Cradled by the breathtaking expanse of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is an idyllic alpine town laced with adventure, entertainment, and recreation.
This well-rounded destination attracts everyone, from adventurers, cultural enthusiasts, and history buffs to backpackers, honeymooners, and families with children.
There’s much to do and see in Gatlinburg, and since you’re planning a 2-day getaway, it’s important to set priorities. We advise setting out one day for outdoor adventures across the Smoky Mountains National Parks and its enchanting nature walks.
On day 2, you can explore Gatlinburg’s exciting art and cultural heritage alongside sampling the town’s finest eateries to experience Tennessee’s cuisine.
Honeymooners can stroll through fragrant wildflower meadows, fine dining with picturesque views, and explore the historic quarters. Families with children must check out the world-class recreational spots and embark on cultural heritage tours to unravel local history.
Read on to inspire your 2-day Gatlinburg itinerary with some terrific suggestions for an unforgettable Tennessee getaway.
Day 1: Adrenalin-Spiking Adventures in the Wilderness
Planning outdoor adventures on day one will give you enough time to relax and unwind before returning to the road. The Smoky Mountains National Park is home to spellbinding beauty and natural diversity, beckoning adventurers with myriad adrenalin-spiking activities.
The possibilities are endless, and one can easily find their dream adventure to test their mettle.
In Gatlinburg, you have a variety of activities lined up. Some of them are
- Whitewater rafting
- Rock climbing
- Hiking, ziplining
- High-altitude trekking
- Mountain biking
The Great Smokies open up a rewarding network of over 100 hiking trails, including the legendary Appalachian Trail. The park offers a variety of trails suited to beginners, families with children, and seasoned hikers.
Travelers who don’t enjoy hiking can witness the verdant beauty of the valley through the Gatlinburg chair lifts – a popular attraction. We suggest riding from the bustling center of downtown Gatlinburg to the soaring heights of Crockett Mountain.
The chair lift will take you 1,800 feet above sea level, covering the region’s most stunning panoramas. The local chair lift operators cover a variety of routes and attractions, offering a convenient way to experience the wilderness.
Nature enthusiasts eager to hike through the park’s cascading waterfalls and wildflower meadows must embark on the 2.4-mile Laurel Falls trail. This hour-long hike is a short, simple, and spectacularly rewarding journey one can make without exhausting oneself.
If you’re looking for a shorter route, the 1.1-mile Cataract Falls Trail is much easier and takes around 20 minutes.
Thrill-seekers wouldn’t want to miss Anakeesta, one of Galtinburg’s most popular attractions. This outdoor adventure park delights adults and children with its action-packed activities and ambient serenity spots.
Anakeesta offers a mountain coaster, ziplining, and North America’s longest tree suspension bridge. The onsite Vista Gardens combines interactive botanical learning with an enchanting garden and sweeping mountain views.
Gatlinburg offers a plethora of beginner-friendly whitewater rafting spots to feel the excitement without committing to strenuous activity. This alpine town offers proximity to multiple regional rivers, opening up many spots for beginners and seasoned rafters.
History buffs can combine their love for heritage and the outdoors by embarking on Gatlinburg’s riveting historical trails.
The Huskey Branch Falls Trail is a fairly easy route leading you through the park’s historical settlements and scenic spots. The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is a paved child-friendly trail from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the Little Pigeon River.
Hikers seeking a moderately challenging route will love exploring the historic Sugarlands community on the Old Sugarlands Trail to Rock House.
Adventure beckons from every direction in the Great Smokies, and one must set priorities to enjoy a well-rounded experience. Research will help you pack Day 1 with the right outdoor activities to satisfy your inner adventure without exhausting yourself.
Day 2: An Authentic Gatlinburg Experience
There’s much more to Gatlinburg than the magnificent backdrop of the Great Smokies, Tennessee’s mighty rivers, and innumerable outdoor adventures. This vibrant alpine town has a rich heritage and an action-packed arts and culture scene.
Families with children can explore
- Multiple amusement parks,
- Outdoor recreation centers
- State-of-the-art indoor entertainment venues
The local food scene offers various decadent desserts, traditional Tennessee cuisine, and all-American fast food.
A typical Gatlinburg breakfast features
- Savory platters of fluffy eggs
- Pancakes, and
- Roasted coffee
Downtown is packed with many breakfast joints and pancake houses to start your day with a hearty treat. For lunch and dinner, you can explore a multitude of fine dining and fast food establishments.
Families with children must visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – a state-of-the-art facility to experience marine life through underwater tunnels.
Ripley’s is home to numerous sea creatures, including penguins, sea turtles, sharks, and stingrays. The aquarium hosts a series of interactive exhibits to educate visitors about marine life.
Cultural enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy the 8-mile trolley tour known as the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Loop. This guided tour is organized by America’s largest fraternity of artists and artisans to introduce travelers to Tennessee’s talented craftspeople.
Art lovers can stroll through the local markets featuring
- Woven baskets
- Handmade candles, and
- Leather goods
It’s an authentic artisanal experience that allows travelers to connect with artisans who keep Tennessee’s traditional crafts alive.
Downtown Gatlinburg is brimming with museums, dessert shops, miniature golf courses, eateries, retail outlets, and child-friendly attractions. One can spend the entire day downtown without feeling bored or running out of places to visit. But if you’re looking to plan a fun day trip, Gatlinburg offers proximity to Dollywood and Pigeon Forge.
Gatlinburg is world-famous for its live entertainment and family-friendly dinner shows. We strongly urge you to combine dinner with theatrical entertainment by attending one of Gatlinburg’s themed dinner shows.
The town offers a delightful variety of dinner shows that serve sumptuous multi-course dinners with theatre-like shows. You can choose a comedy show or settle for mystery and intrigue, but the experience is bound to prove phenomenal.
Gatlinburg is full of exciting indoor and outdoor attractions, and a 2-day trip is hardly enough time to cover the best spots. But you can make the most of your time by creating an itinerary that covers Gatlinburg’s most iconic experiences.
We always advise travelers to listen to their hearts and answer their calling, even if it means ditching the itinerary. Gatlinburg and the Great Smokies are magnificent destinations to embrace spontaneity and get off the beaten track.