5 Other Attractions to Visit in the Smokies

Ober Gatlinburg Indoor Ice Skating Rink

Photo by James Carnes (Flickr)

Run out of ideas on things to do in the Smokies now that the rafting season has come to a close? It’s okay, because we have you covered with a list of five other attractions that you can visit while you’re here! Whether you’re looking for yourself, your family, or friends, we are showcasing attractions that everyone can enjoy!

Ober Gatlinburg

Are you thinking of some fun outdoor activities in the winter time? Ober Gatlinburg is your place for skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and tubing. The slopes open in early to mid-December and close in early to mid-March, although tubing starts November 18 and is available through April 1, 2018. The open/close dates are dependent on the weather. Also at Ober is the “Snow Zone” for kids to play in the snow. If you plan to visit, but aren’t sure how to ski or snowboard, they offer lessons too! You’ll learn the fundamentals like slowing down, turning, stopping, and gliding on the slopes. Ober Gatlinburg also has a rental shop for gear and clothing.

Crave Golf Club

Looking for some mini-golf fun, but without worrying about a blanket of snow? Crave Golf Club in Pigeon Forge offers two courses, and one is entirely indoors! Use the hole spinners to add a new level of adventure to your experience as you have to do more than just swing a club. How about putting while standing on your right foot? You can also score prizes with the spinners. In addition to the course offerings, they have a mini bowling alley indoors as well as a milkshake bar. No candy-themed attraction would be complete without tons of candy available for purchase as well. Your sweet tooth is sure to be satisfied!

Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show

With performances three times a day, there’s no excuse to miss this rowdy dinner show experience. They offer a southern feast as well as good, clean, family entertainment. There is plenty of dancing, singing, laughing, and (of course) rivalry. Maybe during your visit, you’ll see the Hatfields and McCoys work it out. You can also add-on additional shows like The Comedy Barn, Smith Morning Variety Show, the Smoky Mountain Opry, and Magic Beyond Belief for a discounted price (and kids are free with an add-on).

Bluff Mountain Adventures

Traverse over the foothills of the Smoky Mountains with a guided ATV trip. They offer several different types of rides. The one-hour family ride allows older children to operate their own ATV. The mountain trail and ridge run rides offer tougher terrain options than the family ride. If you are adventurous, you can create your custom trail ride, traversing two hours of trails. In the winter, make sure you dress accordingly in warm clothes and gloves. The helmet and goggles are provided.

Blake Jones Racing Center

Ready to hit the track and not worry about rain? Take pleasure in racing in an indoor drift track! Passengers who are 36” or taller can ride. Kids can ride single cars on the indoor track as young as age 10 (and 54” tall). Double car drivers must be at least 16 years old. There is also a covered figure eight slick track and indoor bumper cars. Grab the coupon for a buy two, get one free deal!


We hope you enjoyed your list and come back later to visit our site for more fun ideas on how to make the most of your trip to the Smokies! When rafting season starts, make sure to add us to your list to visit!

 

Mountain Ranges and Forests near RITS

Blue Ridge Mountains

Rafting in the Smokies is close to many mountain ranges and forests. Did you know that RITS is within about an hour’s drive from the Martha Sundquist State Forest, the Cherokee National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Pisgah National Forests? We thought we’d share some not-so-well-known facts about our nearest forest neighbors.

Martha Sundquist State Forest

If this forest is new to you, that’s not a surprise. This land was bought in 2001 from the International Paper Company and holds 2,001 acres. It was named after the wife of Tennessee’s former governor, Don Sundquist. The forest has limited road access and a few trails. The majority of the Martha Sundquist State Forest is bordered by the Cherokee National Forest. You’ll be able to spot a nice assortment of trees, such as eastern hemlock, magnolia, maple, birch, and white pine. As the area is so new, you’ll find it to be an exceptional place to experience the great outdoors in a private setting (10 miles away from most civilization). They also offer nicely spaced campsites if you plan to stay the night.

