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Great Smoky Mountains Balloon Festival 2024: Experience the Magic

Hot air balloons drifting majestically across the sky is a sight that captures everyone’s imagination. The Great Smoky Mountains Balloon Festival, a beloved annual event, is set to return on August 17, 2024, promising a day filled with wonder, adventure, and unforgettable memories. Set against the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, this festival offers an opportunity to experience our area’s natural beauty from a new perspective.

Event Date and Location

Mark your calendars for August 17, 2024, when the skies over the Smokies will come alive with a display of hot air balloons. The festival will be held at the Townsend Visitors Center in Townsend, Tennessee. Known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” Townsend provides the perfect setting for this enchanting event, offering both stunning scenery and a serene atmosphere​.

Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival - August 2024

Ticket Prices and Entry

Tickets for the Great Smoky Mountains Balloon Festival are affordably priced to ensure that everyone can enjoy this magical experience. General admission tickets are available for $20 per person, with children under the age of 5 admitted free of charge. For those looking to enhance their experience, VIP tickets are offered at $75, providing exclusive access to the VIP area with shaded seating, complimentary refreshments, and prime balloon viewing spots​. Tickets can be purchased online in advance, and it’s advisable to buy early as this popular event often sells out.

The Balloons

One of the main attractions of the festival is, of course, the hot air balloons. This year, over 20 balloons are expected to participate, each one unique in design and color. These giant, floating works of art will fill the sky with a kaleidoscope of hues, creating a visual feast that is sure to leave attendees in awe​. The balloon pilots, hailing from various parts of the country, are seasoned professionals, eager to showcase their skills and share their passion for ballooning with the audience.

The event features several balloon-related activities throughout the day. Morning and evening balloon flights offer attendees the chance to take to the skies and experience the Smoky Mountains from a bird’s-eye view. Tethered balloon rides are also available, providing a taste of flight for those who prefer to stay closer to the ground. The highlight of the day is the spectacular balloon glow at dusk, where the balloons are inflated and illuminated from within, creating a magical display of light and color against the night sky​.

Festival Activities and Entertainment

Beyond the mesmerizing balloons, the Great Smoky Mountains Balloon Festival offers a wide array of activities and entertainment for the whole family. The festival grounds will be filled with live music, featuring performances from local bands and artists throughout the day. A variety of food vendors will be on hand, offering delicious eats ranging from classic festival fare to gourmet treats.

For those interested in arts and crafts, the festival includes an artisan market where local craftsmen and artists showcase their handmade goods. This is the perfect place to pick up a unique souvenir or gift. Children will love the dedicated Kids’ Zone, which features inflatable bounce houses, face painting, and interactive games​.

Nature enthusiasts can take advantage of the festival’s location to explore the natural beauty of the Smokies. Guided hikes and nature walks are scheduled, providing an educational and enjoyable way to experience the area’s diverse flora and fauna. There will also be educational sessions on ballooning, where attendees can learn about the history and science behind these magnificent flying machines​.

Tips for a Great Experience

To make the most of your visit to the Great Smoky Mountains Balloon Festival, here are a few tips:

  1. Arrive Early: Gates open at 6:00 AM for the morning balloon launch. Arriving early ensures you get a good parking spot and prime viewing location.
  2. Bring Essentials: Sunscreen, hats, and comfortable seating like lawn chairs or blankets can enhance your experience. While there will be food and drinks available for purchase, bringing your own water and snacks can be handy.
  3. Dress Appropriately: The weather in August can be quite warm, so lightweight clothing is recommended. However, evenings can get cooler, so having a light jacket or sweater is a good idea.
  4. Capture the Moment: Don’t forget your camera or smartphone to capture the breathtaking sights. The balloon glow, in particular, is a photo opportunity not to be missed.

The Great Smoky Mountains Balloon Festival is more than just an event; it’s an experience that brings people together to celebrate the beauty of flight and the wonder of nature. Whether you’re a seasoned balloon enthusiast or a first-time visitor, this festival offers something for everyone. With its stunning location, diverse activities, and the awe-inspiring sight of colorful balloons filling the sky, the 2024 festival promises to be a highlight of the summer. So, gather your family and friends, and head to Townsend, Tennessee, on August 17, 2024, for a day of unforgettable fun and adventure.

Where to Park in Gatlinburg: Tips from Locals

With our setting at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a great place to live. With our quaint downtown, tons of attractions, and natural scenery, it’s no wonder so many travelers come to visit us.

But with popularity come challenges, one of the most biggest being parking.  During peak tourist seasons it can be a challenge to find a parking spot in downtown Gatlinburg.

Parking Challenges During Peak Tourist Season

Gatlinburg experiences its peak tourist seasons during summer, fall foliage, and the winter holidays. During these times, the number of visitors can make finding convenient parking a chore.

One of the main challenges is the limited availability of free or inexpensive parking. On-street parking is scarce and limited to short durations. Many of the small, privately-owned parking lots fill up quickly, which means visitors have few options other than picking more expensive parking garages or lots.

