If you’re an animal lover, Gatlinburg, TN is the perfect vacation destination! Our charming city borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is teeming with some of the most spectacular wildlife in the Southeast. In addition to all of the critters in the Smokies, Gatlinburg is home to a number of attractions that showcase some truly amazing creatures. To help you make the most of your vacation, Jackson Mountain Homes has put together a guide to four of the best Gatlinburg animal attractions.
1. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Anyone who wants to see what’s under the sea, will love Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies! This fantastic aquarium ranks among the top 10 aquariums in the nation on TripAdvisor and is home to over 10,000 fascinating sea creatures. One of the most popular parts of the aquarium is Shark Lagoon, which features a 100 yard moving sidewalk that takes guests through an underwater tunnel that is filled with sharks, stingrays, eels, and other deep sea predators. Another highlight of the aquarium is the Penguin Playhouse, a special habitat for African penguins with clear tubes for kids to climb through.
2. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is the top destination for wildlife viewing in the Great Smoky Mountains. While much of the national park is densely forested, Cades Cove is a valley with plenty of wide open space, which makes it easier to spot animals who may be out and about. Some of the most popular animals who frequent the valley include wild turkeys, whitetail deer, and black bears. When a black bear is spotted in Cades Cove, you’ll probably know it, because people usually get out of their cars and take out their cameras. If you do see a bear during your visit to Cades Cove, be sure to stay at least 150 feet away and to always follow directions given to you by any park rangers in the area.
3. Ober Gatlinburg’s Wildlife Encounter
While Cades Cove is the best place to see Smoky Mountain animals in the wild, you can never be sure if you’ll come across the critters you’re looking for. When you come to Ober Gatlinburg’s Wildlife Encounter, however, you’re guaranteed to see some wonderful animals. Visitors to the Wildlife Encounter will have the chance to observe river otters, bobcats, birds of prey, flying squirrels, snakes, and a family of black bears. It’s easy to see why the Wildlife Encounter is one of the most popular Gatlinburg animal attractions! Please note that Ober’s black bears hibernate during the winter months, so they may be out of the public view in December, January, and February.
4. Sugarlands Riding Stables
Horseback riding is another great way to interact with some beautiful animals during your trip to Gatlinburg. Sugarlands Riding Stables is home to a collection of 40 friendly horses who are accustomed to riding with guests of all ages and abilities. A trail ride with Sugarlands Riding Stables takes you into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a relaxing tour of East Tennessee’s most impressive scenery. As you make your way through the park, you may come across a herd of deer, a flock of turkeys, or even a black bear. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled, because you never know what critters you might see!
When you stay with Jackson Mountain Homes, you will be near all of the best Gatlinburg animal attractions. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 11 bedroom lodges, we are sure to have the perfect property for your vacation. To start planning your getaway, browse our collection of Gatlinburg cabin rentals!