Gatlinburg – The Smoky Mountains Tourist Town

Gatlinburg, located in Tennessee, is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has developed into a tourist hub over the last 50 years.

For us Aussies, imagine the Gold Coast. Gatlinburg is full of tacky tourist traps that aim to take $20 off you for half an hour of entertainment. It is a fun town if you like this kind of place but be prepared to bring lots of money and time. I only spent a day which was not enough time but I didn’t have enough money for any longer.

As you walk up and down the street on either side there are amusement centres, restaurants, souvenir shops and most importantly, moonshine distilleries offering tastings.

It was raining the day I was there but the crowds were still around. I can only imagine how crazy it would be in on a nice summers day.

Looking back down the main street of Galtinburg.
Looking up the main street of Gatlinburg towards the Space Needle.
The view of the main street from the top of the Space Needle.

Very popular with the adults is the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery. The two locations offer moonshine tastings for $5 and you get a $5 voucher to spend in store, so it is essentially free. Trust me, you will want to purchase some moonshine after sampling the many flavours.

One of the two Ole Smoky Moonshine distilleries.

I highly recommend eating before you taste as the offerings range from 40 proof to 70 proof. The cherries are soaked in moonshine and can rate up to 100 proof per cherry. I sampled before lunch and needed to sit for a while enjoying the music in the courtyard before I could safely continue with my day.

Moonshine tasting of all flavours seen on the counter.

Did you know: Moonshine runners started what is now known as NASCAR racing.

It seems in every tourist town there is a Ripley’s of some sort. Ripley’s have several amusement options in Gatlinburg including an aquarium, mirror maze, believe it or not, mini golf, moving theatre and haunted adventure. I chose the haunted adventure to spend my $15 usd. It was fun as it was a combination of laser tag and a haunted house. You shoot at targets within the house but unfortunately it was all over in 20 minutes.

Ripley’s Haunted Mansion.

After going through the Ripley’s Haunted House I went to the other haunted house. The Mysterious Mansion was so much better! I love my haunted houses and I am never scared. I am entertained by those who are scared and I have been through many. This is one of the best! I loved it. There are secret passages you have to find to exit the room and the actors that follow you around are genuinely creepy. I went through a second time just to be able to take it all in.

One of the best haunted houses I have ever been in, and that is saying something!

After all this excitement and walking around for the day it was only fitting I ended my time in Gatlinburg with a marshmallow treat.

Not an apple but a marshmallow covered in chocolate and M’n’M’s!

A few years ago when I was on a tour of the USA, I opted out of an afternoon in Gatlinburg and regretted it. I don’t like regrets and I am so happy that I had the chance to see what all the fuss was about. My tour mates had a fantastic time and would not stop talking about Gatlinburg. Now I know why. Well worth a look if you are in that part of the country, along with Pigeon Forge just up the road.

More about Pigeon Forge and Dollywood in an upcoming post.

Author: Melanie Birch-Inwood

The question is not 'where have I been' but 'where haven't I been'. I can guarantee if I haven't been, it's on the list! I am an Aussie who loves to travel and I have currently been to 64 countries over 6 continents with no plans on slowing down anytime soon. Currently I am living and studying in America at Appalachian State University for the Fall semester. Join me as I share my experiences, tips and reviews of all things travel and foreign.

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