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Where to Stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee: 3 Best Areas

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Located in eastern Tennessee along the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is a vacation destination for everyone. Near Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg is the perfect place to go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, adventuring in Ober Gatlinburg, or sightseeing in town.

Even if you don’t plan on visiting the national park, many of Gatlinburg’s attractions have views of the Smoky Mountains. Catch a glimpse of the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park and the Gatlinburg Space Needle observation tower.

In addition, the city is very pedestrian-friendly, allowing you to shop, dine, and sightsee at your own pace. But if you’d instead prefer to explore Gatlinburg on a trolley, there is free and unlimited trolley access all day.

If you plan on visiting this beautiful and charming town, we’ll help you find the best area for your vacation needs. Many of the hotels and cabins in Gatlinburg are within walking distance of city attractions.

Some hotel amenities include a heated indoor swimming pool, spacious rooms, a fitness center, continental breakfast, and free parking. Or, if you want to stay near the Smoky Mountain National Park entrance, we can help you find the best hotels near the park.

Gatlinburg is fun for all ages, no matter if you’re staying at one of the city’s luxury cabins, a budget hotel with basic amenities, or a mountain resort with family rooms. So, whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a stay near all of the city’s best attractions, we’ve got you covered.

TL;DR: Best Places to Stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee 

Best Areas to Stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

  • For first-timers/tourists – Downtown Gatlinburg
  • For families – Ober Gatlinburg
  • For outdoor recreation – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

1. Downtown Gatlinburg: Best Area for First-Timers/Tourists

Downtown Gatlinburg
Dawid S Swierczek /

Whether it’s your first time visiting Gatlinburg or you want to be in the middle of all the tourist attractions, staying in downtown Gatlinburg is a must! There are fun things to do at every corner, and the area is very walkable.

To start your day, stop at the Pancake Pantry, which serves the most amazing pancakes such as Swiss Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Caribbean Pancakes and Smoky Mountain Buckwheat Cakes. But they serve more than just pancakes- you can also order waffles, eggs, omelets, and crepes.

And, if you happen to come during lunch, their menu offerings are just as delectable, from their Smoky Mountain Grilled Ham and Cheese to the Polynesian Delight Sandwich. With over sixty years of serving locals and tourists, the Pancake Pantry is a must-visit!

While there are many things to see downtown, it’s hard to miss the Gatlinburg Space Needle, which has a 407′ observation deck with endless views of the city and mountains. Once you’ve finished admiring the awe-inspiring views from the Space Needle, you can enjoy all of the fun at the base. If you’re already into thrill-seeking heights, you should also consider the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park, which takes you almost 2,000 feet in the air on a tramway!

Kids and adults will love Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, the #1 destination for seeing penguins, stingrays, sharks, and thousands of other marine life! Several underwater tunnels throughout the aquarium provide an up-close and personal view of the exotic life. And you can also watch one of the many dive or feeding shows throughout the day!

Head to the Iris Theater for something a little different. This theater is a fun place to go for comedy, magic, wonder, and fun. Their nightly shows provide entertainment for all ages, whether you’re 5 or 95! The Iris Theater is conveniently located at the base of the Space Needle and seats under 100 guests, making it an intimate and fun experience.

If you’re traveling with young kids who may need a break from sightseeing, stop by Mynatt Park. It’s a hidden gem with a playground, green space, nature trails, and a creek. It’s not very well-known to tourists, so the park does not usually get very crowded, making it a nice break from the hustle and bustle of downtown attractions. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic, especially after hiking on the nearby hiking trails. You can also throw a line in the creek and see what you can catch!

There are many hotels in Gatlinburg, each with its own amenities, but all of them are in the perfect central location for sightseeing. The Econo Lodge is more budget-friendly but has free parking and a swimming pool.

Zoder’s Inn and Suites is also convenient for downtown destinations but has a heated indoor pool and hot tub. If you’re looking for a resort, the Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is convenient and is one of the best hotels in Gatlinburg for the entire family, with free parking, a well-equipped fitness center, outdoor swimming pools, and an on-site restaurant.

