Ober Gatlinburg, 1001 Parkway No. 2, Gatlinburg, 865-436-5423, obergatlinburg.com
Towering high above the shops, eateries and trees of Gatlinburg, The Gatlinburg Space Needle rises 407 feet into the clear mountain air, a tall spire with an observation deck that overlooks the town and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. Two 20-person glass elevators take visitors 365 days a year to the top for a 360-degree view of the grand surroundings. After reveling in that for a time, check out the Space Needle's exhibits, offering intriguing information about Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. At the base of the Space Needle is Arcadia, a two-story playground with the latest video and arcade games including the area's largest redemption center. Also at the base is the Iris Theater, which features family friendly stage entertainment, as well as a couple of casual eateries.
115 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, 865-436-4629, www.gatlinburgspaceneedle.com
High views from tramways and tall buildings are undeniably magnificent but there's an intimacy with Mother Nature that can only be experienced on foot at ground level. The expert hiking guides at A Walk in the Woods will provide you the best Smokies hike of your life, offering a large selection of interpretive guided nature hikes, including birding and salamander treks, as well as providing hiker shuttle service in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, trip planning, camping and backpacking equipment rental, guided backpacking trips, and classes and seminars on survival skills. Plakanis said the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is both the Wildflower Capital of the Northern Hemisphere and has more species of trees than Eastern and Western Europe combined. "This unmatched biodiversity creates a palate of fall colors found nowhere else on earth. Going on a tour with A Walk in the Woods allows you to step into the painting and be a part of that landscape, experiencing the unique flora and fauna firsthand."
A Walk in the Woods, 4413 Scenic Drive East, Gatlinburg, 865-436-8283, www.awalkinthewoods.com
Another great way to connect with the natural world is by horseback. There is something special about discovering nature's nooks and crannies from atop a well-trained horse handpicked just for you from the Stables' 40 trail horses – bonding with the steed as you take it all in together at a leisurely pace. You're guaranteed a great horseback ride no matter your level of horse-riding experience, along with the incomparable beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Sugarlands Riding Stables guides take full advantage of the natural horseback riding trails inside the park.
Sugarlands Riding Stables, 1409 Parkway, Gatlinburg, 865-436-3535, www.sugarlandsridingstables.com
The first part of the name of this outdoor adventure outfit is an acronym for Challenge. Learn. Inspire. Master. Believe. Its mission: "To get people out of their comfort zones in a safe and controlled environment." All that tells you a lot about what you can expect at the CLIMB Works zip lining and mountain biking location in the Great Smoky Mountains. Adventurers start the tour with an exciting ATV ride up the mountainside, followed by rip-roaring fun on nine world-class zip lines, three unique sky bridges, and a surprise at the end. CLIMB Works also has mountain bikes for rent and a loop trail with sections suitable for all levels of riders.
CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains, 155 Branam Hollow Road, Gatlinburg, 865-325-8116, www.climbworks.com/smoky_mountains