There’s something about Gatlinburg at night. There’s a bit of a chill in the mountain air.
It’s the excitement of the bright lights along the strip – which seem all the more luminescent against the dark backdrop of the mountains.
There’s the slight mystical element of the timeless nature of the tiny, mountain tourist town.
I’m not sure that it will ever be predominantly known for its nightlife, but Gatlinburg at night is something you ought to experience.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Gatlinburg, Tenn., after dark:
6. Get scared at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
The night time is the right time to be afraid, very afraid.
Even though it’s an indoor attraction, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure is 10 times better at night, just because it’s easier to get into the right frame of mind after dark.
Ripley’s Haunted Adventure is filled with a variety of actors playing creepy roles in the renovated mansion, waiting to welcome you home.
If you love good scares, this is the place to go once the sun goes down.
As a bonus, you can also save up to $35 on Ripley’s attractions if you buy combo passes.
Ripley’s Haunted Adventure is open most nights until 9 pm.
5. Watch a Smoky Mountain sunset
You can do this perfectly well within Gatlinburg city limits. The backdrop of the reds, oranges and yellows of the setting sun behind the dark mountains make for a perfect picture opportunity for the ’gram.
But if you want to really see something, travel up US 441, aka Newfound Gap Road, and find one of the pull offs with a good view of the mountains to the west.
Newfound Gap is the best for this.
Up there, on top of the world, where you can see out across the range, the sunset takes on a whole different meaning.
As a bonus, you can hang out until dark and gaze at the stars. You haven’t really seen a night sky until you’ve seen the mountain sky on a perfect night.
4. See Gatlinburg at night at Anakeesta, SkyLift Park or the Space Needle
There are several places where you can get up above Gatlinburg and look down on the village at night: Anakeesta, the Space Needle or the SkyBridge at SkyLift Park.
Many of the one of the mountain cabins also overlook the valley.
All offer incredible night views.
But one of my favorites is the Chondola ride down the mountain at Anakeesta, especially on a quiet night. It’s beautiful and soothing.
You’re skimming along the top of the dark forest back to the lights below. It’s really pretty cool.
Anakeesta and SkyLift Park are open most nights until 9 pm. The Space Needle is open til midnight.
3. Listen to live music at Ole Red
Not everything has to be about sweeping vistas and peaceful, easy evenings. East Tennessee has a long tradition of music, country, bluegrass and a lot more.
Gatlinburg’s nightlife has plenty of opportunities to get out and take in some live music.
Blake Shelton’s Ole Red may be the most reliable for a certain type of country music, but there are several night spots that offer the chance to hear up-and-coming local artists.
Old Red is open til 10 pm Sunday through Thursday, and until 1 am on Friday and Saturday.
2. Check out a bar or distillery
Gatlinburg’s a walking town. You can park at your hotel and walk to several watering holes like the Smoky Mountain Brewery (open most nights til midnight) or one of several commercial distilleries.
There’s also a handful of bars, clubs and restaurants that stay open relatively late to keep the party going. Keep in mind, however, Gatlinburg is a fairly small mountain community.
Open late around here means midnight or 1 am. If you’re used to partying until the sun comes up, you’d best rent a cabin – preferably a remote one – and stock yourself up on party supplies ahead of time.
Also, be responsible. There are lots of kids and crosswalks and only a couple of main roads. You will unlikely to have the roads to yourself.
If you’re drinking, have a designated driver or plan to walk or ride the trolley.
If you want to really cut down on the travel time, check out Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. You can drink right there at the hotel. The Margaritaville Daiquiri Shack and Grill is open most nights til 10 pm and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
1. Take a Gatlinburg night walk
As I mentioned before, Gatlinburg was made for a stroll. There’s nothing I like better than walking the strip as the evening is coming to a close. Things are calming down, and the crowd is thinning out.
The lights, the atmosphere, it’s strangely peaceful and oddly romantic, especially in the fall when the weather’s just starting to turn cool.
I like things that feel timeless, and walking in Gatlinburg, it could be any time in the last 50 or 60 years.
Sure some of the signs have changed, but the architecture, the feel, wouldn’t be out of place in the 60s, 70s or 80s.
The Village Shoppes are great for this. With the bizarre European Willy Wonka atmosphere, it’s a great place to find a spot to relax and soak in the night, maybe with a nice, warm coffee or hot chocolate.
What are your favorite things to do after dark in Gatlinburg? Let us know in the comments.