If one of your favorite things about being on vacation is not having to cook meals, you're definitely going to like visiting the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. From Interstate 40's exit 407 on the north end of the county to the southern end of Gatlinburg near the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, our area has hundreds of restaurants to choose from.
Typically, when you think about hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, you first visualize people walking along a rugged path, on their way to or from a scenic destination like a mountaintop or a waterfall. But that's not always the case. Many park visitors are not able to experience trails in the traditional manner because they are confined to a wheelchair or must use a scooter or other wheeled mobility device. And don't forget about younger children riding in strollers. Their parents also want to be able to enjoy the national park's trails and bring their tots along as well.
Schools have been out for weeks. Warm weather has been around for weeks. We're almost three weeks into June. But for those paying attention to the calendar, summer officially arrives this weekend, and with it comes the season of vacation travel. Things are a little different this summer, since many businesses are still adapting to guidelines and protocols in the interest of public safety. That being said, most attractions, shops and restaurants in Gatlinburg are open for business. Right now, it's just a matter of deciding when you're coming to the Smokies and planning the trip that best fits your travel goals.
Gatlinburg is known for packing tons of attractions, restaurants and shops into a fairly small footprint. The city is wedged into a narrow mountain valley, and real estate is at a premium. That's great if you're interested in visiting lots of different businesses when you're vacationing in the Smokies. Pretty much anything you could want to do while you're in town is within walking distance.
Now that safer-at-home restrictions have been relaxed and more and more businesses have begun reopening their doors in the Great Smoky Mountains, we've been seeing a lot of people returning to Gatlinburg as well as Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Remember those drone videos from a month or two ago, the ones that showed deserted streets in downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? Those days are gone, fortunately. From hotels and shops to restaurants and attractions, things are starting to feel a little more like normal, although most businesses still have social-distancing and other safety protocols in place.
Now that Tennessee's Safer At Home restrictions have been lifted, we're starting to see a fair number of visitors returning to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Right now, though, things aren't quite back to normal. For one thing, most of the businesses that have reopened are hotels and motels (including Bearskin Lodge, Old Creek Lodge and The Lodge at Five Oaks), restaurants and shops. Only a small number of attractions have reopened; those aren't expected to be up and running again until the end of May.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has set out plans for state businesses to start reopening on May 1. Until then, however, restaurants in the Smokies are still operating on a drive-through, carryout, curbside pick-up or delivery basis only. For now, that's still good news for those living, working or visiting the Smokies on some level. Cooking at home can be less expensive and good for you, but let's face it; there are some days, you just don't want to mess with preparing a meal. And if you're visiting from out of town, unless you're staying in a rental property with kitchen facilities, eating out is sometimes you're only option.
It looks like spring may not be the best time to travel to the Great Smoky Mountains, but chances are looking good that life may be back to normal in time for the summer vacation season. So while lots of you are staying put at home for the time being, consider this a great time to look ahead and dream of things to come a few months down the road. This week, we'll highlight five events scheduled to take place in the Smokies this summer. You may even want to do some early planning, if for no other reason than to do something that feels normal.
If you're like most of us right now, you've been spending a lot of time at home. We know lots of folks have been taking advantage of all that inside time to do some productive things, like cleaning, organizing and taking on long-neglected household tasks and projects. Here's another suggestion for a way to pass the time that's not only productive but also fun: You can start making plans for a summer vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains. With the Internet and a phone at your fingertips, you can not only dream about all the fun things you'll be able to do in just a few months, but you can also take actual steps toward making it all happen.
If your travel plans happen to take you to the Smokies this weekend, you could be among the first people to visit Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge for their 2020 season. In fact, this is their 35th season of providing family fun for all ages, and visitors who go there this year will have some new things to discover.