19 Best Things To Do in Gatlinburg With Kids, Ranked

Anakeesta in Gatlinburg has multiple play areas for the little ones. Pictured: TreeVenture play area at Anakeesta

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

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We have three kids with ages ranging from 16 to 6.

It’s interesting to see the world through their eyes, to get them talking and get them to explain things from their point of view.

Well, not the 16-year-old so much. Most of the time we’d like her to keep her opinions a little more to herself. 

At any rate, I find we function best while on a family vacation. Gatlinburg, the beach, Disney World, most of the time I find that our interests align well on a road trip.

TheSmokies.com

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Is Gatlinburg TN good for kids?

Sure. 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.

And so, I’ve had people ask how we juggle what the kids want to do when we go to the mountains because 6-year-olds and 16-year-olds certainly have different interests.

We’re lucky in some ways that the 16-year-old still enjoys being a kid and isn’t pushing too hard toward the freedoms and responsibilities of adulthood.

And, I think, she likes sharing the favorite things she did when she was younger with her siblings. 

So what are the best things to do in Gatlinburg with kids? Let me offer a ranking.

inside earthquake the ride in gatlinburg
Earthquake The Ride can be a bit cheesy for many visitors (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

19. Earthquake The Ride

Ranked last for a reason, Earthquake The Ride is a cheesy tourist trap along the strip in Gatlinburg.

The attraction promises to offer “high-tech special effects” and simulate the feel of a real earthquake.

My friends, it is cheesy, but depending on the ages of your kids, they might just like it.

Read Also: Earthquake the Ride in Gatlinburg Is Just As Bad as You Think It Is

two over the top milkshakes from crazy mason
Crazy Mason has over-the-top treats (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

18. Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar

The Crazy Mason Milkshake Bar is a utopia with an ice cream cookie sandwich. 

Essentially, they serve upscale sundaes with a variety of flavors and sweet treats and topping choices stuffed into a mason jar that is not equipped to hold everything. 

These desserts are picturesque and something that your kids will certainly go crazy for.

Hollywood Cars Museum
Kids may enjoy seeing the Batmobile at this car museum (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

17. Visit the Hollywood Star Cars Museum

This museum may not be for everyone, but if there’s any car enthusiasts in the family, it can be a fun little attraction to visit.

They have a 1992 Batmobile and a collection of cars from the Fast and Furious.

The museum is easily accessible along the main strip downtown.

Chicken guy arcade
Chicken Guy! offers a large arcade (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

16. Visit an arcade

There are a handful of arcades in the downtown Gatlinburg area, and you don’t have to try too hard to find a good one.

A popular one that comes to mind is Arcadia, which is located at the base of the Space Needle. As one of the tallest structures in Gatlinburg, you can’t miss it.

Fannie Farkles and Chicken Guy! also offer great arcades.

rocky top adventure rentals
Renting a UTV is a fun way to see the mountains (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

15. Rent a UTV

There are plenty of ways to explore the area, but it’s hard to beat the feeling of wind in your hair as you cruise around town in a UTV rental.

There are many great options in the area, many of which are conveniently located in Gatlinburg.

Read Also: 10 Best Gatlinburg Side by Side Rentals, ATV Tours [2023]

activate games in gatlinburg is next to breakout games
Activate Games in Gatlinburg is one of only a handful of locations of its kind in the whole nation (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

14. Try your hand at Activate Games

This one is for the older kids in the family, as Activate Games is recommended for ages 10 and up.

Still, it’s one of the more unique gaming experiences in the Gatlinburg area.

It features offers high-tech games that test players’ physical and mental agility across a wide variety of challenges.

pancakes at the pancake pantry
Pictured: Caribbean pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, and a side of bacon (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

13. Eat a good pancake breakfast

I’ve never met a kid that didn’t like a pancake, especially one decorated with a funny face or covered in fruit and whipped cream.

