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view of the smoky mountains at sunrise

Top 10 Reasons To Visit The Smoky Mountains

You’re guaranteed to make unforgettable memories regardless of the time of year you visit Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge! The Smokies are full of unique experiences; plus, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts millions of visitors with its various hiking trails, historic sites, and wildlife. As if you needed any more convincing, here are the top 10 reasons to visit the Great Smoky Mountains:

1. Scenic Views

The Smoky Mountains are beautiful all year round, and there are many ways to admire the scenic views. From driving on the Newfound Gap Road to riding the chairlift to the top of Anakeesta, you can admire the wildflowers blooming during spring and summer and the bright oranges, yellows, and reds of fall foliage. Even in the winter, the views from hiking overlooks are just as breathtaking. Some might be even more visible without the cover of leaves and shrubs! 

2. Cades Cove

The John Oliver Place in Cades Cove.Cades Cove is hands down one of the most beautiful areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can see old homestead sites, open fields, and beautiful, sprawling mountains. Expert tip: be sure to get there either really early in the day or later in the evening. These are the two times of day when you are most likely to spot wildlife.

3. Dollywood

Getting tickets for Dollywood is an absolute must! The thrilling rides, roller coasters, and interactive shows make this Pigeon Forge attraction a favorite for adults and kids of all ages. You’ll want to add a trip to Dollywood’s Splash Country during the warmer months. It’s a great place to cool off with thrilling water slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river, and you’ll make fantastic family vacation memories.

4. Whitewater Rafting

Are you feeling adventurous? The Smokies have a ton of different whitewater rafting excursions for you to choose from. Whether you are looking for an easy day floating in the water or a more rigorous day conquering the rapids, add some spice to your next Smoky Mountain vacation by trying a whitewater rafting trip!

5. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is one of the nation’s top-ranked aquariums for a reason! Home to thousands of sea creatures, including sharks and a sea turtle, you’ll discover what lives in the Coral Reef, Tropical Rainforest, Ocean Realm, and Shark Lagoon. A few more highlights are the Penguin Encounter, where you can pet a penguin, and the Glass Bottom Boat Adventure, where you can go out on Shark Lagoon and experience marine life from a different perspective!

6. Free Trolley Rides

Travel around town in style by taking advantage of the FREE Gatlinburg trolley. That’s right, free! The four routes start daily at 10 AM from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and travel through downtown Gatlinburg, the Rocky Top Sports World, the Arts &  Crafts Community, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and more. There’s also a Pigeon Forge trolley offering year-round services for a small fee– it’s well worth it not having to worry about parking! 

7. Dinner Shows 

hatfield and mccoyA dinner show is always a fun thing to do during a trip to the Smokies. You can watch feuding families show off their logger sport skills at Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud, stay on the edge of your seat at Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery, or laugh until your stomach hurts at Hatfield and McCoy. Expect hefty portions of Southern comfort food and high-energy action and entertainment!

8. Hiking

There’s no better way to spend time outdoors than by exploring the hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! There are easier treks for the more novice hikers, such as the Gatlinburg Trail and Clingmans Dome; however, there are also a variety of more strenuous hikes for the thrill seekers.

9. Picnicking

While exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, your family will also love enjoying a freshly prepared picnic lunch at one of the many picnic areas located throughout the park. Metcalf Bottoms and Cades Cove also offer outdoor grills and seating areas, so your menu options are truly limitless!

10. The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel

The Ferris wheel at The Island in Pigeon Forge.All you have to do is sit back and relax as The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel takes you 200 feet in the air for unbeatable views of Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains. Even better, you can enjoy it all from the comfort of a climate-controlled gondola. For an even more memorable experience, get the Day and Night Combo ticket and enjoy it both in the daytime and when it’s dark! 

Looking for other exciting things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains? Check out our Smoky Mountain events calendar for the best things to do during your vacation! You’ll find a complete list of everything going on in the area at the same time as your trip.


  • Avatar for Diane

    The trolley rides are not free. 50cents to 1$ per person.

    June 23, 2016 at 5:40 pm
    • Avatar for Emily Wolff
      Emily Wolff

      Hey Diane! Each summer there are free trolley rides available! You can ride the open-air shuttle trolleys from June 17 through August 14 (2016) and take advantage of free rides around the area! We hope you’ll come visit us soon!

      June 23, 2016 at 6:38 pm

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