3 Things to Do in Gatlinburg on a Rainy Day, According to a Local

a man stands in a rain coat in downtown Gatlinburg

It can get cold and wet in downtown Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

These are the best things to do in Gatlinburg when it rains according to a resident

When people visit Gatlinburg, many will want to know what to do when it rains. Sure, most of us would love for the weather to be sunny, warm, and free from the elements that make us uncomfortable outdoors. But Mother Nature often has her own ideas, especially here in East Tennessee. Hopefully, these three ideas will help you better prepare and be more excited when the weather forecast calls for rain during your Gatlinburg vacation!

There are many fun things to do in Gatlinburg when it rains. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a great indoor activity for kids and adults when the weather doesn’t cooperate. The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is also just a short drive away from the main strip and a blast to explore on a rainy day. You can also cope by facing it head-on – just put on a poncho and walk the inevitably lesser crowded Parkway.

Touch a Ray Bay at Ripley's Aquarium
Kids and adults can get close and personal with the rays at Ripley’s (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

1. Explore the indoor Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

One of the more popular indoor attractions in downtown Gatlinburg is Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. This is not just fun for the kids; it’s also a supremely enjoyable place for adults. The amount of interactive, hands-on elements for humans of all ages is staggering. For instance, the Shark Lagoon puts you on an exhilarating glidepath that takes you underneath the world of sharks and other sea creatures. Also, the Touch A-Ray Bay allows you and the kids to reach out and touch rays as they glide through the waters that mimic their natural habitat. These features make for a memorable rainy day activity for families for a few hours.

At the time of this writing, tickets range from $9.99 for kids 2-5 up to $39.99 per adult. For the best deals, grab your tickets online before you go and combo your admission ticket to the aquarium with other area Ripley’s attractions.

You can walk to the aquarium from most downtown hotels. But if you’re driving in, just park right behind the Aquarium which is conveniently located on the Parkway. You also have the luxury of leaving your vehicle in the garage all day for just $10.

candle shop in the arts and crafts community
There is no shortage of things to do in the Arts and Crafts Community on a rainy day (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

2. Drive to the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community

Another thing you can do when you don’t want to constantly be outside in the rain is visit some of the many local establishments in the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community. There are so many different unique shops to visit. And you can easily stay dry by entering any number of these places with a roof above your head. The discoveries found here are vast, beautiful, and worthy of checking out. The people that work in this area are super friendly. So, it’s easy to develop a friendship with them the more you visit. You’ll be glad it rained after you leave this welcome community of crafters that includes potters, painters, glassblowers, and many other talented creatives in the fine arts.

To get there, just take light #3 in Gatlinburg a few miles down to Glades Road, where you will find areas such as Morning Mist Village and The Covered Bridge. Free parking is available along this 8-mile loop.

a woman stands between two snowmen in Gatlinburg
The good news is, Gatlinburg is rarely crowded on a cold rainy day. The bad news is … it’s cold and rainy. Pictured: A woman poses for the camera in her winter raincoat at Anakeesta in downtown Gatlinburg (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

3. Suck it up and buy a poncho

The easiest, cheapest thing to do when it rains in Gatlinburg is to simply put on a poncho or unfurl your umbrella and carry on in the rain. Look, the weather in the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg can be wildly unpredictable, so it’s prudent to pack accordingly. Fortunately, if you failed to plan for rain, you can find plenty of shops along the Parkway that keep rain gear on hand in case you didn’t remember to pack some. Hey, we’ve all been there. Even my family wasn’t fully prepared when we visited Gatlinburg before our move. Plus, the Parkway is often less crowded in less-than-ideal weather. If you don’t love the crowds – it can be a great time to explore.

What’s your favorite activity around Gatlinburg during a rainstorm? Let me know in the comments below! And if you’re planning a trip to the mountains, be sure to check out our coupons page.

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at info@thesmokies.com.

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Disclosure: We have used and experienced all the products and activities recommended on The Smokies. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products and experiences featured.