Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Our Guide to the Gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Gatlinburg, TN 37738

At the foothills of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find a charming mountain town alive with endless shopping, dining, activities & of course – southern hospitality.

On our first visit to eastern Tennessee, we fell head over heels for downtown Gatlinburg.  Aside from the surrounding beauty of The Smokies, this small town has something for everyone.  Gatlinburg is home to some of the best shopping, dining & attractions in Tennessee! We made it a point to stop in this gem of a town after each of our visits to Great Smoky Mountain National Park where we quickly settled in and felt like locals thanks to a warm welcome of southern hospitality and easily some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. 


  • In the 1800’s, the town formerly known as “White Oak Flats,” was renamed Gatlinburg after the most HATED man in town – General Store Owner, Radford Gatlin. He was disliked by fellow residents for feuding with the town’s most prominent family, The Ogles, and supporting the Confederacy in the Civil War
  • Gatlinburg is the second most popular wedding destination in the United States, and it was nicknamed the “Wedding Capital of the South.”
  • The Pancake Pantry, located on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, is one of Tennessee’s oldest pancake house.
  • Tennessee’s only Ski Resort can be found in Gatlinburg, Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort. During the winter months, visitors can snowboard, ski and go snowtubing at Ober.

Things to Do in Gatlinburg

With so much to do in downtown Gatlinburg and the surrounding area, it can be a challenge to figure out where to start. Whether it’s a great meal or just a great place to be, below we share with you a list of our favorite spaces & places in beautiful Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

View as we approach downtown Gatlinburg on the Parkway from Anakeesta

Shop The Mountain Mall

Located at Traffic Light No. 6 on the Parkway and across from Ripley’s Aquarium, you will find The Mountain Mall where you’re guaranteed to have an unforgettable shopping experience in The Smokies.

The Mountain Mall is just something you absolutely have to see in person. The unique architecture alone of this building calls to us and when you step inside, you won’t find the “malls” we’ve come to know with big-box retail chains, but instead you will find some of the most incredible small businesses and best souvenirs in all of eastern Tennessee.  From hot sauce and t-shirts, The Mountain Mall really does have it all!

Explore The Village

Also located at Traffic Light No. 6 on The Parkway, The Village is a collection of over 25 retails paces to shop & eat outdoors.

The Village is a charming outdoor shopping mall located in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee where you will find a collection of unique shops & tasty treats (Jared – don’t skip The Donut Friar!).  During the Spring and Summer months, this area’s lush landscape is absolutely stunning, and it reminds us of a quaint German hillside village. 


Are you looking for picturesque Great Smoky Mountain Views without the hike? Take a walk in the clouds on a mountain of magic at Anakeesta, an adventure park in the sky, home to an award-winning zip line, a mountain coaster, treetop skywalks, beautifully landscaped vista gardens, shopping, dining, and the best 360-degree views of Great Smoky Mountains in all of Gatlinburg!

You’ll have to wait for the vlog, but our first mountain coaster experience was a blast at Anakeesta! A very big shout out to Danny at Anakeesta for taking such good care of us and showing us such a good time on our very first ride. As mountain coaster rookies, we weren’t sure what to expect, but Danny took great care of us and made sure we had the best experience possible. Read our full review of Anakeesta here

Moonshine Tasting

Eastern Tennessee is famous for their mountain made moonshine, and in Gatlinburg there’s no shortage of distilleries as it was consistently the number one thing people told us to do before we came to visit.  Moonshining was popular among local farmers who would take leftover corn and turn it into whiskey to generate more income for their families. With our college days behind us, neither of us are big drinkers so the idea of tasting large amounts of moonshine didn’t immediately appeal to us, but it is a Smoky Mountain tradition after all and now that we’ve done it, we have to say we can understand why this experience is so popular.

Sugarlands Distillery

This is an absolute MUST when visiting Gatlinburg! Our incredibly talented “TasteMaker” Tes took us on a tasting journey through some of Sugarlands award-winning spirits, and she showed us a heck of a good time while she was at it!

The best part of Sugarland’s was that we could purchase a shot of any flavor not included in our tasting at their full bar which wasn’t offered at the other Distilleries.  We didn’t want to purchase a full bottle of shine we hadn’t sampled. If you only visit one Moonshine Distillery in Gatlinburg, do yourself a favor and make it Sugarlands.

Ole Smoky Moonshine

There’s no doubt you’ve seen this shine before as it’s marketed throughout the Country, but we can almost guarantee you’ve never sampled all of their amazing flavors and this is your chance to do exactly that. 

A moonshine tasting at Ole Smoky will cost you $5.00 USD/per person (ages 21 and up), and you will be guided through a sampling of some of their greatest hits.  Your $5.00/per person sampling then turns into a credit towards a purchase after your tasting so if you want a t-shirt or a bottle of shine, you just saved $5.00!

