Weekend Trips from Columbia, SC: Gatlinburg, TN


When you live in South Carolina, snow is far from a sure thing. While this is not necessarily bad thing for those of us who detest the cold, it can be kind of a bummer for children – doubly so for little girls who are in their Elsa-obsessed era. The good news is there are many places within about a  four hour radius of Columbia where you can see snow. One of these places is Gatlinburg, TN. My sister and I met up there for a weekend family trip a few years ago and our preschoolers had a blast. 

There is so much to do in the Gatlinburg area (I’m including Sevierville and Pigeon Forge in this) – amusement parks, hiking, fine dining, you name it. Because we were traveling with a three year old and a four year old, we focused our trip on things that would be fun to them. Here are my recommendations for things to do while you’re in Gatlinburg, including a place with a 100% chance of snow.

1. Anakeesta

Anakeesta is a beautiful outdoor park in the heart of Gatlinburg. When we went in January, it was a true winter wonderland. Visitors ride to the top of the mountain park in either a chair lift or a gondola, depending on the size of your party. The views at the top are amazing! Our kids really enjoyed the Treetop Skywalk and the Anakeesta Smoky Mountain Observation Tower. Older kids might like the mountain coasters or ziplining.


2. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

If you need a little break from the outdoors, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a great option. Our kids had a great time exploring the different exhibits and watching the different aquatic creatures swim around their tanks. Make sure you time your visit so that you can attend the penguin parade – a daily show that features the penguins marching around the aquarium.

3. Pigeon Forge Snow

While it is quite possible that it might be snowing when you visit Gatlinburg, snow is not a guarantee. That’s why we ventured to Pigeon Forge Snow – an indoor snow park. Pigeon Forge Snow has a corner of man-made snow perfect for little kids! The best part is that the building stays around 70 degrees all year, so you don’t even need to be cold to enjoy the snow. Older kids can try out tubing while they are there.

We had a lovely time during our visit to Gatlinburg, and our kids really enjoyed playing in the indoor and outdoor snow. Gatlinburg has so many other things to offer. I look forward to going again when my children are old enough to enjoy Dollywood.

Have you been to Gatlinburg? Share your favorite spots to visit in the comments!

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Allison Linden
Allison Linden is an Alabama native who moved to the Midlands in 2011 with her now husband, Darin. Allison and Darin currently live in Red Bank with their children - Vivian and Henry. Allison has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and obtained her MBA in May 2019, while almost 8 months pregnant with Vivian. She has worked for a retail energy company since 2013 and began working from home during the pandemic. Her husband became a house spouse after the birth of Vivian to allow Allison to pursue her career goals. Balancing working at home with a baby and a preschooler has been a challenge, but she has thoroughly enjoyed watching her children grow up. Allison enjoys taking her children to Edventure, Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens (the garden is way cooler than people give it credit for), local parks, the library, gymnastics, and dance class. When she is not working or momming, Allison enjoys exercising, binging true crime shows on Max, and occasionally having dinner and drinks with friends. Likes: Vacations, concerts, stand-up comedy, nice restaurants, bacon, juicy gossip. Hates: Yard work, driving, pants without an elastic waistband (hard pants), running.



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