Cherokee National Forest

Did you know that there is a southern and northern region of the Cherokee National Forest, and it’s split in the middle by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? The Cherokee National Forest’s northern district is technically home to the Pigeon River recreation zone and Rafting in the Smokies as well as 20,000 species of plants and animals. It was once used as hunting and gathering grounds by the Cherokee Indians. There are over 600 miles of foot trails. Camping sites vary from primitive to those with electricity and bathhouses.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Most commonly associated with Rafting in the Smokies, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park butts up against the Cherokee National Forest on its north-eastern and southern sides, the Pisgah National Forest on the north-eastern side, and the Nantahala National Forest to the south. It has been home to prehistoric Paleo Indians, early settlers, and industrialists. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps was established and has helped keep the legacy of the park alive, creating stonework that still is in use today, such as the Chimneys Picnic Area.

Pisgah National Forest

Covering over 500,000 acres of land, the Pisgah National Forest is located in North Carolina and surrounds Asheville. This tract of land was the first to be procured as part of the Weeks Act of 1911 (allowing the national forest system to exist). It’s home to stunning beauty, such as the gardens of naturally-occurring Catawba rhododendrons that cover the Roan Mountains.

If you have time on your trip to the Smokies, we highly recommend you visit these spots that keep history, nature, and cultures preserved for us today. Enjoy what the forest has to offer with one of our packages or individual activities.

Christmas Events to see in The Smokies

Winter in Gatlinburg

Photo by backdrift- (Flickr)

Grab your festive sweater, pull out the hot cocoa, and get ready for the Christmas season in the Smokies! Kicking off in early November, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge light up the area as part of Winterfest. Dollywood is decked out for Christmas, and attractions start putting on their Christmas shows.

Sevierville

In Sevierville, the over 15 million holiday lights are turned on for Winterfest from November 6, 2017– February 28, 2018. Stop by the Sevierville Visitor Center and purchase a souvenir t-shirt. The purchase will get you a pair of 3D Winterfest glasses, which turn each light into a snowflake (you can also buy the glasses for $1 each). The Winterfest Map will pinpoint all the notable displays to check out. Also located in Sevierville is Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the Tennessee Smokies Stadium. This attraction runs shorter (November 3, 2017 – January 7, 2018) than Winterfest. It offers fun activities for the whole family, like crafts and photos with Santa, music, hot chocolate, coffee, pony rides, and a petting zoo.

Gatlinburg

Winter Magic starts on November 8, 2017, alongside the annual Chili Cookoff (chili sampling tickets are $10). The Journey tribute band, Departure, will perform alongside other performers. The lightning ceremony bathes the city in over three million lights. During Winter Magic, the Gatlinburg Trolley strolls down the Parkway, allowing riders to see the unique LED light displays for only $5 a ride. Riders under age three are free if they sit on a lap. The Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights drives through January 27, 2018.

Pigeon Forge

The lights of Winterfest brighten Pigeon Forge from November 7, 2017 – February 28, 2018. Dollywood is aglow with over four million lights across the 150-acre park during their Smoky Mountain Christmas celebration, which starts November 4, 2017 (running through New Year’s Day) and includes Dolly’s Parade of Many Colors nightly on Showstreet. Dollywood also brings “It’s a Wonderful Life” on stage at the Showstreet Palace Theater. Other areas come to life like Dolly’s Christmas Chapel, offering Sunday services at 5:30 p.m. throughout the Christmas festival time. Musical acts get into the holiday spirit with Christmas hymns, songs, traditional classics, and more.

Dinner show and theater attractions in Pigeon Forge also switch over their repertoire to feature special holiday shows, and they decorate accordingly. The Smoky Mountain Opry offers a special Christmas show with reindeer, dancing elves, lights, and flying sugar plum fairies. Dixie Stampede changes up their area into a magical fantasy with evergreens and poinsettias, and the riders are decked out in holiday attire as the North and South Pole have a friendly competition. The Smoky Mountain Adventures offers a challenge to its lumber camps to see which can supply the best Christmas trees.


