Five Must-See Attractions In Downtown Gatlinburg

By Leif Palmer
Posted on January 22, 2021

One of the star cars in downtown Gatlinburg.

Gatlinburg is full of cool and interesting sites to visit, from the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community to Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort to the northern entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

But you'll also discover a lot of fun and action packed into the downtown area. The Parkway, which runs north to south through downtown, is only a couple of miles long, but it has more exciting attractions than you could take on in one day. Possibly even a whole week. This week, we'll take you on an introductory tour of five attractions you need to be sure to check out the next time you're in downtown Gatlinburg, TN.

The Gatlinburg Space Needle

The highlight of this attraction is the 407-foot-tall tower and observation deck, which provides stunning 360-degree views of downtown and the Smoky Mountains beyond. On the ground levels, you'll also find the largest video arcade in Gatlinburg, a laser tag game and the Iris Theater, home to a show starring mentalist and magician Erik Dobell.

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies

For 20 years now, this highly rated aquarium destination has been drawing visitors to downtown Gatlinburg with its amazing collection of underwater creatures that hail from all the world's oceans. You can splash with stingrays, see penguins at play, watch underwater dive shows and travel through Shark Lagoon via the aquarium's see-through underwater tunnel.

Hollywood Star Cars Museum

If you've ever been fascinated by the notable vehicles featured in the movies and on television, you've got to check out this downtown attraction. You'll tour one of the most amazing collections of famous cars and trucks from the large and small screens, including the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters, the Dragula from The Munsters, the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard and the jalopy driven on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium

This is another of many Ripley's attractions in Gatlinburg, but this was one of the first in town to bear the Ripley name. And it's still going strong decades later thanks to its 13 galleries' worth of unusual and incredible artifacts from around the world. Inspired by the findings of adventurer and cartoonist Robert Ripley, the collection features curiosities, interactive exhibits and new videos of rare finds.

Hillbilly Golf

This is one of the oldest and most legendary attractions in downtown Gatlinburg. Some might call it a little kitschy, but that's part of the fun at this 18-hole mini-golf course. You take a tram up a steep hillside to get to the start of the course, and then you gradually putt your way, hole by hole, back down the hill to the finish. Along the way, hillbilly-themed characters and props set the stage for your mountain-themed golf outing.

If you decide to take on multiple attractions in one day, your best option is to park in one of our Gatlinburg parking lots downtown and walk or take the trolley from attraction to attraction.

Leif Palmer - Gatlinburg blogger

About Leif Palmer

Leif Palmer loves residing in Gatlinburg. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.


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