I have been to Gatlinburg 4 times in 5 years and I absolutely love it! I was single the first couple of times and I had no problem blowing money on a good time with all the man-made touristy stuff. Just remember, you are in the Mountains and everyone needs to experience nature in a hike or at least a ride around Cades Cove (which my husband loves, lots of animals and photo opps.). If you just have to have the crap that you can get in any shop there, get it, but what I treasure the most are the things I bought that were made by local craftsmen and I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. Ride out into the mountains to the smaller towns and visit the "real" shops of the locals. You'll find better things LOTS cheaper than on the main strips of towns. Our favorite short trips include a road from the backside of Pigeon Forge around by Dollywood thru one of the many craft villages and it comes out in Green Briar. Another is the way to Cades Cove via Townsend starting in Pigeon Forge. Lots of little craft shops in these areas with lots of original items any traveler would love. And watch out for the people selling time shares, you will get asked a million times, by the same people usually, to take a look at what they've got. Not worth wasting vacation time talking to these people. We even had them come up to our windows while we were getting gas. The best way to avoid these people is to get out and enjoy the only reason to go to Gatinburg.... The Smokies. But, like I said, it's your time and money.
Unique Suggestions: If you want to stay in town, go to the aquarium, we enjoyed it but some of the displays didn't have any information about them that we could find, so don't go expecting to learn a whole lot. The alpine rides in Ober Gatlingurg and the Tram getting there is nice. Some of the clerks in a few of the shops are just there to get paid, so don't be surprised if you don't get all the southern hospitality you were looking for. The Ripley Museum has some interesting and just plan creepy things in it.
Fun Alternatives: If you want to shop, the little boutiques just off the streets are great. Little coffee shops, candy stores and the like are located in places like "The Village" and a couple others. There are some really nice Thomas Kinkade galleries and other specialty shops in these areas. If you only do at least one tourist thing, go on the Sky Lift in downtown, the view is great and get your picture made, especially if it's your first time there, that place is classic.
WHATEVER YOU DO AVOID THE EARTHQUAKE Subway simulator whatever ya call it.
It will have pillars that appear to be shaking because of an earthquak(cheap piston effects) and a track out front.
That was the biggest rip off I have ever seen. There are no thrills in this ride whatsover. The subway car simply moves back and forth on a track, while you listen to hydraulic pistons throw packing materials at your train car.
The fire they use is not real nor even realistic looking. The train never moves any further than a few feet on the track, and the sound effects are horrible. Basically you have to listen to a generic monkey growling sound repeated over and over at regular intervals for half the ride.
The ride lists several restrictions on people with health problems including ashtma. This would probably only scare a very small child as they would have no idea what was going on in the cheap confusion.
Basically, THIS IS A RIP OFF. I have never seen anything so cheap, and stupid in my life that cost $7.
Unique Suggestions: If you do go on this ride because your kids won't leave you alone, the only way to get through it is to laugh at it... and then warn everyone outside what a big rip off it is.
At the end of the so-called ride they throw a bucket of water down the side of one of the walls and some of it can hit you if you sit on the right hand side of the car.
But why are you even sitting in the car in the first place?
You'll wish you had listened to me in the first place and never gone if you do.
Fun Alternatives: Go to the Ripley Motion Rides and the Ripley Aquarium.
Go to Pigeon Forge if you want cheap roller coaster rides, but whatever you do avoid this ride.
For just about as long as I can remember one of my pet frustrations has been with people who travel many miles to Gatlinburg and spend days here, without even seeing the main attraction - the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here are just a few of the "distractions."
3D Moving Theater
Davy Crockett Mini-Golf
Treasure Quest Golf
Fort Fun Amusement Park
Guinness World of Records Museum
Motion Ride Theater
Star Cars Museum
Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre
World of Illusions
Tennessee Earthquake Ride
Shops, Shops, and more Shops!
Unique Suggestions: Balance your trip. No problem with enjoying the man-made attractions, but they can be hazardous to your pocketbook. At least spend some of your time getting to know the Smokies. You'll be refreshed, have fun, save money, and discover one the crown jewels of America.
