By Leif Palmer
Posted on January 8, 2019
Between the usual winter road closures and the government shutdown, some parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are inaccessible, and many services like restroom maintenance, trash collection, emergency services and visitor centers are closed until the National Park Service receives full funding again. So while you actually can still travel into the park, officials are telling visitors to exercise caution and to try to leave no trace behind them.
But none of that should prevent you from visiting the Smokies this week. There's still a lot of fun and adventure to be had, so this week, we've got a few suggestions for ways to maximize your winter vacation or getaway to the mountains.
Just drive or take the Aerial Tramway to Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, where winter fun reigns all season long. Take your pic of snow skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing or ice skating, in addition to other attractions like a mountain coaster, scenic chairlift, animal habitat and more. You can also shop and dine onsite.
If you're staying somewhere downtown, like at Bearskin Lodge, you can walk to the Aerial Tramway. Or if you're driving in for the day, there are several Gatlinburg parking lots downtown where you could leave your vehicle for the entire day for one low price.
Many of the Pigeon Forge music theaters are open year round, offering a wide variety of family-friendly entertainment. Pick a dinner show where the meal is included or maybe stop by a Pigeon Forge eatery like Joe's Crab Shack before heading over to your favorite showplace.
You'll find millions and millions of Winterfest lights still shining brightly throughout Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. They'll be up through February, so hop in the car one evening and set out on your own tour of all that shining seasonal beauty.
The outlet malls in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge are always great places to find deals on name-brand merchandise, but many shops have post-holiday sales going on as well. It's a fun way to use some of those gift cards you might have gotten from Santa or to get a really, really early head start on shopping for NEXT Christmas…
Seriously, sometimes, hitting the streets without a plan can lead to adventures and discoveries you might have overlooked if you had just focused on a specific destination. If you're in Gatlinburg, for example, just park the car and start walking up and down the Parkway. Between all the shops, restaurants and attractions, chances are you won't get far before something snags your attention.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in Gatlinburg. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.