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How To Plan The Perfect Gatlinburg 4th of July Vacation

The 4th of July is by far one of the most exciting holidays in the United States. We have fireworks, cookouts, musical concerts, and all things patriotic to help honor America’s birthday.

Gatlinburg, TN is the perfect place to celebrate Independence Day! Read our guide below to find out everything you need to plan an incredible Gatlinburg 4th of July vacation.

July 3rd

family in car preparing for Smoky Mountain vacationWe highly recommend that visitors plan on arriving on July 3rd (or earlier). This way you can have an extra day of vacation, as well as avoid a lot of the traffic that usually occurs around holidays. The last thing anyone wants when starting their vacation is to have to sit in traffic after already traveling for a couple of hours in the car.

Not only does arriving on the 3rd give you extra time to spend with your family in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, but it also ensures that you have enough time to relax for a little bit before heading down to the Gatlinburg 4th of July parade at midnight.

Although the Gatlinburg Independence Day Parade technically begins on the morning of the 4th at midnight, we have included it in your itinerary for the 3rd because this is when all the pre-parade festivities are planned.

Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade

Young boy at Gatlinburg 4th of July paradeKnown as the First Independence Day Parade in the Country, you and your family will want to arrive early to make sure that you get the best possible view for the Gatlinburg 4th of July parade. Don’t forget to bring a folding chair or something to sit on in case you snag a front row spot.

Organizers for this Gatlinburg event are expecting upwards of 100,000 attendees this year. This includes locals and visitors to the area, as well as several local service men and women and businesses who are participating in the parade.

The route begins at Baskins Creek Bypass on the East Parkway, turning south onto Parkway at Traffic Light #3 and traveling the length of downtown to traffic light #10 at Ski Mountain Road.

July 4th

Independence Day is here! Once you have caught up on a little sleep after watching the Gatlinburg 4th of July midnight parade, head back downtown to continue the holiday celebration.

Downtown Gatlinburg has two more exciting patriotic-themed events scheduled for the 4th, and they both are the perfect excuse for you and your family to have some fun.

Gatlinburg 4th of July River Regatta

kid celebrating Gatlinburg 4th of JulyThe River Regatta is a race between unmanned ships that float down the river. The beginning of the race is in front of the Gatlinburg attraction Christ in the Smokies on River Road. From there, the ships will work their way through the water before crossing the finish line in front of the Ripley’s Gatlinburg Aquarium.

If you don’t have your own raft, you can join in the fun by renting a rubber deck to enter in the race for just $1. Trophies will be given to the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers in three different categories: Homemade Rafts, Ducks, and Most Creative Float.

Registration begins at 10 a.m. near the starting line, and the race officially begins at noon. It is completely free to enter.


There is a good chunk of time between the River Regatta and fireworks show. You and your group can grab a bite to eat at one of the many delicious lunch restaurants in Gatlinburg and do a little shopping, or head back to your cabin rental and enjoy a freshly prepared meal on your deck.

Gatlinburg 4th of July Fireworks Finale

Gatlinburg 4th of July fireworksIn the evening, you and your group will want to head back toward Traffic Light #3 or Traffic Light #5 for the grand fireworks show.

Guests will stand in awe as organizers with the city of Gatlinburg light up the night sky with a brilliant display of fireworks above the city’s skyline. The Gatlinburg 4th of July fireworks show is so brilliant, it is considered one of the Top 20 events by the Southeast Tourism Society.

The fireworks show begins at 10 p.m.

July 5th

Just because the fireworks shows and parades have all finished, it does not mean that the 4th of July celebration is complete! The 5th is the perfect day for you and your family to get out and explore The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Smoky Mountain Hiking Trailslittle kid hiking in the Smoky Mountains

There are a variety of hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains that range in difficulty ratings from very easy to quite strenuous. To decide which trail is right for your family, be sure read our blog on Smoky Mountain hiking tips.

A few of our favorite trails include:

  • Abrams Falls (5 miles)
  • Chimney Tops (3.8 miles)
  • Laurel Falls (2.3 miles)
  • Mount Leconte/Rainbow Falls (13.8 miles)

Gatlinburg 4th of July Cookout

Gatlinburg 4th of July cookoutWhat is a 4th of July celebration without a family cookout? After you and your group have finished exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, head back to your Gatlinburg cabin rental to enjoy a relaxing barbecue.

Each of our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals come equipped with their own outdoor grill, a full kitchen, and a starter set of dishes and cookware, so you and your family should have everything you need.

July 6th and Beyond

No matter how long you decide to stay in Gatlinburg, you’ll find endless entertainment! For even more great vacation activities, check out our guide to 6 Unique Attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

Gatlinburg Cabins Still Available

Ready to start planning your family’s Gatlinburg 4th of July vacation today? Browse our complete selection of cabins in Gatlinburg!