High up in the Smoky Mountains, between thick patches of leafy trees and evergreens, lives a herd of horses that spend their days strolling through trails without a thought for the bustle of city life below. Up there, the Jayell Ranch horses carry tour groups along a 4-mile trail, showing them more than 220 acres of trees and mountain views.
In addition to friendly horses and breathtaking vistas, Jayell Ranch also hosts the longest zipline in the Smokies. To get to the launch point, guests board a 2.5-ton military monster truck and ride to the top of the mountain before strapping in and sailing to the bottom, feeling the thrill of life as a flying squirrel.
Edward Krump is looking for help. The paranormal professor wants to perform a complete survey of the reportedly haunted Castle of Chaos, but his limited budget means he will have to do so with the help of amateur volunteers. However, amateur doesn't necessarily mean helpless. Donning 3D glasses, the team will spin on the platform and use special pistols to zap targets throughout, possibly opening up bonus levels or making skulls do that creepy skull laugh.
Zorb Smoky Mountains holds the distinction of being the only Zorb site in the country. Born in New Zealand, Zorb globe riding is a sport that involves an inflatable globe and downhill trips, which may cause riders to roll so fast they think they are tearing a hole in the time-space continuum. The hills themselves are specially designed for globe riding and feature both straight and zigzagged trails.
Treks through Five Oaks Riding Stables' 70-acre nature park afford riders views of the Great Smoky Mountains and its indigenous mountain wildlife, including wild turkey and white-tailed deer. On 5-mile rides, tourists get glimpses of Mount LeConte, a mountain lake, and the remnants of an old moonshiner's still, which dates back to the days when Americans were only allowed to drink alcohol out of bathtubs.
Dollywood’s Splash Country lives up to its name, with more than 23 rides and attractions that draw their inspiration from the water park’s scenic Smoky Mountains setting. Fire Tower Falls—the park’s tallest and fastest slide ever—exaggerates the steepness of the nearby mountains’ slopes with a 70-foot plunge that barely gives riders time to scream. For a leisurely counterpoint to this free-fall thrill, look no further than the 1,500-foot lazy river, which charts its course through the park’s forested hills.
Though a sense of calm pervades the lazy river, a battle rages not far from its banks. Pirates of all ages fight for the title of captain at the popular Bear Mountain Fire Tower, where they commandeer water cannons and wait for an enormous wooden bucket to dump 1,000 gallons of water from above. Those weary from battle can retreat to the lagoon-style pool at The Cascades, where more than 25 interactive elements include a multitiered waterfall and an active geyser that spews water 20 feet in the air. Lifeguards split their duties between this rocky grotto and Mountain Waves, a 25,000-square-foot wave pool filled with the tears of decommissioned sailors.
Most people associate flying with the sound of whirring engines, intercoms buzzing, and even propellers sputtering into a spin. Wonders of Flight at WonderWorks, however, removes all audible distractions—its helium-filled balloon rises above the trees with nary a hum or vibration. The effect, says the website, is akin to "being on a flying balcony."
A maximum of 30 people can stand on the balloon's circular gondola as it ascends up to 500 feet in the air. After takeoff, passengers are treated to a sprawling view of the Smoky Mountains, as well as a bird's-eye perspective of the upside-down WonderWorks attraction. These 5- to 10-minute flights run throughout the day, permitting riders to snap photos of the scenery as the blue-and-green balloon levitates from its grounded tether. Wonders of Flight also hosts 30-minute wedding experiences, which afford couples ample time to say "I do," and toss a bouquet into a mob of jetpack-wearing bridesmaids.