Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau
In this issue of the Gatlinburg Update, we celebrate 50 years of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! in Gatlinburg, profile four Gatlinburg unique meeting and dining venues in our “Breakout Spotlight”, and Anakeesta adding AnaVista Tower and a new restaurant to their ever growing attraction.

The welcoming back of events to the Gatlinburg Convention Center continues with upcoming sporting events, meetings, groups, tradeshows, and crafts fairs. Also included in this edition is the proactive efforts regarding sanitation and safety protocols the convention center and F&B catering staff is undertaking in preparing for all upcoming events.
Gatlinburg at a Glance

  • Convention Center: (148,000 square feet of total space)
  • Sleeping Rooms (4,000+ surrounding convention center including full and limited service hotels, condominiums, chalets and cabins)
  • Dining Options: (100+ restaurants, from casual to elegant gourmet establishments with the majority within walking distance to hotels and convention center)
  • Shopping: (500+ shops with 5 malls plus largest Arts & Crafts Community in the U.S.)
  • Attractions: (40+ along with many other entertainment options with the majority within walking distance to hotels and convention center)
  • Rocky Top Sports Complex: (Named top Multi-Use Sports Facility by SportsEvents Magazine) and (Favorite Indoor Venue by Sports Destination Management Magazine)
  • Gatlinburg Golf Course: (Named Best Municipal Golf Course in Tennessee by Golf Digest Magazine)
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Celebrates 50 Years in Gatlinburg

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! opened its doors in downtown Gatlinburg in May of 1970. The Odditorium was an instant sensation and continues its prominence as thousands of visitors come to see its weird and wonderful curiosities. Through the years, the museum has had several new looks, but none as stunning as the striking façade renovation that was completed last year.

What began with founder Robert Ripley’s global trek across 200 countries seeking the world’s strangest oddities has transformed into a legacy of entertaining people with the truly fascinating. “Robert Ripley’s catch phrase “Believe It or Not!” has been a household expression for 100 years”, says Ryan DeSear, Regional Manager, Ripley Entertainment. “Here at Ripley’s Believe It or Not” we are proud of the legacy of bringing top notch family entertainment to our visitors for the last 50 years in Gatlinburg.”

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg near most hotels and is just a five-minute walk from the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
Gatlinburg Convention Center
The Gatlinburg Convention Center has made proactive efforts leading up to all upcoming events regarding sanitation and safety protocols:
  • The Gatlinburg Convention Center has converted all processes in the restrooms to “hands free” including flush valves, soap dispensers, faucets, and hand dryers / dispensers.
  • There are hand sanitizer stations located at the entrances, in each restroom and in conspicuous places throughout the facility like on the columns in the Great Hall.
  • The Gatlinburg Convention Center staff has been re-trained on cleaning procedures with emphasis on germicidal and sanitizer use. The convention center has purchased extra Personal Protective Equipment for the staff, extra bloodborne pathogen kits, and virus prevention supplies.
  • The Gatlinburg Convention Center will continue to maintain all HVAC systems to increased ventilation rates, improve central air filtration, increase the fresh air brought into the building, and reduce the re-circulation of air. HVAC systems have MERV-13 air filters which are utilized in many hospitals.
  • Tennessee Pledge information posters have been posted in the restrooms and common areas to inform the public about the virus and proper hygiene procedures to prevent its spread. 
  • Convention center staff has been trained on what to do if they become sick before or during a shift or if a family member becomes sick.
  • Convention Center staff will have their temperature checked and/or answer questions before the start of each shift.
  • We have a plan in place to isolate a guest that becomes ill inside the facility as we wait for EMS. EMS has been trained to handle possible Covid19 patients.
  • Continuous sanitation throughout the Convention Center has been enhanced and increased in conjunction with the information listed above.
  • Floor stickers and signs will be placed throughout the convention center instructing and reminding attendees to socially distance.
  • Seating for any food court set up, audience, and other seating areas will meet the distancing guideline in place on the day of the event.
  • The convention center has acquired an electrostatic sanitization system that charges the particles causing them to adhere to surfaces for 24 hours. We will “fog” all restrooms that are part of an event daily before a show opens. We will still perform the accelerated restroom cleaning throughout the day. More information at
  • The Gatlinburg Convention Center is currently in the process of becoming GBAC Gold Star Certified. GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council) a division of the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation for facilities. GBAC STAR is the gold standard of prepared facilities. Attached is a document detailing this program and certification.

The Convention Center will meet or exceed the recommendations from the office of the Governor of Tennessee that are in place during all future events held in the Convention Center.

Holston's Kitchen Catering

Holston’s Kitchen Catering Company, the exclusive F&B provider for the Gatlinburg Convention Center, will implement processes and modify its current menu offerings to allow for proper physical distancing and reduce overall person-to-person contact where possible. All team members who prepare or handle food will be required to wear a face covering, gloves, and hairnets/hats while in any food preparation or serving capacity. Protocols are in place for continual handwashing and glove changes.

Plexiglass shields and sneeze guards will be used when and where appropriate for interactions between team members and convention center attendees. Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be available at service workstations. Kitchens will be deep cleaned and disinfected daily, while food preparation stations will be sanitized before and after each use. Hard surfaces are sanitized on a strict two-hour schedule.

Food queuing lines and dining areas will be spaced to allow for proper physical distancing; proper signage also featured. Individually wrapped utensils will be provided and increased levels of service attendants to replace all self-serve food and beverage options (buffets, beverage stations, etc.).
GBAC Star Accreditation
The Gatlinburg Convention Center was one of the first convention centers in the U.S. committed to achieving GBAC STAR accreditation for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention. 
GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council) a division of the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association, is the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation for facilities. GBAC STAR is the gold standard of prepared facilities.

