The Ultimate Smoky Mountain Vacation Itinerary for a Weekend Getaway

Sunrise in the Smoky Mountains.

There is so much to see and do in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains that planning a weekend escape in the area can feel a little overwhelming. Fortunately, Hearthside Cabin Rentals is here to help! Our team has put together the ultimate Smoky Mountain vacation itinerary for two days in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Of course, everyone has different opinions about what the area’s can’t-miss attractions are, but we hope that our guide will provide a solid outline that you can alter as you see fit. Please keep in mind that certain businesses in the Smokies close or have limited hours during the winter months, so some of the items below may not be available during your visit.

Day One

1. Have Breakfast at the Pancake PantryThe Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg.

No trip to the Smoky Mountains is complete without going out for flapjacks! Gatlinburg’s most legendary destination for hotcakes is the Pancake Pantry, which has the distinction of being the first pancake house in the state of Tennessee. We love the Swiss Chocolate Chip Pancakes!

2. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Located just a short walk from the Pancake Pantry, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies was voted the best aquarium in America by the readers of USA Today! This hugely popular attraction is famous for its Shark Lagoon and its Penguin Playhouse. With Hearthside’s Freedom Fun Pass, you’ll receive one free adult admission to Ripley’s Aquarium.

3. Pick Up Sandwiches at Parton’s Deli

After spending a few hours at the aquarium, and possibly exploring more of the downtown area, we suggest picking up sandwiches at Parton’s Deli before you venture into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This fantastic sub shop has been delighting visitors and locals alike since 1974!

4. Stop by Sugarlands Visitor Center

With your sandwiches in tow (or possibly in your stomach), drive on over to Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains. This is a great place to pick up maps and guides, chat with a park ranger, and do some souvenir shopping. Be sure to check out the visitor center’s short movie about the national park.

Horses grazing in a field in Cades Cove.5. Explore Cades Cove

Situated about an hour’s drive from downtown Gatlinburg, Cades Cove is the most visited area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Over two million people drive through this gorgeous valley each year to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, historic buildings, and spectacular wildlife viewing. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, wild turkey, and white-tailed deer!

6. See the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show

Once you return to town, we recommend combining dinner with a show at the Hatfield & McCoy Theater. Guests will enjoy a mouthwatering all-you-can-eat feast and a hilarious show starring America’s most famous feuding families. Guests at Hearthside will receive one free adult admission to this show with our Freedom Fun Pass!

Day Two

1. Start Your Morning at The Old Mill Restaurant

Our Smoky Mountain vacation itinerary would be severely lacking if it didn’t include The Old Mill Restaurant! This iconic eatery is located next door to Pigeon Forge’s historic gristmill, which has been grinding grain into flour since 1830. The Old Mill Square is also home to a number of fantastic shops that you’ll definitely want to browse after breakfast.

2. Spend the Day at DollywoodScenic photo of the Dollywood Grist Mill.

Dollywood is far and away the most famous destination in the Smoky Mountains, and we recommend giving yourself pretty much the whole day to enjoy everything the theme park has to offer. After you wrap up your activities at The Old Mill Square, you can head over to the Patriot Park Station next door and hop on a trolley that will take you straight to Dollywood.

Dollywood is overflowing with thrilling rides and world-class entertainment (not to mention delicious food). A few of the most-buzzed-about attractions at the park include the Lightning Rod roller coaster, the Drop Line free fall tower, and the Smoky Mountain String Band bluegrass show.

Dollywood is open each year from mid-March through the end of December. If the theme park is closed during your vacation, consider visiting WonderWorks and/or the Titanic Museum Attraction instead.

3. Have Dinner at Mama’s Farmhouse

After a full day of fun at Dollywood, you can kick back and relax with an authentic Southern meal at Mama’s Farmhouse in Pigeon Forge. All of the dishes at this restaurant are served family-style, so you can share the bottomless entrees and sides with everyone in your party. Hearthside’s Freedom Fun Pass is good for one free dinner and drink at Mama’s Farmhouse!

The sign for the Comedy Barn in Pigeon Forge.4. Laugh it Up at The Comedy Barn

The Comedy Barn is the most successful clean comedy theater in America! This laugh out loud funny show includes comedians, ventriloquists, jugglers, trained animals, musicians, and magicians. Our Freedom Fun Pass can be redeemed for one free adult admission to the show. If you’re not in the mood for comedy, you can also use our Fun Pass at the Smoky Mountain Opry, Country Tonite, or Magic Beyond Belief.

5. Discover The Island in Pigeon Forge

Located next door to The Comedy Barn, The Island in Pigeon Forge is a fantastic place to spend an evening. This shopping and entertainment complex features a mesmerizing show fountain that syncs up with hit songs, a 200-foot tall Ferris wheel, and a variety of great stores and snack shops.

Where to Stay in the Smoky MountainsThe Clear View cabin in the Smoky Mountains.

We hope that our Smoky Mountain vacation itinerary has provided some inspiration for your next weekend getaway! When you stay with Hearthside Cabin Rentals, you will be near all of the best attractions and restaurants in the area. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 18 bedroom lodges, we are sure to have the perfect property for your vacation. To start planning your escape, browse our selection of cabins in the Smoky Mountains!