For a first time visitor, you need to have realistic expectations about a town at the edge of a busy national park.  Gatlinburg is loaded with t shirt shops, junk food vendors, and similar attractions for elementary and teen kids.  For such a small town, traffic is heavy and parking can be a challenge.  Some people love Gatlinburg and return again and again.  Others find Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge to be crowded and unpleasant.  

 If you don't like crowds, Gatlinburg may still be the best place to stay to access the national park.  Gatlinburg provides easy access to the center of the park via Newfound Gap Road, to the quiet Greenbrier area, to Roaring Fork and its historic structures, and to Cades Cove via the 45 minute drive over a winding road.