Gatlinburg Tennessee really is the gateway to the Smokey Mountains. Located in a narrow, bottlenecked valley/travel route between the mountains, this ultra-touristy resort town resembles a vast and somewhat gaudy pioneer theme park set against the astounding natural beauty of the Smokies. Though the blatant lowest-common-denominator commercialism of the place may rub some the wrong way, there’s no denying that there are countless things to do and see here, especially for families. Too much of everything ensures there’s something for everyone in Gatlinburg.
The sheer number and variety of shops, restaurants and other attractions in the town of Gatlinburg defies description. Most are in some way regionally themed, many are not. One of the best, believe it or not, is Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, a 1.4 million gallon aquarium with 340-foot gliding path under Shark Lagoon and over 8,000 different sea creatures. The Gatlinburg Sky Lift is a lift chair that glides over the valley to a height of 500 feet to scenic views at the peak of Crockett Mountain. If you enjoy subjecting yourself and your kids to massive sensory overload and foot-long corndogs, then Fannie Farkles is your kind of place; it’s packed with games, toys and Ogle Dogs, all in retina abusing shades of pink and blue. Now who’s up for a few old Sinatra favorites at the Patty Waszak Theater?