Explore Gatlinburg Like a Local: Non-Touristy Things to Do

Gatlinburg is one of the best places for a vacation. You can have any trip that you’d like, from a relaxing, week-long getaway to a jam-packed weekend with your best friends. This is why Gatlinburg is such a hub for tourism. However, sometimes you want to get off the beaten path, especially if you’re wanting to stay away from the tourist crowds or you’ve already seen all the sites in East Tennessee.

Luckily, there are many non-touristy things to do in Gatlinburg. Here are some of the best activities, indulgences and adventures that locals can’t get enough of.

Indulge In Local Art

East Tennessee is known for its stunning mountain ranges, natural beauty, and amusement parks abound, but did you know that it is also one of the biggest art communities in the United States? The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is a collective of artisans who offer many different pieces of arts and bespoke goods for you to collect and explore.

On the 8-mile long Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Loop, you can explore over 100 artisanal workshops and galleries. You won’t want to miss out on locations like Alewine Pottery, a potter that creates pieces inspired by the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

If you’re having an extended stay in the area and are interested in exploring your own artistic side, consider signing up for a workshop at the Arrowmount School of Arts and Crafts, which has classes exploring everything from ceramics to furniture making to cake sculpture.

From Friday to Sunday, you can also take a trip to nearby Kodak to experience the Great Smokies Flea Market. As the biggest flea market in Tennessee, you can explore local goods, thrift shopping, and farm-fresh produce from over 1000 vendors.

Locals’ Favorite Hikes

Many tourists come to the Great Smoky Mountains to hike the beautiful trails. While some of the most popular trails, like Cache Creek, shouldn’t be skipped due to their beauty, they can get busy. However, there are some areas that locals prefer for hiking to get away from the crowds.

A local favorite hiking spot is the Wears Valley. Just over half an hour away from downtown Gatlinburg, this quiet area of the Smokies is a great place to view the fall foliage, after enjoying lunch at the iconic Elvira’s Cafe. Waterfall lovers will be stunned by the beauty of the Laurel Falls trail, while those who love mountain views will want to hike the West Prong Trail, with its elevation gain of 1,375 feet.

Another beloved hiking area is the Cataloochee Valley, which is just under 2 hours away from Gatlinburg, but entirely worth the trip. This is a must-visit for nature lovers, as the Cataloochee Valley is one of the only places that you can spot wild elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Explore the creeks and historic buildings on the Rough Fork Trail, and revel in the old-growth forests on the Boogerman Trail.

Enjoy Popular Food Stops

Between your hiking, shopping and art workshops, you’re sure to have worked up an appetite! Here are the best places to stop off in Gatlinburg for a delicious bite to eat or something refreshing to drink.

For a pre (or post) hike breakfast, Trish’s Mountain Diner offers classic eats with amazing service. This rustic, family-style diner is the perfect place to get food that really sticks to your ribs. Locals love the portion sizes, the quaint atmosphere, and the prices; Trish’s provides great value if you’re traveling on a budget. 

For lunch, get a little fancy at the unpretentious Wild Plum Tea Room. Inspired by Austrian tea houses, the Wild Plum provides some of the most delicious lunches that you’ll find in the smokies. Try out the baked cheese, decadent desserts and, of course, their signature Plum Tea.

From happy hour to a nightcap, no day in Gatlinburg is complete without a stop to our very own Gatlinburg Wine Trail. We pride ourselves on serving innovative, tasty wines with an East Tennessee flair. Stop by one of the five wineries (or all five!) for a free tasting, or enjoy a glass of your favorite in our tasting rooms.

End the night with a lively outing to Luco Burro, a TexMex restaurant known for its margaritas and tacos. While the food is fantastic and the drinks are cold, the best part of Luco Burro is the rooftop patio overlooking downtown Gatlinburg. Grab a spot around the patio’s fire pit for an unforgettable night.

Catch a Game in Gatlinburg

Sports fans don’t have to wait until they get back home to enjoy a game or two. There are many local sports teams that are fun to support during your visit to the Smokies.

Those who live in Gatlinburg are especially loyal to their local minor league baseball team, the Tennessee Smokies. Head over to nearby Kodak from the spring to the fall to watch the Smokies play ball! Bigger groups can even rent out special areas, like the Yee-Haw Brewing Co. Bar.

Those who prefer winter sports can head to Knoxville to catch their minor league hockey team, the Knoxville Ice Bears. Tickets are affordable and fun; you’ll see fast-paced hockey with delightful fan interaction. Games take place from the fall until the spring.

Maybe there’s a game that you just need to catch on the TV. Why not stop in to watch it at the Smoky Mountain Brewery? The oldest craft brewery in East Tennessee is a great spot for happy hour or watching the game. Make sure to taste their Brewmaster Special, an exclusive rotating tap that changes throughout the year.

These are just some of the many ways that you can experience Gatlinburg as the locals do. However, there are so many other things to experience in the Great Smoky Mountain Range. Come visit us at the Gatlinburg Wine Trail and speak to our friendly staff; they’ll be able to tell you even more about the non-touristy gems of the area. We can’t wait to see you there!

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