Top 10 Places Like Gatlinburg to Visit

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Gatlinburg Cityscape

Whether it’s the beauty and adventure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the thrills of theme parks and outdoor attractions, or the laid-back charm of mountain-side chalets and cozy cabins, Gatlinburg is a favorite of many travelers. This includes myself, but it’s also fun to get out there and visit other parts of the country.

If you’re looking for places like Gatlinburg, chances are you’re searching for mountain scenery, outdoor activities, and family-friendly attractions like museums, art galleries, and trains. Throw in mom-and-pop shops, great food, and a touch of Bavarian vibes to complete the order.

While Gatlinburg isn’t well-known as a major ski destination (though you can go skiing there), it’s just as popular with winter and holiday travelers as it is with spring, summer, and fall visitors.

Yes, Gatlinburg’s neighboring towns of Sevierville and Pigeon Forge are a quick drive away, but we will go further afield. It’s always fun to check other states off the bucket list.

We’ve scoured the interwebs and our favorite travel planning sites to create this list of destinations like Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Keep reading to explore places like the Ozarks, the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge, and the Rocky Mountains.

TL;DR

Place State Similarities to Gatlinburg
Bryson City North Carolina Mountains, Charming downtown
Asheville North Carolina Mountains, Arts
Helen Georgia Mountain views, Bavarian ambiance
Stowe Vermont Mountains, Skiing
Branson Missouri Family attractions, Outdoor activities
Breckenridge Colorado Charming mountain village, Outdoor activities
Eureka Springs Arkansas Natural beauty, Historic downtown
Cherokee North Carolina Mountain scenery, Outdoor activities
Leavenworth Washington Bavarian ambiance, Mountains
Logan Ohio Natural beauty, Small town charm

Places Like Gatlinburg to Visit

1. Asheville, North Carolina

Sunset View in Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
SeanPavonePhoto / Adobe Stock

It makes sense to start in a vacation destination famous for its mountain range. From the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and the French Broad River to the River Arts District, the mountain village of Asheville offers activities and attractions for the whole crew.

Located in western North Carolina, Asheville is well-known as the home of the famous Biltmore Mansion. After checking out the architecture and history of this immense property, explore the artsy end of Asheville.

You’ll find fantastic restaurants and local shops in downtown Asheville. Ogle gorgeous glass at Lexington Glassworks and admire handmade baskets and other authentic crafts at the Folk Art Center. Take a winery or brewery tour or book a Ghosts of the Blue Ridge ghost tour.

For outdoor adventure, head to Chimney Rock State Park. You can also soar on ziplines and brave bike trails at the Adventure Center of Asheville. Take a walk along the Appalachian Trail, which winds through the area. Pisgah National Forest and Chimney Rock State Park are more spots for birdwatching, hiking, kayaking tours, and fishing.  

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is about an hour away, so you could get in some of those Gatlinburg feels if you’re in the mood for a drive. The Blue Ridge Parkway is another way to explore Asheville’s scenic beauty.

2. Bryson City, North Carolina

Bryson City

Considered the southern gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Bryson City is one of the best Smoky Mountains towns to soak up Gatlinburg vibes. You can do this outdoors or within the local shops, microbreweries, and family-friendly attractions.

Looking for the best way to get to Great Smoky Mountain National Park? The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is the main point for the national park entrance. This gives you access to the hiking and biking trails of the Smoky Mountains.

The Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is a popular way to see local sites. Several ride options include passing by the scenery of the Nantahala River, Fontana Lake, and the Tuskegee River. There’s even a Carolina Shine Moonshine Experience for the over-21ers in your group.

Visit Deep Creek Recreation Area for hiking, fishing, swimming, and waterfall watching. Book a whitewater rafting tour on the Nantahala River or go ziplining high above the forests of the Smokies.

Other attractions in Bryson City include the Smoky Mountain Train Museum, the Fly-Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians, and the Appalachian Rivers Aquarium.

3. Cherokee, North Carolina

cherokee-north-carolina
Visit Cherokee/Facebook

Another Tar Heel State on our list, Cherokee is in the western part of the state. This Smoky Mountain town is located east of Bryson City, mentioned above. The town boasts much of the same family fun, natural beauty, and cultural attractions as Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

This Smoky Mountains town is on the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation reservation. You’ll have convenient access to the southern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Hike to the 200-foot waterfall at Mingo Falls and discover scenic trails. More activities include trout fishing and water adventures with Cherokee Rapids River Tubing.

For arts and culture, Cherokee delivers variety along with adventure and recreation. Watch the outdoor drama Unto These Hills at the Mountainside Theater.

Check out pottery, jewelry, baskets, and wood carvings at the Qualla Arts & Crafts Co-Op. The Oconaluftee Indian Village is a recreated 18-century Cherokee village. Travelers can enjoy demonstrations and lifestyle exhibits.

