Gatlinburg, Tennessee, a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a charming mountain town that’s perfect for a summer getaway. That’s because between the months of June and August, the weather is warm and the town is full of life. However, do note that these months can also be quite busy. 

If you’re planning to visit this summer, you need to prepare an itinerary to make the most of your visit. Here’s what you need to see and do when in Gatlinburg.

1. Visiting Dollywood

Dollywood is a must-visit for anyone coming to Gatlinburg, especially if you’re traveling with family. This famed theme park, co-owned by Dolly Parton, features a blend of traditional crafts, thrilling rides, and live entertainment. Don’t miss the Wild Eagle or the Lightning Rod roller coasters for some adrenaline-pumping fun. Buying tickets in advance is recommended to save time and possibly money.

2. Explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

No visit to Gatlinburg is complete without spending time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Known for its rich biodiversity and stunning vistas, the park offers countless activities. Start with a hike on one of its many trails; options range from the easy Gatlinburg Trail to the challenging hike to Charlies Bunion. If you prefer driving, the Cades Cove Loop Road offers scenic views and opportunities to spot wildlife like deer, black bears, and wild turkeys. Always remember to keep a safe distance from animals and stick to marked trails to preserve the natural habitat.

When choosing your place of stay in Gatlinburg, consider the ease of access to prime locations and attractions. This is where Hearthside Cabin Rentals come in. They offer a diverse range of cabins, including honeymoon cabins and large luxury cabins. These cabins in Gatlinburg feature indoor pools, stunning views, arcade games, and more.  

3. Tasting Local Cuisine

Gatlinburg offers an array of dining options that reflect the rich culinary heritage of the South. Start your food journey with some southern barbecue at local favorites like Delauder’s BBQ. For breakfast, nothing beats fluffy pancakes from the Pancake Pantry, a staple since 1960. Don’t miss trying the trout, which is a regional specialty; many restaurants offer it freshly caught from the mountain streams. To satisfy your sweet tooth, visit the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen, where you can watch taffy being pulled on a century-old machine.

4. Experiencing Gatlinburg SkyPark

For the best views of Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains, head to the Gatlinburg SkyPark. The park’s highlight is the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Walk across it for breathtaking panoramic views, especially stunning at sunset. The experience is both exhilarating and serene, allowing you to take in the natural beauty at your own pace. Make sure your camera is ready because you’ll want to capture the incredible scenery from above.

5. Ghost and Haunt Tours

Explore the eerie side of Gatlinburg with a ghost tour. These guided walks reveal the haunted history of the area, telling tales of spirits that linger in old buildings and alleyways. It’s a thrilling way to see the city at night and learn about its past, with stories that blend local lore with historical events. Suitable for most ages, these tours provide a mix of spooky entertainment and historical insight, making them a hit for both history buffs and thrill-seekers.

6. Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Gatlinburg Space Needle offers stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding Smoky Mountains and downtown Gatlinburg. Reachable by glass elevators, the observation deck is a great spot for panoramic photos. It also features educational exhibits about the history of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, enhancing your visit. Whether day or night, the Space Needle provides a spectacular vantage point to appreciate the beauty of the region.

7. Arts & Crafts Loop

The Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Loop is an 8-mile trail that showcases the rich artisan tradition of the area. This unique cultural experience includes a variety of shops and studios where visitors can watch skilled craftspeople at work. From pottery and painting to basket-weaving and woodworking, the variety is impressive. It’s not just a shopping trip—it’s an opportunity to engage directly with artists, see their creative processes, and purchase unique, handcrafted items directly from the makers.

8. Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum 

Gatlinburg’s Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum is as quirky as it sounds. With over 20,000 sets, the museum boasts the world’s largest collection of salt and pepper shakers. You’ll find everything from vintage to modern designs, and even some shaped like celebrities and historical figures. The museum provides a fun and fascinating glimpse into how everyday objects can be transformed into art. It’s a great place for families and anyone interested in kitschy or unusual collections.

9. Trying Whitewater Rafting

For adventure seekers, whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River provides an exhilarating experience. The river has sections suitable for all skill levels, from gentle flows for beginners to challenging rapids for the experienced. Local outfitters offer guided tours where safety is a priority, and all necessary equipment is provided. This activity not only gives you a rush but also offers a unique perspective on the region’s natural beauty. Ensure to book your rafting adventure in advance, especially during the busy summer months.

10. Participating in Outdoor Concerts and Events

Summer in Gatlinburg is vibrant with numerous outdoor concerts and events that showcase local and regional talent. The Gatlinburg River Raft Regatta, a fun, unmanned floatable object race on the Fourth of July, is a highlight. Another must-see event is the Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival in August, celebrating the art of songwriting. These events offer great entertainment and a chance to mingle with locals and visitors alike, creating a lively, community atmosphere.


Preparing for your summer trip to Gatlinburg means gearing up for a vacation filled with diverse activities—from the calm of artful crafts to the thrill of whitewater rafting. Gatlinburg offers an exceptional blend of outdoor adventure, local culture, and relaxing escapes. Make sure to plan your activities ahead of time, book accommodations that suit your style, and be ready to immerse yourself in the warm hospitality of the Smoky Mountains. Each moment spent in Gatlinburg promises delightful experiences and memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Enjoy the journey, and let the vibrant spirit of Gatlinburg make your summer trip unforgettable.