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From Wooded Mountains to Neon Lights - A Guide to Gatlinburg and Beyond

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Gatlinburg is nestled in the eastern Tennessee hills at the foot of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This modest mountain town manages to lure millions of visitors each year with its assortment of attractions. Most are in the shadow of the neon lights on the Downtown Parkway. Farther out, you'll find outdoor adventures, the picturesque Pigeon River, and local arts and crafts.

The great outdoors

 

Gatlinburg is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, an ancient forested range teeming with wildlife. If camping or hiking is on your agenda, you'll find 3 entrances to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in downtown Gatlinburg. The park has more than 800 miles of trails and scenic drives that allow you to experience the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. If you're into rafting, the Nantahala Outdoor Center offers excursions on the Upper and Lower Pigeon River. Family excursions are available.

 

Family fun

 

Gatlinburg is a popular destination for family vacations. The Downtown Parkway, the city's main thoroughfare, is packed full of interactive museums, go-kart tracks, and mini-golf courses that little ones are sure to enjoy. One of Gatlinburg's oldest and most famous attractions, Ober Gatlinburg, is a hit with visitors of all ages. Part ski resort, part amusement park, Ober Gatlinburg has 9 slopes, plus an alpine slide, aerial tramway, and animal encounters with otters and bobcats. Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies houses sharks and other sea creatures from around the world. Kids can even meet the aquarium's penguins and rays up-close.

 

 

Super for shopping

 

Shopping options abound in Gatlinburg, both on and off the Parkway. You can find everything from malls with name-brand stores to one-of-a-kind shops showcasing the work of local artisans. A few minutes outside downtown, Tanger Outlets Sevierville is one of the area's most popular shopping destinations. Here, you'll find deals from a variety of top national retailers. For some local shopping, visit The Village. Located in downtown Gatlinburg, The Village offers 27 shops, galleries, and restaurants in a quaint European-style setting. You can pick up gifts for friends back home, then relax on a bench by the fountain.

 

  • Tanger Outlets Sevierville, 1645 Parkway, Gatlinburg 37862; Tel: +1 865 453 1053; Website: Tanger Outlets Sevierville
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  • The Village, 634 Parkway, Gatlinburg 37738; Tel: +1 865 436 3995; Website: The Village

 

Arts and crafts community

 

Gatlinburg is home to a thriving arts and crafts community. The center of this community is the so-called Arts and Crafts Loop, an 8-mile stretch of road that runs along Route 321, Buckhorn Road, and Glades Road. The loop has one of America's largest collections of independent artisans - 120 in total - and local craftspeople have been selling their pottery, quilts, toys, and other goods here since 1937. You can spend a day driving the loop and browsing the selections, or if you don't want to drive yourself, a mini-trolley travels the entire route. Fare is just $1.

 

 

In nearby Pigeon Forge

 

Gatlinburg is only about 20 minutes' drive from Pigeon Forge, and many visitors' trips also include a stop here. It's where you'll find Dollywood, the amusement park created by country music legend Dolly Parton. She founded the park to benefit the Appalachian community in which she grew up, and it has become one of Tennessee's top attractions. The park has plenty of roller coasters for thrill-seekers, as well as a water park and rides designed for little ones. Pigeon Forge is also home to Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction, a dinner show complete with horses and bluegrass music.

 

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