It was over twenty years ago the last time we drove through Gatlinburg, TN and we didn't stop. It was 4th of July, and the traffic was bumper to bumper and we didn't want to take the time. We always said that we were going to go back some day and that day finally arrived during our recent road trip. You can see why they call them the Smokey Mountains from the above picture.
I don't even know how I would describe Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (they are 7 miles apart). As we pulled into Gatlinburg, there was so much stuff! I felt a little bit like a 10-year-old, excited from all the junk and slightly horrified that they had built layers of buildings in every space that I could see! It was hard to take pictures because there were so many cars, power lines and people. You could take a ride up the mountain (see above), but of course we didn't!
Ripley's seems to own many things in both towns. We saw Ripley's golf, Ripley's farm, Ripley's aquarium...you get the picture. We did not do this either!
I think you can imagine just how much money
one could spend if they happened to take kids along!
We did go watch them make a little Moonshine in the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Distillery and tasting room! Who knew they still made moonshine?
It actually came in the 100 proof regular moonshine and a variety of flavors! I did sample the "lemonade" moonshine. It tasted like fire burning all the way down my throat.
We loved our hotel. I have to say that we travel quite often and this was probably the best moderately priced hotel that we have ever stayed in. We most often stay at Marriott properties, but I read about this Clarion hotel on TripAdvisor and decided to take a chance. We were not at all sorry. Manager Scott Ellis really has a grasp on customer service. The staff is friendly. The lobby always had something to drink available and often cookies as well. I forgot to take a picture of the room with the complimentary massage chairs, but I used them often enough that I actually bruised my back. What a brilliant idea to offer these to guests.
The complimentary "light breakfast" had eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit and all the normal breakfast foods. They also had a chef preparing omelets and pancakes to order and a cappucino machine.
Another idea I had never seen before, tablets with video games posted outside the breakfast room. They are in clear sight of the tables and yet parents could actually eat their meals while the kids played games.
The rooms were spacious and very clean. It is certainly the only place I would stay if I was in that area again. We had a wonderful conversation with Scott during our last breakfast there. He talked to us about his CEO Steve Joyce and his desire to work with each hotel to create a very unique and special experience for the guests. It is certainly working at this location. Good little boys and girls might even go home with a darling stuffed black bear!
Our favorite meal during these couple of days was at The Old Mill shopping area. It is an area with several shops and a few places to eat. We opted to eat in the Old Mill Restaurant for lunch. They had several specials listed for only $9.99. I decided to try what they listed as Catfish served with slaw and hushpuppies. My husband had the Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes. Well, the food started coming and didn't stop!
I didn't even get a picture of the corn chowder that they brought us with our sweet tea to start the meal. As you can see, with my 2 huge pieces of fish I not only got the hushpuppies and slaw, she also brought mashed potatoes and green beans. We had two baskets on the table as well, one with corn fritters and maple butter and the other with homemade biscuits. My meal would have fed our entire family of four! I did not eat it all!
My husband also had more than enough to eat and both of us found our food to taste very much like something our grandmothers would have made.
I wanted to share a few pictures of another hotel that gets high marks in Pigeon Forge. I found it very interesting and the public areas were very well maintained. It is too "busy" for my taste, but if you are really into Christmas-you might like it. It is called The Inn at Christmas Place. It also has an entire Christmas shopping village across the street from the inn.
The decorations were well done and believe me,
they are everywhere. All the pictures
on the walls were of Santa and so on.
Overall, we had fun the two days we spent in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. It was certainly a tourist trap and something kids would love. Two days was the perfect amount of time for us and unlike Asheville, I'm not dying to go back anytime soon but I'm glad that we went. There actually are some lovely art galleries, a great outlet mall and a few upscale restaurants in the area. You simply have to be able to find them among all the t-shirt and fudge shops and all the miniature golf and Titanic exhibits!
Next stop...Lexington, Berea and Louisville, KY!