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When planning our American road trip we had three major stops we knew we had to make – Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans, but we also knew we wanted to make a few stops off along our route. I kept hearing things about Gatlinburg, so started to research into the town nestled inside the Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, it was safe to say after one Google image search I was sold. A quirky, wonderful town filled with amusements which is also set in the middle of a national park with bears – completely me. So Gatlinburg became the first stop of our trip and we spent two fun-filled days finding unique things to do in Gatlinburg.
Unique Things to do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Mysterious Mansion
I foolishly walked into this haunted house thinking it would be more funny than scary if anyone has been on the ghost train on Brighton pier this is what I was thinking. How wrong could I be? It was terrifying and I screamed continuously for about ten minutes but it was fun, an adrenaline rush that makes you laugh a lot when it is over. The Mysterious Mansion is a live-action horror maze that kicks the ass of any horror mazes we have over here in the UK.
Buy your Gatlinburg Adventure Pass Here – this pass gives you access to Gatlinburg’s top attractions and includes further discounts on eating out.
Catch the sky lift for beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains and then once you reach the top you will be greeted by a winter-themed theme park. In the winter when there is snow you can actually ski here, but the rest of the year-round you can ice skate, do outside snow tubing and ride the mountain coaster. The mountain coaster is essentially a self-controlled toboggan on a track and it is SO much fun. We really enjoyed Ober Gatlinburg, it can be a bit pricey if you choose to do everything but it is really good fun.
Eat at Mellow Mushroom
Think fresh stone-baked pizzas complemented with delicious cocktails made from moonshine provided from the distillery below, while also in psychedelic surroundings and you have got Mellow Mushroom. The cocktails were fantastic, the food even better and the staff were hilarious, head here for lunch or dinner during your trip.
The Old Smoky Mountain Distillery
Head to the home of moonshine for a tasting session, this place is really popular so I would suggest heading there just after opening. All of the moonshine is made on-site in a large assortment of wonderful flavours and for $5 you can sample a shot of them, it is good fun and a little bit of a show depending on who your bar person is, just remember you need to be at least 21 to drink in the USA and you will get ID’d.
The Amazing Mirror Maze
A bit of light-hearted fun, Gatlinburg actually has two mirror mazes but this was my favourite one. Work your way through the mirror maze complete with strobe lighting and dance music, just try not to run headfirst into a mirror.
Play Mini Golf
There are so many mini-golf courses in Gatlinburg and I love mini golf so it was perfect! Gatlinburg reminded me a lot of International Drive in Orlando and I think the mini-golf courses played a big part in this. As I said there are a lot to choose from but our favourite was the circus golf, so head to there first.
Hike the Smoky Mountains
On a clear day head up into the national park for a scenic trek through the beautiful trees and woodland, if you are lucky you may even spot one of the beautiful black bears that call the Smokeys home. It is important to remember the bears are wild and you are entering their home, have respect and stay safe, I recommend reading this before taking part in a hike.
Eat breakfast at Crockett’s breakfast camp
On the day we arrived to do this there was an hour-long wait for a table, and sadly we had to get on the road to make our way to Nashville, but I have heard amazing things about the pancakes here. I was so impressed with the whole theme of the restaurant as well, it could have been taken straight out of Frontier land in Disney World.
Take an excursion to Dollywood
In the neighbouring town of Pigeon Forge is Dollywood, a theme park owned by Dolly Parton , if you a thrill seeker be sure to head over there for multiple roller coasters, drop rides, water rides and pretty much everything you can ask for. They also have various dinner shows and events on certain dates, so be sure to check what is on during your visit.
The Hollywood Car Museum
The Hollywood car museum is essentially one guy’s collection of famous cars, which he has now decided to put on display, but it was actually really cool. I mean they guys own an original DeLorean and an Ecto-1 Ghostbusters car! Not to mention one of Elvis’s cars and a motorcycle that was once owned by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. After speaking to a member of staff we also found out that once a year the guy drives a selection of the cars up to the top of the Smoky Mountains – just to ensure they are still fully working.
Spending a weekend in Gatlinburg made me feel like a child again, there was always something going on or bright lights flashing somewhere on the front of a store for attention. Gatlinburg is quirky, welcoming and a little bit of childlike magic hidden in the middle of a beautiful national park.
Where to stay in Gatlinburg: The Edgewater Hotel
Obviously, you are going to need somewhere to stay during your visit, so I recommend the Edgewater Hotel , it is well located and has beautifully presented rooms, comfy beds – just everything you want from a hotel stay basically. A full breakfast is also included in your stay, so be sure to make the most of that. I also have to mention that the staff are really lovely, two of bags were lost on a Delta flight, and they were really accommodating with helping us to get them delivered once they were finally tracked.
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We were guests of the Gatlinburg Tourist Board during our visit but as always all opinions are my own