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Long Weekend Great Smoky Mountains, March 2014, Gatlinburg

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Mar 26th, 2014, 07:51 AM
  #1
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Long Weekend Great Smoky Mountains, March 2014, Gatlinburg

My husband and I spent a long weekend in Gatlinburg and had a wonderful time. We love the outdoors but we stayed right in Gatlinburg so we got a good dose of the tacky fun available there and Pigeon Forge. We already live in a rural place so being in town was a change of pace for us.

We stayed at the Days Inn Gatlinburg on the River because it was cheap. It met my expectations in that it was clean and safe though very run down in many ways. I'd stay there again, though. It is just outside the main drag of town which was an advantage because it meant we didn't have to deal with traffic to get to our motel and we were close enough to walk to town in the evenings (we are big walkers, but there is also a trolly stop just outside the place if you aren't). There's a fridge and microwave in the room and the provided breakfast is limited (no fruit or yogurt) so you might appreciate having a place to store stuff you want for breakfast or dinner leftovers.

Activities

Hiking: Brushy Mountain and Abram Falls

We wanted to do Ramsey's Cascade but it is closed until the end of April to repair a handrail on one of the log bridges. We opted instead for Brushy Mountain and had a beautiful hike of about 12 miles all to ourselves. We loved it. It took us 5 hours with of stops for pics, looking at squirrels (they are different from ours!) and a picnic at the top.

We did Abram Falls the day we drove the Cades Cove loop road and we got started just before 9 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning. The hike is only about 5 miles and easy, plus it ends at the falls so it is very popular. Still, we had the falls to ourselves for about 15 min when we got there. Then there was one small group of 4 who arrived. Once we headed back we could see that it was going to get crowded because the trail had many more people on it.

Dolly's Dixie Stampede Dinner Show www.dixiestampede.com/‎
You can't escape these brochures and we figured we should do something Dolly-related while in the area and chose this. We opted for the premium seats for an extra $5/ticket and felt it was worth it because our seats were terrific. The meal is nothing exciting but they did have a vegetarian pasta, which was nice for me. We were entertained and felt the ticket price was worth it. The trick riding was incredible and we fully embraced the fun of the show and enjoyed ourselves.

Parrot Mountain http://www.parrotmountainandgardens.com/
I went to this because I read about it in another Fodorite's trip report and it sounded like our kind of activity. It was fun to see all the beautiful parrots, and also to feed and hold some. Definitely spring for the cup of nectar to feed the loris--they are really fun and swoop right over to drink from the little cup.

Davy Crockett's Miniature Golf
This is run by Ripley's and it is nothing more than putt-putt golf. We had fun on the slightly more difficult course. I actually won a free game that we didn't use so if someone's heading there soon, top this and maybe we can coordinate me sending you the ticket in the mail or something so it doesn't go to waste.

Artist's Loop http://www.gatlinburgcrafts.com/
Not my favorite. We tried to visit some of these shops on Saturday after our hike. It was well before 5 p.m. when we started and I'd say only about 1/3 of the shops were open. And what there was wasn't particularly appealing. We like local crafts and art but none of these really struck us. And it's annoying to keep getting in and out of the car to browse only to find places closed. We also really wanted to go to Glade's Soda Fountain and it was closed every time we tried. That's the downside of visiting before the tourist season is really in full swing.

Moonshine/Whiskey Tasting http://olesmoky.com/ http://davycrocketts.com/ http://www.sugarlandsdistilling.com/
There are three places to taste in Gatlinburg and we tried all of them, Davy Crockett's Whiskey, Ole Smoky Moonshine, and Sugarlands. Ole Smoky had the best music going in their central area where there were rocking chairs. But the tasting area was too crowded to really enjoy. We liked the atmosphere and taste of Sugarlands best and went back there to do our buying and learned that they just had their store grand opening Friday in Gatlinburg. Davy Crockett's was fine. There are limited tasting/selling hours on Sunday (and actually Sugarlands was entirely closed when we went by there that evening) so check before you go on a Sunday.
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Mar 26th, 2014, 08:06 AM
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Food

Loco Burro http://www.locoburro.com/
Fun Tex Mex food in a really kitschy atmosphere. We had an average Mexican meal here (which is fine--it's rare to be blown away by Mexican food in this area of the USA). The drinks are great and we got to watch a few people give a go on the mechanical burro, which was hilarious.

