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Exploring Gatlinburg with Kids: Top 10 Things to Do

Exploring Gatlinburg with Kids: Top 10 Things to Do

Planning a vacation to the mountains involves many moving parts: transportation, maps, food, lodging, and deciding what to do in Gatlinburg with kids. When traveling with children, it is imperative to plan ahead how to keep them busy and happy during their stay.

Smart parents know that there is so much to do in Gatlinburg that will keep both them and the youngsters active and out of trouble; in short, the sweetest versions of themselves. There is always hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, rafting, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities, but when the weather turns gray, our indoor pool cabin rentals will be sure to keep them occupied. Here are our top ten recommendations for family-friendly activities in Gatlinburg.

1. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Exploring the Smoky Mountains National Park stands out as a top-notch budget-friendly experience in Gatlinburg. Only a 20-minute drive away from Gatlinburg, the park offers an exceptional opportunity for memorable family outings. The great thing about the park is that there are hiking trails for everyone. No matter what level of hiker you are – even if you consider walking up the stairs a hike sometimes – there is plenty to see and do in the park. 

Depending on when you visit, you can even enroll the kids in an exploratory class or sign them up to be junior park rangers. Just don’t forget to bring plenty of water and your camera to capture the fun.

  • Great for: Kids who enjoy the outdoors. 
  • Best for ages: 3+

2. Ride the Aerial Tram at Ober Gatlinburg

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While the Ober is known as a top skiing spot in the mountains, it also offers tons of fun activities to enjoy during the warmer seasons. Families can ride the aerial tramway and enjoy the incredible views of the Smokies from a different perspective.

In addition to the aerial tramway, there are also numerous family-friendly activities such as the Alpine Slide, summer tubing, mountain coaster, and encounters with wildlife that are sure to keep your little ones entertained the entire time! 

  • Great for: Families looking to unplug from the busy world and connect with nature.
  • Best for ages: All ages

3. Explore “The Parkway” in Gatlinburg

Unlike other towns that offer humdrum main streets, Gatlinburg’s main thruway is always bustling with activity. Gatlinburg Parkway, often referred to as “The Parkway,” is the main road that runs through the heart of Gatlinburg. The Parkway features a plethora of kid-friendly attractions, including Ripley’s exhibits, miniature golf courses, go-kart tracks, and even an earthquake simulator. If your kids like candy shops, toy stores, movies, and rides, they just might find themselves having a great time on the Parkway. 

  • Great for: Parents who want to stay in one area for the day.
  • Best for ages: All ages

4. Visit the Ripley’s Attractions

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A family trip to Gatlinburg would not be complete without visiting one of the many Ripley’s attractions. Scattered across Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville, there are a total of 10 distinct Ripley’s sites awaiting exploration. Start with the museum that started it all, Ripley’s Believe it or Not! full of oddities and strange finds from around the world that will keep you amazed for hours. Don’t miss out on the rest: the Super FunZone, Penguin Playhouse, Moving Theater, Marvelous Mirror Maze & Candy Factory, and Mini-Golf. It is hard to pick just one place to visit; you might want to plan on trying them all! 

  • Great for: Parents looking for something unique to do with their kids.
  • Best for ages: 5+

5. Indoor Play at Wild Bear Falls

When the weather proves to be less than sunny, don’t fear, there are still many things to do in Gatlinburg with kids. You can visit Wild Bear Falls, an indoor water park just minutes from your front door. The park’s rustic cabin-themed ambiance adds a touch of mountain charm to the aquatic escapades. Whether seeking thrills or a serene aquatic retreat, Wild Bear Falls promises an unforgettable experience, making it a quintessential part of any Gatlinburg getaway.

  • Great for: A rainy day activity.
  • Best for ages: All ages

6. Cool Off in a Swimming Hole

With many waterfalls in the Smokies comes a plethora of swimming holes that visitors can choose from. These natural pools are like secret treasures, waiting for your family to dive into and make memories. Kids will love cooling off in the clear waters of Midnight Hole or The Sinks’ pool. If you would like to combine your swimming trip with amazing waterfall views, check out Abram Falls and Laurel Falls, where the waterfalls create a natural pool at the bottom. There are many kid-friendly natural swimming holes in Gatlinburg that are sure to keep your family entertained for hours!

  • Great for: Enjoying the Smoky Mountains during a hot summer day.
  • Best for ages: 3+

7. Adventure at Gatlinburg SkyPark

The Gatlinburg SkyPark is home to the famous SkyBride and SkyLift. Thrill-seekers can brave the SkyBridge, an iconic suspension bridge that stretches across the treetops, providing an exhilarating walk with a touch of adrenaline. For a more relaxed encounter, the SkyCenter offers panoramic views from the upper deck and food to help your family recharge. Whether you’re drawn by the adrenaline rush or the desire to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes, a visit to Gatlinburg SkyPark is an unforgettable thing to do in Gatlinburg with kids that will leave you with cherished memories.

  • Great for: Thrill seekers looking to get unbeatable views of the Smoky Mountains.
  • Best for ages: All ages

8. Embark on a Journey to Anakeesta

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Kids of all ages, along with their parents, can indulge in a plethora of activities that cater to varied interests at Anakeesta. Little ones can explore treehouse villages and go on gem-mining expeditions, while older kids and parents can venture onto the Treetop Skywalk for exhilarating views. With its blend of adventure, natural beauty, and family-friendly amenities, Anakeesta is a great place to entertain both kids and parents, ensuring an unforgettable day high above Gatlinburg’s charm. 

  • Great for: Families with children of varying ages looking to keep the whole family entertained.
  • Best for ages: All ages

9. Enjoy a Scenic Picnic in Gatlinburg

If you are looking for more kid-friendly activities in Gatlinburg that are in the great outdoors, consider going on a picnic in the Smokies. One of the standout choices is the Cades Cove picnic area, popular for its potential wildlife sightings. Equipped with convenient charcoal grills, this spot offers the unique opportunity to savor a grilled feast right within the national park’s stunning surroundings.  Following your picnic, you can take your family to one of the many hiking trails that begin at the cove.

  • Great for: Families looking to unplug from the busy world and connect with nature.
  • Best for ages: All ages

10. Elk Springs Resort

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We had to include ourselves on the list. We pride ourselves on keeping even the most energetic of tykes occupied while staying at the resort. Our theater room cabins offer the best in family entertainment. From flat-screen TVs and game consoles to home theater rooms and pool tables, kids of all ages (including parents) can have a blast. While we suggest engaging in the myriad of kid-friendly activities in Gatlinburg we’ve highlighted, you may find yourselves spending most of your time just relaxing and bonding at the luxury cabin rental of your choice.

  • Great for: Families looking for a great place to stay 
  • Best for ages: All ages