Beyond the Gateway: Surprising Facts About Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Published Nov 26, 2023

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, often referred to as the "Gateway to the Smokies," is a charming town nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Known for its stunning natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and vibrant arts scene, Gatlinburg has long been a beloved destination for travelers seeking respite in the midst of nature's grandeur. While many visitors come for the breathtaking landscapes and the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is so much more to this enchanting town than meets the eye. In this blog post, we'll take you on a journey to explore some surprising and lesser-known facts about Gatlinburg.

1. A Rich History

Gatlinburg's history dates back to the early 1800s when it was first settled by European pioneers. The town is named after Radford Gatlin, a local innkeeper, but it's worth noting that the town's name was officially changed from "White Oak Flats" to "Gatlinburg" in the early 1900s. Gatlinburg's history is preserved at the Gatlinburg History Museum, where you can learn about the town's transformation from a small mountain village to the bustling tourist destination it is today.

2. Moonshine Capital

Gatlinburg has deep ties to the moonshine industry. During the Prohibition era, moonshine production thrived in the Smoky Mountains, and Gatlinburg was a significant hub for this illegal trade. Today, you can explore this legacy by visiting local moonshine distilleries like Ole Smoky Moonshine, Sugarlands Distilling Company, and Tennessee Shine Co. You can even sample some of these moonshine varieties and learn about the history of moonshining in the area.

3. Arts and Crafts Community

Gatlinburg is home to one of the largest communities of independent artisans in the country. The Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is a historic trail of over 100 artists and craftsmen who create unique, handcrafted goods. You can explore galleries, studios, and workshops where these talented individuals make everything from pottery and paintings to woodworking and jewelry. It's a fantastic place to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs and gifts to take home.

4. The Skylift Park

While the Gatlinburg SkyLift offers breathtaking views of the Smokies, it's what you'll find at the top that's truly surprising. At the summit, you'll discover the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. This engineering marvel stretches 680 feet across a deep valley, providing visitors with awe-inspiring panoramic views. The bridge even includes glass panels in the middle, giving you a thrilling view straight down to the forest below.

5. Annual Events

Gatlinburg hosts a variety of annual events that might surprise you. The Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff is a spicy competition that showcases the town's culinary talents, while the Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights lights up the town with dazzling holiday displays. The Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales festival, where musicians and performers bring Appalachian history to life, is another unique event you won't want to miss.

6. Ecology and Conservation

Gatlinburg isn't just about recreation; it's also a town committed to preserving the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. The city is known for its strong stance on environmental conservation. When you visit, you'll find many eco-friendly initiatives, from sustainable practices in businesses to clean-up efforts in the national park. In 1996, Gatlinburg became a certified member of the National Audubon Society's "Bird City USA" program, emphasizing its dedication to bird-friendly practices.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is more than just a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. Its rich history, artisan community, surprising attractions, annual events, and commitment to environmental conservation make it a remarkable and unique destination. Whether you're a nature enthusiast, history buff, or simply seeking a memorable vacation, Gatlinburg has something surprising and special for everyone. So, the next time you plan a visit to the Smokies, be sure to explore beyond the gateway and uncover the hidden gems of Gatlinburg.

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