If you’re tired of your day-to-day routine and are looking for a quick winter getaway, Gatlinburg, Tennesse, is the perfect place to be. With snowcapped mountains and chilly winds awaiting you, there’s no better vacation spot you’d rather be at.
Gatlinburg is a small friendly city in eastern Tennessee. A gateway to one of the most visited national parks, it hosts close to 10 million visitors annually. The city’s breathtaking views, historical sites, and natural landscapes are only a few examples of what this place has to offer.
However, many people mistakenly believe that traveling to Gatlinburg during the off-season is a mistake and should only be visited during the summer. But this is far from true. Visiting Gatlinburg in every season has a charm of its own. Although summer break is generally the most popular time for tourists to visit the city, winters are much calmer and crowd-free. So to avoid long lines, high-priced rentals, and hot sunny weather—this holiday season is the best time to plan your itinerary. You can do several activities to make the most of your time here and make memorable memories.
So, to make your Gatlinburg winter experience one to remember, here are six things you can do.
1. Rent a cabin
Renting a cabin instead of a hotel is the wisest choice to enjoy the authentic ambiance of the mountains and surrounding nature. Nothing beats sitting on the deck, high in the clouds, with a hot drink and calming sounds around you. Besides offering you better money value, cabins can also feel like your very own home. Consider renting large cabins near Gatlinburg TN, if your itinerary includes visiting several neighboring attractions and towns. Their central locations allow you to commute with minimal hassle, letting you regain back your energy after a long day out.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like going anywhere; you can just hang back in your cabin next to a fireplace, cozied up with a favorite book or anything else you might enjoy.
2. Go for a winter hike
Hiking one of the many mountain trails isn’t just an exciting summer activity; trekking up the rugged slopes with chilly winds and cool winter dew falling on your shoulders can be just as fun. Since hiking tracks are relatively crowd-free this season, it’s easier to plan your trek on any trail. However, taking precautions and being mindful of icy and snowy trails is essential.
Although there are several hiking trail options in Gatlinburg, some of the more popular ones, especially for winters, are Porters creek, Alum cave, and Charles Bunion. Make sure to gear up with appropriate apparel like gloves, jackets, hats, boots, and energy bars before you begin your trek up the mountain.
3. Visit waterfalls
Gatlinburg can be your perfect spot as a base camp if you enjoy outdoor adventures, allowing you to visit its beautiful locations nearby. Since this city sits on the edge of the Smoky Mountains, there’s a significant change in elevation as you move from East to West. And with this region receiving constant rains throughout the year, magnificent waterfalls are abundant all around. Depending on your adventurous spirit and energy levels, you can hike up these waterfalls or drive up the trails. While many tourists visit these waterfalls during summer, they miss out on seeing them frozen and creating a dazzling snow and ice landscape.
Some of the most beautiful waterfalls near Gatlinburg that you shouldn’t miss are Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Abrams Falls, Spruce Flats Falls, and Cataract Falls.
4. Head to the Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Gatlinburg Space Needle is an iconic landmark and a popular attraction site for most tourists. Located at the height of 407 feet, it overlooks the entire city and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. You can ride up the glass elevators towards the observation deck while taking panoramic views from snowcapped mountains and trees. This place often gets crowded during summer, and tourists might have to queue long to wait their turn. However, in winter, few people visit the Space Needle, so you’ll have greater chances of reaching the deck quickly.
Besides the spectacular views, the Space Needle also displays exhibits containing fascinating facts and information about the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg. If you’re a history buff, this might be an excellent idea for you to enjoy an enriching experience.
Additionally, if you’re visiting during winter, the Gatlinburg Space Needle hosts a fireworks and celebration show every new year’s eve. You can just sit back, relax, and take in the view for as long as you want.
5. Enjoy a gourmet meal
Besides magnificent sceneries, Gatlinburg is also home to several restaurants and diners that offer delicious gourmet meals. From seafood and barbecue to pasta and pizzas—there’s something for everyone on the menu. More importantly, like everything else in this city, your dining experience will be an adventure in itself.
For example, you can dine in an old diner where you enjoy Gatlinburg traditions and live through a historical escapade. Or you could also visit a fine-dining restaurant, whichever one you’re in the mood for. When the weather turns snowy, you can choose a small cozy restaurant where you can sit next to a fire blazing in the hearth while savoring a delightful meal.
6. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium
Gatlinburg offers an exciting tourist destination on days when it’s too cold and you want to stay indoors.
The Ripley’s Aquarium is open throughout the year and is full of family-friendly activities you can partake in to spend an adventure-filled day. Voted as the best aquarium in all of North America, there are several activities you can do once here.
You can go through the underwater tunnel and come face-to-face with various aquatic species like snappers, sharks, sea turtles, and sawfish. Or you can see all these up close, with only a glass wall separating you from these tropical creatures.
Although Ripley’s Aquarium is especially popular among children, it can be just as exciting for adults. With over 350 species on display, you can also book hands-on experiences for you or your kids.
Other activities like ice skating, building a bonfire, or riding a chair lift are all very much possible in Gatlinburg. The entire city’s economy depends on tourism, so whatever you do or wherever you go, there will be an adventure awaiting.
When planning your itinerary, figure out where your interests lie and what you want to do the most. And geared with this guide in hand, you’ll never run out of exciting things to make your winter getaway truly memorable.