Best Italian http://www.bestitalian.com/
This was on a list of locally owned and recommended restaurants from one of the places we stopped in the craft loop. What a great rec! While many of the chains downtown had lengthy waits and huge crowds on Saturday night we were able to quickly get a table here. The food was delicious and portions are huge. The list recommended the garlic rolls and they are amazing (how could they not be??!!--they are drenched in butter and garlic and Parmesan cheese!) and they actually came with my meal. The prices seem a little high until you realize how much food you get with your meal. I took home half my veggie lasagna and my husband took home at least half of his enormous calzone. House wine was cheap by the glass, too!

Candy/Fudge/Assorted Junk Food
It's like going to the boardwalk in OC, MD to walk through downtown Gatlinburg--candy stores, fudge shops, mini-golf, pancake houses galore. We stopped in Aunt Mahalia's candy a couple times and I got a slice of fudge, too. My husband had a sausage at the place that I got the stand-out item Fried Oreos. I mocked this food item before I had it. When I got them and there were four (four!) I sneered at who could possibly eat four of such a thing. Who I asked? Me! OMG, I don't actually even like oreo cookies but there was something about the warm gooey monstrosity that set off joy in my little human brain. Yum. However, after eating them I didn't want anything sweet again for days.

The Diner http://www.thediner.biz/
This is actually in Sevierville so we ate here when we left town. The poor waitress was overworked and harried (they must have been short staffed) but the food fit the bill as good diner food. Only wished they had mentioned that they veggie soup was clearly beef stock or beef with veggie as I ordered it and had to let my husband eat it as I am vegetarian.

Oops, forgot an activity...

Gatlinburg Space Needle
Your ticket gets you up twice and it was a really lovely view. Might be nice to go at night. We just went up once during the evening on our ticket. It was pleasant. We've been up a lot of towers/views/buildings. They are usually crowded and unpleasant but there were only five or so other people up there and you can go down whenever you like on an elevator that functions normally (not on a timer or with an attendant or anything).
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Mar 26th, 2014, 08:27 AM
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Glad you had a good time! I love that you had the trails to yourself--at least at times. Our most recent trip was this past September. We rented a cabin on VRBO and loved our accommodations. We hiked nearly every day, but some of the trails were pretty crowded, especially Abrahms Falls. Do try to do the Ramsey's Cascades on a return trip. Go early, preferably on a misty day, as part of the trail is something out of Grimms' Fairy Tales.
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Mar 26th, 2014, 01:06 PM
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We would love to return, and plan on it--will certainly do Ramsey's when we do. Any other favorites?

I also really want to get to the Joyce Kilmer National Forest--have you been there?
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Mar 26th, 2014, 03:22 PM
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I do love Best Italian! So glad you had a good trip. Gatlinburg is totally touristy but it's fun to just embrace it sometimes.

I did the Alum Cave trail for the first time last fall and really enjoyed it (except for the random sleet storm we hit on the way back down - we were unprepared and COLD!). Another thing to add to your list!
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Mar 26th, 2014, 05:14 PM
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We've never been to Joyce Kilmer. On our last trip, we really liked the Charles Bunion, with a side trip to the Jump Off. Great views, and the trail wasn't overly crowded. Plus, the view from the parking lot is pretty cool, especially early in the morning.

We also took a day trip to downtown Knoxville. It was a nice diversion on a rainy day.
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Mar 27th, 2014, 11:15 AM
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What a great trip report! Gatlinburg isn't my favorite place but your report will really help folks planning a trip. You made me laugh with your description of the fried oreos.

"Gatlinburg is totally touristy but it's fun to just embrace it sometimes."
Very true.
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Mar 31st, 2014, 12:09 PM
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Thanks for all the comments and for taking a look at my report, I appreciate it.

A few pics (I try to be sparing): https://sharedonfodors.shutterfly.com/pictures/8
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Mar 31st, 2014, 01:58 PM
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Pretty pics
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Apr 21st, 2014, 06:27 AM
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Topping
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