Updated: May 6, 2022
We usually take our trips via our motorhome. I'm not sure we would go to Gatlinburg via RV. The one big reason are the log cabin vacation rentals in the mountains and daily views of the Smoky Mountains like the below. I'm not driving my RV up to this viewpoint.
Our Brood Enjoyed Gatlinburg and the surrounding area for the following:
Hikes into the Smoky Mountains to View Waterfalls
Gatlinburg strip including the car museum, 4D arcades, restaurants, and other attractions
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
Log Cabin Vacation Rental
The Hollywood Star Cars Museum was perfect for our brood. The cars in here were as perfect for dads as they are for kids. In there inventory we saw the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Batman and Ghostbuster cars, Herbie, Transformers, and cars from Fast and the Furious. Every corner is a car that is as memorable as the star that drove it. The cool thing about car museums is that they can change any time and the featured attractions can be wheeled on and off based on what is popular that day. We also visited Shoot em up Cinema. This attraction puts you on a mechanical horse in a theater of mechanical horses. The experience sets in a old west shoot em up as well as a pirate ship experience. The objective is to shoot as many bad guys as possible while staying on your horse or ship. The 4D comes in when you are sprayed with water from the pirate ship scene.
Cades Cove is a scenic drive close to Gatlinburg about 30 miles Southwest. We saw Turkey and Deer during our drive around the loop road. The Cove is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park system. in the early 1800s settlers made the cove their home. There are churches with cemeteries, a grist mill, barns, log houses, and other historical buildings from the period. The Cove is a time capsule of what early European life was like in America. the scenic drive is 11 miles and has many stops for viewing wildlife and history. There are hiking trails, the loop is bike friendly, and the campground is setup for rigs less than 35 feet. For more details visit the National Park Service Website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies is a destination all its own. The exterior of the building appears nestled in the mountain and the front entrance is built to enjoy the Cliff Branch before and after your visit. We were amazed at what was inside. The price tag seems expensive however, the offering is worth the price of admission. The marquis attraction is a tunnel supported by a moving walk way that takes you under the reef aquarium. There you will see all types of sea life above you including sharks, sting rays, and fish of all colors, shapes, and sizes. If you let your mind wander you can find yourself under the sea in another world. Also offered are penguins, stingrays, octopus, cuttlefish, and crabs. This aquarium is really set up for kids and kids of all ages. The architecture and design of the interior really support the experience and enjoyment of Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies.
Rainbow Falls is a great hike for kids. Although keep them close and hold hands as some spots are dangerous and signs to warn of people dying are on the trail. We went early in the morning and found our trip to the falls much better than the return. We had to pass many hikers on the way back to the parking lot and the tight path made it difficult. I'm thankful 1/2 our hike was quiet. The trail is just under 5 1/2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of about 1,500 ft. Our brood handled the trail well and there was plenty of viewing to keep them occupied while walking. The waterfall is 80 feet tall and provides great sounds and spectacular viewing up close and at a distance through the trees.
We really enjoyed our log cabin up in the mountains. The drive up took about 15 minutes and was sketchy in dry weather and would have to be impassable in the snow. The steep elevation provides for a slow ascent and leaves you talking about it for a long time. Our cabin had enough bedrooms for our brood, pool table, dart board, internet, and vaulted great room. The kitchen was small and lacking. Outside was a wraparound deck with a hot tub and grille. The views of Pigeon Forge were spectacular. As you can see in the pictures we could see the lighted ferris wheel at night. I would recommend you seek out your own rental with the amenities you enjoy with the proper location and experience life in the smokies.
In Summary, our trip to the Gatlinburg area was not our typical vacation. We enjoyed a variety of experiences which made the trip special. I'm not sure we could pick a favorite. We aren't up for the carnival experiences in Pigeon Forge but we did enjoy buying souvenirs there. The aquarium was so good we almost turned around and went through it again but by the time we made the decision the lines were long and it was too busy. Cade's Cove was amazing and only a bear sighting would have made it better. The Hollywood cars were a surprise we will never forget and the hike to Rainbow Falls was a great outdoor adventure. Finally, the mountaintop log cabin with hot tub and pool table was a special treat that we don't get at home or in the RV. Thanks for your time today and we hope this helped you a little in planning your next experience.