Things To Do in Gatlinburg That Your Kids Will Remember Forever

treeventure play area at anakeesta

Anakeesta in Gatlinburg has multiple play areas for the little ones. Pictured: TreeVenture (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Best activities in Gatlinburg with kids, according to a local dad

You wouldn’t necessarily think of Gatlinburg as a town for kids. However, there’s lots of stuff for kids to do in Gatlinburg. Still, compared to the neon Candyland that is Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg is much more geared to older kids and adults, which may be noticeable with all the distilleries and wineries along the strip. Still, here are some of my best recommendations:

Visit Anakeesta

Anakeesta is one of the premier attractions in downtown Gatlinburg. It’s a beautiful place for adults to explore and relax. But it has fun things to do for the little ones too. For example, the TreeVenture Challenge Course, the BearVenture Challenge Course and the new BirdVenture play area are included with the price of admission. For an extra cost, they also have mountain coasters and gem mining. You can get your tickets ahead of time and usually save a couple of dollars when you book your tickets with Tripster.

Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen
Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is best known for its homemade taffy (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Visit the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen

The Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is a fun place to visit for all ages. Watch as they make homemade taffy, which has been made daily since 1950. They also offer treats like fudge and caramel apples. Located near The Village, you can also explore nearby gift shops for gifts, trinkets and memorabilia from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

moonshine mountain coaster in gatlinburg
The Moonshine Mountain Coaster has a convenient location along the strip in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Ride a mountain coaster

The mountain coasters in Gatlinburg are like the arcades. There are several options in the area, and they are all pretty similar. And pretty good. Basically, they give your kids a chance to zip through the mountain on a stand-alone coaster where you can help control the speed. Just be sure to check the height requirements when you make your plans. Most rides require riders to be at least three years old and 38 inches tall to ride as a passenger, or 16 years old to ride alone. Of course, this requirement may vary by attraction. Pictured above is the Moonshine Mountain Coaster.

Wild Bear Falls Water Park

Located in the Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort, this water park has a state-of-the-art retractable roof and heated indoor water so guests can enjoy the festivities no matter the weather. That means your kids can enjoy the lazy river, water slides or treehouse at any time they please. It’s the perfect oasis for families.

ripleys believe it or not in gatlinburg
Ripley’s has several attractions in Gatlinburg (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

Visit Ripley’s attractions

Someone once asked me, what is there to do in Gatlinburg with a 3-year-old? The aquarium is the answer. It is the perfect family destination. It’s entertaining and educational. Plus, it’s great for pictures. One of my favorite pictures is my wife kneeling to speak eye-to-eye with my daughter, their silhouettes backlit by the dark blue of the giant tanks behind them. The kids can see sharks and sea turtles, barracuda and piranha and all manner of tropical fish. My kids also love the underwater tunnel and the area where they can pet stingrays.

Also, the Odditorium is one of the weirdest places in Gatlinburg. It has themed galleries, artifacts and hands-on exhibits that families can enjoy together. Again, the older kids may appreciate this one a little more than the littles. But as a bonus, you can bundle your Ripley’s tickets and save up to $25 per person if you visit other attractions, including the Moving Theater, the Amazing Mirror Maze, Haunted Adventure, Davy Crockett Mini Golf and more.

The entrance to the SkyBridge
Walking on the famous SkyBridge is one of the most memorable experiences in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Visit Gatlinburg SkyPark

Gatlinburg SkyPark is one of the top attractions in Gatlinburg, and it’s home to the famous SkyBridge. The SkyBridge is the longest cable pedestrian bridge. If your little ones are okay with heights, it’s worth it to visit this iconic landmark at least once. The attraction also offers a scenic walking path called the SkyTrail.

chimneys picnic area with sandwich in foreground
The Chimneys Picnic Area is a great spot for the family (photo by James Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Take a picnic in the mountains

Someone asked me if there was anything free to do in Gatlinburg. After I finished laughing an authentic, hearty laugh, I pointed them to the Great Smoky Mountains. At least, it’s mostly free since now we have a parking pass system. Still, the Smokies are filled with wildlife, nature and memories waiting to be made. My family loves going to the Chimneys Picnic Area. It’s next to the stream so the kids can wade when the weather is warm. They have always loved tossing pebbles into the water and exploring the area around the campground. It’s a great place to do s’mores and relax. Also, there is no cell service, so the kids won’t be asking you for the phone all the time.

Davy Crockett Mini Golf
Ripley’s mini golf tickets can easily be bundled into other activities (media photo courtesy of Ripley’s)

Play some mini golf

Ainsley, our youngest, is as competitive as her older brother and sister but does not yet understand golf scoring, which is a blessing. “Daddy, am I winning?” she’ll ask. I won’t lie. “You’ve got the most strokes,” I’ll respond enthusiastically. Anyway, there are multiple mini golf courses in Gatlinburg, and it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. Mini golf is another great opportunity to take advantage of Ripley’s combo passes. Hillbilly Golf is another great option in Gatlinburg, but it closes in the winter.

ice bumper cars at Ober Mountain
Ober Mountain has several fun activities for kids (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

Visit Ober Mountain

I personally prefer Anakeesta for myself, but with the kids, there’s more to do at Ober. There’s sledding in the winter or the Alpine slide in the summer months as well as ice skating, ice bumper cars, games and a lot more. Ober Mountain, formerly known as Ober Gatlinburg, is a great place for kids to be able to stretch themselves, have some fun and enjoy some safe kid-friendly adventure. If you ride the Aerial Tramway up the mountain, check Tripster for discounts.

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Do you have recommendations for visitors taking family trips? Where do you like to take your kids in Gatlinburg, TN? Let me know in the comments.

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.

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