There aren’t many places in the world where you can see two bears and half an hour later play miniature golf or visit a cool wax museum. That is exactly the situation in the charming towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. There are all kinds of fun hillbilly happenings in the stunning Smokey Mountains, from tourist activities to picturesque hikes and fascinating historic landmarks.
The Smokey Mountains
The main purpose of my trip was to visit my brother and his wife, kids and grand-kids. They live in Morristown and suggested we spend a couple of days in a cabin in the Smokey Mountains. I had no idea what to expect, but wow, the Smokey Mountains are simply stunning! Our cabin was nestled in the trees of the foothills and we went for a long drive into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park where we saw two black bears. One was in a field full of wildflowers and the other was foraging in the bushes. We drove along bubbling streams of crystal clear water, huge wild blooming rhododendron plants, and stopped at several historical landmarks, including a rustic cabin built in the early 1800s and an old schoolhouse that still had the desks and chalkboard inside! Next to the schoolhouse was a historic cemetery. Many of the brick headstones simply said “infant” along with the last name of the parents. It was a touching tribute to what must have been very difficult times for the pioneers and their families.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one of the cutest little towns I’ve ever seen. It is considered the gateway to the half-million plus acres of Smokey Mountain National Park, which is free to visit. The town itself is very touristy with all kinds of fun to be had. You can choose from zip lining, Hillbilly Golf, moonshine sampling, great restaurants, antique stores, car museums, candy stores and so much more. We decided to do an old-time photo shoot. I’m so glad we did because we had a lot of fun getting into character and will treasure the family photo forever.
Pigeon Forge is a little bigger town about a half hour away from Gatlinburg. It is also filled with all kinds of vacation activities and is where our cabin was located. It is home to DollyWood, Dolly Parton’s theme park. At night, we watched their spectacular display of fireworks from the second story balcony of our cabin.
Hillbilly activities are the central theme of the area and if you just go with it you will have a lot of fun. Make sure you sample the local moonshine! We had a blueberry moonshine cocktail that was quite literally the best cocktail I’ve ever had in my life! It was absolutely delicious! There is also lots of good barbecue to eat and many other fun filled country style activities. Before the weekend was over I found I was talking with a little hillbilly twang and already thinking about my next visit to the area.