Gatlinburg Strong: A Look Back at the Best of 2016

Even in the wake of the devastating Tennessee wildfires, Gatlinburg still managed to finish strong in 2016. With the support of the entire country behind them, park trails and tourist spots around White Oak Lodge and Resort are getting back on their feet and opening for business.

Whether you’re a veteran of visiting the Great Smoky Mountains or getting ready to take your first Gatlinburg trip, we just want to remind you how awesome it is.

Arts and Crafts

Gatlinburg and the surrounding area could be considered the A&C capital of the U.S. With major crafting events and a year-round resident craft community, there’s a lot to explore.

Hands On Gatlinburg: April brings a chance to DIY. Bring home a beautifully crafted piece of artwork made with your very own hands.

Craftsmen’s Fair: Mid-summer brings the annual Craftsmen’s Fair, where arts and crafts lovers can explore nearly 200 booths filled with original work from America’s largest group of independent artisans.

Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community: Speaking of those independent artisans, this historic 8-mile loop has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail. These artisans whittle, paint, sew, cast, weave and carve to create original collectibles.

Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community

Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Holiday Shows: Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons bring this enormous show to the Gatlinburg Convention Center.

Iconic Events

Music is the name of the game in Gatlinburg, where Appalachian roots give way to nationally renowned annual events featuring bluegrass, gospel and more. Gatlinburg also takes its holidays seriously (in a totally fun way).

Smoky Mountain Songwriter’s Festival: This extremely popular event brings together singers and song writers with Appalachian roots. It includes private workshops as well as live performances open to the public.

Fourth of July Midnight Parade: Why celebrate Independence Day in the daylight when you can light up the night at this event unique to Gatlinburg (now going on its 42nd year!)

July 4 Midnight Parade

OktOBERfest: Commemorate old Germany’s 207-year tradition Munich-style at this month-long festival of food, beer and music.

Winter Magic: It starts with the famous chili cook off that kicks off Winterfest, bringing Tunes and Tales, the Trolley Ride of Lights, and the Fantasy of Lights Parade.

Outdoor Adventure

From the trails within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to ziplining through the forest, Gatlinburg is a destination for the outdoor enthusiast.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Climb the rocks, spot a bear cub along hiking trails, visit waterfalls. The Park is still recovering from the fires, but many favorite trails are now open.

Skiing at Ober Gatlinburg: Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and the Ober Aerial Tramway are open and ready for ski season! Skiing, tubing, ice skating and more await.

tubing Ober Gatlinburg

Wildflower Pilgrimage: Who says trekking through nature can’t look a lot like a fairy tale? The stunning Wildflower Pilgrimage is entering its 67th year of taking visitors through the floral beauty of a Great Smoky Mountain spring.

Synchronous Fireflies: You’ll want to get in on this early summer event, this is the only place in the U.S. to see such a thing. Thousands of fireflies pulse together in this ritual mating display, lighting up the forest with an ethereal glow.

Ziplining, Ghost Walks, Rafting and More: There’s almost too many choices when it comes to ways to get outside and enjoy Gatlinburg, so we’ve summed up some of the most popular here. Don’t forget horseback riding, too!

Fall Foliage: This alone is a reason to go. The stunning color in the Smoky Mountains is unparalleled.

Food and Shopping

You certainly won’t go hungry, and you’d better leave room in your bags for plenty of souvenirs.

Pancakes: There is no shortage of farm fresh breakfast places in Gatlinburg, but the griddle seems to rule them all with so many pancake houses (after all, maple syrup is a local staple).

Barbecue: Tennessee barbecue is an art all on its own. It’s up to you which joint you think serves up the best! Bennetts? Delauder’s? Hungry Bear?

The Village: Looking for that special gift or souvenir? The Village, with its unique shops, is the place to go.

Old Mill: The Old Mill is a must visit for food. The Pigeon Forge attraction is home to a restaurant and extensive pantry-like gift shop.

Old Mill Pigeon Forge

Family Entertainment

Shows at Pigeon Forge: From musical extravaganzas to knee-slapping country-style comedy, all shows are family friendly and many include dinner.

Dollywood: Home to the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, Dollywood theme park and Splash Country make the perfect day trip.

Lightning Rod Dollywood

Ripley’s: Whether it’s the Odditorium, Aquarium or Mirror Maze and Candy Factory, the kids will love a visit to Ripley’s.

Museums: There’s more to Gatlinburg than Ripley’s. From the Titanic to world records, be sure to visit some of these specialty museums (just to say you did!).

There’s so much to see and do, it’s hard to imagine it all fitting into one amazing mountain city. We hope you’ll visit some of these favorites in 2017, take tons of pictures, and share your adventures with us on Facebook or Twitter @WhiteOakResort!

COMMENT: Do you have a favorite spot in Gatlinburg? Share your recommendations!

Victoria Hoffman

A native of New Jersey, Victoria isn't entirely sure how she ended up in Kansas City, but has enjoyed writing, editing, creating, communicating and marketing for high-profile accounts throughout the city ever since. In her spare time, Victoria is an actor (and active) with local community and city theatre.