You will find many attractions in downtown Gatlinburg, but two of the most popular are the Gatlinburg Sky Lift and the Ober Gatlinburg tram. In this post, I’ll compare the two and give you my opinion about the best use for your entertainment dollars.
This downtown Gatlinburg attraction takes riders up 1,800 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain on a ski-lift-type conveyor. Though you get quite high, you are never far from the ground, so the ride feels safe even with kids, though I wouldn’t let them ride without an adult. At the top of the mountain, you are permitted to spend as much time as you wish enjoying the view, getting an ice cream and browsing the gift shop, before starting the return trip down. Photos are also available.
The trip is especially fun at night, because the lights are so beautiful. The lift is open late most nights — until 11 in the summer and 10 in the fall. Hours are more sporadic in the winter months. A fun trip — the kids really enjoyed this one.
- Cost: Adults — $12; Children (3-11) — $9
This attraction, located at stoplight 9 in Gatlinburg, takes up to 120 passengers at a time up in a tram on a wire. There are two cars that balance each other. At the top, you arrive at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort & Amusement Park. Some of the offerings at the top: a full-fledged ski resort, ice skating, gift shops, snack bars, mini golf, a maze, a scenic chairlift, carousel, alpine slide, water rides and a kiddie land. (Check back in a few months for a post on the ski resort — it’s actually decent!) The tram runs until about 9:30 at night. If you want to save money, you can also drive up to Ober Gatlinburg.
- Cost: Adults — $10; older kids (7-11) — $8.50; kids under 7 — FREE!
My Two Cents
If you are trying to decide between the Sky Lift and the Ober Gatlinburg tram, here are a few things to consider. The Sky Lift is a nice ride, with a beautiful view at the top. However, the ride photos are expensive and calling the cheap souvenir stand at the top a gift shop is really overstating things. We had just spent $42 to get the 4 of us to the top of the mountain, so we were determined to stay at the top as long as possible. However, even stretching it out, we were back on the lift in 20 minutes. There just isn’t much to do up there. The tram, on the other hand, only cost us $28.50 (my son is 4), and there is so much to see at the top. After lots of browsing shops and watching ice skaters, we let the kids pick one other thing to do and they decided on the alpine slide, which they LOVED. We adults enjoyed it, too. This cost $7 for the adults (younger kids are free with a paying adult), which took our outing total to $42.50, just 50 cents more than our brief trip to the top of Crockett Mountain on the Sky Lift. But the outing took more than 2 hours by the time we rode the slide and looked at everything around, as opposed to about a half hour. Oh, and the alpine slide ride includes the scenic chairlift ride up the top of the slide. This is worth a decent amount in itself.
My opinion is clear: If you are traveling with small kids, Ober Gatlinburg is a much better deal for you. While the Sky Lift is a worthy attraction, I feel that it is overpriced for what you get. However, if you are rushed for time or just looking for a great view, the Sky Lift may be perfect for you. Or, hey, if you have the money in the entertainment budget, go for both! They are similar, but different enough to warrant separate trips. At any rate — Up, up and away!