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.