This morning I woke up, opened the door to let the dog out, and I was greeted by what I think may have been a little bit of Fall air. It may have been wishful thinking manipulated by my pumpkin spice candle I had lit in the kitchen, but regardless the thought of fall was definitely in the forefront of my mind. There is just something about Fall that I love. I love the smells, the clothes, the decor, and just the general time of year.
Every Fall my family tries to take a trip to Tennessee. I have done this since I was a child. It really has become tradition for me. My earliest memory of a vacation was a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. My earliest memory of a ride in a theme park is at Dolly Pardon’s Theme Park- DollyWood, where my sister and I rode a kiddie 18 wheeler ride that went round in circles (thrilling I know).
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION:
There are many great things about visiting the touristy Gatlinburg Tennessee, one of which is LOCATION. When we go we usually stay in Sevierville (right outside of Gatlinburg) When you stay somewhere like Sevierville, Gatlinburg, or Pigeon Forge you are so close to so many great adventure filled cities. Not only are you nestled right in the midst of the beautiful Smokey Mountains, you can get in the car and in just a short drive you can visit Cherokee, North Carolina home of the Cherokee Indians or Asheville, North Carolina home of the Biltmore Estate.
There is one thing for certain about visiting the Gatlinburg area. You will NEVER run out of things to do! One of our favorite things to do of course is DollyWood. One reason we love DollyWood so much is because there is something for EVERYONE! There are thrills, live shows, incredible food, and shopping galore. DollyWood truly celebrates the mountains, the theming is wonderful once you step in the park you are immediately immersed into Appalachian life. It is just as clean as Disney and the service is just as great. You will not regret taking your family. Another favorite of ours is the Aquarium of the Smokies you and your family will LOVE this aquarium. Our children beg to go every visit and we happily comply. This is a very hands on and interactive experience. There are many other attractions such as putt-putt, sky lifts, Ober Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Go-Cart Tracks, and much much more located all throughout the city! If there is something that you want to do, more than likely Gatlinburg will offer it!
StarnesLife Tip: Visit DollyWood in the Fall for short ride lines. Visit in the Summer for short Show lines.
Some of our favorite things to do don’t require any money at all!!! Cade’s Cove happens to be one of our all time favorite parts of vacation and it doesn’t cost us anything other than the cost of gas to drive the loop. If you have never been, Cade’s Cove is an 11 mile scenic mountain valley drive 31 miles outside of Gatlinburg. It has hiking trails, bike trails, as well as many historical sites that are open for touring. While driving the loop you are more than likely going to see a black bear (we’ve seen one the last 2 out of three trips), wild turkey, or deer. One of our favorite things to do is pack a picnic and have lunch in the opening and enjoy the scenery. If you call ahead you can schedule a horse back tour (which is a paid tour). Another favorite thing we love to do is tour the downtown area of Gatlinburg. We love to go down the “strip” and sample the home made taffy and see all of the hand crafted items and stores. While you are in Tennessee one thing you MUST do is EXPLORE. There are so many beautiful creeks that cost absolutely nothing to explore. One of our family’s fondest memories is parking on the side of the rode climbing down into the bed of the creek and simply exploring. There is nothing like feeling that cold mountain water rush over your feet and sitting and hearing the water and seeing the leaves fall.
Something we found on our last trip to Gatlinburg that was absolutely FREE was the BUSH’s Baked Bean Factory. It was a great tour and surprisingly fun. While there we learned how baked beans were made and how the Bush family made their way to Tennessee. During our Tour our kids got to play a game and at the end of the game and tour they got to take a picture with Duke.
There is definitely no shortages in places to stay. I will say Gatlinburg is not my first choice in cities to stay in. It is a bit dated and the hotels are just not great (IN MY OPINION). If you choose to stay in a hotel I would suggest staying in Pigeon Forge or Sevierville, the hotels are newer and nicer. One thing my family has found to be a favorite over the years is renting cabins or vacation homes. Nine times out of ten they are just as affordable and larger and much nicer! Just a few months ago my family and my sisters family rented a HUGE cabin for a week and spent less than what we would have for a hotel and it came with way more room, fire places, pool tables, air hockey table, jacuzzi tubs, a large kitchen, a hot tub, and a view of the mountains that you just can’t get in the middle of the crowded cities. Starneslife suggestion: RENT A CABIN and save some money and reap the benefits.
If you are anything like us Starnes folk, then part of what makes your vacation so great is great food. Well vacationing to the mountains won’t let even the biggest foodie down. A favorite food spot for our family is Dolly Pardon’s Dixie Stampede dinner Show. While there you are fed wonderful food while being entertained by top notch performers and animals. It is a show and food that you are sure to never forget. Another family favorite of ours is JT Hannah’s. We love the decor, ambiance, and family friendly atmosphere. Our kids love drinking out of the big mason jars, what am I sayin’, I LOVE drinking out of the big mason jars. It almost makes you feel like you are moonshiner JT Hannah himself. I do suggest taking a big appetite though, because the portions are HUGE. One place you MUST visit while in Tennessee is The Apple Barn and Cider Mill Restaurant. Our favorite time to eat there is at breakfast. You will NEVER eat a better apple fritter in your life. I swear they lace them with something to make them addictive because as I type this I am craving one right now. As you are seated they serve you an Applebarn Julep which is so tasty! The breakfast there is so stinkin’ delicious you will want to come back at least once a year to eat it! After you eat your tasty meal make sure you tour their general store and shops so you can take a little taste of Tennessee home. Gatlinburg is full of yummy restaurants to choose from, those were just a few of our favorites, so come hungry!
Tennessee is fun in the Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter. There is plenty to do and see. Our family loves to go and make memories together. So regardless of when you go know that Good Ole Rocky Top won’t let you down! Live life to the fullest and Happy Travels!