Gatlinburg, a town I dearly love, is full of tourist traps. The number of cheesy t-shirt shops if unbelievable. And there are museums about just about everything that are more than happy to relive you of your money. The most tourist trappy place we recently went to was at the Ober Gatlinburg complex. We rode the reasonably prices tram to the top. (Less than $10 for all you care to ride that day and the next. They stamp your hand.) At the top of the mountain, at the Ober Gatlinburg complex are carnival type games and rides that are not in the least bit cheap. Parents need to be forwarned about this so they can be prepared to resist their whining little one's pleas. There are also a skating rink there and some outdoor alpine type rides, but we did not check these out. There is also a live bear display , but I refused to pay money to see poor mangy animals living on concrete.
Unique Suggestions: Enjoy the ride on thesky tram up to the top of the mountain. the scenery was gorgeous. One side is a view of the city and mountain chalets. The other side affords a breathtaking view of the national park
The skylift originates on main street and quickly takes you up 800 ft to the top a a ridge where you will find a little gift shop. The ride costs $12 and is not at all worth it please spend your money on gas and go to Cades Cove or New Found Gap and actuly see something worth taking a pic when you get there.
Beware that much of Gatlinburg's surroundings are outlet malls and tourist stops. But you can still enjoy what was there 100 years ago if you just drive into the mountains!!
Fun Alternatives: One way to enjoy is to divide your time between the "man made" attractions and the mountain paths.
Do not talk to these people giving you discout coupons, free dollywood tickets unless you want to sit in on a 4 hour time share schemes
these people are everywhere at least 20 sights in a 8 block area
644 Parkway #3, Gatlinburg, TN- The worker I spoke with seemed very nice as long as my friend and I were spending money and looking through a premade bucket of sand and stones. Then after I had "Jesse" look through the stones he offered to set some of them for me. I was unaware of the price and when I changed my mind he was completely RUDE to me and almost threw my stones at me and just rushed me out of the store talking to the customer behind me. Upon arriving back home I was looking through my stones and realized that I was missing my rubies. The only person that could have taken them would be this Jesse employee. Avoid this place at all costs he's RUDE unless you're willing to spend more money then it would normally cost to but the jewelry out right. Not only that but the setting are horrible looking anyway.
Unique Suggestions: You have to buy the bucket and my friend spent $75.00 for one then when I wouldn't spend anymore after I changed my mind he has the WORST customer service I have ever witnessed. AVOID THIS PLACE, DO NOT GO HERE!!!!
This is the website the Gem Mine is the door on the left.
Pretty much everything in downtown Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and [part of] Sevierville are tourist traps. Gatlinburg has the Ober Gatlinburg tram system, the sky lift and its many museums and shops. Pigeon Forge is filled with shows and attractions such as Comedy Barn and the Black Bear Jamboree. Sevierville has the shopping outlets and Old McDonald mini golf range.
Unique Suggestions: The best things I'd recommend for this are the aquarium, museums and the ober gatlinburg/sky lift. Everyone does it - this is pretty much the reason to go!!
Fun Alternatives: The alternative would be to go hiking or picnicking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sure there are going to be tourists there too, but the majority of the families with children are going to be touring the museums and the downtown area so this may be a little bit of a quieter and more laid back thing to do.
If you want to go when you can have the place to yourself, you should go in January after New Years. It is really a lovely time of year and there are very few people around and you can shop with no crowds. It is a great time to spend time relaxing by the fire.
ALL OVER Gatlinburg there are cute little shops that sell candles or candy or t-shirts or whatever other little trinkets you may be able to think of... it's all completely a tourist trap, but it's kinda fun to be overloaded with junk like that!!!!!
Unique Suggestions: if you go to these places, buy some saltwater taffy. :-) it's good here.
We have gotten suckered by these people. they are at every few feet...asking how long you are going to be in town etc. Offering free tickets, 100.00, etc. Their 90 min tour actually takes 4 hours. You DO get your tickets...but have to put a 20.00 deposit down until you get through with their tour before you get it back.If you plan on buying time shares anyway...it will prob be ok...but if you never intend to....let them know straight up...wont be as hasseling...but they will still try to talk you into it.
Unique Suggestions: let them know straight up...that you arent interested you are just there for your tickets...etc. they wont hassel you as bad.
Fun Alternatives: just dont go...unless you are short on funds, or you have alot of time on your hands.
I was conned out of $10 for a 2 week tattoo that was "professionally"(he had me put my foot up on his fan) applied by airbrush. The guy at one of those t-shirt stores on main street was a smooth talker, promising a beautiful long lasting tattoo that lasted about as long as it took for me to walk back to my hotel room. Save the $10 and get one of those .50 cent gumball machine tattoos.