Keep checking the Rafting in the Smokies blog area for more fun things you can do in the Smokies between and during rafting seasons!

Other Activities You Might Enjoy in the Smoky Mountain Area

horseback riding

Rafting in the Smokies is home to fun family-friendly activities like whitewater rafting, family floats, the zipline canopy tour, rock climbing wall, and the high elements ropes course. If that isn’t enough adrenaline for you, we have even more! There are plenty of other activities in the Smoky Mountain area you might enjoy.

Horseback Riding

We have great deals if you would like to add horseback riding as a combo package with one of our other activities. You may have already read about our partnership with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables, but we want to bring it up again as a scenic family-friendly adventure that will put you inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where you can appreciate the beauty of the area.

ATV Rides

Bluff Mountain Adventures in Pigeon Forge offers guided ATV trail rides through mountain trails in the foothills of Eastern Tennessee. Passengers must be at least 57” tall (over the age of 12 to drive). The trails are 1–2 hours long, and there are four different options: family introduction ride, mountain trail adventure ride, custom trail ride (reservations are needed at least one day in advance), and the ride run (for experienced riders who want a challenge).

Mountain Coasters

There are numerous mountain coasters in the Smoky Mountain area you should try! Ober Gatlinburg (36” and up) has a Ski Mountain Coaster that you can reach either by the aerial tram from Gatlinburg or a drive to their amusement park and ski area. There is another coaster right before you enter Gatlinburg by way of the Spur called the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, which also offers night rides. Kids over 38” can ride. Children ages 3 and up can ride on the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster located in Wears Valley. Rowdy Bear Mountain, newly opened in Gatlinburg, offers a coaster and a mountain glider, which is similar to ziplines. You are harnessed in the glider, but you have less control and are connected to a fixed metal guide like a coaster.


Are these options too intense for you, but you love the outdoors? The Smoky Mountains offer year-round fishing (you’ll need a license), and places like the Smoky Mountain Angler, which offer guided fishing trips for specific species like mountain trout and smallmouth bass. Plus you can learn unique fishing methods like European nymphing. A Walk in the Woods offers guided tours through nature walks, hikes, and even backpacking trips.

 

Events off the Beaten Path in Asheville

Asheville, NC

Asheville is only an hour drive from Rafting in the Smokies and offers plenty of outdoor activities for those who love nature and the beauty of the Smokies. Recreational options in the rafting off-season abound in and around Asheville. We’ve pulled a few together for our readers that we thought you’d enjoy.

  1. A Wild Foraging Adventure
    Brought to you by “No Taste Like Home,” learn how to forage for food while learning about North Carolina’s ecosystem. The tour is available year-round on Wednesdays and Saturdays and is suitable for all ages. All you need to take is yourself, as the equipment is provided for the three-hour tour. At the end of the trip, you’ll have the opportunity to cook up what you’ve found (or have one of the partner restaurants prepare it). 
  2. Asheville Downtown Gallery Association Art Walk
    First Friday art walks introduce you to more than 25 galleries located close to Pack Square and the city’s center in downtown Asheville. View art showcasing the Smokies. The next two walks of 2017 are scheduled for November 3 and December 1. Next year’s walks are likely to resume in April. Start or end your trek with a trip to one of the city’s delectable restaurants to immerse yourself in the city’s culture even more. 
  3. Women’s Backpacking Trip with the Blue Ridge Hiking Company
    This 3-day, 2-night trip is exclusively for women. The hiking company will provide all the trail food and community gear (like stoves, paper products, and first-aid). Additional equipment available to use for free includes backpacks, single or two-person tents, and sleeping bags or pads. The listed itinerary will take you to Appalachian Bald, Walnut Mountain, and Deer Park Mountain. The trip concludes at Hot Springs. Visit their website for more information. 
  4. Fall Ridge and Winter Woodlands Hike
    The Chimney Rock State Park offers a Fall Ridge Hike on November 18, 2017, which enables you to capture majestic views of the area. Guides take you on a more strenuous path that is rarely seen by visitors.

