Ah, summertime in the Smoky Mountains – the kids are out of school, the temperature is hot and humid, and the mosquitos are out to play.
Families are packing up their minivans and attempting the impossible, aka, trying to please everyone for the annual summer getaway.
But the good news is, if you’re heading to the Great Smoky Mountains on a summer vacation, there are plenty of things to do for the whole family in the summer months of June, July and August.
Are the Smoky Mountains cool in the summer?
Let’s address one major question first: What is the weather like in the Smoky Mountains in the summer?
Here’s the short answer: East Tennessee is hot and humid, y’all.
You can safely pack your shorts, tank tops and sunscreen with few worries about getting chilly.
That being said, if you do any hiking in the higher elevations, you might want to bring a light jacket. Temperatures will drop the higher you climb.
With that out of the way, here’s our top list of things to do in the summer around Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville TN:
10. Explore the Forbidden Caverns
What’s one of the best ways to escape from the East Tennessee heat? Go underground, where it’s always a cool 58 degrees.
Tennessee has the most caves in the United States, with at least 9,000 caves discovered to date.
This is why you should definitely check out the Forbidden Caverns at least once in your life. This treasure under the Smokies and is a very educational, unique experience.
Here, you will see natural chimneys, grottos and a crystal clear stream.
The average guided tour lasts about an hour, and free parking is also available as an added bonus.
The Forbidden Caverns attraction is located near the Sevier-Cocke County line. It’s closed on Sundays and from December through March, so summer is a great time to visit.
Tickets range from $12-20, and children under 4 are free.
9. Ride some Go Karts
If you or your kids are ready to blow off some steam, Pigeon Forge offers an array of adventure parks and go kart racing.
Xtreme Racing in Pigeon Forge boasts having the fastest karts in all of Pigeon Forge with their high-speed, European-style race karts.
They have three different courses to choose from, including an elevated track. Guests must be 11 years old to ride.
The Track in Pigeon Forge also offers kart racing and may be more friendly for the younger ones in the family.
With Kiddie Karts, guests 3’6” can ride. They also offer a variety of other attractions such as arcade games, “blaster” boats, mini golf, bumper cars and more.
8. Take a Jeep or ATV tour
For some off-roading adventure, consider an ATV or Jeep tour.
Bluff Mountain Adventures has guided ATV rides and over 6,000 acres of Smoky Mountain trails. Guests can cover rugged terrain while experiencing wildlife and scenic views.
Guests must be 16 and up to ride and must have identification. Tickets must be purchased in person.
If you want to ride around the Smokies but an ATV isn’t really your thing, you can still take in the sites with a professional guide in a Pink Jeep Tour.
These guided mountain tours have four trails to choose from, some of which include waterfalls, historical sights and streams. Some of them even include an off-road adventure, which was hands-down my favorite part of the ride.
Prices range from $65-74 per adult and $57-65 per child.
7. Take a horseback ride
If you would like to channel your inner cowboy or cowgirl, horseback riding can be a fun way to see the Great Smoky Mountains.
There are a variety of places you can go horseback riding in the Smoky Mountains, depending on your fancy.
Big Rock Dude Ranch has a 3.5-mile trail around the Great Smoky Mountains, and loading ramps on and off the horses help make riding easier for any newbies.
The ranch also has gem mining, a private fishing pond (no license required), a small museum and more.
Another option for horseback riding is the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm Exotic Petting Zoo and Riding Stables, Sevier County’s oldest and largest zoological park.
This one is a fun activity for younger kids since it is very interactive. Guests can get up close and personal with animals like deer, bull, ostriches, camels, reindeer, zebras, and of course, horses.
6. Visit Anakeesta
Anakeesta can be described as the getaway from your getaway. A fairly new attraction to the Smokies, it is a place where you can play, dine and really soak in those amazing mountain views.
Summertime is the perfect season to enjoy the partially covered deck at the Cliff Top Grill & Bar, sipping on craft beers and munching on some Tennessee barbecue.
The general admission price includes the Chondola ride to get you up the mountain, a Treetop Skywalk, Treehouse Village Adventure, the Overlook Event Area, Vista Gardens Walk, Memorial Forest Walk and access to shopping and dining opportunities.
For additional fees, they also have a mountain coaster and dueling ziplines. Speaking of ziplining …
5. Go ziplining
Ziplining through the Smoky Mountains is a wonderful way to see the Smoky Mountains from great heights.
There’s an array of places you can go, depending on what you’re looking for.
And if you’re looking for a fun spin on ziplining, and maybe more “beginner” friendly, Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park takes a unique spin on “ziplining” and offers mountain gliding – a combination of free falling and hang gliding.
It may be an easier transition if you’re not ready for the full zipline experience yet. They also have an alpine coaster with combo passes available. Be sure to check Groupon for discounts on this one as well.
4. Go tubing or rafting down the river
Tubing down a river is one of my absolute favorite outdoor water activities. It has a way of forcing you to relax, appreciate nature and unplug … especially if you don’t want to lose your phone in the river.
There are a lot of options for white water rafting, but admittedly I have never attempted it. It sounds a little too rough for my taste, but my husband was brave enough to try and highly recommends it.
There are a few options around the area, but Rafting in the Smokies and Big Bear Rafting often offers discounts, so be sure to check out those options!
Remember to bring sunscreen. And bug spray.
If you want to explore the lake on your own terms, Douglas Lake is a popular fishing and boating spot in the area.
3. Walk the Gatlinburg SkyBridge
The SkyBridge in Gatlinburg is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America.
This one is probably not for anyone with a fear of heights – as the photos alone are enough to any acrophobic nervous. But, if you can handle it, it’s a great way to get a panoramic view of the Smokies.
The SkyBridge stretches 680 feet across a deep valley with a midpoint at 140 feet high and a glass-floor panel at your feet.
After that experience, relax on the SkyDeck and enjoy snacks and craft beer. General admission includes access to the SkyLift, SkyBridge and SkyDeck.
2. Visit Dollywood
You might be thinking a theme park would be hot in the summer, and you’d be right.
However, Dollywood, in my opinion, genuinely does a fantastic job of keeping you cool with shady spots, resting areas and free water.
During the summer, they offer their summer celebration from June 25-July 31, 2021 with later nighttime hours and a symphony of lights after dark. This year, they have a new drone show that will have musically-choreographed lights and fireworks.
When you book your tickets, check Tripster for discounts.
1. Visit a waterpark
One of the absolute best ways to spend a day in the Smoky Mountains is going to a waterpark.
And Pigeon Forge and Sevierville offer some fantastic options.
For years, Dollywood’s Splash Country ruled the land, with play areas, a wave pool and wide selection of slides.
Splash Country also has a great selection of my absolute favorite type of slides with multi-person large floats (which generally feel smoother) like the RiverRush, Big Bear Plunge or SwiftWater Run. And of course, it’s backed by a name we all know and love: Dolly Parton. A one-day pass is $49.95.
While you’re looking at waterparks, definitely check out the all-new Soaky Mountain Waterpark as well. Based in Sevierville, this new waterpark is absolutely beautiful and offers 50 acres of fun as well as unique food trucks that offer some very tasty theme park food.
So what’s the difference between these two waterparks? We don’t like to pick favorites. They’re both amazing in their own right. But for what it’s worth, Soaky Mountain is newer, and a bit larger. Tickets are $44.99 for a one-day pass.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know your favorite things to do in the summer in the Great Smoky Mountains!
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