Whether you live local or are just here for a spell, this is your ultimate resource for things to do in the Smoky Mountains. No matter your style, this gorgeously scenic wonderland is sure to fill your family with the smiles and laughter of togetherness.
There’s no better place to let your family memories spring to life! With hundreds of ideas for family fun, your only problem will be choosing.
Here you’ll find information about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville, Bryson City, Maggie Valley, and Cherokee! Topics include lodging, attractions, festivals, restaurants, and all the fun activities you’ve been dreaming of!
For your convenience, the information below is arranged by area including the national park, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Townsend, Bryson City, Maggie Valley, and Cherokee.
Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
With twice the annual visitors of the Grand Canyon, GSMNP is the most visited national park in the entire United States. Known for stunning views, fantastic hiking, educational programs, world-class camping, and an abundance of wildlife, it’s no surprise the Smokies are popular with both visitors and locals alike.
The most show stopping animals in the national park are the famous black bears and the thriving population of wild elk, which were just reintroduced into the park in 2001.
The Smokies are also the home of the world renown synchronous fireflies, a mating event that only happens a handful of places across the globe and features thousands of fireflies all lighting in unison. Gorgeous!
The best part? You can see all of these wonderful things for free, because the park has no entrance fee. Of course, donations are welcomed.
Things to Do in Pigeon Forge
Pigeon Forge is the entertainment mecca of the Smoky Mountains. In addition to sweeping views, this mountain town features hundreds of family-friendly offerings including eateries, shows, museums, parks, and retail spaces.
Two of the most popular attraction areas are The Island and the Old Mill, both of which are known for having some of the best restaurants and shopping in the Smokies. The Old Mill has more mom-and-pop shops, while The Island features big names like Paula Dean.
Most of the larger, more commercial attractions and restaurants are located along the Parkway, Sevierville’s main drag. Take it from a local, always drive past your destination and make a u-turn when crossing the Parkway, you’ll never make it across if you don’t!
Things to Do in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is known as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can actually enter the park right from downtown, via the scenic Gatlinburg trail. This short hike takes you right to the popular Sugarlands Visitors Center.
Most of the local attractions and restaurants are located along the Parkway, Gatlinburg’s central downtown strip. Highlights include mini-golf, dinner and comedy shows, rustic boutiques, gourmet eats, lively nightlife, and more!
Though it does allow cars, the parkway is very pedestrian friendly . You can walk up or down the entire street in about 15 minutes, popping in and out of shops as you go along. There are plenty of benches for people watching, and restrooms for when nature calls.
Things to Do in Townsend
Although quieter than cities above, this quaint and scenic town has a lot to offer. From quirky bluegrass concerts in the summer, fast paced river tubing, regional museums, and world-class festivals, there is truly something for everyone.
Of course, being on the “peaceful side of the Smokies” means there is also plenty of rest and relaxation to be had.
Townsend is the closet town to the popular Cades Cove entrance of GSMNP. which boasts excellent hiking trails, historical landmarks, living history demonstrations, and the BEST black bear viewing in the park!
Things to Do in Maggie Valley and Bryson City
Bryson City and Maggie Valley are the premier destinations on the North Carolina side of the Smokies. Both cities are just minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and fabulous scenic lakes. Of course, each city offers it’s own unique flare.
Bryson City is the closest town to the Oconaluftee section of GSMNP, which is a prime spot for elk viewing. The city is also known for excellent fly fishing, river tubing, and The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, a traditional steam train offering themed and seasonal rides.
Maggie Valley is known for being the horseback riding capital of the Smokies. Its is also closest to the Cataloochee section of the park, which is another prime elk viewing location. The local area also offers skiing and snow tubing.
Things to Do in Cherokee North Carolina
Cherokee is an American Indian reservation deep within the heart of the Smokies. It is located on Newfound Gap Road, just south of the Oconaluftee Visitors Center.
There are several delicious restaurants in the area as well as locally owned shops and boutiques. The most popular attraction is the Oconaluftee Indian Village, a living history museum depicting Cherokee life in the 18th century.
Planning a Vacation?
Whether you are a Tennessee resident or welcomed visitor, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning a trip.
To help you pick, choose, and keep your activities organized, we offer a FREE printable vacation planner to our newsletter subscribers. The planner includes sections for a wish list, budgeting, lodging information, daily itineraries, information sheets for your pet sitter or house sitter, and more!
Happy exploring, y’all!