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Last weekend we made a short road trip to explore a new place not far from home and find fun things to do in Gatlinburg, TN. Gatlinburg is only about a three and a half hour drive from where we live in NC so it’s an easy destination for a quick getaway weekend.
Gatlinburg TN – A Tennessee Town Full of Charm in the Heart of the Smoky Mountains
The drive to Gatlinburg is lovely too! Heading up into the Smoky Mountains region you find lots of scenic spots to stop and enjoy the view. Beautiful mountains and valleys, blue skies and forests full of trees line the highway as you travel the windy roads. We rolled down the windows and soaked in the smell of the mountain air and the sunshine, happy to have a nice spring day finally!
We made it to Gatlinburg early in the morning and decided to try out a local breakfast spot to start our day off right. The Log Cabin Pancake House looked like the perfect place to get a great pancakes, eggs and bacon kinda meal – and it was delicious!
Looking over the list of family friendly attractions on Gatlinburg.com, I found Anakeesta, a 70-acre “outdoor adventure park.” It looked like the perfect place to explore with our crew of little ones. They love to climb and play! Anakeesta offered a whole list of fun things to do for all ages.
We rode the Anakeesta Chondola, taking an enclosed gondola cabin up the 600’ climb to the top. At the summit, we stepped off and into Firefly Village. The views from the top are simply breathtaking, and the charm of this place is just magical. The kids had so much fun climbing through the whimsical Tree House Village Playground. After they had climbed to their hearts’ content we hiked across the Tree Canopy Walk, a series of bridges hanging high above the forest floor. And we had the most delicious ice cream at Pearl’s Pie in the Sky.
RIPLEY’S AQUARIUM OF THE SMOKIES
After spending a couple of hours at Anakeesta we made our way across the street to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Voted 2017 Best US Aquarium by USA Today, this place is a must-see when visiting Gatlinburg. The underwater tunnels give you an up close look at sea life and creatures of all kinds, from 12-foot sharks to giant sea rays.
One of our favorite parts of the aquarium was the Ripley’s Penguin Playground where dozens of playful penguins entertain the crowds with their diving acts. There are portholes to climb through for an underwater view of the penguins swimming over you – the kids really loved it!
CIRCUS GOLF IN 3D
We love playing miniature golf! What could be more fun, right? How about playing mini-golf in the dark with lots of glowing neon circus characters all around!
HOLLYWOOD STAR CARS MUSEUM
One of the things I loved most about Gatlinburg is that it’s a walking city. You can see and do a ton of stuff within walking distance from the downtown area. While we walked the main strip my little boy spotted the Hollywood Star Cars Museum and squealed. It’s hard to miss the superheroes standing over a giant Hummer right in front. Inside, you’ll find the coolest collection of cars you could ever imagine. We’re talking all the cars you know and love from the movies, new and old. There were classics like the Love Bug, Kitt from Knight Rider, and the Ghostbusters Ecto-1, along with the hottest new wheels from the Fast and the Furious movies.
BUBBA GUMP SHRIMP CO.
Walking around worked up an appetite and we couldn’t pass up the yummy smells coming from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. right down from the cars museum. It was the perfect spot to grab lunch and get our travel tribe back on track for a few more hours of fun. I had a tasty shrimp platter and the kids dined on pizzas, chicken fingers and corn dog kid’s meals that came in cute little boat-shaped boxes. It was cool to see all the movie memorabilia from Forrest Gump. This place is a great family-friendly spot to grab lunch or dinner.
AMAZING MIRROR MAZE
Next stop on our walk around downtown Gatlinburg, the Amazing Mirror Maze. I had never been through a mirror maze before and had no idea what to expect. Right away we were all giggles and had so much fun trying to feel our way through.
HOLIDAY INN RESORT DOWNTOWN GATLINBURG
After a day full of fun and adventure we finally made our way back to the Holiday Inn Resort to relax. Just a few blocks from all of the attractions we visited, the Holiday Inn Resort and the adjoining Holiday Inn Express are perfect for families visiting Gatlinburg for a weekend or longer. The rooms are clean, comfortable and outfitted with everything you could want or need. But the feature the kids went crazy over was the indoor waterpark. Not just a little splash pad, I’m talking multi-levels of slides and water park fun for all ages, along with an indoor and outdoor pool.
Visit Gatlinburg TN
A short while later we headed back to the room and before long the kids were all cozy in bed and fast asleep. We had so much fun in Gatlinburg. It’s full of attractions that will excite and entertain your whole family. I can’t wait to come back and experience more of what this charming mountain town has to offer.
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