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Gatlinburg is a mountain resort city in Sevier County, Tennessee, United States. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, Gatlinburg had a population of 3,828. The city is a popular vacation resort, as it rests on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along U.S. Route 441, which connects Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina through the national park.
Gatlinburg is located at 35°43′19″N 83°29′58″W (35.721925, -83.499334). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.1 square miles (26 km2), all land.
Gatlinburg is hemmed in on all sides by high ridges, with the Le Conte and Sugarland Mountain massifs rising to the south, Cove Mountain to the west, Big Ridge to the northeast, and Grapeyard Ridge to the east. The main watershed is the West Fork of the Little Pigeon River, which flows from its source on the slopes of Mount Collins to its junction with the Little Pigeon at Sevierville.
U.S. Route 441 is the main traffic artery in Gatlinburg, running through the center of town from north to south. Along 441, Pigeon Forge is approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) to the north, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (viz, the Sugarlands) is approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) to the south. TN-73 (Little River Road) forks off from 441 in the Sugarlands and heads east for roughly 25 miles (40 km), connecting the Gatlinburg area with Townsend and Blount County. U.S. Route 321 enters Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley to the north before turning east, connecting Gatlinburg with Newport and Cosby.
As of the 2000 census, there were 3,382 people, 1,541 households, and 990 families residing in the city. The population density was 333.4 people per square mile (128.8/km²). There were 3,993 housing units at an average density of 393.7 per square mile (152.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.71 percent White, 0.15 percent African American, 0.56 percent Native American, 1.71 percent Asian, 0.03 percent Pacific Islander, 0.86 percent from other races, and 0.98 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.95 percent of the population.
There were 1,541 households out of which 17.8 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5 percent were married couples living together, 9.0 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7 percent were non-families. 29.7 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.64.
In the city the population was spread out with 14.9 percent under the age of 18, 6.6 percent from 18 to 24, 25.5 percent from 25 to 44, 32.8 percent from 45 to 64, and 20.3 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47 years. For every 100 females there were 97.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,606, and the median income for a family was $40,813. Males had a median income of $24,283 versus $19,250 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,678. 7.1 percent of the population and 5.8 percent of families were below the poverty line. 13.4 percent of those under the age of 18 and 6.7 percent of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
Gatlinburg is an important tourism destination in Tennessee, with many man-made attractions, and it borders the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ober Gatlinburg is the only ski resort in Tennessee. It has eight ski trails and three chair lifts, and is accessible via roads and a gondola from the city strip. The Gatlinburg Trolley, a privately funded public transit system, caters to area tourists.
Another popular attraction is Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies which also features special exhibits covering subjects such as the Titanic, pirates and more recently the planet Mars. Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country, which are both named for Dolly Parton, are amusement parks located in nearby Pigeon Forge.
There is a walk-through haunted house known as the “Mysterious Mansion”. Vincent “Val” Valentine built this attraction in 1980. It is similar to “Old House” at Panama City Beach, Florida’s now-defunct Miracle Strip Amusement Park.
Hollywood Star Cars Museum features Mayberry’s Squad Car, The Beverly Hillbillies jalopy, DRAG-U-LA from The Munsters, Batmobile, Camaro from Charlie’s Angels, General Lee, and Herbie the Love Bug which were designed by George Barris.
A few music and family-oriented theaters make their homes in Gatlinburg as well, including the Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre, which hosts a musical comedy. In recent years, the number of musical shows in Gatlinburg has dwindled with several shows having gone to Pigeon Forge and its many venues.
Gatlinburg also has numbered intersections in the core of the town. The numbers hang from traffic lights or are on signs, and are written on official tourist maps. A similar idea was tried in Niagara Falls, New York after the then-mayor of Niagara Falls visited Gatlinburg and brought the idea back to Niagara Falls, although the idea was short-lived in New York and was scrapped due to budget issues.
During the Christmas season the entire downtown area is decorated with lights. Visitors also benefit from a free shuttle bus that traverses the city every half hour.
Because of the ease of obtaining a marriage license in Tennessee, Gatlinburg is a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons, with over twenty wedding chapels in the town and surrounding areas.