So you already know we just got back from a trip to East Tennessee because we showed you all the ridiculousness we got up to in Pigeon Forge, and the super gorg cabin outside of Gatlinburg we were lucky enough to stay in. Go ahead, open them in another tab! After this post about what to do in Gatlinburg, you can figure out what to do in neighboring Pigeon Forge and get our recommendation for where to stay. We gotcha covered from every angle. 🙂
Ole Smoky Distillery: Gatlinburg Fun for Grownups
One of the main reasons we came to Gatlinburg was to learn about the history of moonshine in the area, and learn we did! We visited the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery — fondly called The Holler — right in the middle of downtown Gatlinburg, for a distillery tour and moonshine tasting.
When we walked into The Holler, we were greeted with a sea of rocking chairs and live bluegrass music. The music is pretty much going on all day every day, so no need to stop by at a particular time to catch it.
Before our distillery tour, we walked around the Ole Smoky shop enjoying the air conditioning and their impressive product lineup. They have moonshine everything! Check out these vibrant moonshine cherries and the vast array of moonshine jams and jellies:
There are over 25 flavors of moonshine, some of which are sold only at The Holler, plus jams, jellies, boozy peaches & cherries, and even some whiskeys. We loved how they looked all lined up, and were fortunate enough to try something like 12 flavors. Some of our personal favorites: Blackberry Moonshine, Key Lime Moonshine, and Salted Caramel Whiskey.
Yep, you heard me. Salted. Caramel. Whiskey. Run, don’t walk.
The most special part of our visit to The Holler was the opportunity to chat with Johnny Baker, a member of the founding family of Ole Smoky Moonshine. That’s him in the photo below, standing next to a vat of fermenting corn mash.
Johnny gave us a tour of the distillery and told us about the history of moonshining in the Smoky Mountains. My personal favorite tidbit: You know those Xs on cartoon jugs of liquor? That’s an old moonshine reference. Each X signifies a round of distilling, so XXX meant triple distilled. Cool, right?
The Park Grill in Gatlinburg: Upscale but Family-Friendly Dining
Later that afternoon, we headed to The Park Grill for dinner. The Park Grill is the perfect place to eat after hanging out at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, because it’s right next to one of the entrances.
If the sheer convenience of its location isn’t enough to convince you to eat there, maybe this will: all you can eat salad bar is included with each meal (or as a meal on its own). And it’s not a wimpy salad bar; it has fun choices like smoked oysters and fresh mozzarella. The salad bar is open at both lunch and dinner.
The Park Grill has a cheery mountain lodge motif that makes you feel at home before you walk in the doors. Outside are bright red rocking chairs, vibrant flowers, and — if you drove in — ample offstreet parking. Nothing better than sliding right into a convenient parking spot when you’re hungry!
Sadly, we completely forgot to take photos of our food because we were STARVING, but rest assured that you really can’t make a bad choice. Here’s what we ordered and loved:
- Appetizers: fried pickles; mac & cheese balls with raspberry dipping sauce
- Entrees: Liz had the filet mignon; Chanelle had the catch of the day
- Desserts: none — too stuffed!
If you have chil’ns with you, there’s a solid kids menu and the price is just $1 per year of age for each kid. You can’t go wrong at this place.
Ober Gatlinburg: Family Friendly Outdoor Fun for All Seasons
Our last stop before heading home from the mountains was Ober Gatlinburg, a ski resort that’s open all year.
Take the aerial tramway (cable car) up the mountain, and what awaits you at the top will vary depending on the season. In the winter you can ski and snow tube, and in the warmer months you can enjoy amusement park activities like a mountain rollercoaster and water slide.
When it’s not ski season, your tramway ticket will get you unlimited rides up & back for two days, so it’s perfect for a weekend trip!
The aerial tramway takes you 2.1 miles up the mountainside with beautiful views all around, and it departs every 20 minutes so you don’t have to worry about scheduling a visit time.
Check out the beautiful Smoky Mountains in the distance!
Once you reach the amusement area there’s shopping, an arcade (see one of the games below), rides, and even a wildlife encounter, which is kind of like a small zoo!
At the Ober Gatlinburg wildlife encounter you can take a peek at rescued animal friends like black bears, river otters, and some really funny skunks. When we were there, there was one skunk following another around like its shadow. Pretty cute.
We got to witness otter feeding time. If you’ve never seen an otter eat, you are MISSING OUT.
And this is the view you’ll be greeted with as you head back down the mountain on the tram. A stunning aerial view of charming Gatlinburg.
As you can see, we found a little something for everyone in Gatlinburg. Moonshine for the grownups, amusement activities for the kids (and kids at heart), and a great place to eat after your hike in the Smokies. There’s plenty more we wished we could have done, so we hope to return to East Tennessee soon!