This accreditation will mean that the Gatlinburg Convention Center will have:
  • Established and maintained a cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention program to minimize risks associated with infectious agents like the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
  • The proper cleaning protocols, disinfection techniques, and work practices in place to combat biohazards and infectious disease.
  • Highly skilled cleaning professionals who are trained for outbreak and infectious disease preparation and response.

What will the GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation Mean for the Gatlinburg Convention Center? 
It means that the Gatlinburg Convention Center staff is implementing the industry’s highest standards for cleaning and disinfection of infectious agents like the novel coronavirus. Proper procedures, proper training, chemistry, equipment, tools, and PPE are also instituted and assured. 

What Are the Benefits of Being a GBAC STAR Accredited Facility?
The GBAC STAR Accreditation Program provides third-party validation that the Gatlinburg Convention Center meets a higher level of cleanliness and safety.

Who Determines Accreditation?
The Accreditation Council is the accrediting body to the GBAC STAR Facility Accreditation Program, and the council determines the status of the all GBAC STAR facilities.

What does GBAC Star mean to Gatlinburg Convention Center customers and events:
  • The assurance that the facility has been disinfected to the highest standards
  • Renewed trust in building cleanliness and safety
  • Increased confidence to enter and feel comfortable inside the facility
Peace of mind that proper cleaning is an ongoing management priority
Gatlinburg Breakout Spotlight Venues
Gatlinburg has no shortages of unique venues for group breakouts and meals. It is an unwritten rule that all meals taste better taking place in a unique venue and even better when there are fantastic views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Luckily for meeting planners, there are no shortages of choices when doing your event in Gatlinburg.
Seasons of Ober, located in the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort and Amusement Park, can accommodate and organize offsite groups for meals and receptions for up to 250 people. A 10-minute aerial cable car from the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg transports you 2.1 miles up to Ober Gatlinburg for the most incredible visual sights to be seen. Seasons of Ober can also be accessed via automobile as well. Private dining space can be reserved for smaller groups or total buyouts.

Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America measuring nearly 700 feet in length with a height of 140 feet at its midpoint, is an incredible but easily attainable experience that provides memories for a lifetime – especially as you cross the glass floor panels in the middle of the span. Gatlinburg SkyBridge offers an observation area, snack shop, bar, and gift shop. It also has a private area room with a balcony that can accommodate groups of up to 150 people. Great for a group reception or meal service and seeing Gatlinburg from a whole new vantage point at thrilling heights of up to 150 feet!

Anakeesta, a 70+ acre treehouse style adventure park, offers access to attendees from Downtown Gatlinburg via chairlifts, closed chair/gondolas or Ridge Rambler rides up to Anakeesta Mountain. The main eatery for Anakeesta is the Cliff Top Bar & Grill which offers 270-degree unobstructed scenic views of the Great Smoky Mountains as well as the city of Gatlinburg.
The restaurant can accommodate private dining for groups up to 100 people in the main dining room area, and full buyouts that utilize the patio for up 300 people are also available.

Ole Red Gatlinburg, Blake Shelton and Ryman Hospitality’s $9 million-dollar multi-level 16,000 square foot entertainment venue with a two-story bar and restaurant, offers unique breakout space with an exterior terrace, performance space, dance floor and retail area. The venue is equipped with state-of-the-art performance equipment and planned programming that includes curated line-ups and performances from up and coming talent. Ole Red offer full restaurant and mezzanine buy out opportunities as well as tour and travel group experiences. Floor plan specifications for private events for level one front of house is 5,070 square feet with 154 seat count and level 2 front of house is 3,948 square feet with 170 seat count.

Things to do in Gatlinburg!
The Mountains are Calling
Anakeesta's AnaVista Tower
Anakeesta continues to grow and expand to provide the best guest experience possible with the opening of AnaVista Tower. AnaVista Tower, downtown Gatlinburg’s highest point with 360-degree mountain views, offers the best photo spot at Anakeesta! This one-of-a-kind structure stands 60 ft. tall overlooking the garden below and providing a bird’s eye view to the entire park!

Opening in September 2020 is Anakeesta’s Smokehouse Restaurant that will seat close to 300 guests who can delight in Southern BBQ favorites. Patrons can enjoy a dining experience in the sky surrounded by fabulous mountain vistas from a glass-enclosed, climate-controlled indoor area or a spacious outdoor patio. The new restaurant will also serve local craft beers at an inside bar and a walk-up window. The Smokehouse Restaurant will be the second restaurant joining Anakeesta’s Cliff Top Bar & Grill.

Anakeesta is a 70+ acre outdoor family theme park in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. The outdoor theme park combines nature, thrill, wonder and more for a one of kind journey. Anakeesta was awarded Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association Best Attraction of the Year Award and the Blue Ridge Country’s “Best of the Mountains,” in 2018.

Gatlinburg Accolades & Testimonials
Gatlinburg CVB
We would love the chance to “update” you on all the new and exciting developments that Gatlinburg has going to ensure that when it comes to your future conventions, meetings and events, Gatlinburg has your event covered!

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This edition of the Gatlinburg Update Quarterly Newsletter is our fourteenth. If you are interested in viewing earlier editions, please follow this link: GCVB Sales Quarterly Newsletter .
Gatlinburg CVB  |  234 Historic Nature Trail
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