Six years worth of trips to Gatlinburg, and finally, my son and I made our very first visit to Ober Gatlinburg. Even though it is billed as a ski resort, it provides guests with enough activities to keep the good times going when the temperatures rise in the summer. We found this to be true in the fifteen minutes we spent walking around after we reached the top. Before that, however, we had to endure the very thing that gave us reservations from the get-go.
The easiest way to Ober Gatlinburg is via the tram that transports you from the Parkway up to around 3,000 feet above sea level. It is a 10-minute ride that takes you 2.1 miles up to the Ober Amusement Park and ski area. We were the first group to enter the tram for the day, so it wasn’t jam-packed. The Sevier, Cocke, and Jefferson County Days were offering local residents and employees Premium Wristbands for $3 at the top—a fantastic deal if you see what it normally cost—so it may have been a tad busier for a weekday. I had gotten over my fears and was looking forward to the ride, but my son had not. As it turned out, he did just fine managing to not sit down and actually enjoyed some of the views with me—which are amazing I might add.
At the top, we went to guest services where we were given our wristbands, meaning we were ready to tackle all the activities it included—well, almost all of them anyways. One of the first things we did was walk outside for the outdoor portion of our fun. Well, when we saw the chairlift, we both knew that it just wasn’t going to be us getting on them. I did some research on Ober prior to going, but I never realized how intimidating it would look to us up there. We are not particularly afraid of heights, but sitting in a chair with our legs dangling out is just too much for us being that high off the ground, so we weren’t brave enough to see the incredible views that can be seen by riders. That really disappointed us, because that meant we couldn’t ride the alpine slide either—which can only be ridden after a trip up on the chair lift.
We shrugged this off knowing that there was plenty of other things to do. We were told that there was a chance of rain in the afternoon so we did some other outdoor activities instead. Mini golf is a real favorite of my son’s, and he spanked me in Ober Gatlinburg’s version. This was revenge for me beating him twice in Mini Golf in downtown Gatlinburg. We then made our way over to the Amaze’N Maze. Here, you’re given a card with the letters M-A-Z-E on it, and you need to go through this maze and find each letter and stamp it with the hole puncher at each location. It took us probably 10 minutes to find the first letter, and despite doing the maze together, it took us 20 minutes to finish, but it was a lot of fun.
I initially told my son, Zac, that I didn’t want to ice skate, but I changed my mind before we got on the tram that morning. As it turned out, I don’t think I did terribly bad. Now Zac, on the other hand, seemed to be quite the natural. He stepped on the ice and barely even needed the side rails before he took off to the middle. He is used to roller blading, so I believe this worked to his advantage even on narrow ice blades. He received compliments from the employee working the rink and from another younger boy who told him he was “a really good skater.” I think we spent a good 45 minutes out on the rink, as I had to call it quits because my legs were a bit sore from trying to balance—but at least I didn’t fall once, despite a few close calls.
Next on the agenda was the Wildlife Encounter. There were snakes, owls, bobcats, eagles, turtles, sea otters, and of course, no trip to East Tennessee seems complete without seeing either a souvenir of a black bear—or one in real life. I believe there were six of them total in their replicated environment. A few became a bit active for a brief time, but the others minded their own business by either lounging around or taking a drink from their water. Even cooler were the sea otters that we stuck around long enough to see get fed mushrooms by an employee. It’s funny watching them get on their hind feet when they know food is about to be hurled in their direction. This was also worth doing, and I highly recommend you check this out too since there are educational facts located in the exhibits too.
The rest of our time at Ober Gatlinburg was spent browsing through the various retail shops located inside—or staring hungrily at some of the fudge displayed at the candy shop. We ate pretty light because we had plans to meet back at the hotel and go out for dinner at one of the many tasty restaurant options in Gatlinburg. We were a bit bummed we didn’t take advantage of ALL the options our wristbands provided us with, but we left with a very positive experience. We had tons of fun, and we won’t soon forget our experience at Ober Gatlinburg. Next time maybe we can get over our fear of chair lifts and benefit from the views and extra fun we unfortunately missed.
For a full list of activities at Ober Gatlinburg, check out their website and be sure to make MobileBrochure your research point for your Smoky Mountain vacation. Hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure, and don’t be afraid to let me know in the comments what you thought about this post.
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