Personally I prefer to spend most of my time in Gatlinburg rather than Pigeon Forge. But if I was here the weekend of this parade I would probably attend.
Pigeon Forge is situated in a large, flat valley of the mountains. This could be a very pretty place, but the retail industry has overrun the area. There are a lot of opportunities to shop, and spend money on carnival-like rides, and shop, and go to the strip mall, and buy one get one free, oh – and did I mention shop? There are a lot of lights and neon, not my cup of tea, but you might like it. If you come to Gatlinburg from the north you have to come in via Pigeon Forge, but just be patient. After stoplight #10 in Pigeon Forge you enter the Foothills Parkway of the Smoky Mountains National Park and it is a beautiful 5 miles to Gatlinburg, and a short ride to the Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.
Gatlinburg Trolley Ride of Lights November 2012 to January 2013
Every year Gatlinburg lights up the night with millions of lights in displays throughout downtown and the surrounding area including Highway 321. There are many different scenes depicted and some even appear to be moving. Kids and adults alike can enjoy the night-time scenery.
Over the past 23 years Gatlinburg has changed their lights from incandescent to LED resulting in a huge electricity savings, over 95%. The amount of electricity now used to power the lights for 120 days previously powered the lights for only three days!
River Road Covered in Lights
The light show runs every year from early November to the last day of February. You can drive the Gatlinburg area yourself to see the lights. We like to take the Trolley which is available right next to the Ripley’s Aquarium at traffic light #5. This season the Trolley Ride of Lights will run until January 26, 2013. For $5 you can hop on the Trolley and a local resident storyteller will fill you in on the history of Gatlinburg. It is a fun and fascinating ride, and I recommend it!
I got an online newsletter from Jim Eastin at “Taking Better Photos” which reminded me of the Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge, just up the road from Gatlinburg. This event takes place at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center. All lectures and seminars are FREE to the public. Jim Eastin will be teaching classes there on January 12th and 17th. In addition to classes there are organized hikes and field trips as well. There is even a photo contest for you amateur photographers.
What a wonderful way to take a mid-winter vacation with the family! We haven’t attended yet but it is on my bucket list to get to some of these interesting lectures about the area. You can view the Class List to see the subjects and find out who is presenting, or pack your lunch and head out with the group on an organized hike. There is a wide array of subjects from photography to snakes to fly fishing to music. A bit of everything for everyone including classes for kids. Sounds fun!
In the fall Oktoberfest is the event to see and do at Ober Gatlinburg. They have free music daily, serve German food and steins of German beer, the men are in lederhosen, there is German music and dancing, accordions cow bells, and just a fun atmosphere. We’ve been to Oktoberfest the past three years and I am sure we’ll be attending again. The hubby really likes the German food, and the pints of beer aren’t too bad either!
Admission to the lodge is free, but on occasion we had to pay to park, it was about five bucks. And you don’t want to miss the Bavarian Fun Band’s rendition of the beautiful and tranquil song Edelweiss played on cow bells!
Also the view from the lodge is quite spectacular in autumn. Take the tram or drive your car, either way you’ll enjoy what Ober Gatlinburg has to offer once you’re on top of the mountain.
Ober Gatlinburg aerial tramway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Apparently the hills of Tennessee and North Carolina were home to many moonshiners. The mountains provided a refuge that was difficult for law enforcement to maneuver, but easy for the shiners to navigate to transport their corn whiskey. As the cops got better at finding and chasing the shiners, the shiners souped up their cars to outrun the law. Read about Moonshine Runners & Cars for stories right from the runners and their relatives.
So when you visit Gatlinburg make a stop at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in downtown Gatlinburg where you can read all about the history of moon-shining in Tennessee and the surrounding mountains, and have samples of moonshine. But be sure to bring a designated driver!
There is an art school in downtown Gatlinburg, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. The school is located on the parkway at stop light #5, on the left. The school curriculum provides in -residence workshops one to two weeks in length, and night classes in the cold winter months. I’ve not taken any of the courses but I will if I ever get to retire in Tennessee as planned!
The main entrance to the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts along the Parkway in the U.S. city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We’ve been to Arrowmont for a fundraising event. Every fall they host the “Souper Bowl” to raise funds for the school. For 25 bucks we got to pick a hand crafted bowl from a table of student designs and could fill it up as many times as we wanted with homemade soups and breads. We sat on rickety old chairs at long cafeteria tables with people we didn’t know, and had a really great time. We got there a bit late but had pre-purchased tickets so we weren’t concerned about securing a spot. Apparently there is a line out the door an hour before they open to make sure the best bowl is available for the picking!
Labor Day weekend is also eventful at Arrowmont. This year is the 8th Annual Gatlinburg Fine Arts Festival at Arrowmont, August 31 to September 2nd. Admission is free and there is ample room on the campus for the artists to display their wares and mountain musicians to entertain. There will be demonstrations and an area for the kids to express their inner artist.