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Winter Family Fun in Gatlinburg

Even in the winter, the Smokies are beautiful.
Mary Casey-Sturk

Winter is a great time for a family break to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it boasts a great combination of inside and outside attractions. The easy drive from Greater Cincinnati, coupled with reasonable lodging costs, make this a great escape for a weekend or longer.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a great way to have some fun indooors. With 10,000 sea creatures representing 350 different species, here you can visit with sharks, penguins and explore a tropical rainforest . There are live shows throughout the day as well as gift shops and you can grab a bite to eat at The Feeding Frenzy overlooking Stingray Bay.

88 River Road, Gatlinburg, TN

Thoughts of taffy make you daffy? Looking for some spice in your life? You’ve come to the right place. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen and the Pepper Palace can please your palate and provide excellent gifts to take home. More fun shopping can be found at the Day Hiker, Celtic Heritage Company and numerous other shops in town.

Some unique shopping can be found in the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Loop, with artisans selling their wares and sometimes demonstrating their craft. If you make it here before your holiday shopping is done, you’ll find unique treasures for this year or get a head start on next year’s gifts.

The Pancake Pantry became a tradition for us many years ago. With a line forming out the door-even in winter- you know you‘re going to have a breakfast to remember. So many options to choose from with dozens of pancakes and crepes including: peach delight, Austrian apple walnut crepes, and Swiss chocolate chip as well as other options and a kids menu, all sure to please. Plenty of hot beverages too!

628 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in the nation. These ancient mountains are beautiful and there are many options to explore them, on foot or by vehicle, and you’ll be sure to leave with a greater appreciation for nature and the Southern Appalachians who have made this area home for generations.

Weather permitting, driving tours are a great option and there are several choices. All offer up wonderful views, opportunities to see nature up close and personal and often a chance to explore a historic building or two. Chose from: Cades Cove Loop Road, Cataloochee Valley, Newfound Gap Road, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Upper Tremont Road

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a popular destination for its amazing views.

The Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway offers amazing views year round with its 120 passenger Tramway. Departing regularly from downtown Gatlinburg, it takes you to Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park. Snow tubing park plus 9 slopes. Ski and snowboard rental equipment and lessons available, plus indoor ice rink, restaurant and lounge. Also accessible by car.

Winter Magically comes to life during the Trolley Ride of Lights through January 25th.

Visitors can soak up the spirit of the Gatlinburg Winter Magic season from the comfort of a Gatlinburg Trolley by taking the relaxing Trolley Ride of Lights. The specially designated trolleys carry their guests on a memorable journey through downtown and adjacent Hwy. 321, allowing everyone to experience the magical wonder of Gatlinburg Winter Magic. Trolley times are at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30.

Lodging options abound with choices from camping to hotels to chalets seemingly in the sky! Mountain Rentals of Gatlinburg has a wide range of properties available to give your family a little breathing room after several hours in the car together! With views, kitchens and much needed elbow room, chalets and cabins also offer value for the dollar and all the comforts of home.

For more information about planning your family trip to Gatlinburg, visit


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