It’s a fun way to start the day, and the odd European architecture of the Pancake Pantry makes it feel a little like something out of a fairy story.

Even if your child doesn’t understand why, if they’ve grown up being read fairy tales or watching the classics, they’ll pick up on the vibe. Also, frankly, the sugar will help them make it through to lunch without a whining fit.

Finally, Gatlinburg is a walking town and if they’re a little too big for a stroller, they will need the extra boost.

Arrive early if you partake in the pancakes, especially if you’re going on a weekend.

As a bonus, Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen is about a five-minute walk from the Pancake Pantry if anyone has room in their bellies.

Speaking of which …

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

12. 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 for 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)

11. 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.

It’s a fun ride that kids are sure to enjoy. 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.

10. 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.

gatlins escape room in gatlinburg
Gatlin’s offers puzzles, mini golf and escape games (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

9. Try an escape room

Escape rooms have popped up like mushrooms in tourist towns across the nation. Although there’s nothing particularly unique about the ones in the Smokies, it’s still a fun family vacation activity to do together.

Depending on the room or attraction, many will accept kids of all ages. But note that the recommended age is usually about ten years old.

Gatlin’s Escape Games is one of the recommended ones in the area.

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

8. Visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

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 or Davy Crockett Mini Golf.

This bundle also works on …

penguin play area at ripley's aquarium
Ripley’s Aquarium is a home run for families visiting Gatlinburg (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

7. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Speaking of bundling Ripley’s attractions, someone once asked, what is there to do in Gatlinburg with a 3-year-old?

The aquarium is the answer.

In fact, it is the perfect family destination. It’s great for kids of all ages. 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.

Above all, you have penguins.

And who doesn’t love penguins? My kids LOVE penguins.

The aquarium is simply the best place year-round to take your kids in Gatlinburg.

The more attractions you visit, the more you save. You can visit the aquarium and three other attractions and save up to $35 when you bundle.

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)

6. Visit Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is one of the top attractions in Gatlinburg, and it’s home of 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 top of the gatlinburg space needle
The Space Needle was once the tallest point in Gatlinburg (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

5. Visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Space Needle is one of the more iconic attractions in downtown Gatlinburg.

It offers an observation deck and stunning views of the city. And, the kids in your family will enjoy the fact that the previously mentioned Arcadia game center is at the bottom.

This 25,000 square-foot indoor playground features video and redemption games, as well as escape games.

Visitors of all ages enjoy the ride in the glass elevator to the observation tower.

It’s a win-win since the little ones will get something to look forward to with the game center.

Check Groupon for discounts before you go. The Space Needle is located at 115 Historic Nature Trail.

child gem mines at anakeesta in gatlinburg
Anakeesta offers a Treehouse Village playground and a splash pad for the littles. You can also purchase add-on activities such as gem mining (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

4. 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 and BearVenture Challenge Course are included with the price of admission.

For an extra cost, they also have a mountain coaster 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.

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

3. 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 until they start implementing the parking pass system in March 2023.

The Smokies are filled with wildlife, nature and memories waiting to be made.

Anyway, we love 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. In fact, they are forced to play and use their imaginations. It’s wonderful. 

If you opt for more than just a picnic, the national park offers many simple trails that kids of all ages can enjoy.

The Gatlinburg Trail is also a favorite for families with young children.

Hillbilly Golf plinko style hole
Hillbilly Golf is a popular mini golf destination in Gatlinburg. But remember that it closes during the winter months (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

2. 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 don’t lie. 

“You’ve got the most strokes,” I’ll respond enthusiastically. 

Then she’ll skip to the next hole where she will work the ball down the green, course-correcting with little taps until it goes in the hole. 

We have to let a lot of people play through, typically. 

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)

1. Visit Ober Mountain

I 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. 

In the winter, it even offers skiing, which makes it the only ski and snowboard destination in Tennessee.

If you ride the Aerial Tramway up the mountain, check Tripster for discounts.

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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