See Related: Things to Do in Knoxville, Tennessee

2. Ober Gatlinburg: Best Area for Families

Ober Gatlinburg Ride and Scenery
David Carillet /

If you’re visiting Gatlinburg with your family, you’ll have a fantastic time in Ober Gatlinburg. While the area is known for its eponymous ski resort, there are plenty of things to do year-round! In addition, the Ober Gatlinburg area is peaceful, beautiful, and quiet, especially in the summer. So if you’re looking for outdoor recreation in the Great Smoky Mountains for the whole family, you’ll want to consider Ober Gatlinburg.

Before heading out for a day of recreation, fill your belly with some Southern breakfast at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. While they have traditional breakfast items like eggs, pancakes, and waffles, they have some specialties that will blow your mind! If you’re up for the challenge, try their Waffle of Insane Greatness, Stuffed French Toast, or a Fried Cinnamon Roll.

If you’re too full from breakfast to start any physical activity, a trip to the Hollywood Star Cars Museum might be worth a visit! While it’s technically in downtown Gatlinburg, it’s a short drive from Ober Gatlinburg. You can see popular cars from movie franchises such as The Fast and Furious and Batman, and TV shows such as Dukes of Hazzard and The Munsters!

If you’re looking for one of the easier hiking trails, head to the Gatlinburg Trail Trailhead. This 3.8-mile roundtrip hike is convenient and goes through the woods and across the river.

It’s a perfect trail for dog walkers, families, cyclists, and runners. And if you want to see a gorgeous waterfall, take a slight detour to Cataract Falls (along Cove Mountain Trail).

Take the family to the Alpine Slide at Ober Gatlinburg in the summer. Two tracks run next to each other so that you can race your siblings or your kids! The carts are sled-like with a lever, so you can adjust your speed as you go down the slide.

It’s a massive hit for adults and kids, with views of Mount Harrison and the Smoky Mountains! If you visit Ober Gatlinburg in the winter, be prepared for endless activities like ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, ice bumper cars, snow tubing, and even wildlife encounters! This Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park has everything you’ll need for fun year-round.

If you’re hoping to get some souvenirs to remember your Tennessee vacation, the shops at Ober Gatlinburg have plenty of options! Whether you’re looking for outerwear, gifts, apparel, puzzles, toys, games, or leather goods, you can find it here!

Some of the best hotels in Gatlinburg are in Ober Gatlinburg, such as Holiday Inn Club Vacations Smoky Mountain Resort, an IHG Hotel offering spacious suites, free Wi-Fi, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, and free parking! These suites are perfect for the entire family.

The Sidney James Mountain Lodge is another popular choice, with cabins and rooms, an on-site restaurant, and two swimming pools. A more budget-friendly choice is the Chalet Inn. It’s not only nice on the pocketbook but also offers suites with private balconies, mountain views, and a fireplace.  

See Related: Most Beautiful & Best Vacations in the US

3. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Best Area for Outdoor Recreation

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Scenery

While you can see the mountains from almost any attraction in Gatlinburg, there’s nothing quite like staying in or near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The area is perfect for outdoor recreation, whether you want to go hiking, fishing, exploring wildlife, biking, horseback riding, or camping. Some of the best hotels are located within the park, but there are plenty nearby that may be more budget-friendly.

You’ll most likely want to eat before heading to the park for the day. Big Daddy’s Pizzeria is a solid choice, especially since the Gatlinburg location is just minutes from the park.

You can start your day with delicious wood-baked soft pretzels, Italian-style pizza, or wings. And if you’re still hungry, order one of their specialty cannolis for dessert!

Want to start with a relatively easy hike? Take the Old Sugarlands Trail or the Twin Creeks Trail, as both are excellent for all skill levels. And if you need help deciding which trail to take, visit the Sugarlands Visitor Center, which has plenty of maps and informative employees. The most accessible waterfall from the Visitor Center is the 25-foot Cataract Falls, which is worth the trip!

And if you aren’t feeling up to a hike, take a scenic drive to Cades Cove and admire the wildlife along the way. This area is one of the most popular within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park because of its beauty and wildlife viewing opportunities. Visitors often see black bears, turkeys, coyotes, and white-tailed deer!

