8 of the Most Popular Things to Do in Gatlinburg for Kids

July 8, 2019

The quaint town of Gatlinburg is known for its family-friendly fun.

Between the outdoor activities available at The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and attractions teeming with entertainment it’s easy to please the whole family on your vacation--including your children. If you’re searching for the best things to do in Gatlinburg for kids read on.

1) Explore the Smoky Mountains

There are over 500,000 acres to explore in the Smokies and almost as many ways to make the experience uniquely yours. Several easy hikes, such as Laurel Falls, give you a glimpse of the beauty of the mountains while not being too strenuous for the kiddos.

Plus, they usually have more energy that mom and dad anyway! You can also hitch a ride on a horse at outfits like Sugarland Riding Stables. Giddy up and take to the trails on a gentle mare to see some of the scenic sights of the Smokies.

aerial view of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with cloudy grey skies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Great Smoky Mountains National Park via Facebook

2) Make a Splash Rafting or Tubing

You might think white water rafting is too much adventure for your kids. Don’t worry, though, as Gatlinburg rafting companies offer a trip on the lower Pigeon River perfect for families. The 5 ½ mile rafting trip runs about 50 class I and II rapids, with one class III at the very end.

With calm waters, and just enough rapids to make a splash, kids ages 3 and up can go on the lower Pigeon River float. Another leisurely way to spend the day in the Smokies is tubing the river. River Romp and River Rat offer affordable ways for families to enjoy the old-fashioned fun of river tubing. Along the way you’ll find swimming holes and rope swings, adding even more activities to your day on the river.

People White Water Rafting with Smoky Mountain Outdoors - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Smoky Mountain Outdoors via Facebook

3) Visit Dollywood

Families with kids of all ages will find something to love at Dollywood. There are roller coasters like Wild Eagle ideal for big kids, and traditional fair rides for little ones at the Country Fair section of the park. Make sure you visit during the Great American Summer Festival for even more kid-themed fun.

The Smoky Mountain theme park has extended operating hours during this festival and features nightly fireworks, special shows and fun geared just for kids.

roller coaster ride at dollywood in pigeon forge

Photo Credit: Dollywood / Facebook

4) Get Soaked at Dollywood’s Splash Country

Cool off during your vacation at the only waterpark in the Smoky Mountains. Add aquatic adventure to your day on attractions like RiverRush or take it easy and lounge in the lazy river. From mild to wild thrills, Splash Country is a place where families can dive into summer fun.

family on swim rings holding hands on blue pool with waterfalls on side at Downbound Float Trip in Dollywood Splash Country, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Dollywood via Facebook

5) Become a Junior Ranger

Kids ages 5-12 can become a Junior Ranger on their Gatlinburg vacation. Pick up a Junior Ranger booklet at any park visitor center. Complete the activities in the booklet then return to the visitor center, talk to a ranger and receiver your Junior Ranger badge.

The Junior Ranger badge is available any time of year, but in every season but winter your can also take part in Junior Ranger programs designed especially for children.

6) Go Under the Sea at Ripley’s Aquarium

Immerse yourself in the aquatic wonders of Ripley’s Aquarium. Even though you might be miles from the sea this attraction deftly navigates the waters of our world, highlighting a variety of species and exotic sea creatures.

My favorite element is the Shark Lagoon, which includes a 340-foot underwater tunnel. Hop on the glidepath through the tunnel and gawk at the stingrays, sawfish, tarpons, sharks, eels and more. Interactive and educational exhibits challenge children while keeping their interests. Be sure to touch a stingray and pose with a penguin during your trip.

Family posing for photo at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies - Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, USA

photo credit: Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies via Facebook

7) Get Interactive at WonderWorks

Kids of all ages find WonderWorks to be engaging, entertaining and educational. Dubbed an amusement park for the mind, the attraction lets you experience an earthquake and hurricane, design your own roller coaster, explore outer space, ride an extreme 360 bike and so much more. There’s even a ropes course and laser tag course where families can challenge each other.

  a picture of a child lying on a bed full of nails

photo credit: Dara Goecke-Jenkins via Facebook

8) Cast a Spell at MagiQuest

Are any of your kids Harry Potter fans? Then MagiQuest is for them. Using a magic wand visitor’s journey through an interactive magical adventure. Various challenges, puzzles, and brave feats let you advance through levels, gaining skill and knowledge along the way.

Plus, you can purchase your wand and keep it for return visits to MagiQuest locations across the nation. It remembers everything you accomplish so you can keep playing for years!

Get Ready for Family Fun in Gatlinburg

Add these popular things to do in Gatlinburg for kids to your plans for a vacation filled with smiles.

Written By Ashley


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