Taking off to the Gatlinburg area in the Smoky Mountains is one of our favorite family getaways. There are many family friendly things to do in Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas – so many in fact that we keep going back year after year. Here are a few of our favorite family-friendly things to do in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the surrounding areas.
The Gatlinburg Ripley’s Aquarium is one of three amazing Ripley’s aquariums in North America (They also have locations in Myrtle Beach and Toronto, CA). This impressive aquarium allows you to get up close and personal with more than 100,000 sea creatures. We especially love visiting the penguins, sharks, and rays. Make the most of your visit by booking special experiences such as behind-the-scenes visits with trainers or watching the African penguin painters in action.
Click here to book tickets now for Ripleys Aquarium and other Gatlinburg Ripley’s Attractions
88 River Rd, Gatlinburg,TN 37738 | (865) 430-8808
Dollywood is one of our favorite places to visit with kids in Pigeon Forge. The super family-friendly theme park has more than 50 rides for kids of all ages. We were impressed that there were rides even our youngest daughter was able to ride at 18 months old! There’s amazing in-park dining – you have to try the pull-apart cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill! In addition, as you might expect from a park founded by Dolly Parton, there’s always amazing entertainment throughout the park grounds. We particularly enjoy visiting Dollywood during their Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration. Check out photos and more details from our visit here.
2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 | 800-365-5996
Anakeesta is perched atop Anakeesta Mountain right in the heart of Gatlinburg and is one of the best things to do with kids in Gatlinburg. You’ll enjoy family-friendly opportunities to relax, play and shop, all while taking in the scenery of the Smoky Mountains. Admission to Anakeesta includes a ride on a 4-person chair lift or a 6-person enclosed cabin. Up at the top, there’s plenty of fun activities to keep visitors of all ages entertained. Start your visit at the 16 bridge Treetop Skywalk – the longest of its kind in North America, then climb the AnaVista Tower – the highest point in Gatlinburg, which offers 360 degree scenic views. You can see places as high away as Kentucky! Down at ground level there’s a lush botanical garden with a variety of play areas for the kids. There’s really so much to explore at Anakeesta, including zip-lining, ropes courses, delicious restaurants, and retail shops that offer one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs.
Book tickets for Anakeesta on Viator
576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | 865-325-2400
If you are visiting Gatlinburg with kids, you’ll most certainly want to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We love hiking in the Smoky Mountains and enjoy watching our kids explore the outdoors. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a number of kid-friendly hiking trails. Kephart Prong Trail (4 miles round trip) is a great place to learn about the Smokies’ history while taking a fairly easy hike. The trail follows along the Kephart Prong creek and features 4 log bridges, the first two are quite easy while the last two are a bit more challenging. Other kid-friendly hiking trails in the park include Laurel Falls Trail, Porters Creek Trail, and the Gatlinburg Trail.
1420 Little River Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | 865-435-1200
Billed as the strangest place in Gatlinburg, families have been visiting Ripley’s Believe It or Not! for more than 100 years. The museum, which inspired the hit TV series, is a collection of the strangest and oddest things from around the world. There’s a dragon made of scrap metal, a car covered completely in crystals, an impressive rendition of the Last Supper made from lint, and much more to awe and disturb. The museum is designed to be family friendly but if you have very sensitive small children, it may be a bit much in some sections.
Click here to book tickets now for Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! and other Gatlinburg Ripley’s Attractions
800 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | (865) 436-5096
If you are lucky enough to visit Gatlinburg during the ski season, you may be excited to find out that you can ski right near downtown Gatlinburg! Ober Gatlinburg, the only ski resort in the state of Tennessee offers snow skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and ice skating during the winter months. There are 10 trails available for skiing and snowboarding, accessed by two 4-seater lifts, one double lift and one surface lift. The resort relies heavily on snowmaking and has a Snow Sports School for those just learning the sport. The ski season at Ober Gatlinburg typically runs from the middle of December to beginning of March.
Check out other great ski resorts near Kentucky here
Visit the South’s Largest Christmas Shopping Village.
Every time we go to Gatlinburg, we just have to stop at the Incredible Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge. As the south’s largest Christmas shopping village, there are rooms and rooms of displays where you can experience Christmas any time of year. There are more than 60 designer-themed Christmas Trees, ornaments galore (many can be personalized), and anything and everything you can imagine to celebrate Christmas.
2470 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868 | 865-453-0415
Take the kids and ride the yellow SkyLift 1,800 feet above sea level to the Gatlinburg SkyBridge. There, you’ll be able to enjoy some of the most amazing 360 degree views of the Smoky Mountains and the town of Gatlinburg. You’ll have to walk across 30 feet of clear glass in order to cross the SkyBridge, but once you do, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic food and drink options to indulge in while you enjoy the mountain views.
765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 | 865-436-4307
The Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is fun for the whole family! It’s a thrilling ride down the side of the mountain on a single or double seated coaster. The ride lasts up to 7 minutes while you zip and glide through trees and around thrilling turns. The mountain coaster sits right near the beginning of downtown, so it’s a nice first stop on your way in.
306 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738 (Traffic light #2) | 865-430-5577
Water Parks and Water Park Hotels
What’s better than a water park for cooling off after a hot day exploring Gatlinburg? In the summer months, there are a number of fantastic water parks near Gatlinburg. Dollywood’s Splash Country in Pigeon Forge is fabulous for a day of family fun. Soaky Mountain Water Park in Sevierville is also great. However, if you really want to enjoy a water park while in Gatlinburg, why not book a stay at one of the area’s hotels with indoor waterparks. (See the hotel section for more information)
Find even more indoor water park hotels near Kentucky here
Among the many family friendly things to do in Gatlinburg are quite a number of miniature golf courses. Ripley’s offers two fun-packed courses: Davy Crockett Mini Golf and Old McDonald’s Farm Mini Golf. Each location has two 18-hole courses to enjoy.
Hillbilly Golf is also a popular mini golf course. At this one, you’ll take an incline railway up the side of a mountain where you’ll find two 18-hole, Appalachian themed miniature golf courses packed with exciting features that are fun for the whole family.
Kid-Friendly Places to Stay near Gatlinburg
Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa
One of our favorite places to stay in and near Gatlinburg is the Dollywood DreamMore Resort and Spa. It is a getaway unto itself, tucked in the foothills, just far away from the main strip to provide a bit of relaxation. The resort offers very convenient access to Dollywood
The Dollywood franchise is planning to open another resort property nearby in 2023 called the HeartSong Lodge & Resort. I can’t wait to check it out!
Combine your Smoky Mountain getaway with a stay at a waterpark hotel for the perfect getaway the whole family will remember forever. Wilderness at the Smokies in Sevierville and the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park in Gatlinburg both have indoor waterparks that are tons of fun for all ages.
Riverstone Resort & Spa
This polished but rustic resort in Pigeon Forge offers 1-4 bedroom condos from which to base your family-friendly Smoky Mountain vacation. There are plenty of amenities in each room to make your stay comfortable, and amenities include an indoor pool, outdoor lazy river with waterfalls, and a riverfront area where you can enjoy a picnic or BBQ.
Book Homes or Condos in Gatlinburg on VRBO
Sometimes when traveling as a family, typical hotels and resorts don’t really tick all the boxes of what we are looking for – instead, a home, cabin, or condo rental is a better option. When we are looking for these types of rentals, we prefer to shop the options available at VRBO.