Tips For Making The Most Of Your First Trip To Gatlinburg

Did you know Gatlinburg is one of the most visited towns in Tennessee? Approximately 12 million people visit this picturesque town at the base of the Great Smokys every year. It is mainly famous because it is a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has the only ski resort in Tennessee. 

Photo by Gaetan Thurin

Gatlinburg is a beautiful mountain town with a small population and is an excellent way to detox from the fast-paced city life. The serenity and its people’s welcoming nature help you feel relaxed and happy when on vacation. It is an Appalachian wonderland with many adventures and exciting activities waiting for you.

If you’re traveling to Gatlinburg for the first time, keep the following tips in mind:

Look for accommodations

One of the first things you must do before heading out on vacation is explore lodging options in the area. You’ll have many choices, but if you want to make the most of your trip, ensure you have figured out the right place to stay.

Make a list of the amenities you expect and the attractions you intend to experience. Then book a hotel in Gatlinburg that meets your requirements within your budget. A convenient location will make tourist attractions more accessible and commuting manageable. Be sure to check online reviews; customers’ past experiences can help you make a choice.

Wear comfortable shoes

If you want to experience Gatlinburg’s town life in all its glory, the best way is to experience it by walking as much as you can. For this, you must pack a few comfortable pairs of shoes. You don’t want to end up with sore feet by the end of your first day. So take sneakers and a comfy pair of sandals with you. These shoes will help you make the most of your stay here.

We also recommend packing a pair of hiking shoes. These will come in handy if you plan on going on a hike within the Smokys.

Avoid paying for parking

You will have to pay anywhere from $5 to $20 for parking in Gatlinburg. Keep this expense in mind if you plan on taking your car around town. You’ll hardly find a place within the city that allows free parking, and this expense will quickly add up and affect your budget.

Hence, avoid bringing your car to the city center and go around on foot or by the trolly. This way you can interact with the town’s local people and other tourists. They’ll give you recommendations and guide you if you have any problems. Moreover, remember that there are just a few Ubers in the area, so don’t rely on them too often for commuting.

Always plan ahead

Planning makes it much easier for you to make your trip worthwhile. It helps you define what you want to do in a day and figure out any problems you might encounter during your trip. Gatlinburg offers many tourist attractions, including the Smoky Mountains National Park and Ober Gatlinburg. With so many places to visit, you can feel overwhelmed. Hence, putting in a little effort in planning can go a long way in ensuring you enjoy your visit.

Gatlinburg’s outskirts offer many remote and quaint places you can visit with your family and friends. Moreover, downtown Gatlinburg has a gorgeous crafts community, mini golf courses, a sky lift, and rafting. You can avail a private helicopter tour as well. From this helicopter tour, you’ll see the Smoky’s in all their glory from Gatlinburg. 

Gatlinburg is located close to both Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, both of which are also quite touristy. Hence, you can also visit the different tourist attractions they offer. From Dollywood to downtown Sevierville, there’s plenty to see, eat, shop, and experience.

Things you should carry on a trip to Gatlinburg

Packing can be difficult when you are going to a new place. You have no idea what you might need there, and you might feel confused and worried. We’ve already suggested comfy shoes; here are some more packing essentials you should consider taking along.

If you are going to Gatlinburg with your family and have a toddler with you, ensure you always have an easy-to-carry baby bag. You can also rent a stroller so you don’t have to carry your baby in your arms while walking. 

You should carry snacks and water, a camera, your phone, a portable charger, your ID card, money and credit cards, medicines, and sunscreen. Even if you are a solo traveler, you must always have these basics.

Saving money in Gatlinburg

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Gatlinburg is costly. Lodging, traveling, food and drinks, and visiting tourist attractions can cause you to reevaluate your budget. You’ll see you will quickly run out of money even though you were careful when spending.

To save money, try going for a hearty meal at lunch and a less expensive option for dinner. Use a trolly for commuting across Gatlinburg instead of driving and paying for fuel and parking. Look for coupons or tickets you can redeem at different places within the town. Avoid shopping excessively in the city, as things can get expensive.

Visit the Great Smoky Mountains, National Park

Lastly, visit America’s most popular national park while in town. It is one of the most famous places in the area and attracts the most tourists. The park houses several natural treasures like the Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, and Newfound Gap, and has a hiking trail of 800 miles passing through multiple states. There is no way you can cover the entire park in one trip. It is mostly untouched by humans and has deer and bears freely roaming around. You’ll also see wildflowers, trees, and gorgeous waterfalls there.


Gatlinburg should be on every avid traveler’s bucket list. It is a beautiful town that offers breathtaking views and has tourist attractions. Use this guide to plan your first visit, which will definitely not be your last.

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