Here’s How Many Days You Need To Visit Gatlinburg, From a Local

gatlinburg sign in tennessee

How many days do you need to spend in Gatlinburg TN? I recommend at least three (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Local offers a sample itinerary for the perfect trip to Gatlinburg

I get asked about the ideal length of a Gatlinburg trip a lot. And it’s an important question. All the money in the world is meaningless without another, more ephemeral, resource: Time. Ticking away from the moment you start the car, time is finite. Once you’re out, it’s time to go back to school or work or catch your plane to somewhere else. So when planning a vacation, it’s important to budget your money. But it’s also important to budget your time. 

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How many days do you need in Gatlinburg? 

The best way to allocate vacation time is in days. The things we want to accomplish in a day are a much more sane way to vacate than plotting hour to hour. And if you’re going to Gatlinburg, I recommend planning for at least three days. You can do it in two, but you’ll feel a little rushed. Anything past three days and you’re going to want to reach out to Pigeon Forge and explore what’s happening over there. And to be clear, I’m talking Gatlinburg here, not Dollywood or Pigeon Forge or Sevierville. If you’re doing Dollywood, you need to account for at least a day for that alone. But you want a getaway in Gatlinburg proper and you want to be able to say you did the darn thing right? Here’s your three-day itinerary:

Hillbilly Golf plinko style hole
Hillbilly Golf is an iconic mini golf course in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Day one in Gatlinburg

For this exercise, I’m assuming a fairly late hotel arrival and check-in. You’re starting the next day fresh. Day one is the wrong day to try to hit a big breakfast. You need some energy to get the day rolling, but you don’t want a heavy breakfast slowing you down. Day one is for fun things. I’d do mini golf in the morning before it gets too hot or crowded. Try Hillbilly Golf (open seasonally) or one of the Ripley’s mini golf courses. Now is the time to consider getting a combo pass if you plan on multiple Ripley’s attractions. Have lunch somewhere downtown and then head over to Ripley’s Aquarium.

After the aquarium, it’s good to get out of town a bit. Maybe ride the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and get out to explore some light trails. That night? Hit the strip and let the kids explore the shops and the games and the neon excitement of vacation freedom. It’s not a bad night for the adults to get a drink, maybe at Ole Red’s, Jason Aldean’s or Jimmy Buffet’s if you want to lean into the tourist thing. 

skybridge at night
See the city from great heights at SkyPark (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Day two in Gatlinburg

Pancake Pantry is an option for breakfast here. You can’t say you’ve done Gatlinburg without a visit to the Pancake Pantry. Assuming the weather is nice, it’s a good time to try and get up in the air and see some views. Maybe a trip to Ober or the Gatlinburg SkyPark would be perfect. At night, dinner at Calhoun’s or something like The Peddler is ideal. It’s also a good night to let the kids hit other Ripley’s attractions if you purchased combo passes on day one.

anakeesta's bird venturer
Anakeesta always has something new. Above: The BirdVenture play area (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Day three in Gatlinburg

I’m assuming day three is also a full day. You’ll be checking out in the morning, so maybe take it easy and get a little rest. Start the day with a breakfast cookout in the mountains at the Chimney Rock picnic grounds. One of the best places to chill out in the Smokies, the picnic grounds have grills and good access to the water so the family can cool off in the mountain stream. Afterward, maybe do a little shopping or go back to the hotel to clean up and close your Gatlinburg trip with a visit to Anakeesta to watch the sunset and enjoy some food and drinks while the kids try a zipline or mountain coaster. If you choose Anakeesta, remember to check Tripster for discounts on admission. 

So there you go. Adjust those days as necessary, but you can truly say you’ve tackled the best of Gatlinburg in three days. Also, I’ve done some quick tablecloth math on this particular three-day vacation, and I figure it will cost roughly $1.2 million for a family of five, or at least that’s what it feels like. Maybe we should rethink that money versus time equation, after all. Do you agree on how many days you need to visit Gatlinburg? Let me know in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “Here’s How Many Days You Need To Visit Gatlinburg, From a Local”

  1. We came for 8 days last time and we are coming again in September for 8 days. That’s how many days you need in Gatlinburg.

    Reply
    • I have been traveling to Gatlinburg for the last 5 years. Every time I come here, it’s for 7 to 10 days. There are mountain trails to walk, restaurants to explore, and shows in the Pigeon Forge are that are absolutely awesome. So I feel like you definitely need 7 days or more. Never rush while your here.

      Reply
  2. If you want to do a lot of hiking and have no kids to entertain then you definitely need more than 3 days in Gatlinburg. I am visiting soon and plan to enjoy Gatlinburg and the many hikes in the smoky mountains.

    Reply
  3. 3.5 days. Flying in….Strip, Anakeesta, Jeep tour in the Smokies. Food, easy fun in between…fly home to Texas🙂.

    Reply
    • We come as a couple & 3 days is never enough! We love the mountains & scenery, hiking etc etc. we always plan @ least 5 days.

      Reply
  4. If traveling without kids… At least one day to do taste testing and buying at ole smokey or the wineries or whatever your preference. And if you haven’t done it once, a hike up to Clingmans Dome is a must.

    Reply
  5. What about the Great Smokies Arts & Crafts Community? You completely skipped that. There are lots of great shops where you can actually watch the artisans do their craft and some even offer guests an opportunity to get in on the action. That is at least a half day. You also missed all of the wineries and moonshine distillery.

    Reply

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