4th of July in Gatlinburg parade

Independence Day is a popular holiday to celebrate in the Smoky Mountains, and Gatlinburg has one of the most exciting parties in the country! With one of the top-rated 4th of July parades in America and a day full of entertainment and activities, this special event in Gatlinburg is a patriotic way to commemorate America’s birthday. 

Plus, Dave Ramsey listed Gatlinburg as one of the “12 Cheapest Places to Travel in 2024!” If you’re planning a summer vacation to the Smoky Mountains, then why not aim for July 4th? 

Here’s a sample itinerary for maximizing the fun while maintaining a budget for Independence Day in Gatlinburg: 

4th of July in Gatlinburg

12:01 am – Gatlinburg’s Annual Fourth of July Midnight Parade

4th of July parade in Gatlinburg
Photo courtesy of Visit Gatlinburg

America’s birthday party officially begins at 12:01 am with Gatlinburg’s Annual Fourth of July Midnight Parade. This award-winning event is one of the top parades in the country, as named by National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Event planners have new and exciting surprises for each year. Learn more about this year’s 4th of July parade here

Spectators will begin marking their spots and setting up chairs earlier in the day to have the best spot for the late night parade. If you’re staying at a hotel in Gatlinburg, then plan to find the best spot nearby. That way, you’ll be close to your room when the parade ends. Guests staying at a condo or cabin in the Smoky Mountains should look for spots near parking areas. The parade route spans from Baskins Creek Bypass on East Parkway to the end of the Parkway in Gatlinburg at traffic light #10. When the parade is over the crowd scatters and it can be hectic, so plan accordingly to make your late night more enjoyable. 

The parade entails a lineup of fabulous floats, most of which are from local businesses like Smoky Mountain attractions. Attending the parade is a fun way to learn about what’s new in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. Onlookers will also enjoy marching bands and performances from community groups. Attending this parade is free and is fun for the whole family. 

Breakfast – Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin

Flapjack's Pancake Cabin in Gatlinburg
Photo courtesy of Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin

Pancakes and the Smoky Mountains go hand-in-hand. It is essential to enjoy a scratch-made breakfast in Gatlinburg of Southern favorites like biscuits and gravy or specialty pancakes. Especially after the late night beforehand, Gatlinburg visitors will be looking for hot coffee and a hearty breakfast. 

Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin offers three locations in Gatlinburg. The local breakfast chain serves yummy meals in a cozy log cabin setting. With large portions and fair pricing, a meal at Flapjack’s Pancake Cabin is easy on the budget. After a breakfast this big, skip lunch and attend the town’s regatta instead. 

11:00 am-2:00 pm – Gatlinburg’s River Raft Regatta

Gatlinburg's River Regatta
Photo courtesy of Visit Gatlinburg

Do you remember the Gatlinburg Duck Race? If you loved that event, then don’t miss Gatlinburg’s River Raft Regatta! Midday on July 4, competitors and spectators will experience one of the most whimsical events in the Smoky Mountains. 

The race begins at 11 am at the former Christ in the Smokies Museum parking area off River Road. This is where participants will drop their unmanned floatables into the Pigeon River. Also, those without a preplanned floatable watercraft can purchase numbered rubber ducks. Both the floatables and ducks will be dropped into the river before racing towards the finish line at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Watch this event for free, or join in for an affordable experience with priceless memories. 

Winners will receive bragging rights and a trophy. Learn more about Gatlinburg’s River Raft Regatta here

6:00-10:00 pm – Tunes & Tales

Tunes and Tales

During the daytime of July 4th, and throughout the entire month of July, the city of Gatlinburg hosts an entertaining special event called Tunes & Tales. During this event, musicians line the Parkway providing Appalachian music. Additionally, dancers perform Southern-inspired dance styles such as clogging. Also, actors depicting local historical figures tell stories of Gatlinburg’s rich heritage. 

Tunes & Tales in Gatlinburg is a free event and a great way to see the city! Walk the Parkway to enjoy all the entertainers. As you stroll, take the mural tour and visit the variety of shops that line the town’s main thoroughfare. Then, stop for dinner at The Melting Pot.

Dinner – The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot
Photo courtesy of The Melting Pot Gatlinburg

Among the best restaurants in Gatlinburg is The Melting Pot, the most interactive meal in the Smokies. With a spread of fruits, vegetables, and confections, guests can indulge in ooey gooey cheeses and melted chocolates. This restaurant is for all ages and any occasion. Kids love The Melting Pot because it’s a unique experience and you can play with your food as you eat it.  Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or stepping outside of the ordinary, a visit here is a thrill for everyone!

Conveniently located on the Parkway between lights #9 and #10, this restaurant offers an elevated dining experience… literally. The windows of the second story Melting Pot offer expansive views of Downtown Gatlinburg.

The Melting Pot will be open until 10 pm on July 4, which is perfect timing to enjoy a leisurely meal before catching the evening’s fireworks show! Make a reservation here and allow plenty of time for as many courses as you wish. Drop in for a chocolate fondue pick-me-up or stay for the Ultimate 5-Course Experience. 

While this is an upscale restaurant, the atmosphere is surprisingly casual, and the value is worth the money. To save money, check the restaurant’s website for promotions. Also, choose the number of courses to fit your budget. 

11:00 pm – Fireworks for the 4th of July in Gatlinburg

Fireworks show in Gatlinburg
Photo courtesy of Visit Gatlinburg

Finish out a fabulous Fourth with Gatlinburg’s fireworks and drone show! Launched from the top of the Space Needle, the fireworks and drones will be visible from any vantage point along the Parkway. However, we think the best viewing point is outside The Melting Pot after a fondue feast! This event is free to attend. 

Upgrade your experience with a VIP viewing of the show from Gatlinburg SkyPark. With the purchase of a VIP ticket, visitors can view Gatlinburg’s fireworks show from the top of the mountain while enjoying after-hours access to the park’s top attractions. Furthermore, VIPs will receive complimentary access to Gatlinburg SkyPark the following day! Learn more about this VIP viewing option here

Celebrate the 4th of July in the Smoky Mountains

Along with these special events in Gatlinburg, neighboring towns also offer patriotic festivities. With so many affordable or free things to do in the Smoky Mountains, this area is a great way to have big-time fun on a small budget. Plus, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free to enter and boasts hiking trails, historical structures, wildlife, and views! Just remember to buy a parking pass

Pigeon Forge’s Patriot Festival includes family-friendly activities, food vendors, live music with a big-name headliner, and fireworks to end the celebration. 

The Tennessee Smokies Baseball team is playing its last year in Kodak, just outside of Sevierville. Before the club moves to Knoxville, catch a game during the July 1-3 home series and take advantage of the patriot celebrations each evening. 

Additionally, many local attractions in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville offer celebratory discounts and events. Follow Your Guide to the Smokies on social media to learn more. Plus, sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains!

Authored in Appalachia || Amy Morton


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