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stone mountain Tennessee

If you’re on your way to the most visited National Park in the U.S., the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then you’ve got to make a stop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This city sits on less than ten square miles of land and has a population of 4,200. But despite its small size, it’s the second most visited destination in the state with more than 10 million people passing through annually! This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Gatlinburg is full of family-friendly activities. People flock there to hit the slopes at Tennessee’s only ski resort, bike the gorgeous Smoky Mountains, and try some fresh moonshine; but this city has even more to offer. If you’re driving through or just visiting for the day, we have you covered on the top things to do in a day.

RELATED: Here’s how to take the perfect Blue Ridge Parkway road trip


Fresh Honey at the Market | Photo:

10am: A picnic with a view

If you head into town on a Saturday, you have to stop at the farmers’ market on the Covered Bridge in the Glades, only about ten minutes south of the Gatlinburg Centre. After strolling through the vendors, pick up some fresh fruit, bread and local honey then head to the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook. When you see the Gatlinburg bypass, take a right and you’ll see four different pull-offs for scenic views, take the third. Find a spot to park, grab your farmers’ market bounty, and walk the path to the overlook; we guarantee a breathtaking view.

Smoky Mountain Sunset

Noon: Walk through the mountains

You had a glimpse of the Smokies driving in; now see it up close and personal. Head back down from the overlook until you reach downtown, then shoot over to Sugarland’s Visitor Center. Park the car and experience the 3.8-mile hike in one of the most well-known mountain ranges in the U.S. This trail is one of only two in the Smoky Mountains that allows dogs and bicycles, so bring Fido!


Bennett’s BBQ | Photo:

2pm: Grab some grub 

Once you’ve worked up an appetite you’ll need to eat and will want something local, right? No problem; you’re in good company. The South is well known for its down home cooking and, in particular, its BBQ. There are plenty of BBQ joints in and around Gatlinburg, but the most well known is Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que. Find a seat inside and relish some of the best ‘cue in East Tennessee—we recommend the brisket.


Village Shops | Photo:

4pm: See the town

Since the entire city is only ten square miles, the downtown area is completely walkable and easy to see in a couple of hours. Head over to the Village Shops for some shopping, the Ole Smokey Candy Kitchen for the after-lunch sweet tooth craving, and other unique boutiques that you’ll only find in Gatlinburg.


Dixie Stampede | Photo: Pigeon Forge TN Guide

7pm: Dinner and a show 

The Great Smoky Mountains are the birthplace of one of the most famous country singers in the world. Dolly Parton was born and raised in Sevier County and has left her mark on her hometown. One of our favorite Dolly venues is the Dixie Stampede. It’s a dinner theater with a southern twist. Watch as riders atop 32 gorgeous horses prance, race and do tricks. You’ll enjoy a delicious Southern supper while you enjoy the show!

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9pm: Moonshine tasting

The night is young and it’s time to taste another local delicacy. Moonshine was created in the Smokies, so it’s only right that you get a taste while you’re here. Head over to Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery to get a tasting of multiple flavors and grab a jar to bring home for later. The apple cider flavor is a crowd favorite, but we doubt you can go wrong with any of them.

11pm: Meet for drinks

Strawberry wine, seventeen, Deana Carter, anyone? Drop by Tennessee Homemade Wines and taste some vino made from peaches, blackberries, blueberries and other fruits. Sure, it’s not your average glass of wine, but hey, you’re not in an average city. If you aren’t a fan of wine, no worries: The Ship English Pub is just down the street. Collect your friends and go grab a pint from their large selection of draft beers.

Late night: Rest easy in that crisp mountain air

The area around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Ford offers a great range of accommodations, from charming cabins to the family-friendly Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, which features multiple pools and puts you within walking distance of Dollywood’s Splash Country and just a few miles from Dollywood.


Pancake Pantry | Photo by Pancake Pantry 

7am: Fill up on early morning flapjacks

The lines at the Pancake Pantry usually start around 6:45am on the weekends, so you’ve to get there early. Even if you’re asked to wait an hour, we promise it’ll be worth it. With 24 different pancake options, it’s easy to find something for everyone. The cozy atmosphere complements the aroma of freshly mixed pancake batter hitting the grill; it’s more than enough to get your appetite up and running. Order a few stacks for the table, and savor every bite.

8:30am: Walk off those calories

Gatlinburg has a lot to experience, and even though you’ve covered lots of ground so far, you haven’t seen it all. A post-breakfast walking tour will help work off those pancake calories while also giving you a lay of the land. The tour is great and takes you past some of the most famous spots in town. It’s family friendly and costs $39 per person.

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Tagged: Tennessee

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