Top 6 Things to Do in Downtown Gatlinburg

Scenic photo of downtown Gatlinburg.

Downtown Gatlinburg is truly a world unto itself! Although it is only a few blocks long, the heart of the city is overflowing with fun things to see and do. Spending the day on The Strip is very convenient, because once you find parking, you can walk over to all of the awesome attractions, restaurants, and shops. To help you make the most of your next vacation, Hearthside Cabin Rentals has put together a guide to the top six things to do in downtown Gatlinburg.

1. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the SmokiesThe outside of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a can’t-miss attraction for any Gatlinburg getaway. Voted the best aquarium in America by the readers of USA Today, Ripley’s has built a stellar reputation for its fun interactive exhibits. The centerpiece of the aquarium is Shark Lagoon, which can be toured via an underwater tunnel with a moving sidewalk or a glass bottom boat adventure. Another highlight of Ripley’s Aquarium is the Penguin Playhouse, which features a number of transparent tubes that kids can crawl through to get an up-close look at the friendly penguins.

2. Get Breakfast at the Pancake Pantry

Gatlinburg is famous for its hotcakes, and no one makes better flapjacks than the Pancake Pantry! This legendary restaurant was Tennessee’s very first pancake house and it has served millions of visitors in its 57 years of business. The Pancake Pantry has stood the test of time because it makes everything from scratch using the very best ingredients, including real butter and fresh whipped cream. Guests will find a number of unique pancake varieties at the Pantry, including Corn Meal Pancakes, Swedish Pancakes, Sugar ‘N Spice Pancakes, and Sweet Potato Pancakes.

A family walking through The Village shopping area in Gatlinburg.3. Go Shopping in The Village

Tucked away behind the Pancake Pantry, visitors to downtown Gatlinburg will find The Village. Designed to look like a small German town, this charming shopping area is home to 27 unique boutiques. Some of the most popular shops in The Village include The Day Hiker, The Candle Cottage, Pepper Palace, The Sock Shop, The Donut Friar, and The Spice & Tea Exchange. If you’re looking for some great souvenirs from your Smoky Mountain vacation, The Village will not disappoint!

4. Take the Chondola to Anakeesta

Visiting Anakeesta is another one of the best things to do in downtown Gatlinburg! This new destination for outdoor adventures, shopping, and dining is located on top of a mountain overlooking The Strip. To reach Anakeesta, guests can take a fun chairlift or gondola ride to the summit of the mountain. The Chondola (chairlift/gondola) station is located across the street from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Once you arrive at Anakeesta, you’ll have the chance to ride dueling ziplines, take a canopy walk through the trees, or do some browsing at Firefly Village.

5. Enjoy Music and Moonshine at a DistilleryA vintage automobile at the Sugarlands distillery in downtown Gatlinburg.

Downtown Gatlinburg is home to a great collection of distilleries where you can sample some authentic Tennessee moonshine! Tastings are $5 per person, but participants are reimbursed with a $5 coupon that can be applied to any purchase in the distillery’s gift shop. Even if you don’t want to drink, the moonshine distilleries are still worth visiting because of their great live entertainment. Both Sugarlands Distilling Co. and Ole Smoky Moonshine regularly host free concerts from local and touring musicians.

6. Head to the Top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle

Standing at 407 feet tall, the Gatlinburg Space Needle is the city’s most iconic landmark. When you visit the Space Needle, you’ll ride a glass elevator to the top of the observation tower. From the deck of the Needle, guests can take in majestic vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains and the downtown area. In addition to the spectacular views, the Gatlinburg Space Needle is also home to the Iris Theater (which hosts great magic shows), The Captured Escape Game, Slice Pizza Bakery, and Arcadia.

A beautiful log cabin in Gatlinburg with the mountains in the background.Where to Stay in Gatlinburg

When you stay with Hearthside Cabin Rentals, you will be minutes away from all of these awesome things to do in downtown Gatlinburg. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 18 bedroom lodges, we are guaranteed to have the perfect accommodations for your vacation. To start planning your getaway, browse our selection of cabins in Gatlinburg!