There are many great aspects to going on vacation to or just taking a weekend trip to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. There are beautiful mountains, fun attractions and shops galore. But let's be honest here: Another highlight of any getaway is indulging in the local cuisine. Even those who are normally diet- or health-conscious have to loosen the reins when enjoying some time away from home and take a few liberties when it comes to mealtime (and snack time).
Mountains tend to attract people who like doing things in the great outdoors. Great Smoky Mountains National Park itself is one giant playground for those in search of scenic hiking, cycling, picnicking, camping, fishing and more. But it's note the only place to discover outdoor adventure around here.
It's one of the mainstays of the American vacation: playing miniature golf in a tourist town. In that respect, Gatlinburg, Tennessee has never disappointed. Mini golf courses have been a part of the local scene for decades, and these days, there are more choices than ever when it comes to getting that colored golf ball past unique obstacles on its way to the cup.
Since we often talk about the Great Smoky Mountains and their native black bear population, it seemed fitting that we devote at least a little of our bimonthly coverage to the most famous national park bear of them all-at least as far as fictional bears are concerned-Smokey Bear.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has been a tourist attraction for decades, dating all the way back to the early days of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a small charming hamlet tucked away in the folds of the foothills, but over the years, it's grown quite a bit. Today, the town boasts literally hundreds of businesses that cater to tourists, including hotels and motels, restaurants and retail shops.
Let's be honest. In a perfect world, no one would have to ever deal with having to figure our where to park a vehicle. We could simply teleport from place to place or maybe travel in those pneumatic tubes like everyone did on The Jetsons. Of course, we don't live in a fantasy world or a classic cartoon show. Parking is a reality for anyone driving to a vacation destination.
They're planning big things for this summer at Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge. For starters, they're finishing up the final days of the Flower & Food Festival, which has seen the park dressed up in hundreds of thousands of colorful flowers and plants since spring. They've also introduced a lot of new and unique food items for Dollywood guests to nosh on while they're enjoying the rest of the park.
Gatlinburg has long been known for having some of the finest restaurants in the Smokies, and in 2021, we're seeing even more eateries added to that list. Sometimes, it seems there are so many new-restaurant openings that it's hard to keep up with all the names and styles of cuisine. But read on, and we'll give you some thumbnail introductions to just a few of the many food-service businesses that have decided to make Gatlinburg their new home this year.
So you're thinking about spending some time in the Great Smoky Mountains this year. That's a great idea, especially now that folks are looking to get out of the house and do more traveling. One of the first decisions you'll have to make is where you're going to stay. We've devoted this week's blog post to sharing some ideas and suggestions for places you might want to call your vacation home base the next time you come to the Smokies.
If you have a kid who's expressed an interest in becoming a park ranger, we have a suggestion for one way they can take that first step toward achieving that dream: Become a Junior Ranger. This program, offered by the National Park Service, is a great way for kids to get more out of their national park experience and learn a lot about nature in the process.