Reach higher ground in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

08/21/2012  | 
Field Trip Destination

Inspiration comes easy, if you know where to look. It’s rising from the misting mountains, rushing through the trickling streams and singing from exquisite wildlife that calls this mountain haven home. Surrounded on three sides by the natural beauty of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee prides itself in its mountain heritage, and the arts, crafts, and retail shops of the area that reflect that heritage.

Small town goodness is everywhere you look in Gatlinburg – from its quaint shops and unique art galleries to its walkable downtown area bustling with friendly faces, fun attractions and hometown restaurants. Gatlinburg, affectionately known as the gateway to the majestic Great Smoky Mountains National Park, boasts 10 million visitors each year, and is truly a place to relax, reconnect, and reach higher ground.

For an up-close-and-personal glimpse of fascinating marine life, follow your curiosity through the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Rated as the “Number One Aquarium in the United States” by, the facility boasts more than 100,000 animals thriving in 1.4 million gallons of aquariums, including 12-foot sharks and the world’s largest underwater tunnel. Glide past the peaks and vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains on the Gatlinburg Sky Lift and Ober Gatlinburg’s Aerial Tramway and get a birds eye view of mountaintop splendor. Explore more than 450 shops along Gatlinburg’s famous downtown Parkway and find charming little treasures at every turn.

History and Culture

Boasting an exciting history steeped in tradition, Gatlinburg was originally settled in the early 1800’s, first named White Oak Flats for the abundant native white oak trees covering the landscape. Visitors today can explore the historic sites of Gatlinburg, such as The Red Barn, constructed in 1923 which served as the “model barn” where young men were taught agriculture. Ogle’s Cabin is Gatlinburg’s first home, and was built in 1802 by William Ogle who told his family of the “Land of Paradise” in the mountains of East Tennessee. William died shortly thereafter, and later, his family came to Gatlinburg to start a new life.

With breathtaking natural surroundings that inspire creativity, Gatlinburg’s arts and crafts culture has long held a deep association with the Southern Appalachian mountains. Nowhere else in the South will you find a richer heritage of fine craftsmanship than in Gatlinburg. Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, established in 1937, is the largest group of independent artisans in North America. Located on an eight-mile loop at the northeast edge of Gatlinburg, the community proudly preserves the craft heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains year-round. Explore the best in a wide range of craft shops, including pottery, woodcarving, candlemaking, quilting, weaving, broommaking, and painting, among other fine art forms. Gatlinburg also is home to the renowned Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Founded in 1945, Arrowmont hosts summer and spring workshops and an array of special conferences for all levels of students in craft-art media. The art galleries at Arrowmont are open for tours of select collections throughout the year.

Outdoor Adventure

Blessed by the gifts that Mother Nature has bestowed upon the area, Gatlinburg is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. From tiny trickling streams to the more than 240 species of birds found in the National Park, Gatlinburg embraces nature at every turn. Encompassing 800 square miles in the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the showcase for some of the most inspiring natural and cultural treasures that the Southern Appalachians have to offer. The park’s abundant plant and animal life and historical significance makes it the most visited national park in the United States and lies within 550 miles of one-third of the American population. It’s the perfect place for an exhilarating hike, a scrumptious picnic or just a quiet moment to reflect on the beauty that surrounds you. In 2009, the park celebrated its 75th anniversary with special programs planned throughout the year including the rededication of the park which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt formally dedicated in 1940

As stewards of significant historic resources, Great Smoky Mountains National Park preserves and maintains a collection of some 77 historic structures, along with preserved scenes and landscapes in five historic districts. This collection, representing a century of human history in the Appalachia region, helps to tell the story of the people who lived and worked in the Park prior to its creation.

From its rich heritage and traditional southern values to its exquisite nature and fun attractions, Gatlinburg is the perfect spot for an unforgettable mountain retreat.

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