If you want to experience the park on horseback, head to the Sugarlands Riding Stables, which offers horseback riding lessons for beginners and horse rentals for those more experienced. It’s a unique way to experience the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

Surprisingly, the park has a lot of history, including almost 100 historical buildings, from churches, gristmills, log cabins, schools, and barns. Many of these historical structures have been preserved, so visitors to the park can see them.

Most of them are located along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Cades Cove, Oconaluftee, or Cataloochee. To learn about these historic buildings, stop by the Visitor Center for a map of these sites.

If you’re wondering where to stay in Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most beautiful areas in the region and offers plenty of outdoor recreation. If you’re hoping to stay near the national park but not spend a fortune, you’ll love the Hampton Inn Gatlinburg.

This budget-friendly hotel offers free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast, and guest rooms with gorgeous views of the Smoky Mountains. If you want a little more space, Park Vista has suites with private balconies and views of the mountains.

For a family-friendly resort, consider the Bearskin Lodge on the River, which has an outdoor pool, lazy river, and outdoor fire pits, and it’s on the Gatlinburg Trolley route! Another highly-rated option is the Lodge at Buckberry Creek, which has a complimentary breakfast, free Wi-fi, a fitness center, and a spa.

See Related: Things to Do in Memphis, Tennessee

Tours in Gatlinburg

1. Thundering Streams and Falls of the Smokies Guided Hiking Tour Top Recommendation

In this guided hike, you will learn about the local ecosystem while hiking through the lush landscapes of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With an experienced guide, you'll be able to explore several streams and creeks while making your way up to scenic views. This moderately adventurous hike gains elevation and climbs over downed trees. Join for a less-traveled section of the park where you can enjoy a more relaxed setting with no crowds!

2. Top Rated Wine and Shine Walking Tour

Top Rated Wine and Shine Walking Tour - Discover Gatlinburg distilleries on this moonshine tasting tour. Learn how moonshine is traditionally distilled—and maybe even take a look behind-the-scenes with a distiller—and try plenty of samples, too. If you want, take a bottle home with you using the exclusive discount included for tour-goers.

3. Gatlinburg: Ghosts of the Smokies Haunted Walking Tour

Explore the haunted history of Gatlinburg, TN with a local guide and other paranormal enthusiasts! Visit historic locations where settlers and Indians once walked – now only memories linger. Many sites are believed to be haunted by restless spirits. Learn about the Cherokee’s vengeance for the atrocities committed against them, and shocking details of what really happened at the Edgewater Hotel. Experience spine-tingling encounters on this 1-hour guided walking tour through downtown Gatlinburg.


Where is a good area to stay in Gatlinburg that’s near the Smoky Mountains?

The fantastic thing about Gatlinburg is that the entire town is adjacent to the Smoky Mountains, so you can stay anywhere and be close to the mountains. If you want mountain views but don’t necessarily want to visit the national park, you may want to consider either downtown Gatlinburg or Ober Gatlinburg. Regardless, the Smoky Mountains are just a short drive away from any area you want to stay in Gatlinburg.

What is the best area to stay in Gatlinburg?

Because Gatlinburg is relatively small, you can stay in any area and easily visit other parts of town. However, if you don’t want to worry about driving, you’ll likely want to stay in downtown Gatlinburg, where the local attractions are nearby.

If you plan to ski, hike on the many hiking trails, snowboard, or do alpine sports, you’ll want to stay near Ober Gatlinburg, the family-friendly outdoor recreation mecca. Finally, for the best views and access to the Smoky Mountains, you must stay in one of the Gatlinburg hotels near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

What is the best place to stay in Gatlinburg for outdoor recreation?

You’ll find outdoor recreation all over the town, but some of the best hotels in Gatlinburg include the Gatlinburg Inn, Park Vista, and the Lodge at Buckberry Creek. In addition, if you’re wondering where to stay in Gatlinburg on a budget, the Hampton Inn Gatlinburg is a good choice near Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and the Chalet Inn is also a budget-friendly choice near the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort.

What are the best places for families to stay in Gatlinburg?

If you’re wondering where to stay in Gatlinburg with kids, you’ll want to consider the Bearskin Lodge, an awesome family-friendly accommodation. Many families also choose Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg, which has outdoor swimming pools and an on-site restaurant. Stay at the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Smoky Mountain Resort for spacious rooms and free parking.

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