Road Trip Destination: Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Nestled among the green Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee, the little jewel of Gatlinburg gives visitors of all ages and interests things to do during all seasons of the year, including many quirky museums and attractions, the great outdoors, skiing and miniature golf. This yuletide season is a good time of year to go to Gatlinburg if you like holiday lights: The Gatlinburg Winter Magic light show decks out the city with millions of LED lights, and is a tourist favorite, Gatlinburg tourism officials say.
On a single road trip, you need not limit yourself to Gatlinburg, although plenty of attractions and activities can keep you entertained there for a few days. On the same trip, you could easily fit in a visit to Pigeon Forge, about 7 miles from Gatlinburg, and go to Dollywood amusement park. For information on regional attractions, visit www.visitmysmokies.com or www.gatlinburg.com
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7824.
When you arrive in Gatlinburg for your vacation, a good first activity might be riding the ski lift-style Gatlinburg Sky Lift. You'll travel 1,800 feet high over the town to the top of Crockett Mountain, and get a spectacular view of the Smoky Mountains from Gatlinburg's No. 1 scenic view.
Details: 865-436-4307 or www.gatlinburgskylift.com
You know that anything with the name Ripley is bound to be quirky and bizarre. Indeed, Gatlinburg has seven attractions with the Ripley name — Robert Ripley, of “Ripley's Believe It or Not” fame. Ripley was a cartoonist, explorer, adventurer, reporter, collector and seeker of all things odd and unconventional. At Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium, known for freaking out visitors, you'll see weird things ranging from a shrunken human head to a two-headed calf.
At Ripley's 3-D Moving Theater, you'll watch movies like “Happy Feet: Mumble's Wild Ride” in a simulator while feeling every bump, dip and turn. Ripley's Haunted Adventure, especially popular at Halloween, offers people a year-round house of horrors. During the Christmas season, you might especially like the whimsical Ripley's Marvelous Mirror Maze and Candy Factory.
Visitors enjoy mini golfing along an animated turf with comical cows, possums, skunks and other animals at Ripley's Old MacDonald's Farm Mini-Golf, and Davy Crockett Mini-Golf in nearby Sevierville. You'll see more astonishing things at Ripley's Guinness World Records Museum, which brings the book to life. If you want to gape at marine life, visit Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, which was voted No. 1 aquarium in the United States by TripAdvisor. Most of the Ripley's attractions are within a few blocks of each other in the middle of Gatlinburg.
For fans of cars and pop-culture history, check out the Hollywood Star Cars Museum. This is the place where more than 40 television and movie icons on wheels from the past half-century have gone to retire. You'll see gems, including the Drag-u-la from “The Munsters,” the Ecto-1 from “Ghostbusters,” the bright orange General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Herbie the Love Bug, the Mayberry Squad Car, the Batmobile from “Batman Returns,” the Flintmobile from “The Flintstones” movie and K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider.”
Details: 865-430-2200 or www.starcarstn.com
If you're going to Gatlinburg during the Christmas and winter seasons, you'll find plenty of seasonal things to do at Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park. Built in 1962, Ober resembles a mini-Switzerland in Tennessee. You can ride on a gondola-like Aerial Tramway, which transports 120 passengers 2.1 miles over the mountains for bird's-eye views of the Smoky Mountains. You can go skiing, snowboarding and ice skating, take the Alpine Slide through woods and trails, and a Wildlife Encounter where you can check out bears. Ober has simple amusement park rides, like a carousel, along with Kiddie Land and some water attractions open seasonally.
Details: 865-436-5423 or www.obergatlinburg.com
As we enter the Christmas season, Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ might like to see Gatlinburg's Christ in the Smokies Museum and Gardens. The attractions features life-size, realistic scenes from the life of Jesus — including Nativity scenes from the Bible — in wax figures. The museum enhances the tour experience with dramatic lighting, music and special effects, along with the popular “Face of Christ” sculpture. For Christmas, the museum and gardens will be decked out in Winterfest lights.
Details: 865-436-5155 or www.christinthesmokies.com
Outdoor enthusiasts can't miss Gatlinburg's nearby nature wonder: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is world-renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life. You can explore the park with a ranger, hike, ride a bike, camp, enjoy waterfalls, look at wildlife such as elk and check out historic buildings.
Details: 865-436-7318 or www.nps.gov/grsm/