Once upon a time, there was a period in the Smokies that people used to refer to as the “off season.” It was a dark time when businesses closed for the winter, and visitation to towns like Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville all but dried up. However, that's not true any more. Nowadays, there are still lots of reasons to come to places like Gatlinburg in January and February, and this week, we'll run just a few of them by you for your consideration.
Where do you plan to be on December 31 to ring in 2020? For some, staying at home to watch the Times Square ball drop on TV is the way to go, while others don't even stay awake long enough to see midnight. But if you're the type that likes to get out and celebrate on New Year's Eve, we have just the ticket for you.
Baby, it's cold outside. That means walking around town isn't quite as fun as it is in warmer weather – unless you're bundled up like Randy in A Christmas Story. Thankfully, visitors to the city of Gatlinburg have access to an awesome trolley system that will get them most places they'd want to go around town. Pay 50 cents to a dollar for one-way fares or buy a trolley pass and ride anywhere you want, all day, for only $2 per person. Here's a quick overview of your options.
Thanks to a recent spell of cooler temperatures and rain, the colors are really rebounding in the Great Smoky Mountains, which means if you were hoping to catch the fall foliage this year, this would be a great time to come to Gatlinburg. We're seeing reds and oranges in the higher elevations, while the greens are just starting to turn in the lower elevations. There's more than a 5,000-foot range of elevation around here as well as more than 100 species of trees, so the conditions are ideal for a kaleidoscopic experience in the mountains this year. Right now, sugar maples, scarlet oaks, sweetgums, red maples and hickories are among the varieties of trees showing the most color.
Halloween's a little over a week away, but if you haven't made your plans for celebrating it yet, it's not too late, especially if you're going to be in the Smokies. Between now and the 31st, our communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are offering all types of spooky events that will help you get into the SPIRIT of the holiday. Need a few ideas? Read on…
If you're a fan of arts and crafts, October promises to be just the month for you. It's crafts season in the Great Smoky Mountains, and if you happen to be planning to travel to Gatlinburg this month, there's one special event you might want to mark on your calendar. The 44th Annual Gatlinburg Craftsmen's Fair comes to the Gatlinburg Convention Center October 10 through 27.
Yep, it still feels like summer out there, and there's still a few days left before the official beginning of fall. But those crispy days and turning leaves will be here before you know it. And the folks in the Great Smoky Mountains aren't waiting. In fact, Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival kicked off on September 6, and it will run through November 22.
Gatlinburg has a lot going for it when it comes to attracting visitors – tons of cool attractions, shops and restaurants – and it's all sweetened by the backdrop of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains. Plus the city is on the doorstep of Great Smoky Mountains National Park itself.
On your next trip to Gatlinburg, TN, seriously consider making the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community a part of your travel plans. This eight-mile loop, located on the north end of Gatlinburg, is home to dozens of galleries, studios and shops, where hundreds of talented artisans practice their skills daily and offer a wide range of arts and crafts for sale to the public. The community is known for its hand-crafted work, including leather work, woodworking, painting, sculpture, photography, basketry, jewelry making, soap making, candle making and pottery just to name a few.
In case you weren't aware, Gatlinburg hosts the earliest Fourth of July parade in the nation each year. In fact, it steps off just after midnight on the 4th (the evening of the 3rd), so it's hard to make it any earlier and still be on Independence Day.
Interested in finding a way to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains and have a blast while you're doing it? Then consider visiting Anakeesta theme park in downtown Gatlinburg. It's handy to get to, but once you're up on the mountain, you may feel like you're a million miles away, surrounded by mature timberland and awesome views of the nearby Great Smoky Mountains.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in downtown Gatlinburg has been around for about 20 years now. And it's still one of the top tourist attractions in the Smokies, providing guests of all ages with a fascinating underwater look at the mysterious realm of the world's oceans. The aquarium's self-guided tour takes you through multiple themed exhibit areas where you'll see everything from octopi to barracuda to eels. You can actually pet stingrays and even take a journey through the see-through tunnel running under Shark Lagoon, possibly coming face to face with several species of these intimidating predators of the sea.
It's hard to believe, but it's already time to go swimming in the Smokies! We're coming up on Memorial Day weekend, and the temps are well up into the 80s, so the conditions are just right for Smoky Mountain visitors to get their splash on. And as of last weekend, one of the area's most fun places to get wet has opened its gates for its 19th season.
One of the best (and most beautiful) aspects of springtime in the Great Smoky Mountains is the emergence of the many species of wildflowers that call our area home. It's a phenomenon that attracts visitors from all over the world as they venture into the national park – often with cameras or binoculars in hand – to hit the trail in search of spring's multicolored blooms.
Between cool attractions, entertaining shows, unique shops and restaurants by the score, there's already so much to do in Gatlinburg, it's enough to make your head spin. And if that weren't enough, you'll also find a full calendar of special events taking place in the city throughout the year.
Millions of people come from all over the world to visit the Great Smoky Mountains each year. They shop, they play, they hike, they sightsee. And three times a day, on average, they eat. Fortunately, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are home to dozens and dozens of restaurants, a wide range of eateries that's geared to accommodate virtually every cuisine preference and every budget.
