“Don’t miss out on the best the Smoky Mountains have to offer! Our Smoky Mountains Vacation Guide has curated a comprehensive list of top-rated attractions for every season. From hiking and scenic drives to festivals and must-see attractions, there’s something for every type of traveler.
Whether you’re looking for an action-packed adventure or a leisurely sightseeing experience, the Smoky Mountains have it all. Plan your dream vacation now with our guide.”
From its lush green forests to its majestic peaks, this area is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
This guide will provide an overview of all the great Smoky Mountains attractions for every season so that you can plan your perfect getaway!
What Should You Not Miss In the Smoky Mountains?
The Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee offer a wealth of experiences to be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
From the breathtaking natural beauty of the area to a plethora of family-friendly activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
With so much to explore and experience, it can be difficult to decide what not to miss when visiting the Smoky Mountains. To make planning easier for you, here’s our FREE Smoky Mountains Checklist.
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Fall
In addition to the beautiful Fall Foliage in the Smokies, these attractions are some of our favorites to visit during the Autumn season.
Dollywood’s Great Pumpkin Luminights
This event has quickly become a new family favorite for a fall visit to the Smoky Mountain theme park. The newly expanded section of Dollywood brings the sights and sounds of the fall festival season to the park.
There are artistically sculptured jack-o-lanterns, illuminated pumpkin walkways, and pumpkin-themed food and entertainment. Dollywood’s harvest festival also occurs during this time making a fall visit to Dollywood an all-day affair.
Visit the Gatlinburg Convention center for the Fall Craftsmen’s Fair to get a truly unique souvenir from one of the area’s many talented craftsmen and women.
Ober is transformed into a simulated Munich, Germany during Oktoberfest complete with bratwurst and of course, great beer! In addition to great beer and German food, Ober’s Oktoberfest has crafts and rides for the kids.
The ice-skating rink and mountain coaster are open as well. The fun will be had by all ages at this October event in the Smokies.
If you are looking to try something a little harder than the great German Beer at Oktoberfest, check out the new Grains and Grits Festival hosted by local whiskey and moonshine distilleries in Townsend, TN.
This over 21 only foodie and craft spirits festival kicks off in early November.
Ride the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
Is there a more iconic way to enjoy the Smoky Mountains than from a rail car? We think not!
The Great Smoky Mountain railroad offers a chance to step back in time and enjoy the fall foliage from the comfort of the train as you whisk through the mountains on a steam locomotive.
The journey will take you through the Carolina Mountains which make up more than 50% of the Great Smoky Mountains and borders the western edge of North Carolina.
For a truly special treat consider booking the PEANUTS™ The Great Pumpkin Patch Express or the Polar Express Train Ride for Christmas.
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Winter
Winter is a special time in the Smoky Mountains. From late fall until after the first of the year, Winterfest is underway and the sights and smells of the Christmas season are in full force.
There are more than 10 million twinkling lights throughout the Smoky Mountain area in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville. Dollywood alone has more than 5 million Christmas lights thanks to its newly expanded Glacier Ridge.
Snowfall in the lower levels of the Smoky Mountains is minimal with low accumulation about five times per year.
Higher elevations and several of the more shaded and narrow roadways do become snowy and icy and will be closed. Check the National Park Page for road conditions and closures. Don’t forget to pack your sweaters and jackets!
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas
As we mentioned, Dollywood recently added the largest expansion to date with the addition of Glacier Ridge which houses a brand new 50-foot lighted Christmas tree and brings the simulation of the northern lights to the mountains of Tennessee.
This new edition brings the total Christmas lights in Dollywood to over 5 million. In addition to more lights, there are award-winning shows, a daily Christmas Parade, special food, and many of the theme park rides are in operation.
Tennessee’s only ski resort shines its brightest during the winter months, but don’t think skiing is the only wintertime activity to enjoy. In addition to the 10 slopes for skiing, Ober offers snowboarding, tubing, and an indoor ice skating rink. Instruction is also available.
Take in a Christmas Show
There are so many special shows to take in during the winter holiday season from Dolly’s Christmas at the Dixie Stampede to Christmas at the Smoky Mountain Opry the options are endless.
Ring in the New Year with Fireworks at The Island
Usher in the New Year with a celebration at The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN. Enjoy a late dinner followed by music, attractions, and a midnight countdown and firework show.
While you are there, take a spin on the Smoky Mountain Wheel for a truly unique perspective.
This year’s annual Wilderness Wildlife Week takes place in January. Participants can enjoy free family friendly activities and events designed to encourage and pique the interest of your budding naturalist.
All activities will conclude with a Q&A session so you can get your queries answered by knowledgeable experts who love nature as much as you do!
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Spring
As you can imagine, spring is a great time for visiting the Smoky Mountains.
The air is fresh and fragrant with the smell of freshly blooming wildflowers, the streams and rivers are bursting forth, and the wildlife and singing birds begin to emerge adding to the magical feeling in the air.
