8 Family Activities in Gatlinburg That Aren’t Hiking

8 Family Activities in Gatlinburg That Aren’t Hiking

Exploring new places with family is all about creating lasting memories, diving into new experiences, and enjoying the time together. When it comes to choosing a destination that offers a variety of activities suitable for all ages, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, emerges as a top contender. Nestled in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg provides a unique blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and fun-filled activities.

And while the town is famous for being close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park - a popular hiking spot in the US- there are plenty of other things for families to do here. So, if you’re a family that is not big on hiking and are questioning whether you should visit Gatlinburg or not, here are eight family-friendly activities in Gatlinburg that aren’t hiking but are equally thrilling and memorable.

1. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a window into the mesmerizing world beneath the waves. Families can wander through the aquarium's glass tunnels, surrounded by the serene swimming of sharks, rays, and a rainbow of fish. The interactive Touch Tank offers a hands-on experience with some of the sea's most fascinating creatures, making it not just a visit but an immersive learning adventure. It’s a place where the mysteries of the ocean come alive, capturing the imagination of everyone in the family.

2. Enjoy a Family Meal

After a day of exploration and discovery, nothing brings a family together like a good meal. Downtown Gatlinburg is a culinary hotspot, offering a range of dining options that cater to every taste and preference. Calhoun’s, a local favorite, serves up succulent BBQ and steaks in a family-friendly atmosphere, making it the perfect spot to refuel and recount the day's adventures. For a unique dining experience, The Melting Pot offers fondue-style meals that turn dinner into an interactive delight.

These  Gatlinburg restaurants not only satisfy your hunger but also provide a warm, welcoming environment to create and share family moments.

3. Explore the Gatlinburg Space Needle

The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a landmark that offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains and the bustling town below. Standing 407 feet tall, this observation tower is a must-visit for families looking to capture the beauty of Gatlinburg from an aerial perspective.

The journey to the top is just as exciting as the view, with informative displays and interactive exhibits that educate and entertain. As night falls, the Space Needle becomes a beacon of light, offering a different but equally mesmerizing view of the city illuminated against the backdrop of the dark mountain silhouette.

4. Experience the Thrill of Ober Mountain

Ober Mountain is the epitome of year-round fun, offering activities that cater to thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike. Accessible via the Aerial Tramway, which provides scenic views during the ascent, Ober Mountain welcomes families to a world of amusement and adventure. 

Winter transforms the area into a snowy paradise for skiing and snowboarding, while summer invites visitors to enjoy The Alpine Slide, The Tennessee Flyer Mountain Coaster, and wildlife encounters. It’s a place where every season brings new opportunities to explore and enjoy, making it a versatile destination for families visiting Gatlinburg.

5. Discover the Magic of Anakeesta

Nestled in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, Anakeesta offers a unique outdoor experience that blends adventure with serenity. This magical theme park, accessible by a scenic Chondola ride, invites families to walk among the treetops on sky bridges and experience the thrill of zip lines.

The Firefly Village at Anakeesta is a charming spot to shop and dine while soaking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. It’s a place where the natural beauty of Gatlinburg is celebrated and shared through a variety of engaging activities, making it a must-visit for families.

6. Play a Round of Mini-Golf

Gatlinburg is home to several creatively themed  mini-golf courses that offer fun and challenges for all ages. From courses that take you on a journey through pirate adventures to those that bring dinosaurs to life, mini-golf in Gatlinburg is more than just a game—it’s an experience.

These courses are perfect for families looking to engage in a friendly competition while enjoying the imaginative landscapes. It’s an activity that promises laughter, fun, and a bit of skill, making it a delightful way to spend an afternoon or evening in Gatlinburg.

7. Visit the Hollywood Star Cars Museum

For families who love movies and television, the Hollywood Star Cars Museum is a dream come true. This museum showcases a collection of famous vehicles from blockbuster hits and beloved TV shows. Imagine standing next to the Batmobile or General Lee or taking a selfie with cars from "Ghostbusters" and "Back to the Future."

It’s an opportunity to step into the world of Hollywood glamour and excitement, bringing the silver screen to life in the heart of Gatlinburg.

8. Relax and Reconnect in a Gatlinburg Cabin

After days filled with adventure and exploration, retreating to a cozy cabin in Gatlinburg offers the perfect end to your family vacation. These cabins, ranging from rustic to luxurious, provide a serene escape where families can relax in a hot tub, share stories by the fireplace, or simply enjoy the stunning views of the Smoky Mountains from a private deck. It’s a chance to reconnect, unwind, and reflect on the memories made during your stay.


Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a treasure trove of family-friendly adventures that extend far beyond the hiking trails of the Smoky Mountains. From underwater explorations at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and panoramic views from the Space Needle to the enchanting experiences at Anakeesta and playful rounds of mini-golf, Gatlinburg offers diverse activities designed to delight and entertain families of all ages.

Each activity highlighted in this guide promises to enrich your family vacation with joy, adventure, and unforgettable memories. Gatlinburg invites families to come together, explore its many wonders, and leave with stories that will be told for years to come. Whether seeking thrills, laughter, or moments of serene beauty, Gatlinburg is the destination where every family can find their heart's delight.