Located in the heart of the southeastern United States, the Smoky Mountains offer an unparalleled blend of natural beauty, adventure, and relaxation. Whether you’re embarking on a solo journey to reconnect with nature or planning a fun-packed family vacation, the Smokies provide a picturesque backdrop for an unforgettable experience.

However, with so many attractions to choose from, planning your trip can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve curated a list of the top ten must-visit places and things to do in the Smokies, ensuring you make the most of your time in this extraordinary region. From adrenaline-pumping activities and educational experiences to tranquil nature walks, there’s something for everyone here!

1. Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

At the heart of the region lies the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. With over 800 miles of trails, visitors can embark on hikes ranging from leisurely walks to challenging treks. The park’s diverse landscape is home to cascading waterfalls, serene streams, and ancient forests, offering breathtaking views at every turn. Don’t miss the chance to witness the mist-covered mountains at sunrise or sunset. It’s a truly magical experience that gives the Smokies their name.

2. Family Fun at XPERIA: Ocean Journey

Among the many Smoky Mountains attractions, one that truly stands out is XPERIA: Ocean Journey, which is located in Sevierville. This immersive aquatic adventure takes you on a journey through the depths of the ocean. The entire exhibit is digital, so it’s safe for all ages. It’s an educational yet thrilling experience, perfect for families looking to learn about marine life and conservation efforts. From interactive exhibits to stunning underwater tunnels, XPERIA: Ocean Journey offers a glimpse into the mysterious world beneath the waves, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring the area.

3. Ziplining Through the Treetops

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, ziplining through the Smokies is an adventure like no other. Glide above the treetops and experience the beauty of the mountains from a bird’s eye view. Various companies offer ziplining tours, catering to all levels of thrill-seekers, from beginners to adrenaline junkies. It’s an exhilarating way to appreciate the vastness of the Smokies while getting your heart racing.

4. White Water Rafting on the Pigeon River

Another adventure not to be missed is white water rafting on the Pigeon River. Whether you’re a seasoned rafter or trying it for the first time, the Pigeon River offers rapids that cater to all levels of experience. Companies not only provide guided tours but also the equipment needed to navigate the river safely, ensuring an exciting and memorable adventure for everyone. Feel the rush of the rapids and the cool mountain water as you make your way down the river, surrounded by the natural beauty of the Smokies.

5. Horseback Riding in Cades Cove

Experience the Smokies in a uniquely serene way by taking a horseback ride through Cades Cove. This valley in the national park offers some of the most stunning landscapes and wildlife viewing opportunities. Guided tours on horseback allow visitors to explore the area’s natural beauty at a leisurely pace, making it an ideal activity for families and nature enthusiasts. Ride through historic homesteads, spot white-tailed deer, and enjoy the peaceful ambiance of the mountains.

6. Visit Dollywood

Located in Pigeon Forge, a city that lies at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Dollywood offers a unique blend of thrilling rides, live entertainment, and rich Appalachian culture. This world-renowned theme park celebrates the heritage of the East Tennessee region with its diverse array of attractions. From adrenaline-pumping roller coasters to traditional crafts and storytelling, Dollywood provides a fun-filled day for visitors of all ages. Don’t miss the chance to experience the award-winning shows, explore the beautifully themed areas, and enjoy the seasonal festivals that make Dollywood a must-visit destination in the Smokies.

7. Enjoying the Views from Clingmans Dome

For breathtaking panoramic views of the Smokies, a visit to Clingmans Dome is a must. As the highest point in the national park, it offers visitors a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The observation tower at the summit can be reached by a short but steep paved trail, making it accessible for most visitors. The journey to the top is rewarded with mesmerizing views that stretch for miles, making it an ideal spot for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

8. Take a Scenic Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the most relaxing ways to take in the beauty of the Smokies is by taking a scenic drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This iconic road offers stunning vistas, picturesque overlooks, and access to numerous hiking trails and picnic areas. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely drive to enjoy the fall foliage or seeking out the perfect spot for a mountainside picnic, the Blue Ridge Parkway provides a memorable way to experience the natural beauty of the Smokies.

9. Fishing in the Mountain Streams

Anglers will find Smokies to be their idea of paradise, with its pristine mountain streams teeming with trout. The national park offers some of the best fly fishing in the Eastern United States, with miles of streams accessible for fishing. Whether you’re an experienced angler or trying your hand at fly fishing for the first time, the clear, cool waters of the Smokies provide the perfect setting for a peaceful day of fishing. Local guides and outfitters can provide equipment, licenses, and insider tips on the best spots for a successful day on the water.

10. Attending a Mountain Music Concert

The Smoky Mountains are not only a feast for the eyes but also for the ears. The region is steeped in a rich musical heritage, with its brand of folk, bluegrass, and mountain music. Attending a live music concert or a local jam session is a great way to experience this cultural legacy. Venues throughout the Smokies host performances featuring local musicians, offering visitors a taste of the vibrant musical traditions that have been passed down through generations in the mountains.


The Smoky Mountains offer a diverse array of experiences that cater to adventurers, nature lovers, and cultural enthusiasts alike. Each of these top attractions offers a unique way to experience the beauty and excitement of the Smokies, ensuring your trip is nothing short of extraordinary. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, the Smokies promise an enriching experience for travelers of all ages.