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.
In case you weren't aware, one of Gatlinburg's oldest downtown attractions has reached new heights lately thanks to several expansions and additions. In 1954, the original Gatlinburg SkyLift began transporting visitors from the Parkway to the top of Crockett Mountain via its scenic chairlift. In case you've never ridden one, they're very similar to the types of lifts used at ski resorts. The top of the lift is located 500 vertical feet up the mountain, and from there, passengers enjoy amazing views of downtown below and the Great Smoky Mountains beyond. The original chairlift machinery is long gone, but the latest lift, built in 2017, takes as many as three passengers per seat up the mountain for a smooth ride to the top.
Winter has its advantages, but there's always something about the arrival of spring that brings smiles to faces and puts a spring in everyone's step (pun intended). You can finally pack away those heavy winter coats and go outside in short sleeves. The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, and all different types of critters are introducing their young ones to the world. You can smell it in the air too, from the wild onions to the cherry blossoms to the (unfortunately) Bradford pear trees.
In our last blog post, we introduced you to a bunch of fun ways to experience Gatlinburg, Tennessee, without having to spend a dime in the process. This time around, we're back with even more thrifty travel tips. Who knows? By the time it's all said and done, you might be able to spend a whole week in Gatlinburg and only pay for your food and a hotel.