16 Plus Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains while on vacation.
Are you looking for some fun things to do in the Smoky Mountains in the Autumn or any time of the year? When it comes to the Smokies, it’s all about nature, fun, and of course, the food! The views are even more spectacular in the Fall.
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Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains
Although the Great Smoky Mountains extend from Tennessee into North Carolina, most people think of the area around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee when they talk about visiting the Great Smoky Mountains.
After all, that is arguably the most beautiful part of the Smokies. And it is home to the Smoky Mountains National Park which offers over 500,000 acres of beautiful wild land to explore.
But that is only the beginning of the good times to be found in the Smokies in the Fall. When you spend Autumn in the Smoky Mountains, it’s all about nature, fun, and food!
Exploring this 500,000-acre park is definitely one of the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains. From hiking trails to campgrounds to wonderful fishing holes, there is a lot to see and do here for the outdoor enthusiast. This is the ideal way to get some hands-on adventure while enjoying the beauty of the changing leaves!
Explore Nature in the Smoky Mountains
Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts have much to enjoy with the Tennessee portion of the Appalachian trail coming through the area. Managed by the National Park Service and other agencies, the Appalachian Trail is a great place for a short hike while visiting the area.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point of the entire 2,100+ mile-long foot trail. It is also the highest point in the Great Smokey Mountains National park.
The Little Pigeon River runs through both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. There are parking areas for you to get out and enjoy nature and snap some photos.
There is no doubt that Autumn is one of the most breathtaking times of the year to explore the Great Smoky Mountains. Autumn colors dazzle the eyes everywhere you look. See the scenic drive ideas below for a great view of fall colors.
The Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area really has it all going on when it comes to making the most of the views. So if you’re looking for Autumn leaves this year, the smoky mountains are the place to be.
Knowing when to visit the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area is the first step. These are popular destinations in the Autumn for good reason as you might imagine.
These are also the best places to visit in the summer during the vacation season. I have been in Fall, winter, and summer and loved every visit. We were enjoying Dollywood at Christmas with snow and sleet falling. It was such fun and a great memory now.
Gatlinburg Space Needle, 115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, Tn.
If you prefer to enjoy the Autumn leaves from a place that is a bit more hands-off, you’ll love the Gatlinburg Space Needle. An observation tower standing 407 feet tall, the Space Needle provides epic views of downtown Gatlinburg and the rolling mountains of the Smoky Mountain National Park.
No matter how long you spend here, you’ll never get tired of the views!
Gatlinburg Sky Lift, 765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, Tn.
If you prefer your breathtaking views with a little more oomph, just wait until you check out the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. The Sky Lift alone is amazing, lifting you by aerial cable car from downtown Gatlinburg to over 1800 feet above sea level on a 2.1-mile long journey above the trees.
But when you get up to the top, there is so much more to enjoy. Hang out on the Sky Deck for a while, enjoying the view from a relaxing place before heading to the Sky Bridge – the longest suspension footbridge in the United States.
The bridge stretches 700 feet long and hangs 1800 feet above sea level. The views from the bridge are truly breathtaking – if you are brave enough to see them. After the thrill, head over to the Sky Center to grab a bite to eat and a souvenir or two before heading back to downtown Gatlinburg.
Those are just a few ways to enjoy the stunning beauty of nature in the Autumn in the Smoky Mountains. And truly, everywhere you look, there is beauty to be found. Even when you’re in the mood for some more exciting fun!
Exciting Fun Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains in Autumn
If you have kids, fall is a great time to take them on an adventure to the Smokies. You can avoid the heat of the summer, yet days are still warm enough to enjoy yourself.
Not only is Fall weather great, but everything is decorated for the harvest season and everyone is in the mood to celebrate. It is simply a fun time of year to get out into the world. And here are some fun things to do in the Smoky Mountains with your kids.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg,Tn.
It may seem a little unbelievable that you can walk amongst the sharks while spending time in the middle of the Smoky Mountains, but that just goes to show how magical they are.
Kids will love this special aquarium, where they can experience the ocean, learn about the tropical rainforest, and yes, walk through a tunnel surrounded by shark-filled waters. And that is just the beginning of the cool things Ripley’s has to offer.
Check out their show schedule on the website for Ripley’s Aquarium. And if you get online during the day, you can even watch the live Penguin cam!
Anakeesta Adventure Theme Park, 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, Tn.
There are all kinds of breathtaking ways to explore the great outdoors at Anakeesta. This mountaintop park offers astounding views of the Smoky Mountains, even when you’re simply standing and looking around.
But just wait until you start walking along the 14 Bridge Treetop Skywalk and get a chance to look around from the perspective of a bird. If you look down at the right moment, you’ll get an incredible view of the Vista Gardens.
This lush garden is referred to as an oasis in the mountains and is home to a 20 foot tall Willow Tree known as the “keeper of the forest”. And all that is only the beginning of the fun you and your kids can have at this thrilling park.
If you live in the area, be sure and get a season pass so you can visit often!
Rowdy Bear Mountain Roller Coaster, Gatlinburg AND Pigeon Forge, Tn.
