Gatlinburg Bucket-list: Six Activities for a Vacation with the Kids

5 min read

Planning a vacation with kids can transform into an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen family bonds through shared experiences and adventures. However, it's essential to curate a trip that's not only enjoyable for the children but also holds elements of fun for adults, ensuring a memorable getaway for everyone. Gatlinburg, located amidst the scenic beauty of the Smoky Mountains, emerges as an ideal destination for such family escapades. This charming town is brimming with child-friendly activities that promise fun, laughter, and unforgettable memories. From the thrill of amusement parks to the wonders of natural exploration, Gatlinburg offers diverse attractions tailored to families looking to infuse their vacation with joy and excitement.

Here, we explore ten tips for a fun-filled family vacation in Gatlinburg, showcasing why this destination is a treasure trove of family-friendly delights.

Embrace the Great Outdoors in the Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, serves as the perfect backdrop for families to reconnect with nature. With its easily navigable trails, such as the Cades Cove Loop or the Laurel Falls Trail, families can embark on gentle hikes that promise stunning vistas, cascading waterfalls, and the chance to spot wildlife in their natural habitat. Picnicking in one of the park's many serene spots offers families a moment of tranquility amidst the beauty of the Smokies, making it an essential experience for any Gatlinburg vacation.

Discover Fun for All Ages at Anakeesta

Anakeesta, Gatlinburg's award-winning theme park, is a world of enchantment set high above the town. Its unique gem mining activity is a hit among kids, who delight in sifting through sand to uncover hidden treasures, while parents appreciate the educational aspect of identifying different gems. While Gatlinburg gem mining isn’t restricted to Anakeesta, and there are other locations, such as Old Smoky Gem Mine, the park offers an array of other attractions as well.

These include the Treetop Skywalk, a scenic chairlift ride that offers breathtaking views of the Smokies, and lush botanical gardens that invite leisurely strolls. This mountaintop park blends adventure with serenity, providing a space where families can enjoy thrilling rides, explore nature, and relax in beautifully landscaped gardens.

Dive into Underwater Wonders at Ripley’s Aquarium

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is an aquatic wonderland that fascinates visitors of all ages. Its interactive exhibits, such as Touch a Ray Bay and the Penguin Playhouse, allow children to get up close with marine life, offering a tactile learning experience that is both fun and educational. The aquarium is home to a wide variety of sea creatures, from the majestic sharks gliding in the Shark Lagoon to the colorful fishes of the Coral Reef. It's not just an aquarium; it's an underwater journey that educates and entertains, making it a must-visit for families in Gatlinburg.

Experience Thrills at Dollywood
Dollywood, the famed amusement park owned by country music legend Dolly Parton, captures the spirit of the Southern Appalachians with its combination of thrilling rides, live entertainment, and traditional crafts. The park caters to thrill-seekers with its roller coasters and those seeking gentler entertainment with its carousel and train rides through the park's scenic surroundings. Live shows featuring music, dance, and storytelling reflect the rich cultural heritage of the region, providing entertainment that resonates with all ages.

Dollywood is more than an amusement park; it's a celebration of the Smoky Mountains' culture, making it a cornerstone of any family vacation in Gatlinburg.

Enjoy the View from the Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Gatlinburg Space Needle stands as a testament to the breathtaking beauty of the Smoky Mountains and the charming town nestled at their base. A ride to the top of this 407-foot-tall observation tower offers families a panoramic view that stretches across the lush landscapes and vibrant town below. The experience is not just visual; it's transformative, providing a moment of awe and appreciation for the natural and human-made wonders that coexist in Gatlinburg. It's an ideal spot for families to capture memorable photos and share a moment of quiet reflection above the hustle and bustle of town life.

Explore the Arts and Crafts Community

Gatlinburg's Arts and Crafts Community is a vibrant testament to the region's rich cultural heritage. This 8-mile loop of studios, galleries, and shops showcases the work of local artisans and craftsmen, offering families a glimpse into the creativity and skill that thrive in the Smoky Mountains. From hand-blown glass to intricate quilts, the community offers a wide range of crafts that reflect the area's traditions and natural beauty.

Families can watch artisans at work, learn about the processes behind their creations, and even take home a piece of Gatlinburg's artistic legacy.


Gatlinburg stands out as a treasure trove of family-friendly adventures, where every activity and attraction is infused with the potential for joy, discovery, and bonding. By adding these six tips to your bucket list, you’re guaranteed to craft a getaway that’s filled with laughter, excitement, and cherished moments. Whether it’s the thrill of theme parks, the allure of nature, or the charm of local culture, Gatlinburg promises a fun-filled vacation that will be remembered fondly by kids and parents alike.

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