    The Winter Woodlands Hike, also hosted by Chimney Rock State Park, gives you a glimpse into the winter forest on December 16, 2017. You learn how to identify trees and tracks and how to find traces of animals in the area.

    Both hikes have limited availability, so advance reservations are recommended. If you miss these hikes, check the Chimney Rock Events Calendar for other hiking options.

Keep watching the Rafting in the Smokies blog for other events and activities to enjoy when you can’t raft. We’ll be posting more things to do in the Smokies right here!

Best Places to View Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage in the Smokies

It’s time to get prepped for the fall! Before you head out on your foliage photographic journey, make sure you plan the perfect stops to take your shots! Besides listing some of the best places to view the fall colors in the area, we’ve also linked you up to some tips and tricks for getting those breathtaking photos.

Mountain Trails & Scenic Drives

Getting a brisk hike and pairing it with a memorable photo is always a winner. Some hiking trails that offer wonderful views are the Andrews Bald, Mt. LeConte, Rocky Top, and Mt. Cammerer (we’ve blogged about this one before). You can also take the steep hike up to Clingman’s Dome for a full panoramic view. Be sure not to miss the scenic photo overlooks where you can pull off and grab a picture from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which starts in the southern part of the Smoky Mountains at Oconaluftee (milepost 469), or the Foothills Parkway within the Smoky Mountains.

PRO PHOTO TIP: What about the weather? The Digital Photography School has some excellent ideas for shooting in rainy weather or a washed-out sky. Use a polarizing filter if there are harsh shadows and glare. Try taking photos just after rain when the sun is peeking through the clouds. Brave the cold and try to get frosty details on foliage.

Cabin Comforts

Cabins with a beautiful mountain view are plentiful in this area. You can get stunning photos from the comfort of your cabin. Wildwood Mountain Cabins, one of our partners, offers the Amazing Views cabin with stunning views, while accommodating up to 10 guests. Carries Cabin is a private oasis near Cosby, TN, with total seclusion and privacy and sleeps up to 12 guests.

Don’t Forget the Falls

Waterfalls beautifully display the majesty of nature and make a prime subject for photography. The Smokies are home to photogenic falls like Abrams Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Laurel Falls.

PRO PHOTO TIP: When taking pictures of waterfalls, make sure you take the right equipment, plan on shooting on an overcast day, and decide on the best composition of the falls. Then adjust your polarizing filter and do post editing if needed. Check out this tutorial on what equipment you should take and what settings you need to modify on your camera. Using a small aperture and the lowest ISO speed are a good start.

Photos and Fun

Who says you can’t have a little fun while planning some fantastic photography sessions? Places like Ober Gatlinburg are excellent for getting panoramic views, and you won’t spend too much to get them. Ober offers a chairlift up to Mount Harrison (3,590-ft elevation), where you can get a stunning photo of Mt. LeConte.

We hope this list added a few locations you hadn’t considered for your next photo outing. Let us know if the ideas we shared for taking photos helped you capture some amazing shots!

Rock Climbing Wall Adventures

Rock Climbing wall at Rafting in the Smokies

The rock climbing wall at Rafting in the Smokies is the latest addition of fun to the Rafting in the Smokies experience! While you’re here, consider adding this on your adventure plate. Located on Family Adventure Island, the Rock Climbing Wall is a stunning tower that is adjacent to our High Elements Ropes Course and Zipline Canopy Tour. You’ll head down the steps from the suspension bridge and greet the guides before they strap you into a harness.

The rock climbing wall is for ages two and up, and the guides are very patient and supportive of your little ones. They’ll let them choose the side they want to attempt to climb and will encourage and help assist with hand/foot holds. Older kids and adults will enjoy the competitive nature of the wall.

Each side offers a varied level of difficulty, with the downriver side being the most exhausting. At the top of each of the sides of the tower, you’ll see the bell. When you reach the top you can ring it, letting everyone around you know you faced the challenge and conquered it! Try one of the other sides and get comfortable, and maybe you’ll be brave enough to defeat the downriver side!

