There are a lot of views in Gatlinburg that will take your breath away, but the city’s newest stunning scene is breaking records. The Gatlinburg SkyBridge, a 680-foot span gracefully traversing the sky over a lush valley, is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. The SkyBridge opened last year, built at the apex of the beloved Gatlinburg SkyLift, which has been carrying visitors to the peak of SkyLift Park since 1954.
This feat of engineering is a bucket list-worthy experience for admiring the bridge from firm ground or taking in the breeze and the views of the Great Smoky Mountains from the bridge itself. It’s also a beautiful metaphor for the city , which, as it celebrates the 75th anniversary of its charter this year, is building bridges between its rich history and its exciting future.
Four Seasons of Fun
Known as America’s Mountain Home, Gatlinburg is a surprisingly walkable city with attractions to delight various ages, tastes and interests all year. Come for leaf peeping and hiking in the fall; the Wildflower Pilgrimage in the spring; the July 4th Midnight Parade in the summer; or to wander through the magical lights and decorations in the winter. During any time of year, visitors can stroll The Parkway and shop and eat at dozens of local restaurants and boutiques, many of which have been family-owned for generations.
Three miles from downtown Gatlinburg, you’ll find the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, the largest group of independent working crafters in the U.S. Over 100 artists and craftsmen hone their techniques and sell their wares here. Pottery, paintings, wood carvings, soap, jewelry, and so much more – Gatlinburg’s resident artists give visitors the chance to bring home a handmade piece of the region’s rich creative heritage.
You Won’t Go Hungry Here!
No trip to Gatlinburg is complete without a meal at legendary local restaurant Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, where Big Tennessee French Toast, hen fruit (eggs), candied apple waffles and thick griddle cakes are well worth the wait for a table. Pancake lovers don’t need to worry about running out of options. Gatlinburg is home to seven different pancake restaurants, and you should definitely try them all.
When it comes to buzzworthy new restaurants, The Greenbrier was recently reimagined and remodeled – the new fine-dining spot is the perfect hybrid of coziness and class, featuring oyster flights, steak, craft cocktails and whiskey tastings. Ole Red Gatlinburg, Blake Shelton’s Smoky Mountain outpost, is another new addition. With live musical acts handpicked by Shelton’s team in Nashville and menu items like Redneck Nachos and the Ober Gatlin-Burger, Ole Red has become an instant favorite among locals and visitors alike.
The exciting interplay of tradition and innovation can also be found in the local brews and spirits. From the city’s newest craft brewery, Gatlinburg Brewing Company, to Ole Smoky Distillery, where the family moonshine recipes date back to the 1800s, visitors can sip their way through past, present and future here.
Now’s the Time
It’s impossible to sum up everything Gatlinburg has to offer visitors in 2020 and beyond. This year, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Gatlinburg location, and 100 years since Robert Ripley founded the iconic museum itself. There are annual events like Smoky Mountain Wine Weekend and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop that get better and better every year. One of Gatlinburg’s signature events, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade, has been dazzling visitors of every age with floats, music, dancing and inspiring holiday decorations for 45 years.
There are also new attractions like the SkyBridge and Anakeesta, a family-friendly outdoor theme park. And there’s always easy access to hiking, camping, fishing and all the outdoor activities Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer.
Built on 75 years of pride and tradition, Gatlinburg’s evolution is delighting lifelong visitors and attracting new ones. One thing’s for sure: there’s never been a better time to step out onto the bridge between then and now and take in the amazing view.
Traveling with the whole family in tow? You’ll find attractions that appeal to a wealth of ages – and reviewed by kids themselves.