The Smokies are a great fall family getaway

Gatlinburg in the fall is one of the best family vacations in the country.

COVID-19 put a damper on travel in 2020, so if you haven’t been to the Great Smoky Mountains in a while it’s time to see what you missed.

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Ober Gatlinburg: Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area and Amusement Park offers tram rides, outdoor activities, shopping, dining and more at one of the area’s oldest attractions. Guides lead guests on guided 1.5-mile walks on new hiking trails.

Colorblind visitors have a new way to enjoy the beautiful Smokies fall color at Ober’s Scenic Chairlift. A viewer with special lenses at the top of Mount Harrison gives colorblind visitors the opportunity to see fall color as never before.

Ski slopes bordering the national park are more than 60 years old. Newer activities include a wildlife encounter, ski mountain coaster, ice bumper cards, alpine slide, maze, rock wall, carousel, chair swings, mini golf and more. Snow tubing season opens on Nov. 20.

Anakeesta: The 70-acre mountaintop family attraction opened in Gatlinburg in 2017. “Anakeesta” means “the place of high ground” in Cherokee. A 2020 expansion brought the 60-foot AnaVista Tower with 360-degree views of the mountain terrain. The Cliff Top restaurant serves modern fare.

A “treeventure” challenge course connects treehouses by nets and slides. Access the property via the 600-foot Chondola, where visitors can ride an open-air, four- person chair or enclosed gondola with seating for six. The Treetop Skywalk has more than 800 feet of connected bridges 50 feet high. Other attractions include ziplines, a single-rail coaster, Ridge Runner adventure trucks, forest walks and gardens. The Autumn at Anakeesta event continues through Oct. 31 with live music daily, dining and drink specials, Halloween fun, seasonal flowers and fire pits.

Gatlinburg SkyBridge: The longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America stretches 700 feet in a single span. Visitors walk at their own pace to enjoy the sights from 500 feet above Gatlinburg. A 30-foot see-through panel of flooring offers a breathtaking view. Through Oct. 31, a limited number of visitors will be able to board the SkyLift chairs before dawn for sunrise access to the SkyBridge, SkyDeck outdoor seating area and more.

Dollywood: Thousands of pumpkins light up through the park at Great Pumpkin LumiNights, a highlight of the Harvest Festival continuing through Oct. 30. Color zones showcase cornstalks, straw bales, scarecrows and pumpkin trees. Stay at the award-winning DreamMore Resort and Spa onsite or Smoky Mountain cabins. The new HeartSong Lodge and Resort is expected to open in 2023.

Alcatraz East Crime Museum: This two-story attraction in Pigeon Forge will delight crime show fans. Inspired by the famous prison in San Francisco, it includes artifacts and interactive displays. Exhibits include the Bronco from the O.J. Simpson car chase, Al Capone’s rosary and John Dillinger’s car. Serial killer Ted Bundy’s Volkswagen is on display through October 2022.

Other new attractions in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area include a Selfie Hangout, Toy Box Mini Golf, Camp Margarita RV Resort, Axe House, coaster cars at Rowdy Bear Ridge, a toy shop, UTV rentals, Dracula’s souvenir shop and Treehouse Grove at Norton Creek Resort.

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