In addition to being a Senior Software Architect at Holiday Inn Club Vacations, Irving is a tech enthusiast, adventurous traveler, photographer, music lover and digital nomad. He believes there’s no road too long to travel, so he explores as much as he can, wherever he can, for as long as he can. One of his favorite ways to travel is with his yellow Camaro, Bumblebee, riding with the windows down and loud music that feels like the soundtrack of a great movie.
There are so many activities in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, from hiking and snowboarding to ziplining and more.
I took a road trip from Orlando, Florida, to Gatlinburg (and back) with the windows down and loud rock music playing with my favorite travel partner: my yellow Camaro, Bumblebee.
After passing through Savannah, Asheville and Cherokee, I packed a lot of Smoky Mountain adventures into just 4 days.
Check out a recap of my action-packed vacation, and plan your own trip with my 4-day weekend itinerary for Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Day 1: Ober Gatlinburg
Since I’m a team member at Holiday Inn Club Vacations®, I stayed at our Smoky Mountain Resort to experience the surreal scenery of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
I picked the resort because I wanted to be in the mountains, and it was the perfect place to retreat and reconnect with nature.
I also wanted to stay there because I planned to go hiking, canoeing, snowboarding and camping, and it was situated near all the best things to do in the area.
After settling in at the resort, I spent my first day in Gatlinburg snowboarding for the first time at Ober Gatlinburg. The slopes, the weather, the experience — everything was incredible.
Even though I fell 299 times, I got up each time and was eventually able to complete the slope once without falling.
Ober Gatlinburg has a lot of activities you can do, like ice skating, a mountain coaster, winter sports, snow tubing and a play zone for kids.
It’s also home to a gondola that gives you stunning views of the surrounding area, which would be amazing if you’re taking a fall getaway to see the leaves change colors.
Day 2: Tour of Cades Cove
The next day, I took a guided tour of Cades Cove, a beautiful valley and historical landmark in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as one of the most popular destinations in the area.
During the tour, we took a ride to the top of the mountains and learned about its history.
We rode around the beautiful park loop route, where you can sightsee wildlife, such as deer, bears, groundhogs and turkeys, and we learned about the history and origins of the people who initially populated the area.
There are around 18 interesting landmarks, and we stopped in a few of them. You can feel the energy, and the peace these locations bring to your soul is truly unbelievable.
When we stopped at the Primitive Baptist Church, we were in the company of a gospel chorus, and they used the incredible acoustics of the church to perform “Amazing Grace.” It was out of this world; they made the entire church vibrate and our tour unforgettable.
It’s amazing to see and hear about the story of this area: the Elijah Oliver place, the Mills and all the historic cabins.
Understanding all the adversities people faced during this time in this beautiful paradise makes you appreciate life and what we have today. It shows you their character and their amazing spirit.
I highly recommended this day trip for families.
The Smoky Mountain Resort Activities Team also had great tour guides that really cared for their guests. In fact, I would repeat this entire trip someday.
From the resort, the drive to Cades Cove was about an hour long, but it was worth it and makes for a really fun day trip from Gatlinburg.
Day 3: Hiking on Laurel Falls Trails
On my third day, I headed to a hiking trail near Gatlinburg, about a half hour away from the resort.
At Laurel Falls Trails, I encountered incredible scenery, crystal waters and a perfect view of the waterfall.
I spent half of my day there and hiked for about 10 miles roundtrip. I fully recommend this trail even though it had moderately difficult terrain.
Day 4: Food, Entertainment and Exploring Gatlinburg
On my last day, I explored the town’s food and entertainment. I ended up visiting Ole Smoky Barrelhouse and tried some different flavors of moonshine and whiskey.
For years, I’ve liked having a glass of whiskey or scotch with just ice here and there. I only really enjoy the flavor, so it’s not too often.
However, going over to the Ole Smokey and participating in the moonshine and whiskey tasting, I discovered that I could become more familiar with two of their flavors: the Mountain Java Coffee Cream Liquor and the Mountain-Made Salty Caramel Whiskey. I purchased both to enjoy with a nice cigar as a good treat on a relaxing afternoon.
After the tasting, I went up to Gatlinburg SkyLift Park and walked over the SkyBridge — which was over 500 feet above the city — to enjoy panoramic views with hot chocolate and freshly baked brownies.
Photo courtesy of Skybridge Gatlinburg. Photo by Marcus Watson.
Thanks to Smoky Mountain Resort’s convenient location, I also rarely used my car and enjoyed the walks across town to the different places to eat.
Overall, all the food on this trip was simply amazing. The Ogle Dog at Fannie Farkles is my new favorite!
I also liked the Log Cabin Pancake House, which was located just across the street from the resort. In fact, I believe I ate over 60 pancakes and 20 omelets during my stay!
Lastly, I had dinner at the famous Cherokee Grill located in downtown Gatlinburg. Although it looked like an upscale place, it was very amazing and affordable as it was one of the best ribeye steaks I’ve ever had.
It’s hard, but if I had to pick my favorite part of this trip, I’d say snowboarding and hiking at the mountain trail.
I think I loved snowboarding the best because it showed me how resilient I am as an individual. I don’t quit until I achieve my goals!
If you need a place to stay, I’d highly recommend Smoky Mountain Resort because of the dedicated team members and proximity to many fun activities in the area.
It also has an indoor waterpark, indoor and outdoor pools, and a hot tub.
Overall, this trip reassured my dream of retiring in the mountains. I hope this 4-day Gatlinburg weekend itinerary gives you ideas for your own trip to The Smokies, too.
All information is subject to change. This article is a curated guide and is neither sponsored nor considered an official endorsement. Please be sure to check information directly with any/all tours, guides or companies for the most up-to-date and direct details.
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