It’s spring, and time to get out and live a little! These six spring experiences are your don’t-miss bucket list destinations in Gatlinburg.
1. Synchronous Fireflies
The breathtaking synchronous fireflies of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park define “unforgettable”! The park is home to rare fireflies that coordinate their flashing lights as a group, creating pulsing patterns. This magical show takes place for only two weeks each year, between late May and mid-June. To see the sparkling display, reserve a spot with the National Park Service. (For 2021, the NPS is holding a lottery for its limited firefly viewing spots, to ensure distancing. Plan ahead and contact the NPS today!)
2. River Rafting Thrills
If your bucket list includes heart-pumping action, hit the rapids. Rafting in the Smokies features not only rafting but also a ropes course, climbing wall and ziplines. Nantahala Outdoor Center has rafting, ziplining, tubing and kayaking. Smoky Mountain Rafting’s combo package offers rafting and ziplining, and they also offer kayaking and “extreme whitewater” rafting.
3. Wildflower Walks
These mountains boast 1,500 wildflower species--more than any other national park. Their beauty is easily accessible. The park service maps easy, self-guided wildflower walks in its online guide. Each May, the park also hosts a Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage with special events. Find details here for this year’s virtual version.
4. Mayfest at Ober Gatlinburg
Taste local and domestic beers and hearty German foods at Mayfest, May 21-31 at Ober Gatlinburg. Flower displays burst with color and spring attractions are open for your enjoyment! Try ice skating, ice bumper cars, the alpine coaster, alpine slide, rock climbing wall, kiddie rides and more.
5. Blooms and Tunes at Anakeesta
Mountaintop park Anakeesta ushers in spring with its Blooms and Tunes festival through May 23. Flowers adorn giant, whimsical sculptures. Live music from bluegrass to country to rock fills the air. Walk along paths suspended in the treetops, try the ropes course, or just enjoy the gardens. Dine at the Cliff Top Restaurant or get snacks and sweets to eat outside.
6. Dollywood’s Flower and Food Festival
Half a million spring blossoms turn into huge sculptures during Dollywood’s festival from April 23-June 7. Kids and adults love seeing magical, floating umbrellas, floral butterflies and even Dolly’s “coat of many colors” depicted in blooms. The food festival emphasizes local, garden-fresh spring dishes.