Geography is part of the problem.  Gatlinburg is built along a narrow valley, which means space is at a premium. As a result, planning ahead and knowing where to park becomes crucial.

Parking in Gatlinburg

Parking Prices

Parking prices in Gatlinburg vary widely depending on the location, proximity to popular attractions, and time of year. During peak seasons, expect to pay premium rates, especially for spots closer to the downtown area. Here’s a general breakdown of what you can expect:

  • On-Street Parking: Rates typically range from $1 to $2 per hour. However, these spots are limited and often have a maximum time limit of 2-4 hours.
  • Public Parking Lots and Garages: Prices range from $5 to $20 per day. The closer the facility is to main attractions, the higher the rate.
  • Private Parking Lots: These can be the most expensive, especially those operated by businesses or hotels, with rates ranging from $10 to $30 per day.

List of Parking Lots, Garages, and Other Parking Areas

To make your visit more convenient, here’s a list of some of the main parking options in Gatlinburg, including addresses, number of spots, and prices where available:

  1. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Garage
    • Address: 88 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: Approximately 550
    • Price: $10 per day
    • Conveniently located near major attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium and downtown shopping areas.
  2. Ober Gatlinburg Parking Garage
    • Address: 1001 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: 750
    • Price: $8-$10 per day
    • Provides easy access to the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.
  3. Reagan Drive Parking Lot
    • Address: 830 River Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: 250
    • Price: $8 per day
    • Located close to the Gatlinburg Convention Center and various dining options.
  4. Gatlinburg Convention Center Parking Garage
    • Address: 234 Historic Nature Trail, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: 300
    • Price: $10 per day
    • Ideal for those attending events at the convention center.
  5. Calhoun’s Village Parking
    • Address: 1004 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: 150
    • Price: $10 per day
    • A great option if you plan to dine or shop at Calhoun’s Village.
  6. Bearskin Parking Garage
    • Address: 125 Cherokee Orchard Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: 300
    • Price: $12 per day
    • Offers proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.
  7. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Parking Lot
    • Address: 900 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: 100
    • Price: $10 per day
    • Convenient for dining at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and exploring nearby shops.
  8. McMahan Parking Garage
    • Address: 600 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
    • Number of Spots: 400
    • Price: $8-$10 per day
    • Centrally located, providing easy access to many of Gatlinburg’s attractions.

Tips for Parking in Gatlinburg

  1. Arrive Early: To secure a spot, especially during peak seasons, aim to arrive early in the morning.
  2. Consider Alternative Transportation: Utilize the Gatlinburg Trolley, which offers a convenient and affordable way to get around town without the hassle of parking.
  3. Check for Real-Time Parking Information: Some parking facilities offer real-time availability updates online or via mobile apps.
  4. Plan Ahead: Research parking options and have a backup plan in case your first choice is full.

Navigating parking in Gatlinburg can be challenging, but with a little planning and knowledge, you can make your visit more enjoyable. By considering the various parking options and prices, and being aware of peak season challenges, you’ll be better prepared to explore all that this charming town has to offer.

Independence Day Parade 2021

Gatlinburg is back in 2021 with the nation’s first Independence Day celebration, starting one minute after midnight of the 3rd, for the 46th Annual Fourth of July Midnight Parade. This mile-long stream of parade entrants will work its way along Parkway this year led by the most perfect Grand Marshal, Gatlinburg’s favorite singer and musician, Miss Emi Sunshine.

Images courtesy of Gatlinburg and Anakeesta


After the Fire, Life in Gatlinburg Gets Back to Normal

All of us here in Gatlinburg appreciate your concern and your prayers during the recent wildfires.   We know many of you were worried about us and concerned about the Smokies.

The fires are past and we’re fine. Please be assured: the Smokies are still great, and we still live in a beautiful area.

The fires burned an estimated 15,000 acres – that’s about 23 square miles. But Sevierville County is almost 600 square miles in size, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is over 800 square miles. Depending on where you drive, you may see little or no evidence of the fire.

Downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are fine, and none of the major attractions were burned. Ober Gatlinburg Ski Area & Amusement Park was unaffected and is open for skiing. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are hosting their annual Winterfest, and we’re looking forward to a great Christmas. The Smokies are back in business.

We did lose some cabins, but nearly 90% of our cabins are untouched by the fire. Immediately after the fires, we either rebooked guests in affected cabins, placing them in a comparable cabin in an unaffected area, or we refunded the guest’s money.

We have over 340 cabins untouched by fire and waiting for you. Come and have a great vacation with us.

Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic and Country Tonite 2016

country-clinicCountry Tonite in Pigeon Forge is supporting Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic during the clinic’s Area County Days 2016 with reduced prices for area locals. The famous Christmas Show is available from November 5 through November 13 at a steal of a ticket price, with kids 12 and under getting in free, and matinees Tuesday-Thursday (November 8-10).

Country Tonite Theatre says it’s “The One Show You Don’t Want To Miss” and we believe it. The Christmas show is especially recognized as stellar entertainment, with dancing, singing, costumes and comedy and extra Christmas characters and sets to give the high-energy show even more zing.