There is life in Gatlinburg. At the time of this writing, on May 20th, 2020, many businesses have been closed or operating at a reduced level for a couple of months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. But things are changing rapidly. Here is where we stand now.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Beginning Saturday, all trails though the park will be open. Some roads will be closed to drivers, but open for pedestrians and cyclists. There is now nowhere in the Park you can’t go…except for visitor centers and campgrounds, which are still closed. This is the second phase of the Park’s reopening.
The SkyLift and SkyLift Park will be open starting Friday, May 22nd. It is opening with a new set of safety protocols, such as limiting the number of visitors at once, and requiring all guests to wear a face covering. Masks will be provided to those who do not have them.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Gatlinburg’s beloved aquarium is schedule to open Friday, May 22nd. The aquarium will be using timed ticketing and/or reduced capacity to control crowd size, and social distancing between parties will be enforced. The other Ripley attractions in town are expected to open soon as well, but those dates have not yet been announced.
Anakeesta reopens Thursday, May 21st. It is encouraged that you purchase their online express pass, which is a limited capacity ticket specific to a date and time that reduced wait time and costs the same as a general admission ticket. Masks are encouraged but not required, except when ziplining, in which case they are required.
The aerial tramway and mountain activities at Ober Gatlinburg resume on May 22nd. The shops and food service at the downtown tramway mall are open.
Gatlinburg Space Needle
Both the Space Needle and the arcade in the building are open.
Dollywood remains closed and no reopening date has been announced. However, all 2020 season passes have been extended through June 1, 2021.
Distilleries and Wineries
These are all open with social distancing restrictions. Most of them are again doing tastings, although that may vary from one to the next.
Restaurants and Shops
Almost all restaurants and shops are open, with social distancing restrictions in place.
The Norton Creek Fireflies event, that provides its guests with a spectacular view of Smoky Mountain fireflies, will happen on May 29th through the 31st. It sells out every year, and this year’s attendance is being limited to 50% capacity, so it will be a hot ticket.
Gatlinburg’s annual Fourth of July parade has been canceled.
Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales will happen this year with street performers, but the annual festival will not feature artisans.
The Historic Gatlinburg Inn
By May 22nd, MOST (but not quite all) of Gatlinburg will be open, with social distancing guidelines being enforced. If there is a place or attraction you have your heart set on, then it might be a good idea to call first just to make sure.
Here is a useful link that lists the opening dates of many businesses in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.