After you’ve successfully completed your own self-challenge, you can challenge your friends to see who can climb the side the fastest! It’s a healthy competition that will surely get your adrenaline pumping, especially when you’re ready to let go and rappel to the ground while the guide helps with the belay system.

Here are some other fun climbing game ideas to make your adventure even more memorable:

Shout out: One person traverses the wall and another on the ground points or calls out to the next hold the climber should try and hit. The hold should be challenging, but not enough that the climber can’t reach it. The turn ends when the climber can’t climb. Then the pointer and climber switch and the person that went the farthest wins.

Memory: The person on the ground points out 4–10 climbing moves and the climber must remember each hold as they climb the route.

Shortest Distance: See who can climb the farthest using the least amount of hand holds.

High Score: Point out enough holds to safely get a climber to the top. Assign points to the holds. The easier holds get lower points and harder holds get higher points. The person with the most points wins.

Ready to start your rock climbing adventure? Book now directly from our site. You can also combine activities from the packages tab on the page.

 

Festivals and Events near Rafting in the Smokies

Fall Colors in the Smokies

It’s getting close to fall festival time! Rafting in the Smokies is starting to wind down for the season, but festivals and fall events are winding up. We’ve highlighted some that are in the Smoky Mountain and surrounding areas that should be on your radar.

Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair (October 5–22, 2017)

Dubbed one of the Southeast’s Most Popular Events, this event takes up 150,000 square feet of the Gatlinburg Convention Center. You’ll find beautiful artisan handmade crafts, pottery, art, and daily shows. It’s like getting the whole 8-mile Glades loop in one building. There is also a kids corner hosted by the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair and Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries so kids can create their crafts and take them home as souvenirs. Live performances will be held daily with selections from the country, bluegrass, and gospel genres. Admission is free for those aged 12 and under.

Wolf PAWS WolfStock (October 7, 2017 from noon until 5 pm)

In Dandridge, TN, you can help the Wolf PAWS wolf-dog sanctuary with their third annual fundraiser. Shop the local arts and crafts booths, enjoy a savory BBQ, listen to live music, and learn more about the sanctuary. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated to help the sanctuary and the resident wolf-dogs.

LEAF Festival (October 19–22, 2017)

This year’s theme for the cultural and community event is “Fantastic Voyage.”  Over 100 vendors and 400 musicians will be onsite to greet and entertain you at this music and arts festival. If you prefer to stay close and on the grounds, camping is offered (tent camping costs are included with a Weekend or Weekend Plus ticket). LEAF Festival has teamed up with Dancin’ Dave’s Festival Camping to provide tents with camping gear included. For foodies, LEAF Festival offers both international and gourmet food choices. Located in Black Mountain, NC, the festival is situated in an idyllic setting amongst rolling hills, mountain streams, and the beautiful Lake Eden.

Fun Activities at Rafting in the Smokies

 

Rafting on the Upper Pigeon River at Rafting in the Smokies

Rafting in the Smokies has something for everyone! There are so many fun activities that people of nearly any age can participate in and enjoy. We encourage you to look at everything that RITS has to offer.

For older kids, adrenaline junkies, and those who want a solid upper-body workout, the Upper Pigeon Whitewater Rafting Trip is a great choice. You’ll power through 12 Class III and three Class IV rapids over the course of five-and-a-half miles and learn to work with a team. While the Lower Pigeon Float Trip will get you wet, the Upper Pigeon will get you soaked! This activity is great for those over age eight (or over 70 lbs). If you have people in your group that can’t paddle or don’t want to, Rafting in the Smokies can accommodate.

Kids getting ready for the Lower Pigeon River Family Float Trip

If you have smaller kids (ages three and up), the Lower Pigeon Float Trip is perfect. You’ll experience milder water, with spots of rapids. Children will enjoy scouting for birds and sunbathing turtles. The Lower Pigeon Float Trip is also ideal for older folks who don’t want to be intensely paddling and want to enjoy the beautiful scenery. There is no restriction on height or weight, but you will need to be able to fit in a personal floatation device (maximum of 56”).