Other popular attractions in Cherokee include Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Santa’s Land Fun Park & Zoo, Mountain Farm Museum, and the Cherokee Botanical Garden.

4. Helen, Georgia

helen-georgia
Wikimedia/Michael Rivera/CC by SA 4.0

Trade moonshine for peaches in the Bavarian-inspired town of Helen. The small-town charm and outdoor adventure of Gatlinburg comes through in Helen’s rivers, art galleries, culinary scene, and annual Christmas and Oktoberfest celebrations.

Situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the northeast section of Georgia, Helen delivers a beautiful setting of cobblestones, log cabins, and Alpine charm. Accommodations include campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, rustic cabins, or a lodge at Unicoi State Park.

Just like the activities in Gatlinburg, you can take a winery tour or a historic ghost tour while visiting Helen. Go hiking along the Appalachian Trail or try tubing on the Chattahoochee River. You can also go ziplining, whitewater rafting, and mountain coaster flying.

Check out the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, Hickory Flat Pottery, or the Helen Arts and Heritage Center to soak artistic vibes.

For family-friendly fun, ride the Alpine Express train or challenge the kids to a game at the Alpine Mini Golf Village. Embrace your inner cowpoke by going horseback riding at Chattahoochee Stables.

Adrenaline seekers will want to take a ride on the Georgia Mountain Coaster. Younger travelers may enjoy searching for gemstones at Dukes Creek Mines.

5. Logan, Ohio

logan-ohio-hocking-hills
Hocking Hills State Park / Facebook

Located near the Wayne National Forest and Hocking River, Logan is an excellent mountain town for those searching for a Gatlinburg-like experience. You’ll find stunning waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, music festivals, and family-friendly attractions. Check into hotels, vacation rentals, and rustic cottages.

Go hiking, nature-watching, and waterfall-searching at Cantwell Cliffs, Ash Cave, and Whispering Cave at Hocking Hills State Park. Spend time with goats, pigs, and donkeys at Fox’s High Rock Farm. There’s a petting zoo, gem mining, and farm tours.

Antique and craft malls pay homage to Gatlinburg’s unique gift shops, souvenir meccas, and sweets stores. For the over-21ers in your group, plan a visit to Hocking Hills Winery or Hocking Hills Moonshine.

The John Glenn Astronomy Park is in Hocking Hills State Park. It’s a popular site for watching the night sky. Check out the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum and its 3,479 pencil sharpeners for quirky fun. Chalk it up there with Gatlinburg’s Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum.

6. Stowe, Vermont

Aerial view of a ski town in Stowe, Vermont
marchello74 / Adobe Stock

We’re off to the Green Mountains of New England for our next installment of Gatlinburg doppelgangers. The resort town of Stowe offers the same year-round vibes with its covered bridges, outdoor recreation, culinary scene, and small-town charm. For accommodations in Vermont, choose from romantic inns, boutique hotels, or mountain-side resorts.

Stowe Mountain Resort is the place to be for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing, as well as year-round activities like gondola rides, hiking, or bicycling. Get adventurous and try climbing Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Get your culture on at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.

Gather the family and visit the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, the Stowe Golf Park, or Smugglers’ Notch State Park. Take a scenic drive on the Auto Toll Road to check out brilliant fall foliage or spring wildflowers and greenery.

Go hiking, bicycling, and nature-watching at the Outdoor Center at the Austrian-themed Trapp Family Lodge. Yes, the same family from The Sound of Music. The 2,600-acre resort offers farm tours, multiple pools, tennis, cross-country skiing, and more.

7. Branson, Missouri

branson-roller-coaster
Explore Branson/Facebook

If you’re craving the mini golf, go-karts, fun parks, musical shows, and themed entertainment of Gatlinburg, the Midwest mecca of Branson, Missouri, is right up your alley. The Ozarks fill in for the Smokies, but many of the attractions in this lively travel destination are just what you would find in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge areas.

These Gatlinburg-like attractions include the Silver Dollar City theme park, the Titanic Museum, and the Runaway Mountain Coaster. Add in the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Aquarium at the Boardwalk for good measure. There’s even a nod to everyone’s favorite Queen of Country with the fun and excitement of Dolly Parton’s Stampede dinner show.

Outdoor enthusiasts can experience hiking, bicycling, boating, and nature-watching activities at sites like Table Rock State Park, Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, Table Rock Lake, or Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. Book an Off-Road Adventure Trip to explore the Ozarks if you’re feeling extra adventurous. Tours are led by experienced guides via 4-seat Yamaha Wolverine off-road vehicles.

You could also go underground at Missouri’s deepest cave, Marvel Cave. This real cavern is in the Silver Dollar City theme park complex. Situated in the 1800s mining town property of Marmaros (known more for being the bat dung capital of the state rather than gold, silver, or marble), the cave opened for sightseeing in 1894.