It looks like we've been experiencing some true East Tennessee weather lately. Freezing temperatures and snow one week, and then highs in the 70s just a week later. And in the middle of winter, no less! We're hearing that these pleasant days aren't here to stay, unfortunately; another cold snap is on its way. But for this week at least, let's make the most of it and find some ways to have some fun – and adventure – in the great outdoors, especially if you might be visiting the Great Smoky Mountains this week.
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.
Are you looking for the most happening place to ring in the new year in the Great Smoky Mountains? Then you'll need to head to downtown Gatlinburg on December 31 (or earlier) for that city's annual New Year's Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks Show. It takes place every year at the Gatlinburg Space Needle attraction, located at the intersection of Parkway and Historic Nature Trail.
The holiday season is always a magical time of year, and that's especially true if you're visiting downtown Gatlinburg, TN. Our cozy little mountain village isn't a big town by any stretch of the imagination, but we sure do pack a lot of fun into a small area. So here are just a few suggestions for some cool ways to get into a real Christmas-y mood this year.
Do you hear that ticking? It's the sound of time passing, bringing Christmas Day closer and closer. That may not be not such good news, however, if you've hardly put a dent in your Christmas shopping. One great way to remedy that situation would be to attend the Great Smoky Christmas Arts & Crafts Show, which runs now through this Sunday at The Gatlinburg Convention Center.
Winter doesn't officially arrive until December 21, but as far as the folks in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are concerned, that season might as well already be here. That's because these communities have already kicked off Winterfest in the Smokies, the annual festival that celebrates Christmas, the new year and everything that's great about winter in the mountains.
Folks have been coming from all over the world to see the Great Smoky Mountains since the early decades of the 20th century. The formation of the national park made this area an even more popular destination. But did you know that besides the mountains themselves, arts and crafts became the foundation for what is pretty much the oldest tourism industry around here?
If you missed traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains this summer, there's still plenty of year left to take advantage of all the beauty and adventure that our area has to offer. And now that fall is just about officially here, there's even more going on around here thanks to Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival, which got under way on November 7.
One of our favorite holidays is coming up – one that exists solely for the purpose of enjoying an extra day off from work. Labor Day is September 3 this year, and for a lot of you, that means a bonus free day or possibly even a three-day weekend.
Kids throughout the country are heading back to the classroom, and within a couple of weeks, there will hardly be a school system within a day's drive of the Great Smoky Mountains that won't be back to school. For parents who have been tending to restless, squabbling kids during these last few weeks of summer break, the return to the school-year routine is a welcome event.
In addition to the mountains themselves, one of the top reasons that people visit the Smokies region is the abundance of arts and crafts. It makes sense when you consider that the natural proliferation of arts and crafts was partially responsible for helping launch the tourism industry here in the first place.
Most of us can probably agree that sitting in traffic behind the wheel of a car is everyone's least favorite thing to do when visiting the Smokies. But this week, we've got a great tip for helping you avoid doing just that. From June 16 through August 15, the city of Gatlinburg will be offering free trolley service along the Parkway downtown.
There are lots of places you can go to have a good time when you're visiting Gatlinburg, but one brand name has a reputation around here for offering more than one way to find family fun in the Smokies. Ripley Entertainment has had a presence in Gatlinburg for decades, and while you may know them best for a certain little downtown aquarium, you may be surprised to learn about everything the company has to offer Smoky Mountain visitors.
One of the hallmarks of spring in the Great Smoky Mountains is the annual emergence of wildflowers and other vegetation in the national park and surrounding areas. It's a time when new life springs from the ground, bursting onto the scene in a brilliant array of colors and shapes.
The Five Oaks area of Sevierville has long been known for being a fantastic outlet mall destination. But did you know it's also a great place to visit for families in search of fun times in the great outdoors? That's exactly what you'll find if you check out everything they have to offer at Five Oaks Adventure Park, located on the Parkway in Sevierville, not far from the Tanger Outlet center, at traffic marker number 13.1.
Let's face it: Spending time behind the wheel of a car is not everyone's idea of a great way to spend vacation time. Why sit stuck in traffic when you can be out doing all the fun stuff that you and the family had planned to do in the first place, right?
Headed to the Smokies this weekend? If so, here are our suggestions for a few cool, fun things you might want to look into. Even if you weren't planning to come to the mountains, maybe these ideas will change your mind:
What is it about winter that makes us want to eat more? I guess it's something hard-wired into our brains that instinctively makes us want to fatten up so we can stay warm during the cold weather. Oh well, if it's part of our nature to eat more in winter, who are we to argue, right?
Have you made plans yet for this New Year's Eve? If not, we've got a great idea for ringing in 2018 that doesn't involve traveling to Times Square in New York City. Here in the Smokies, we have our own ball drop event that's turned into quite a celebration when it comes to ushering in the new year. The city's New Year's Eve Ball Drop and Fireworks Show takes place this Sunday evening, December 31, and it promises to welcome 2018 with a bang – literally.
There's less than two weeks until Christmas Day, which means a lot of you are probably starting to get a little panicky about all that shopping you haven't quite gotten around to yet. Or maybe you have an office holiday party to plan. Or maybe your neighbors are complaining because all the Christmas light displays in your yard are so bright they're keeping them up at night.
There are lots of ways to get into the spirit of the Christmas season, but none may be more pure or authentic than attending a good old-fashioned small-town Christmas parade. If that's your cup of holiday tea and you happen to be visiting the Smokies this week, then you might want to mark your calendars for a parade you won't soon forget.