Ziplining in Tennessee

If you’d rather soar through the sky and stay dry, then ziplining would be a perfect fit for you. Our Zipline Canopy Tour will set you about 60 feet above the ground. You’ll traverse over 2,400 feet through six different ziplines. The zipline is for those over the age of five and between 45 and 250 lbs.

You can always pair activities together through the packages area of our booking section. Plenty of people want to experience both the Zipline Canopy Tour and one of our Pigeon River rafting trips.

High Elements Ropes Course - Smoky Mountains

Also high above the ground is our high elements Ropes Challenge Course. It’s a total of 12 different activities ranging from easy to very tough. As you progress through the course, the activities get increasingly more difficult. If you like to challenge yourself and test your limits, this is the course for you! This course has the same restrictions as our Zipline Canopy Tour (ages five and up and between 45 and 200 lbs).

Kids on the Rock Climbing Wall in the Smoky Mountains

The newest addition to our offerings is our beautiful four-sided Rock Climbing Wall. Kids as young as two (over 22 lbs) can participate. The guides will help them up the wall if they encounter any difficulty and are very patient if they want to try other sides. Older participants can test their abilities on the inner wall. The other Rock Climbing Wall restrictions are 22 to 330 lbs.

Ready to try one of our exhilarating activities? Head on over to the book now page. If you would like to combine activities, be sure to check out our package deals.

Tips for a First Time Zipliner

Ziplining is an experience that gives you the chance to breeze through the trees and experience nature in ways you aren’t typically able to. Even though our Zipline Canopy Tour starts at the very top of our tower, there is no reason to fear the heights! Here are some tips if you are going to be ziplining for the first time:

Make a reservation and come prepared
While we may have openings when you arrive, make a reservation online to ensure you secure a spot. Adding other activities through a package deal will get you the most bang for your buck. Make sure that you’ve filled out the waiver form. If you fill it out from the link online and then bring it in, you’ll save yourself some time. We do have forms on-site if you forget or don’t have access to a printer. Make sure everyone who is ziplining with you meets both the age, health, and weight requirements to streamline the experience. While there is no rigorous hiking involved, you shouldn’t zip if you have a heart condition, and we don’t allow pregnant women on the tour.

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that surround your feet
Because you’ll be in a harness, you will want to make sure you are wearing pants/shorts long enough to get past the harness and shirts that cover your shoulders. This will prevent the harness from coming in direct contact with your skin. Because you’re going to be flying through the air, we don’t want you to lose your shoes. Wear shoes that will stay secure around your ankles. That means no flip-flops or crocs! Closed-toe shoes are the best bet. If you took on the Pigeon River earlier, make sure you brought a change of clothes with you. You can also do the zipline course first through our package deals.

Secure your items
If you happen to have your phone/keys with you, make sure that you secure them before you take off on the Zipline Canopy Tour. We can hold your keys in our office, just like we do for those who are rafting. If you have glasses, you might want to get one of our retainer straps to hold them on, just in case. It’s probably a good idea to secure or leave behind the dangling jewelry too.

Expect bugs
Spray on insect repellent as a good measure of protection before you head on over to our Family Adventure Island. While the Pigeon River has an excellent supply of dragonflies that love mosquitos, you can never be too prepared! We’re in the middle of a forest after all.

Focus on the fun, and trust your equipment
Our Zipline Canopy Tour is inspected to meet safety requirements, and our guides are all trained in first aid and CPR. Don’t worry about anything but having fun! Trust the equipment and enjoy the experience. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Our knowledgeable guides will be more than happy to answer.

Ziplining at Rafting in the Smokies is a great way to take yourself to new heights. We’ll work with you and help guide you through the course without pressuring you. If you’re ready to start your Zipline Canopy Tour, head on over to our reservation page. You can also click the Packages tab to combine activities.