Can you think of any better way of spending a weekend getaway than by drinking the old bootleggers moonshine or visiting a variety of fascinating Ripley’s museums? Ok, so maybe you are not yet sold on this idea but after reading this post perhaps you will be convinced to take a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to sample some of these attractions for yourselves.
Visiting Gatlinburg for a weekend is ample time to see many of the main attractions available here. Also known as the ‘Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains’, Gatlinburg is surrounded by several other interestingly named towns such as Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. But this trip was all about exploring what Gatlinburg has to offer and as we approached this town I have to admit that I was surprised by what I saw.
We stayed two nights at the Greystone Lodge at the Aquarium and this was a perfect setting not only in terms of location but because of the breathtaking scenery surrounding us. The Little Pigeon River runs through the heart of Gatlinburg and with the Smokies surrounding you, it’s a perfect setting for a relaxing getaway. That is until you head out of your hotel and wander up the main street in Gatlinburg.
Let’s take a look at some of the main attractions that Gatlinburg has to offer.
One of the most attractive reasons for visiting Gatlinburg is the ability to experience moonshine. Head to either Sugarlands or Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine and sample some of the finest liquor on offer in this part of Tennessee. Of course the state of Tennesse is famous for many things but trying a tipple of moonshine is understandably a popular selling point for Gatlinburg.
We visited Sugarlands and immediately headed over to the sampling bar area. Standing around the bar, our expert moonshine connoisseur introduced us to six different samples of this delicacy. Each with a different flavor and alcohol level, this was a real test of our character to see if we could go through with the sampling.
Drum roll please… of course we are hardy folks so it wasn’t a problem and despite neither of us being fond whiskey drinkers, I really enjoyed several of the samples. The butterscotch which added an interesting texture and kick to the moonshine was definitely my favorite though I don’t think Heather was particularly convinced by any of the flavors.
If you manage to sample all the various moonshines offered in Gatlinburg and are still standing, there are plenty of entertaining museums available courtesy of the infamous Ripley’s chain. ‘Believe it or Not’ (sorry for the pun!), there are seven Ripley’s attractions on offer in Gatlinburg so you really could spend a whole vacation experiencing them.
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium
- Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
- Ripley’s Haunted Adventure
- Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze and Candy Factory
- Ripley’s 3D Moving Theatre
- Ripley’s Guinness World Records Museum
- Ripleys Davy Crockett Adventure Golf
We visited three of these and despite my personal negativity about Ripley’s being a tourist con, we really enjoyed our time visiting them. Our first experience was in the Guinness World Records Museum. Various exhibits providing astounding fun facts and trivia, combined with a number of interactive displays for all the family to participate in ensure that everyone will have an enjoyable experience here.
From sporting memorabilia to the world’s largest shark jaw, there are ample exhibits on display here for everyone to learn something new.
Visiting the Believe It or Not! Odditorium was an interesting and of course, ‘odd’ experience! As you enter the museum, you are faced with a 12 feet Transformer sculpture that we later found out is comprised of old car parts – it’s surprising what you can make out of a few old spark plugs!
Inside the museum continues with the oddities but the best aspect as with all the other Ripley’s museums is the amount of interactivity and hands-on experiences visitors can have. This really engages everyone and is certainly a great learning experience for younger visitors.
We saved the best encounter until last when we visited the awesome Aquarium of the Smokies. We have visited a number of aquariums during the last 12 months but I have to say that this one in Gatlinburg was one of the best so far.
The shark exhibits are some of the finest we have seen and is a real credit to the aquarium as the sharks have ample space to swim around, unlike many others where it is cruel viewing to see them in captivity. Another cool encounter was in the penguin area, where one penguin immediately took a liking to both of us.
I am sure you are wondering if Gatlinburg is just about drinking moonshine and then visiting one of the various Ripley’s attractions. Don’t worry, there is much more to this part of Tennessee that I am sure will convince you to take a trip here to experience for yourselves.
Ober Gatlinburg for example is a great attraction for skiing and winter sport enthusiasts. From the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, you can hop on either the scenic chairlift or aerial tramway to visit Ober Gatlinburg. Due to the inclement weather conditions during our visit, we were forced into taking the tramway as high winds prevented the chairlift from operating.
The views from the ‘pods’ that take you up the mountain are breathtaking and a knowledgeable Ober Gatlinburg guide is available to provide commentary and answer any questions you may have about the surrounding landscape.
Tubing, skiing, ice skating and even a wildlife encounter are available once you reach the summit at Ober Gatlinburg. I was a little disappointed by the whole experience honestly but that’s mainly because we visited out of season so the slopes and tubing were closed.
Hollywood Star Cars Museum
One of the most interesting places to visit was the Hollywood Star Cars museum where you can see all of the famous movie cars on display. Whether you want to see the Flintstone’s car or Paul McCartney’s cadillac, there will likely be a vehicle on display here that you are familiar with from your favorite movie.
Mini-golf is a popular attraction in Gatlinburg with a number of challenging and scenic courses to choose from. We visited the Treasure Quest Miniature Golf experience which was really cool before heading next door to the Earthquake:The Ride which was a slight disappointment!
Gatlinburg may not be the first location on the tip of your tongues when considering a visit to either Tennessee or the Great Smoky Mountains. However, it is the perfect location for a fun-filled weekend or if you are looking for somewhere to stay during your hiking adventures around the Smokies.
With plenty of attractions available all year round, Gatlinburg is sure to entice visitors even if it is just to sample that old moonshine that we are all attracted to!
You can check out more of our pictures from our experiences around Gatlinburg here: Gatlinburg 2014.
Disclaimer – We would like to thank Visit Gatlinburg for providing us with complimentary media passes for our weekend getaway to Gatlinburg. The content of this post are solely our personal opinions/experiences and we were not financially compensated for this post.