Wine Tasting

Although there are no full-scale wineries in Gatlinburg (that we know of), there are plenty of boutique wineries serving up delicious wines & fantastic experiences for every palate from classic to dessert.  Every single winery stop allowed us to participate in a tasting, and these wines were some of the best souvenirs we brought home for ourselves and for our family and friends!

Gatlinburg Wine Cellar

Admittedly, what caught our eye were all the bright pink signs we spotted from the street which read “The Home of Cotton Candy Wine.” 

We both looked at each other and thought, this is something we can’t leave without trying.  Inside Gatlinburg Wine Cellar, our wine tasting experience was fantastic from start to finish.  They let us taste any three wines completely free.  Janine also fell in love with the adorable black bear featured on their wine bottles.  If you love sweet wine and want a great experience, Gatlinburg Wine Cellar is a must do!

Explore Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Gatlinburg is the Gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park so many visitors use this as the starting point for their adventure through the most popular National Park in the United States.

Read our Guide to Great Smoky Mountain National Park for more information on all the must-dos in The Smokies!

Where to Eat in Gatlinburg

Landshark Bar & Grill

515 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Enjoy classic American food in a casual beachy setting riverside right on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. 

This is a great spot for lunch in downtown Gatlinburg with “fin-tastic” food! Grab a booth or a table for a full-service dining experience, or grab a seat at the bar.  The service here was quick, friendly & fantastic.  We enjoyed the Beach Chips, Tropical Steak Tacos, and Chips & Dip.  There is also a gift shop where you can grab a few Landshark souvenirs. 

Chesapeake’s Seafood & Raw Bar

437 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

If you’re looking for a fine dining seafood experience in Gatlinburg, this is the place.

The food is fresh, flavorful & the service is phenomenal.  Also located on the Parkway in downtown, we honestly never expected to have a seafood experience this good in Tennessee, and we have never had a crab cake this good outside of the Baltimore/Maryland area. 

The restaurant’s atmosphere is lovely with large comfy booths and a wrap-around bar.  We highly recommend you request a table on their enclosed patio along the riverfront.  Complimentary parking is available next door.  Book a reservation using or the OpenTable app during your visit, and you will not be disappointed!

The Greenbrier Restaurant

370 Newman Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Nestled in the hills of Gatlinburg, Tennessee,  The Greenbrier is a cozy woodland retreat away from the chaos & the crowds of the Parkway and downtown Gatlinburg.

This mountaintop log-cabin style restaurant features beautiful décor and gourmet cuisine that is not to be missed, like their duck confit egg rolls, and smoked grits.  However, our bone-in-ribeye was easily one of the best steaks we’ve ever had.  The service here was some of the best we’ve ever had at a restaurant. If you can’t get a reservation during your visit, grab a seat at the beautiful bar & lounge where you’ll find the full cocktail and dinner menu, a massive wine collection, and a map of Great Smoky Mountain National Park on the ceiling! Read our full review of The Greenbrier here

Must Know

Getting Around

If you’re visiting for the day by car, know that parking can be tough to come by downtown – especially free parking.  We visited during the last week in August/first week in September, and we were able to find a spot in a paid lot not far from the main drag.  If you’re staying at a hotel in Gatlinburg, we highly recommend traveling downtown on foot. If you’re able, Gatlinburg is a very walkable town.

When to Visit

Do your research on local events prior to visiting.  July and Early to Mid-August are very busy times in Gatlinburg.  In addition, there are several “Rod Runs” and “Jeep Invasions” that bring massive crowds into downtown Gatlinburg and neighboring Pigeon Forge.  As of the date of this posting, the 2023 Fall Rod Run is scheduled for September 14-16th, and the Spring Rod Run is scheduled for April 18-20, 2024. The 2023 Great Smoky Mountain Jeep Invasion is scheduled for August 24-26, 2023 and August 22-24, 2024. We would never want someone to experience the area during these for the first time as it makes going anywhere and doing anything nearly impossible.

Don’t Feed the Bears

The Smokies are home to over 1,500 black bears, so remember when you are visiting Gatlinburg and the surrounding area, you’re visiting their hometown. Although we really wanted to have a bear spotting during our visit, we unfortunately did not see a single bear during our time in eastern Tennessee. However, that doesn’t mean the same will be true for you – so be on the lookout. Being so close to The Smokies has its perks, but remember to always keep a safe distance from all wildlife and never ever ever feed the bears!

We hope our Guide to Gatlinburg will help you plan your first or next visit to this charming mountain town in eastern Tennessee.

We want to hear all about your past or future visits to Gatlinburg, your trip planning, and any questions you may have in order to help you plan the best possible visit to eastern Tennessee!

The comments, opinions, and views set forth on this site are the reflected personal positions of the site’s creators.  This site is not an affiliate of the City of Gatlinburg and all opinions are our own.  The comments, opinions, and views set forth within this site are not the official positions of the City of Gatlinburg, and they do not reflect the agency’s position.

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