When it comes to things to do in the Smoky Mountains, you would need a month or longer just to make even a small dent in all the options. But most people don’t have that kind of freedom and have to pack a lot of excitement into a short amount of time. So here’ a list of the top 5 things to do in the Smokies. If you find yourself pressed for time, you can double up and enjoy two adventures in one day.
Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Cades Cove is a spectacular valley teeming with wildlife, unmatched beauty and opportunities to spot big black bears. The encounters are definitely experiences you’ll cherish forever. Bike trails meander throughout the loop (main road here) and give families an opportunity to get in a little exercise and take in the beautiful sites. Along the way you’ll see many historical buildings like mills, log houses, barns and churches to photograph. There are many hiking trails available available to explore, some more challenging than others so plan and hike accordingly.
Play a Round of Mini-Golf
Are you intimidated by 18-hole golf courses? If so, then grab a putter, colorful ball and shoot for the windmill on a mini-golf course. Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg is a favorite with both local and tourists—and it’s definitely a hole in one. To play the course, you have to ride on the rails of a 300-foot incline straight up the side of the mountain. Two unique courses have been cut into the hills, each offering up fun-filled hillbilly hazards. Send your ball careening into an outhouse or bounce it off a still. Go around rocky walls and under plants growing over this miniature golf course. The Smoky Mountains is actually home to what may be the most mini-golf courses in the world so you’ll have a lot to choose from. Don’t leave without playing fireman themed Firehouse Golf and the course at The Track Family Recreation Center.
Dive in at Ripley’s® Aquarium
The Smoky Mountains has a big-time reputation when it comes to trout. But did you know that it’s also possible to come face to fin with hundreds of exotic underwater creatures as well? This impressive fish tank allows you to walk under ferocious shark, sea turtles and shockingly cool eels without getting wet or being in danger. There’s even a Tropical Rainforest with a native inhabitant called the Amazon arapaima. This fish is able to make an exhaling sound that can be heard 100 feet away—believe it or not.
If you’re traveling with young kids, be sure to spend some time at the Touch a Ray Bay. Here, they can reach out into a shallow lagoon and touch these smooth creatures. One of the best things about this exhibit is that educators are on hand to teach the kids—and parents. But be careful, the rays have sharp teeth and should only be touched on their dark topsides.
This destination is a must for any vacation in the Smokies. In fact, Ripley’s® Aquarium was voted the #1 American Aquarium by TripAdvisor.
Make Way for the Dixie Stampede
Have you ever wanted to enjoy a delicious four-course meal with bison charging toward your table? If you answered yes, then be sure to grab a seat at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede® Dinner Attraction. This was definitely an awesome experience. Families are served dinner in a big huge arena. The mouth-watering meals include a whole rotisserie chicken, smoked BBQ pork loin, soup, potatoes, biscuits, corn on the cob, unlimited soft drinks and dessert. All around horses race, cowgirls perform stunts and a ring of fire beckons the brave to jump through. The experience is always a satisfying feast for the eyes and the stomach!
Reel in a Trout
The first time you feel a fish tugging at the end of your line you’ll hooked. And the Smoky Mountains have exceptional fishing holes. Trout is king around here and so is fly-fishing. If you don’t have your own gear, don’t worry. There are many local shops available with all the rods, bait and equipment you’ll need to get started. More advanced anglers can wade through the mountain streams or cast out from shore on their own. Those in need some guidance can tag along with experts provided by one of the many outfitters. Even though trout is abundant, they may not always be in the mood to bite. But that’s not a problem since a lot of the waters have been stocked—increasing your chances of landing the big one.