know this area gets its name from the smoke-like fog which rises from the mountains? You’ll get a firsthand look here.

Things to do in a Smoky Mountains cabin

5 p.m.: On your way back to the rental, stop by a local food market to pick up groceries for tonight’s dinner and lunches for tomorrow’s outdoor activities.

7 p.m.: The whole group can pitch in on making dinner in your rental’s kitchen. Enjoy it along with the view out the dining room windows. Spend the evening relaxing, playing games, and catching up. Then get to bed early – you’re going to need energy for tomorrow’s adventure!

Here are some of the benefits of cooking in your rental on your vacation: 

Friday Vacation Ideas for Gatlinburg

7 a.m.: Rise and shine! Make a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and hash browns to fuel you for the day. Pack up sandwiches, snacks, and plenty of water for your hike.

8 a.m.: Head to the National Park for your outdoor adventure: an eight-hour guided waterfall hike booked through A Walk in the Woods. If you’re looking for something less strenuous, A Walk in the Woods offers a variety of walks and hikes, which can range from two-hour strolls to twelve-hour strenuous hikes. Schedules vary, so call ahead to schedule your itinerary as needed.

A walk in the woods of Gatlinburg, Tennessee

4 p.m.: After a day of trail hiking, waterfall-viewing, and picnicking in the woods, head back to your rental. Shower and take a well-deserved nap before heading out to dinner.

7 p.m.: Enjoy a delicious meal at Park Grill, where you can try locally-inspired dishes like Southern Pecan Chicken and Moonshine Cherry Beef Kabobs. Split the dessert sampler for a taste of everything: Jack Daniel’s Crème brûlée, Blackberry Cobbler, and Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse.

Things to do on a Gatlinburg Saturday

9 a.m.: Sleep in a bit, and then treat yourself to a bounty of breakfast at the Pancake Pantry. Go with the classic Old Fashioned Buttermilk Pancakes, or choose from creative options like Pigs in a Blanket (sausage nestled in buttermilk pancakes), Austrian Apple-Walnut Crepes, or Sweet Potato Pancakes.

10:30 a.m.: Head down the road to Anakeesta, a Gatlinburg attractions opening in Summer of 2017. Take a 12-minute gondola ride up to the mountain peak which is home to Firefly Village. For other things to do in Gatlinburg, you can explore unique shopping and dining, including handmade candies, jewelry, local crafts, clothing and unique gifts. This all comes with spectacular views of Mt. LeConte and downtown Gatlinburg. Adventurous activities await you: zip lining, a high-speed mountain coaster, and a canopy bridge walk offer exciting and unique ways to take in the vistas. There is also a treehouse playground for the little ones.

Best things to do in Gatlinburg: Distillery Tour

8 p.m.: After dinner in Anakeesta, head over to Sugarlands Distillery for a sampling tour. Your group will get a 30-minute private tour and see how the famous moonshine is made. The experience includes a private lesson on mixology, where you will learn five ways the moonshine can be mixed into tasty cocktails for the of-age participants. Enjoy responsibly!

Best Spots on a Sunday in Gatlinburg

9 a.m.: Today, enjoy a relaxed breakfast in your vacation rental kitchen, and get ready for a leisurely day outdoors. Pack up a picnic lunch.

10:30 a.m.: This day of the week is a great time to watch Sunday Drive, a classic throwback that’s worth revisiting. Stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center to map out your route. Begin with a drive on the Newfound Gap Road, and take in the mountain views as you go. Hop out for a quick stroll, and enjoy your picnic lunch surrounded by nature.

Gatlinburg Attractions: Five Oaks Riding Stables

2 p.m.: After a leisurely morning and picnic, head to one of Gatlinburg’s finest attractions: the Five Oaks Riding Stables. It’s one of the best spots for a horseback-riding adventure.

7 p.m.: For dinner, try some classic Southern Barbecue at Calhoun’s. Sample local classics like fried green tomatoes, char-grilled shrimp, and the hickory smoked barbeque pork sandwich. After dinner, head back to the rental to enjoy your last night together before heading home!

For other ideas on how to spend a long weekend in Tennessee, check out how one blogger enjoyed the area with her family: