For travelers from near and far, summer is the ideal time to pack up a suitcase and hit the road or skies in pursuit of a well-earned vacation. When it comes to destinations that deliver much on the fun front with the spectacular scenery to match, Gatlinburg, Tennessee checks every box on the list! This year-round family fun destination is a great all-weather retreat, but there’s something particularly appealing about a trip this way when summer rolls around. This time of year, the surrounding mountainous terrain is in full bloom, travel season is at its peak, and access to unsurpassed outdoor adventure opens up a world of exciting possibilities.

Thanks to Gatlinburg’s pristine location, it’s often referred to as the gateway to the Smoky Mountains. Travelers often set their sights on the city in the summer to make the most of time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park with good reason. However, for all of the natural beauty that abounds in and around Gatlinburg, it’s also a place packed with opportunities for shopping, dining, and being entertained in one-of-a-kind style! Whether you’re one for savoring every stop possible during vacation or you’re looking to kick back, relax, and enjoy a show, Gatlinburg has something wonderful waiting for you to enjoy. Our ultimate summer guide to Gatlinburg is a list of just a few of the many activities, attractions, and restaurants that you’ll want to be sure to add to your itinerary when you’re in the process of putting together the ultimate summer getaway to Gatlinburg this year!

Activities to Try and Attractions to Check Out in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg tours

It likely goes without saying that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a must-visit destination when you head to Gatlinburg in the summer—but we’re saying it again anyway! This forested and dynamic destination is home to peaks that stretch more than 6,500 feet into the air and come with breathtaking views to match the moment flawlessly. While viewing the landscape from a distance can delight the senses, getting into the park and making the most of outdoor adventure makes for an unforgettable summer retreat. Travelers that step into Smoky Mountains National Park can enjoy options to participate in everything from hiking, mountain biking and even horseback riding! With over 900 miles of trails to discover, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to exploring new pathways and adventures. Fishing is another popular activity to enjoy within this national park and can be enjoyed as a solo activity or alongside a local guide when you’re looking for the best places to cast a line within the sprawling terrain.

Those looking for assistance planning their hiking excursions in the park, or who are interested in learning more before they explore will find time at the Visitor’s Center extremely useful. A stop here is a chance to pick up maps and guidebooks that make trekking to some of the most scenic destinations the park hosts easier than you might have ever imagined possible. When summer adventures bring you to this park, be sure to dress and pack accordingly. Having the appropriate outdoor gear and apparel available will make for a comfortable and safe stay. In the summer months, it’s especially important to have plenty of water on-hand, especially for those more endurance-challenging hikes.

Don’t Skip a Day at Dollywood


For all of the fun that the mountains and dynamic terrain of Gatlinburg offer up, this vacation destination is also home to an amusement and music-lovers dream come true! Dollywood is a must-visit destination for those who have a passion for rollercoasters, entertainment, or perhaps just have a soft spot in their heart for the owner and iconic musician Dolly Parton! From the fun rides and savory food options to the ambiance brimming over with southern charm, this is considered a premier theme park in the area that’s ideal for families or those who are kids at heart. Set in front of a backdrop of Smoky Mountains, Dollywood is a delightful place to enjoy a variety of musical performances year-round in between making the most of the more than 40 rides and attractions on-site.

While you’re visiting Dollywood, you can even pick up a new skill along the way. Blacksmithing and glass blowing demonstrations are part of the lineup at this park, providing a unique insight into one-of-a-kind craftsmanship. When summer temperatures in Gatlinburg are on the rise and you’re looking to cool off, time at Dollywood’s Splash Country is just the ticket. This waterpark has rides and slides for all ages and puts on a festive fireworks display nightly to end the fun in style.

Be Sure to Check Out Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

When you’re traveling to Gatlinburg with the entire family in tow and you’re looking for an activity that’s sure to be as engaging as it is educational, making a day of it at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is always a good idea. Part of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not lineup of area attractions, this aquarium features an inspiring collection of exotic marine life to admire on-site. As guests walk through the acrylic underwater tunnel, they’re treated to sights of sting rays, eels, sharks and more that promise to amaze. There’s even a penguin exhibit at this aquarium as well as options to book a glass bottom boat ride! If you find yourself enthralled with the idea of all things Ripley after this stop, there’s more to add to the itinerary. Other Ripley area attractions include the Moving Theater, the Odditorium, and the Guinness World Records Museum too.

Restaurants to Savor When Cravings Come Calling

A trip to Gatlinburg is sure to come with an itinerary packed with options for fun. That said, it’s entirely possible that all of those activities will leave you with a craving to curb somewhere along the line. Fortunately for travelers headed this way in the summer, Gatlinburg is chock full of savory stops to choose from! Whether you’re in the mood for southern fare or you’re looking for something upscale and inspired by far-flung destinations, you’ll find what you’re looking for and more.

restaurants in gatlinburg

Start the Day Right at the Pancake Pantry

When you know you have a big day of fun ahead in Gatlinburg, fueling up with a hearty breakfast is a must. That’s where a stop at the Pancake Pantry comes in. Located at 628 Parkway within the Village Shoppes, Pancake Pantry is lucky enough to enjoy the title of Tennessee’s first pancake specialty restaurant! Since first opening their doors in 1960, Pancake Pantry has been serving up savory breakfast and lunch selections in abundance. A fan-favorite stop amongst locals and visitors alike, this eatery opens its doors to the public daily between 7:00 am and 3:00 pm. Pancake Pantry isn’t hard to spot thanks to its iconic gabled slate roof and sprawling wrap around windows. Those who drop by for breakfast can treat themselves to stacks of pancakes in all kinds of flavorful variations as well as eggs, waffles, French toast, omelets and more! If you decide to sleep in and swing by for lunch instead, Pancake Pantry is the perfect summer stop to enjoy a burger or veggie burger as well as soups, salads, and wraps upon request. There’s a full kids’ menu available at Pancake Pantry as well, which ensures that even the pickiest of eaters in your traveling crew will find something that’s sure to satisfy. Don’t be surprised if this stop has you wanting to return a time or two during your stay.

Make It Dinner with a View at Cliff Top at Anakeesta

Many summer travelers will find themselves at Anakeesta during their Gatlinburg visit when adventure and outdoor fun are top priorities. This recreation hub is a great place to enjoy everything from treetop play areas and gondola rides to zip lines that are sure to thrill. When you’re looking to pair that fun with a savory stop, Cliff Top is the place to be. Located at 576 Parkway, this restaurant is no more than a minute walk from Anakeesta and is open daily between 11:00 am and 8:00 pm. The atmosphere at Cliff Top is refreshingly laid-back while the menu is vast and varied to accommodate visitors of all taste preferences. Cliff Top is a wonderful stop when you’re in the mood for burgers, salads, beers, and cocktails with a stunning view to match the moment. Guests can choose to eat in the main dining room or make their way outside to the sprawling patio when they’re looking to make even more of those Mount Le Conte vistas. Because Cliff Top is a popular dining stop in this area, making a reservation in advance is highly recommended.

Fun Museums to Check Out on a Rainy Day

The summer weather in Gatlinburg leans towards delightful, sunny, and warm throughout the season, but there’s no guarantee that you won’t find yourself here on a rainy day. When this is the case, you’re still in luck as Gatlinburg is home to a variety of exciting museums that are well-worth checking out while you’re here!

Visit the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum

If eclectic collections sound like something you can appreciate, spending time at the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum is sure to inspire. Situated at 461 Brookside Village Way, this museum puts its purpose right in its name. Between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm daily, guests can enjoy browsing exhibits and displays that showcase more than 20,000 pairs of salt and pepper shakers that have been acquired from across the globe. Since opening its doors in 2002, this museum has become a fan-favorite area attraction highlighting unique creativity at every turn. The goal of the museum is to help visitors understand the beauty that can be found in ordinary things.

Enjoy the Hollywood Star Cars Museum

No more than a 2-minute walk from the iconic Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a must-visit stop for those with a passion for on-the-road adventure and Hollywood alike. This museum is found at 914 Parkway and is open daily between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm. Stepping inside, guests are privy to encounters with famous automobiles from all eras including the 1966 Batmobile and iconic TV cars like the General Lee. A stop here puts you up close with classic vehicles that have graced the big screen, ultimately bringing movie magic to life!

Check Out the Chasing Rainbows Museum

If you decide to spend worthwhile time at Dollywood, you’re going to want to be sure you make time to enjoy the Chasing Rainbows Museum on-site. This stop is focused on the life and accomplishment of singer Dolly Parton and first opened to the public in 2002. A visit here is designed to be a behind-the-scenes look at the singer’s life complete with up-close looks at her iconic costumes, instruments, song-writing process and more. If you’re a fan of Dolly Parton or have a heart for country music in general, this is an eye-opening and inspiring visit that sheds new light on the life of a singer so many have watched flourish through the years.

Make the Most of Your Gatlinburg Adventure This Summer

When you’re ready to stop dreaming and start planning your Gatlinburg summer adventure, the team at Smoky Mountain Realty Partners is here to help you make sure you have the right accommodations in place to match the fun! We’re committed to helping all of our guests enjoy a one-of-a-kind Gatlinburg getaway and for us, it starts with pairing guests with luxurious rentals that keep them close to the fun and living in style too. Whether you’re traveling here as a couple or in the company of the entire family, we can help you find the home away from home you’re looking for. From cozy cabins in forested surroundings to multi-level retreats that are fit for a family reunion, you’ll find all of our options easy to customize and brimming over with Tennessee charm. Reach out today to learn more about our exciting lineup of property options in this area. We look forward to seeing you soon!