This Is What Spring Break Is Actually Like in Gatlinburg

traffic along roads of gatlinburg, tennessee during spring break

(photo by Corey Wagner/

Local offers tips for spending spring break in the Smoky Mountains

When visitors plan a vacation to Gatlinburg, most of them don’t realize that spring break can be just as busy as the summer months. I live here in Gatlinburg and I can tell you that it’s quite a shock seeing the flock of tourism during this time. This year was a first for me as a resident, and I can say, without a doubt, you’ll need to prepare for all the things I’m about to mention. It may just ease your pain around the Easter holiday.

Spring break is when the crowds show up in Gatlinburg, TN. The busiest time is during the Easter holiday. The kids are out of school in many areas within a day’s drive to the Smoky Mountains during various weeks. The Log Cabin Pancake House and Pancake Pantry are great places to eat, but plan to go early. Popular attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and Anakeesta will also be busy. There are still plenty of things to do in Gatlinburg, so plan well and enjoy your vacation in the Smokies.

heavy traffic in downtown gatlinburg, tennessee
Cars back up along the Gatlinburg Parkway during spring break (photo by Corey Wagner/

How long is spring break?

The dates of spring break can range widely depending on where you live and when Easter falls on the calendar. Some schools are out as early as the second week of March. Sevier County was out Easter week. That means we start seeing increased tourism from then until the week after the Christian holiday.

Crowds Walk Along Downtown Gatlinburg
Typically, the week before and after Easter brings the most crowds to Gatlinburg (photo by Corey Wagner/

When are the busiest times?

With Easter falling on March 31 this year, the weekend prior was when the largest groups came into town. There was also the state FFA convention in town, which further contributed to the bustle of downtown. The reality check was the Monday before Easter for me. A simple trip to the grocery store made me rub my eyes in disbelief. I had never seen so many people at the trolley stops.

I had to remind myself that it was Monday, not Saturday. The upswing continued until the week after Easter. The following Sunday, it slowed down drastically. To recap, those seem to be the busiest times: the week before Easter and the week after.

Guests in Downtown Gatlinburg
It’s a good idea to get to the breakfast spots as early as possible during spring break (photo by Corey Wagner/

Tips to plan for spring break

I don’t want to sugarcoat anything. Plan on waiting at most restaurants in town, unless you alter the times you visit. That means eating dinner as early as 3 or 4 pm and eating breakfast bright and early at 7 am at places such as Pancake Pantry or Log Cabin Pancake House, which will both have lines by 9 am each day. Attractions should be approached the same way. Smaller ones downtown, such as Star Cars, Ripley’s Moving Theater and Gatlin’s Games – which has mini golf and other fun activities behind the Reagan Terrace mall downtown – are better bets for minimal crowds.

Your busiest attractions are going to depend on the weather. Anakeesta and the Gatlinburg SkyPark will thrive during nice, sunny days. On rainy days, places like Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and the Believe It Or Not Museum are packed.

So, while people think the beaches of Florida are the only destination for spring breakers, the mountains of East Tennessee are also a hotbed for school kids and families of all ages. This area has seen a drastic uptick in tourism, and it doesn’t just involve the summertime. However, we welcome all visitors. Hopefully, this will help you decide what’s best for you when you decide to take your Smoky Mountain trip!

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