Gatlinburg is, without question, one of America's quirkiest towns. What started off as a small mountain town boomed into a full-blown resort destination as the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains began to draw crowds. Today, tourist kitsch mixes with authentic, down-home mountain vibes to create a unique atmosphere that's distinctly Gatlinburg. It's not hard to come by offbeat attractions in a town that's made quirk its bread and butter, but some stand above the rest as truly awesome... and totally strange. Here are a few of our most favorite spots for offbeat and totally unforgettable fun.
With over 20,000 sets of salt and pepper shakers from the owner’s personal collection, this museum is a quirky fantasyland! Explore aisle after aisle of displays and see salt and pepper shakers like never before. We’re talking shakers shaped like chess pieces, Loch Ness monsters and dalmatians, followed by ones modeled after President John F. Kennedy and Nixon, followed by every fruit and veggie you can imagine. And that's just the tip of the salt and pepper shaker iceberg. And the best part? You can see it all for just 3 bucks. Did I mention that the admission fee goes toward $3 off your purchase of ANY shaker set in the building? Pass the salt, please!
A hit for the kids (and parents too!), Ripley’s Marvelous (and mind-bending) Mirror Maze will make you break a mental sweat as you try to navigate the confounding labyrinth of mirrors. Once you’ve conquered the reflective jungle, sweet victory quite literally awaits at Ripley’s Candy Factory. Treat yourself to some old-time classics, or sample offerings from an endless array of gummy bears, jelly beans, and other delights. This place will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth, and is the perfect way to end a day at Ripley’s.
If the smell of freshly baked chocolate crullers and cream puffs wafting through the air isn’t enough to get you to peek inside The Donut Friar, then the charm of Village Square is sure to give you the extra push you need. The bakery is nestled in a row of shops that look like medieval cottages, adorably clustered around a garden area with a fountain. Whether you’re stepping inside to take a look at the insane mug collection or starting your morning with a delicious donut, The Donut Friar is worth the stop. And don’t leave without trying the world-famous cinnamon bread... it’s a fan favorite!
Named after the famous frontiersman, soldier and mountain man David C. “Crockett” Maples, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is an iconic spot for anyone journeying to the Smokies. Try old-school staples like corn pone, corned beef hash, and fried bologna, or modern treats like granola pancakes, fried cinnamon rolls, or the Waffle of Insane Greatness. Crockett’s uses pancake and waffle mix from Chattanooga's famously-quirky Aretha Frankenstein's, so you know this is gonna be an offbeat but delicious meal. Make sure you’re bringing your appetite when you stop by... these portions are fit for a hungry frontiersman!
If you're looking to fully immerse yourself in the magic of the Smoky Mountains, look no further than Anakeesta. When you arrive, you'll be whisked to the top of Anakeesta Mountain via a scenic chondola ride (which lets you choose to ride on an open chair lift or in an enclosed gondola), where you'll get to explore Firefly Village. The mountaintop village is home to a 1940s pie and ice cream parlor, a BBQ joint, shops, a treetop ropes course, and dueling ziplines. Anakeesta is also home to a treehouse for kids, a single-rail mountain coaster, gem mining, the Forest Memorial Interpretive Trail, and some of the best views in the area. The attraction just opened at the start of September, and the fun activities will be opening into the fall and winter.
Otherwise known as the most entertaining attraction in Gatlinburg, Ripley's Believe it or Not! Odditorium is the place for offbeat fun. Standing three stories tall and boasting over 500 exhibits of mind-blowing human and animal oddities, the Odditorium is a blast for kids and adults alike. You’ll need at least several hours to explore this gem. Encounter a two-headed calf, see a real-life Ecuadorian Jivaro shrunken head, observe the world's longest gum wrapper chain, check out the Eminem made of M&Ms, gaze upon a Khabli skull bowl made from the bones of a Tibetan monk, marvel at a Fiji mermaid, and tons more. You’re going to have a blast here, believe it… or not!
Whiskey’s bigger, badder, older brother takes its best form at the Sugarland Distilling Co. Stepping into the distillery is like stepping into adult Candyland. The shelves are lined with mason jars of variously-colored booze, with flavors including apple pie, an iconic moonshine flavor, PB&J, blueberry muffin, maple bacon, Mint Condition peppermint, and more. Stop in for a free tour and stay for a wildly-entertaining moonshine tasting sessions (21 and up only for that one, kids). Leave with a belly full of moonshine and some trendy Sugarlands Distilling Co. swag.
From some of the weirdest moonshine flavors you've ever heard of to thousands of peculiar salt and pepper shakers, Gatlinburg is every quirk lover's oasis. To make your adventure even more memorable, check out Gatlinburg's line-up of special fall events. From Ripley's spine-tingling Fright Nights and Sugarland's rollickin' MountainFest, to the Winter Magic Chili Cook-off and Oktoberfest at Ober, there are tons of one-of-a-kind events to make your trip completely unforgettable.
Gatlinburg is one of America’s great mountain resort destinations, nestled in the foothills and surrounded on three sides by the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.