Local offers tips for things to do in downtown Gatlinburg
I like to think of the Gatlinburg strip as a place where families can have fun and exercise a little freedom. In fact, I’d say the Gatlinburg strip is the full Smoky Mountain experience condensed to within 0.8 miles. The strip is laser tag, mini-golf and the Ripley’s Museum. It’s pizza places and arcades and sugar and sweets and candy.
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The strip starts where the Parkway (aka U.S. 441) intersects with Ski Mountain Road and ends at the Cherokee Orchard Road intersection. In other words, from the Marathon Station at the top to Reagan Terrace Mall at the bottom. Because of developments below the mall along the Parkway, including places like Anakeesta and Ole Red, some suggest that the strip now extends further down. Either way, here are some of the best things to do along the strip that I would recommend to a Gatlinburg visitor:
RELATED VIDEO: What Is There To Do on the Strip in Gatlinburg
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1. Go shopping
I sometimes make fun of some of the more touristy shops along the strip. But, I’ve spent a lot of money in the stores. The better shopping, in my mind, is at the lower end of the strip where you can find the strange and wonderful Mountain Mall and the quaint Village Shoppes with their inexplicable European vibe.
The strip is also a great place to go Christmas shopping if you like to give – or get – more unique gifts. I’m fond of the Celtic Heritage Company in the back of the Village for beautiful items you don’t see much in East Tennessee. Other alliterative and oddly specific Village Shops include the Sock Shop, The Pepper Palace, The Candle Cottage and the Cheese Cupboard which sell socks, hot sauces, candles and cheese, respectively.
2. Try a few samples
With the arrival of legal moonshine distilleries, you could do a proper pub crawl downtown. Above all, the nicest thing about drinking in Gatlinburg is – if you’re staying at a hotel in town – you can park your car and walk where you need to go or get trolley passes. Gatlinburg distilleries charge a fee of $5 per person to sample spirits. At the Sugarlands Distilling Company, led by an expert “TasteMaker,” your round of samples will come with tasting notes and cocktail ideas. Ole Smoky Moonshine is a popular destination for sampling where a reservation is not required.
3. Partake in some family-friendly competition
Some of my favorite memories in Gatlinburg are those with friends or visiting relatives. We enjoy playing games, competing and busting on each other while we do it. There are plenty of opportunities to play on the strip. For example, Gatlin’s Fun Center is a one-stop-shop for a lot of the traditional tourist games we like to play including mini-golf, laser tag and bumper cars. The newest – and fastest-growing – game in the region, however, is axe-throwing. The Gatlinburg Axe House, located above the Chocolate Monkey offers axe-throwing competitions for the family. Perhaps wisely, it is in an alcohol-free environment. I think it’s a lot of fun.
4. Explore top attractions
The strip, like the rest of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, is filled with wonderfully entertaining and diverting places like Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, The Amazing Mirror Maze, The Space Needle and the Hollywood Star Cars Museum. And, if you are looking for amazing views, I recommend the Ober Mountain Tramway and SkyPark.
5. Enjoy the local eateries
Finally, if all these tourists are going to visit, somebody has to feed them. The strip is loaded with fantastic restaurants ranging from niche places like Waffle De Lys (Belgian waffles with a French twist) to popular regional chains such as Calhoun’s. There are a lot of options. Planning the perfect foodie day on the strip could look something like this: breakfast at the Pancake Pantry, lunch from Tennessee Jed’s and dinner at The Peddler. But, the variations are nearly endless.
What are your favorite things to do on the strip? Let me know in the comments below.