Here are a few of our favorite Springtime attractions to see in the Smoky Mountains.
Occurs in the Spring bringing together food, shows, music, and artists from nations all over the world in this one-of-a-kind annual event.
Every April and May on Friday and Saturday evenings, local musicians and artisans take to the downtown streets to share their craft with visitors. Step back in time with this Smoky Mountain cultural treat.
Every spring more than 10,000 trout are released into the 20 miles of streams surrounding the Smoky Mountains for a 2-day tournament complete with cash prizes. Bring the kids because there is even a separate youth tournament.
Gatlinburg Wine Weekend
Do I really need to say anything else? Enjoy this adult-oriented weekend with tours of the local wineries on Friday followed by a Saturday evening of food pairing and wine tasting at several booths located at the historic Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.
Smoky Mountains Attractions in the Summer
Summer is, of course, one of the best times to visit the Smoky Mountains as all activities both indoor and out will be in full operation.
The temperatures do heat up and humidity is high in the lower elevations, but that’s all the more reason to head for the hills of northeast Tennessee and reach those higher elevations and cooler temperatures.
Here are a few ideas for how to best spend your summer in the Smoky Mountains.
Visitors to this park will be able to experience countless rides, shows, festivals and other entertainment inspired by Dolly’s music, including roller coasters, musical performances, crafts and other live events.
Dollywood Splash Country is located next door to the park and offers a variety of water-based activities for visitors. Guests can take a dip in the wave pool or ride down one of the many thrilling water slides.
Gatlinburg is home to several regional rivers including the Pigeon River offering class III and class IV rapids for those looking to get a little wet on their visit to the Smoky Mountains in Summer.
Never been on a whitewater rafting expedition before? No problem! There are several outfitters in the area who are more than willing to assist you and your family. Pigeon River rafting is perfect for all skill levels.
The upper Pigeon River is for the more experienced, but the lower Pigeon River provides a more relaxed and unique way to see the beautiful smoky mountains.
Ride a Smoky Mountains Alpine Coaster
A new and more unique way to explore “them there hills”, is on a Smoky Mountains Alpine Coaster. Don’t underestimate these “hillbilly” mountain coasters! These downhill gravity-driven bobsleds are not as tame as you may think.
They can be quite exhilarating as you speed down the mountain on a railway bobbing and weaving in between the trees and shrubs.
This is a really fun way to explore the Smoky Mountains in the summer. It is an excellent way to explore Cades Cove in the summer because the park closes it to motor traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 am.
This is a brand new way to cool off and have some fun in the summer in Pigeon Forge. Pigeon Forge is now home to the only indoor snow tubing facility in the United States.
With temperatures constantly between 60-70 degrees all year and REAL SNOW to tube down, this one you have to try out!
Riding through the Smoky Mountains on an ATV is definitely one of the best outdoor adventures to be had in our opinion. While, sadly, you can’t ride through the National Park on an ATV trail, you can still have a grand adventure on an ATV in the Smoky Mountains. You could:
- Take a Guided ATV tour with Bluff Mountain Adventures or any number of other outdoor adventure companies found in our ATV Riding in the Smokies guide.
- Rent an ATV in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge and ride them on the road or through Cades Cove
- Take your ATV just a few hours outside the National Park and you will find a ton of great places to ride ATV trails in Tennessee
There are so many more outdoor Summer adventures to be had in the Smoky Mountains. Don’t miss our Smoky Mountains Vacation Guide on the Best Outdoor Adventures in the Smokies.
Smoky Mountains 7-Day Itinerary
I understand how difficult it can be to plan a trip, especially if it’s your first time going. That’s why I created this 7-day itinerary for the Smoky Mountains. It outlines all of the best places to go in the area and comes with insider tips that will save you a lot of stress–trust me, they saved me when I was planning my own trip!
- Our 7-day itinerary takes you to the best places in the Smoky Mountains.
- You’ll get to see all the best sights and attractions with driving directions
- The itinerary is designed to show you the most scenic routes.
- Packing Checklist for every season.
- You’ll have everything you need to make the most of your trip.
- Insider Tips!
Here’s a quick overview of our Smoky Mountains 7-Day Itinerary.
- Day 1: Cades Cove Loop
- Day 2: Rich Mountain Road
- Day 3: Cataloochee Valley
- Day 4: Newfound Gap Road
- Day 5: Roaring Fork Motor Trail
- Day 6: Little River Road
- Day6: Foothills Parkway
Related Smoky Mountain Resources
- Pigeon Forge Vacation Guide
- Gatlinburg Vacation Guide
- 125+ Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains
- Great Smoky Mountains Family Vacations Facebook Group
More Recommended Resources
If you’re looking for lodging when you go visit the Smokies, you might want to consider GSM Family Vacations Cabin rental, the cabin is 10 minutes away from downtown Gatlinburg and has numerous amenities available for the whole family!
Also, you might be interested in exploring this list from PhotoJeepers on the best National Parks to visit by month and check out the National Parks on the other side of the United States.