Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains and maybe a few other things
But skip the kitschy souvenir shops and do these things instead…….
So your family has decided to take a weekend trip together and it’s up to you to put it together. No need to panic - I’ve got you covered with a fun itinerary that you can take from a weekend to a week in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. Or just relax. That’s the glory of the mountains. You can just sit and take it all in or you can revel in the midst of it with as much physical activity as you can take.
This particular weekend trip had two babies with us so we were limited to the extent of what you can do with strollers and baby carriers. But we also had a very active 5 year old. So what do you do with one preschooler, 2 babies and 7 adults that like to hike a trail but really don’t want to camp? (I.e would someone please make dinner so we don’t have to work too hard….??)
For this trip we chose to stay in downtown Gatlinburg and try the Holiday Inn Express Gatlinburg Downtown at 322 Historic Nature Trail. A peculiar choice, you think? Of all the hotels, cabins and inns, we would pick this one? But this one has it’s own water park RIGHT INSIDE THE HOTEL! And that’s perfect for the 12 and under crowd. The rooms themselves are a bit industrial and minimalist - but then again, great for the 12 and under crowd. Limited items to chew, break or hurt themselves.
Also at this end of Gatlinburg is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains and the Chimneys picnic area just a few miles away. By the way, Gatlinburg has three entrances to the park from the heart of this town so there’s a variety of trails and picnic areas for you to peruse. We chose Chimneys because the creek at that location is also fun for the adults (on the challenging end) but, in the right location, a few inner spots that the kids can wade. Bring water shoes if you can stand the cool temp of the water but if you can’t, a good pair of tennis shoes are needed! They might not look it, but those rocks are slippery if you decide to climb them - and you will.
Gatlinburg is very walkable everywhere, and this spot is closest to some of my favorite shops. Go to the Nantahala Outdoor Center for your outdoor clothes and shoes if you’ve forgotten anything. They have really good quality items on hand!
Day Activities included…..
-Chimneys Picnic Area
A Drive to Pigeon Forge…..
-A 20 minute drive took us to another spot I had heard was good for kids and that was Wonder Works, an indoor amusement park that turned out to be better for the adults than for our 5 year old. Other than the immersion tunnel (which we ALL enjoyed), it was a bit overwhelming with the noise, sounds and activities. Remember this for school age and up, though. It would be fantastic for them. I killed it at Laser Tag, by the way. Who knew I had this skill? The things you learn about yourself on a family vacation….
-But also while in Pigeon Forge, we made the necessary stop at the Five Oaks Outlet Mall to Michael Kors and Tori Burch. We won’t mention what a 70% off sale does to a couple of people…..but in the meantime, the kids had fun with the kiddie rides!
And for evening activities….
-Mountain Moonshine Tastings are the thing to do. You won’t believe the flavors!
Now on to food…..
-My son, btw, and his wife have always loved Gatlinburg and have done their share of eating in the city. Especially when she was pregnant and trying every pizza in town became THE thing to do. My son, being the loving husband that he is, was happy to oblige (I’m sure the fact that he loves pizza had nothing to do with it). So, as a result, his top pizza recommendations have been thoroughly tested and approved. This particular visit of Pregnant Couple Approved And Certified Pizza was with the Best Italian Cafe & Pizzeria in Elks Plaza. And they also had “spaghetti that was almost as good as Mr. Charlie’s” according to the 5 year old. Mr. Charlie, I hope you’re reading this…. :-)
But if you want more than pizza……
-Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is right in town as well as the Pancake Pantry (cash only restaurant)
-Smoky Mountain Shakes N Dawgs
-Smoky Mountain Brewery
Other Interesting Facts:
-Gatlinburg is the home of the first July 4th parade in the country since it’s done at 12:01 am on July 4th. I was there for it quite a few years ago and had the best time. I think I should go again soon.