Before Dollywood came to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg was the tourist town of the Smoky Mountains. Located at the entrance to the national park, the town has no big outlet malls. But for those who want less traffic, there's plenty of shopping, restaurants and unique museums here plus a mountaintop ski resort. The town has long been known as a honeymoon destination; more than 10,000 couples are married here each year.
Virtually all activity centers along the town's parkway. Visitors can walk to most destinations or ride a convenient trolley. Shops along the parkway feature traditional tourist trinkets as well as handmade jewelry and other crafts. Sample home-made sweets such as salt water taffy from one of the parkway kitchens.
Gatlinburg's newest attraction is Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies where visitors can get up close and personal with sharks and stingrays. Other Ripley town attractions include the Guinness World Records and the Believe It or Not museums. Also along the parkway is Christus Gardens, a religious wax museum.
Take a chairlift to the top of the mountain, just off the parkway, and enjoy the view at Ober Gatlinburg. The resort offers skiing in winter and an amusement park in summer. A year-round ice skating rink is popular as is the aerial tramway which climbs 2.5 miles up the mountain.
Watch artists creating their crafts along Buckhorn and Glades roads, east of town, at the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Workshops line the roads specializing in leather goods, baskets, dulcimers, oil painting and other arts. On the parkway, Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts teaches weaving, carving and other crafts to 1,500 students each summer.
Dining options in Gatlinburg range from family restaurants to fine dining at spots such as Maxwell's Steak and Seafood where you can enjoy a flamb‚ dessert. For entertainment at night, visit the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, where musical comedy is presented six nights a week.
Gatlinburg is located on US 441, about 45 miles southeast of Knoxville and 15 minutes from Pigeon Forge, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.