You and your kids are in for a whole world of fun when you visit the Rowdy Bear Mountain Roller Coaster Park. Not only does Rowdy Bear offer some of the most fun money can buy, but with two locations – you get twice the fun!
And we aren’t talking about repeating fun, either. Each Rowdy Bear Park – in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge – offers a completely separate experience.
In Gatlinburg, you can ride the Mountain Alpine Coaster. In Pigeon Forge, you can score big points on the Laser Gun Coaster.
And with the two locations so close together, there is nothing to stop you from visiting both parks, even if you’re just hanging out in the area for the weekend. Be sure to check out their website so you can make the most of your vacation plans!
Enjoy the Flavors of Autumn in the Smoky Mountains
Spending all that time exploring fun activities is sure to build up an appetite. Luckily, the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area of the Smoky Mountains is well-known for its food! Don’t miss out on some of the following must-stop locations.
The Apple Barn Cider Mill, 230 Apple Valley Rd, Sevierville, Tn.
Ask around and most people will tell you that the Apple Barn is one of the first places to go eat when you get to the Smoky Mountains.
Located a short distance from Pigeon Forge, in Sevierville, the Apple Barn offers a restaurant where you can enjoy warm apple fritters and one of the best breakfasts around. They also have a gift shop, an apple cider bar, an apple and fruit winery, and a creamery where they serve the most delicious treats.
You can easily spend a couple of hours at the Apple Barn Village. Be sure to visit their website where you can see all that they have to offer.
The Old Mill, 175 Old Mill Avenue, Pigeon Forge, Tn.
In Pigeon Forge, lovers of history and the products of stone-ground grist mills will be in heaven when they visit The Old Mill. You can buy stone-ground flour, cornmeal, and two kinds of grits, white and yellow, in the general store to take back home with you. True southerners appreciate stone-ground grits.
Be sure to visit the restaurant for some of the best food you’ve ever eaten anywhere. Homemade and high quality, these people know how to cook good food.
Frank Allen’s Market & Grill 930 Parkway Sevierville, Tn.
Frank Allen’s Grill is located on the Parkway inside of a store. Don’t let that stop you from going. Their burgers have won state awards for more than 15 years. They also hold a Traveler’s Choice Award from Trip Advisor. Not a fancy place but a great place for good food.
So here’s the scene; you are on vacation so you are eating out quite a bit. You would love a good burger or hot dog but not from a chain restaurant. Go to Frank Allen’s. You can thank me later. Dine-in or get it to go. Just know, the food is delicious and this is a popular place with the locals.
Take in a Dinner Show or Theater
There are really too many to name but a few we enjoy include; Dixie Stampede, Lumberjack Feud, Hatfields & McCoy, and The Smoky Mountain Opry. I couldn’t possibly name them all because there are so many.
Most are located in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. You will see them as you drive down the Parkway on both sides of the road.
The food is always good and the entertainment even better.
Again, there are so many things to see and do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. So you won’t be overwhelmed when you arrive, these are some of the top places for your family to enjoy the best time.
Wonder Works 100 Music Rd. Pigeon Forge, Tn.
It’s the upside-down building that piques your interest. WonderWorks is a science-focused indoor amusement park, combines education and entertainment. With over 100 hands-on exhibits – there is something unique and challenging for all ages.
Hollywood Wax Museum 106 Showplace Blvd. Pigeon Forge, Tn.
It’s the building with the giant ape on top. You can’t miss it as you drive down the Parkway toward Sevierville.
Winner of Trip Advisor’s Travelers Choice Award in 2020 and for good reason. It isn’t just the museum. There is also Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors, the Castle of Chaos which is a 5-D adventure, and Outbreak-Dread the Undead, a zombie-infested facility you need to survive.
Titanic Museum 2134 Parkway Pigeon Forge, Tn.
This family-friendly museum boasts over 400 artifacts from the actual Titanic. You get to experience walking the hallways, parlors, and cabins as well as view a replica of the Grand Staircase. Stand on tilted floors to experience the angle of the ship as it began to sink. Feel the chill in the air from the iceberg.
Take a scenic drive
Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass in the great smoky mountain national park. It runs from Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap and then descends to Cherokee N.C. You will find a small parking area along the way to pull off the road and park to enjoy the panoramic views.
Lots of wildlife to see along this route, especially near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center which is a great place to stop for a free historic tour.
Check the weather before you go. The temperatures are cooler and it could be snowing which means some areas of the roads might be closed.
Cades Cove is an 11-mile loop road just outside of Pigeon Forge. Spectacular views in Autumn. You might see a family of black bears, lots of wildlife, historic homes and churches, and an abundance of nature.
Take the 5.5 miles long Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail loop road just outside of Gatlinburg for a view of rushing mountain streams, log cabins, grist mills, and historic buildings with tons of history.
The Great Smoky Mountains is the perfect place to take the family for an adventurous vacation any time of the year. You get to experience amusement parks, popular attractions, historic sites, historic structures like the Old Mill, popular hikes with miles of trails, gorgeous views, mountain streams, outdoor activities, and plenty of indoor activities with dinner shows, museums, and attractions.
There is so much to see and do in the Great Smoky Mountains you will need to plan many visits back to the area. It is a favorite vacations destination for my family.