A Gatlinburg First

Boy and his father watching a parade

When the Fourth of July festivities crop up once again in Tennessee, you'll want a spot downtown. Zoder’s Inn & Suites is perfectly located to give families first-rate access to this most cherished of holiday spectacles, the street parade. Hold onto your hat—this was a Gatlinburg first! 41 years ago this mountain town in eastern Tennessee became the first city in the United States to throw together its painted caravans, clowns, and stilt walkers in the commemoration of the country’s independence. Set your alarms, this march to beat of snare drums and military trumpets begins at the stroke of midnight.

There’s no way of avoiding a parade on this American holiday, but seeing as this one kicks off so early visitors will have plenty of time to see what else Gatlinburg has put together. Better yet, families can catch a ride on the Parkway Trolley, which is free during the summer months and zips right through the heart of town. Start your day with a visit to the Gatlinburg Farmers Market with a variety of healthy local foods on display. It’s open each Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and can be found at 849 Glades Road. Follow up with The Back Porch Concert Series, a melting pot of old-time bluegrass tunes and rockabilly flair.

All these bands will be performing at the Sugarlands Distilling Company, one of Gatlinburg’s top attractions and crafters of moonshine and flavored whiskey. And if a parade by land wasn’t enough there’s the popular River Raft Regatta, one more way to celebrate this holiday with a belly laugh. These "floats" set sail from Little Pigeon River, also accessible from downtown. How else do you finish off a July Fourth celebration? Not with a whimper but a bang, the biggest one all year. Gatlinburg’s 20-minute show of flying fire begins at 10 o’clock and is designated a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Address: Throughout Gatlinburg, TN

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