In Gatlinburg, it’s easy to be inspired by the great outdoors, and there is no better time to visit than springtime. Cast a line in a quest for mountain trout and listen to the calming silence of the wilderness around you. Observe the brilliant colors of wildflowers and plants as you stroll through America’s most visited National Park.
Experience the thrill of white water rafting as you race down Pigeon River. Boasting natural beauty, historical charm and exciting events including food festivals and arts & crafts shows, Gatlinburg provides the perfect respite for springtime adventures. The following story ideas are centered on Gatlinburg’s spring events and travel options. For travel information and images, visit gatlinburg.com.
Excitement and New Experiences in the Great Smoky Mountains
A visit to Gatlinburg fosters a love for the great outdoors for a whole new generation. The adventures become even more extreme this spring with the grand opening of the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) Great Outpost, which showcases all the gear, services and expertise needed to truly discover Mother Nature’s treasures. Tackle the 25-foot tall climbing wall, a swinging rope bridge and a kid-friendly “bear den” at the new NOC, which also features gear from renowned brands including The North Face, Columbia Sportswear and Mountain Hardwear. Bike rentals also are available. Clinics, classes and outdoor adventures are available through Basecamp, an outdoor concierge and advice center in the heart of NOC’s Great Outpost, designed to educate guests on all their outdoor options in Gatlinburg.
Up Close and Personal with African Penguins
Say hello to Gatlinburg’s newest flock of feathered friends. Celebrating its 11th anniversary this year, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies opened its new $5 million “Penguin Playhouse” in March '10. The indoor/outdoor habitat allows visitors an up close and personal, nose-to-beak view of these amazing birds. Since 1930, the African penguin population has dropped from an estimated one million birds down to 150,000 today, putting them on the list of “vulnerable” animals facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. The new exhibit is the largest and costliest expansion ever at Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg.
Mother Nature Rings Loud and True in Gatlinburg
Explore more than 500,000 acres of forests in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the largest protected land areas east of the Rocky Mountains. Bike along Cades Cove loop or discover secrets found in the park during one of the educational programs offered by park rangers. Observe over 240 species of birds, search for salamanders, or learn more about the 77 historic structures, preserved scenes and landscapes the National Park maintains, When you’re in town, check out the the historic Ogle Cabin, which was the home of Gatlinburg’s first settlers. This collection, representing more than two centuries of human history in the Appalachia region, helps to tell the story of the people who lived and worked in and around the Park prior to its creation. Pitch a tent and pack a picnic lunch while staying at one of the two local campgrounds.
Summer and Fall Events Celebrate the Spirit of the Smokies
Be among the first to celebrate our nation’s birthday during one of the most unique Independence Day celebrations in the country. Gatlinburg kicks off America’s Independence Day celebration with the nation’s first parade, which leads off in the opening moment of the holiday at the stroke of midnight to begin Wednesday, July 4, to the cheers of close to 100,000 spectators and features a special tribute to our military personnel among the many highlights of this one-of-a-kind patriotic event. Stretching more than a mile in length, over 100 units will make their way through Gatlinburg, showcasing many elaborately decorated floats, helium balloons, marching bands, equestrian entries and a large contingent of our armed services men & women.
Surrounded by Mountains, Explore the Depths of the Sea
For an up-close-and-personal glimpse of fascinating marine life, follow your curiosity through Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Rated as the “Number One Aquarium in the U.S.” by TripAdvisor.com, the facility boasts more than 100,000 animals thriving in 1.4 million gallons of aquariums including 12-foot sharks, thrilling interactive exhibits, and the world’s largest underwater tunnel measuring in at 345 feet. The new five-million dollar addition of Penguin Playhouse provides a unique indoor/outdoor setting for the curious clustering of African Black-footed Penguins that now call the Smokies home.
From Tee to Green
Imagine your 8-iron struck your golf ball solidly, and now it’s traveling off the side of a mountain toward the flag placed 195 yards out and 200 feet down from the tee. This is a day at the Gatlinburg Golf Course, recently named the best municipal golf course in the state of Tennessee by Golf Digest. Appropriately named “Sky Hi,” you’re playing #12 at Gatlinburg’s own 18-hole, 145-acre municipal golf course. The picturesque facility underwent a $1.75 million renovation in 2007, including the addition of a new clubhouse.
Gatlinburg’s History Inspires its Artistic & Cultural Heritage
Boasting an exciting history steeped in tradition, Gatlinburg was originally settled in the early 1800s and first named White Oak Flats for the abundant native white oak trees covering the landscape. Visitors today can explore the historic sites of Gatlinburg, such as The Red Barn, constructed in 1923 which served as the “model barn” where young men were taught agriculture. The Ogle Cabin at left is Gatlinburg’s first home, built in 1807 by the widow and children of William Ogle who told his family of the “Land of Paradise” in the mountains of East Tennessee.
With breathtaking natural surroundings that inspire creativity, Gatlinburg’s arts and crafts culture has long held a deep association with the Southern Appalachian mountains. Nowhere else in the South is there a richer heritage of fine craftsmanship than in Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community. Established in 1937, the Arts & Crafts Community is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. Located on an eight-mile loop at the northeast edge of Gatlinburg, the community proudly preserves the craft heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains year-round. Explore the best in a wide range of craft shops, including pottery, woodcarving, candlemaking, quilting, weaving, broom-making, and painting, among other fine art forms.
Gatlinburg also is home to the renowned Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, founded in 1965 with roots in Pi Beta Phi fraternity going all the way back to 1912.