The Herschend family (of Herschend Family Entertainment, which also owns Dollywood and the Pirates Voyage Dinner Show in Myrtle Beach) leased the property. They added the themed mining village of Silver Dollar City in the 1960s. Entrance is included with a theme park ticket. Don’t worry. The bat dung is long gone.

8. Eureka Springs, Arkansas

eureka-springs-arkansas
Wikimedia/EurekaSpringsAR/CC by SA 4.0

Another Ozark Mountains destination, Eureka Springs, was originally called Magic City. The northwest Arkansas destination is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of America’s Distinctive Destinations.

Like the cozy Smoky Mountains towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Eureka Springs offers an artsy vibe mixed with natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and a historic downtown. The historic district is dressed in Victorian buildings functioning as shops, restaurants, and cafés.

Nature enthusiasts will want to head to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and Lake Leatherwood City Park. The Onyx Cave and the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway are excellent spots for family outings. Book a zipline tour to fly high above the Ozarks’ cedars, oaks, and redwoods.

As its name suggests, Eureka Springs boasts several rivers, lakes, and springs. They’re perfect for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and paddleboarding. Take a guided eco-tour by paddleboard to enjoy the waterfalls and limestone cliffs. Blue Spring Heritage Center is home to northwest Arkansas’ largest spring.

Craving art and culture? Visit the Christ of the Ozarks sculpture, the natural aesthetic of the wood and glass-enclosed Thorncrown Chapel, or the Great Passion Play dramatic production. Check out the Ozark Mountain Hoe-Down for a stomping good time full of country, bluegrass, gospel, and western swing music. Dollywood vibes, anyone?

9. Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge, Colorado, USA Town in Winter
SeanPavonePhoto / Adobe Stock

True powder hounds looking for a Gatlinburg vibe combined with world-class skiing should head straight to Breckenridge. The Rocky Mountains are decidedly more challenging than the gentle slopes of the Smokies, yet you’ll still find that small-town village setting and friendly local vibe.

A former mining town, Breckenridge has evolved into a modern city with a penchant for fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and other adventurous activities. Go kayaking on the Upper Colorado River or take backcountry snowcat tours along the Ten Mile Range.

Chairlift over snowy slopes at Breckenridge Resort
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Are you not into the Colorado slopes’ black and double-black diamond terrain? Sledding, ice skating, and sleigh rides are the stuff for which family vacations and romantic getaways are made. They can all be experienced at Breckenridge Ski Resort.

The Breckenridge National Historic District is a terrific place to stroll among Victorian buildings. Step inside these historic buildings to visit art galleries, shops, and restaurants.

Looking for a setting akin to the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community? Head to the BrekCreate Arts District, where you can watch artists in action and even give pottery or metalsmithing a try.

Breckenridge offers gold panning at Stowe’s Lomax Gulch to compete with Gatlinburg’s Elkmont Ghost Town, an Appalachian town founded by loggers and trappers. Take a mining tour at Golden Horseshoe or explore gold rush history at the Country Boy Mine. 

10. Leavenworth, Washington

Architecture in Downtown Leavenworth
Kirk Fisher / Shutterstock

One of my favorite things about Gatlinburg is the small-town charm and Bavarian ambiance. With its traditional half-timbered house construction, authentic restaurants, and craft breweries, the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth fills that void in a Pacific Northwest location. If you’re looking for European-inspired places to travel without a passport (from the U.S.), add it to your list.

Leavenworth was founded as a logging town in the 1800s in the Stuart Range of the Cascades Mountains. The transformation into a German-inspired village started in 1965. It was initially a way to boost tourism after the railroad moved and the town declined. The trend caught on, as trends have a habit of doing, and soon the whole town joined.

Leavenworth boasts live music, glass-blowing demonstrations, Christmas shops, artisan food stores, authentic sausage shops, and lots of candy stores. Experience more German food than you can shake a stein at in bakeries, restaurants, and beer gardens. Of course, the town puts on excellent Oktoberfest celebrations.

Go whitewater rafting on the Wenatchee River, or bring binoculars and search for eagles, ospreys, and other birds. Other outdoor recreation includes horseback riding at Eagle Creek Ranch, backcountry skiing, sledding, golfing, bicycling, hiking, and picnicking at Waterfront Park.

The crew might enjoy family-friendly attractions, including the Leavenworth Reindeer Farm and the Nutcracker Museum.

Sandy Allen
WRITTEN BY

Sandy Allen

Sandy is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, dining, beaches, and boating to theme parks, urban settings, mountain getaways, and fun attractions. She loves Nashville, Las Vegas, and Williamsburg, Virginia - but you're most likely to find her at the beach or on a boat somewhere. In addition to ViaTravelers, her work appears at AFAR, PierShare, Cozymeal, and more.

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