When the average person thinks of Gatlinburg, the general perception is of ‘recreational outdoor winter sports’ such as skiing, snow tubing, ice skating or any number of other winter-related activities. That perception wouldn’t be inaccurate, because Gatlinburg and the surrounding region is indeed one of the most-visited destinations in the eastern United States for winter sports enthusiasts. But Gatlinburg is actually much more than a ‘Winter Wonderland,’ especially bustling, activity-filled downtown Gatlinburg, which offers an almost endless variety of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages and interests, especially for kids.
The Gatlinburg Space Needle
An excellent starting point is this impossible-to-miss landmark that rises 407 feet above downtown, providing an all-encompassing 360-degree bird’s eye view of the surrounding area. Don’t be surprised however, if the younger kids in your group forego the sightseeing opportunity, especially after they get a glimpse of the Arcadia, a two-story, all-purpose arcade that’s located at the Needle’s base, covering 25,000 square feet and containing every imaginable type of arcade entertainment attraction. With so much to enjoy in the Arcadia, the chances are that kids will be perfectly content to spend most of their trip there. But downtown Gatlinburg offers considerably more.
The Iris Theater
Also located at the base of the Needle, this unique experience combines amazement, amusement, magic and a sense of wonder to create one of Gatlinburg’s most entertaining and memorable adventures, Magicians/mentalists/entertainers Chris Collins and Erik Dobell never fail to leave their audiences both impressed and mystified with their superbly-crafted and eye-popping performance.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Attractions
One of the most successful worldwide theme museum franchises, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! has a huge ‘footprint’ in Gatlinburg, one of the more popular being the Aquarium of the Smokies which features clear underwater walk-through tunnels providing ‘up close & personal’ experiences with thousands of exotic ocean dwellers such as giant sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, seals; entertaining penguin dive/feeding exhibitions, tropical rainforest and coral reef displays. A visit to the Aquarium is always a crowd-pleaser, especially with the kids.
Another Ripley’s attraction that kids are guaranteed to enjoy is the Mirror Maze, a dizzying labyrinth of mirrored hallways, some helpful, some misleading, some rotating. If you get lost (and you will), a search party will rescue you eventually. Once rescued, be sure to reward yourself by visiting the Candy Factory, located within the Maze, featuring hundreds of sweet treats.
Strap yourself in and get ready for an adventure like none other in Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater, a genuine ‘moving’ experience that will convince visitors they’re actually ‘in’ the movie. Kids will experience what it’s like to try and catch the elusive Roadrunner or interact with any number of their other animated favorites in this ultra-popular attraction.
Guinness World Records Adventure
One of Gatlinburg’s more recent attractions, this incredible exhibit of world record accomplishments features rare memorabilia, mind-boggling exhibits, and fun-filled interactive displays that are certain to educate and entertain visitors of all ages, especially kids.