9 Exciting Family-Friendly Activities to Enjoy in the Smokies


Exploring the Smoky Mountains with your family is an adventure that promises not just breathtaking views and fresh mountain air, but also a treasure trove of activities that cater to all ages and interests. This majestic region, straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, is known for its diverse ecosystem, rich history, and the warm hospitality of its towns. Whether you’re looking for thrilling outdoor activities, educational experiences, or simply a peaceful retreat into nature, the Smokies offer a perfect backdrop for creating unforgettable family memories.

From hiking ancient trails teeming with biodiversity to engaging in fun-filled attractions in the surrounding areas, every moment spent here can be an exciting discovery. Let’s dive into the numerous family-friendly activities that make the Smoky Mountains a must-visit destination for families seeking adventure, fun, and a chance to reconnect with nature and each other.

1. Hiking Through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Venturing into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with your family is like stepping into a storybook of natural wonders. Each trail offers its own magic, from the enchanting mists of Alum Cave Bluffs to the cascading beauty of Laurel Falls. For families with young adventurers, the park offers several easy trails that are perfect for little legs, such as the Cataract Falls trail, a short and sweet hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall. Engaging with nature on these hikes not only provides physical activity but also teaches kids about the importance of conservation and the beauty of the natural world around them.

2. Ziplining Through the Smokies

Soaring through the canopy on Smoky Mountain ziplines, families are treated to a bird’s-eye view of the lush forests and rolling hills that make the region so captivating. The experience is exhilarating, providing a sense of freedom and adventure as you glide from platform to platform. Safety is a top priority, with experienced guides ensuring everyone is secure and comfortable before taking off. It’s an activity that combines the thrill of flight with the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, making it an unforgettable highlight of any family trip to the area.

3. Exploring Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a window into the past, where families can explore at their own pace, either by car or bike, the rich history of the settlers in the valley. This area is not only about the past; it’s alive with opportunities to spot wildlife, from white-tailed deer to black bears, in their natural habitat. The open fields and panoramic views make it an ideal spot for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. The loop road also offers several stops with short trails leading to historic buildings, providing a hands-on history lesson for children and a chance for families to imagine life in the Smokies centuries ago.

4. Enjoying Dollywood

A visit to Dollywood offers families an eclectic mix of experiences, from thrilling rides that get your heart racing to educational demonstrations of traditional crafts. The park’s commitment to celebrating the heritage of the Smoky Mountains is evident in every corner, offering children and adults alike a deeper understanding of the region’s culture. Special seasonal festivals transform the park throughout the year, providing unique experiences whether you’re visiting in the bloom of spring or the glow of Christmas lights.

5. Whitewater Rafting on the Pigeon River

Whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River is an adventure that can be tailored to the thrill level of your family. With options ranging from gentle floats to challenging rapids, it’s an activity that can suit families with children of all ages. Guides are skilled at making the journey both safe and fun, often sharing stories and facts about the river and its surroundings, turning the trip into an interactive and educational experience. It’s a bonding activity that encourages teamwork and offers plenty of laughs, and maybe even a few friendly splashing battles among family members.

6. Visiting Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a magical underwater journey that captivates both young minds and adults. Families can explore the mysteries of the ocean without leaving the mountains, walking through the glass tunnels as sharks and rays glide overhead. Interactive experiences, such as the Penguin Playhouse, allow children to come face-to-face with playful penguins, fostering a sense of wonder and connection to marine life. Educational talks and feeding demonstrations throughout the day provide insights into the habits and habitats of aquatic creatures, making every visit both fun and informative. It’s an immersive experience that highlights the importance of marine conservation in a highly engaging way.

7. Horseback Riding in the Smoky Mountains

Horseback riding through the Smoky Mountains offers a serene and intimate way to connect with the landscape. Guided tours take families along well-maintained trails, through forests, across streams, and into the heart of the mountain’s natural beauty. It’s an opportunity for even the youngest riders to feel a sense of adventure while securely mounted on gentle horses. For many families, it’s a highlight of their trip, offering a peaceful escape and a chance to create lasting memories amidst the beauty of the Smokies. The experience also provides a unique perspective on the area that you can’t get any other way.

8. Taking a Scenic Drive on Newfound Gap Road

A scenic drive on Newfound Gap Road is like flipping through a photo album of the Smokies’ most iconic landscapes. It’s a journey that offers stunning vistas, accessible nature trails, and the chance to stand atop Clingmans Dome, where views extend over 100 miles on clear days. This drive is particularly spectacular in the fall, when the forest is aflame with autumn colors. However, every season offers its own beauty, from the fresh blooms of spring to the snow-capped mountains of winter. It’s a leisurely way for families to take in the grandeur of the Smokies, with plenty of pull-offs to enjoy a picnic or simply soak in the views. This drive emphasizes the majestic beauty of the Smokies, making it a must-do for families seeking breathtaking natural scenery.

9. Enjoying Picnics and Playgrounds

Sometimes, the simplest activities are the most memorable. The Smoky Mountains are dotted with picnic areas and playgrounds, providing perfect spots for families to relax and play. These areas offer a chance to unwind, enjoy a meal together, and let kids burn off some energy in a safe and scenic environment.


The Smoky Mountains are a playground for families, offering a blend of adventure, education, and relaxation. Each activity, whether it’s hiking through ancient forests, soaring on ziplines, or learning about marine life, provides a unique way to experience the beauty and diversity of the region. These family-friendly activities not only create lasting memories but also foster a deeper appreciation for the natural world. So pack your bags, gather your loved ones, and head to the Smokies for a family adventure that’s sure to be filled with excitement, laughter, and the joy of discovery.

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