So its been over 15 years since I’d been to Gatlinburg, TN; but what a nice getaway place to finally get back to for some relaxation. For those who have never been, Gatlinburg used to be a quaint little mountain town in the middle of Smoky Mountain National Park… and for all intent and purpose the town of Gatlinburg still is. It was roughly a 7 hour drive for us but an easy drive, maybe 3-4 turns in all. The city of Gatlinburg itself frankly hasn’t changed a ton since 15 years ago, just has a lot more tourist trap type stuff in it: airbrushed t-shirts, r/c helicopters, and maybe 900 pancake places since the original pancake house got popular.
We got ourselves a nice little cabin in actual Gatlinburg and that was a perfect getaway, no hustle and bustle of a tourist trap, a few small restaurants nearby, and most importantly its where all the awesome arts and crafts people have been forced to go anyhow. We did however venture out to the now infamous Pigeon Forge, TN, which is only a short few miles away. I wanted to go out there because we learned that New Zealand’s crazy-awesome Zorbing had made its way to the U.S. in Pigeon Forge, and I just had to do that again, and also get some family to try it as well.
15 years ago Pigeon Forge was maybe one “The Track” go-kart place, and Dollywood and maybe 1-2 other fun mini-golf places and some restaurants. Today Pigeon Forge might just be the largest tourist trap in the united states outside of Destin/Pensecola, FL. I counted upwards of 11-12 go kart places, over 20 dinner show places, over 30 mini golf places, literally over 50 pancake places, and also like 30+ zipline places.
Not that those things aren’t fun, but none of those things (save maybe ziplining) have anything to do with why Gatlinburg/PF were originally popular. Its supposed to be about going up in the mountains, doing at least activities you can only do because you are in the mountains, like skiing, alpine slide, camping, rafting, fly fishing, or even some hiking trails (we saw the Cataract Falls, maybe the easiest trail we’ve ever done), or even local-touristy stuff but ones that are unique like going to see glass blowers, jewelry makers, candle makers and wood crafters; but I guess now its about doing whatever activity will placate the standard bored American family who must have things handed to them.
I’m not saying that those things aren’t fun and aren’t even awesome to do, just look at us doing zorbing as an example, but sadly I feel for the people who travel to the new giant hotels in Pigeon Forge or the downtown Gatlinburg Parkway and never venture out any further from the touristy stuff. There are plenty homemade fudge to find and eat, many trails and kayaking, and yes ziplining, to do after you’ve eaten at your choice of pancake place. the Ripley’s additions to Gatlinburg are actually real nice, especially the aquarium. We’ll be back eventually but the more we go the less we’ll probably spend downtown.
Adding pins to the map is always fun, but what is more fun that adding them to a map? How about adding them to a cake!
Many thanks to our friend Valerie who made this awesome cake for a baby shower. Also love that Italy is represented by spaghetti and meatballs I will let China know that The Great Wall was very tasty.