In November of 2016 there were wildfires at Smoky Mountain National Park. People lost homes and businesses, portions of the woods were burned, and unfortunately some people even lost their lives. It was a very scary and tragic event that will have repercussions for many years to come.
Photo Credit: WBIR Taken 12/9/16
People who love the area want you to know (whether they are permanent residents, or just visit once in a while) that Gatlinburg and the surrounding area is up and running and as vital as it ever was!! Downtown Gatlinburg wasn’t greatly affected by the fire, neither was Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, or most of the acreage in the park for that matter.
You will see some fire damage, There were homes and forested areas and resorts that suffered great damage. I was there in December 2016 and even then, less than a month after the wildfires, Gatlinburg was up and running strong! Those Tennessee folks sure are resilient! So please – go – visit, set a spell in a rocking chair on a porch. Gatlinburg will be happy to have you!
So I’m here in Gatlinburg for the 4th of July holiday. I’m trying to stay away from the hordes of people who also want to enjoy their time off in this beautiful area. We’ve had a lot of rain the last few days, but now it seems to be done for the evening. And that’s good. Because there is a parade starting in just a few hours…you see Gatlinburg is always the host to the very first July 4th parade in the country. It begins at stoplight #3 at 12:01am. I’m probably going to go.
I’m not a big fan of parades; the crowds, the noise, I’d just as soon have my own party in my backyard with good friends. But, since I’m here I figure I’ll mark this one off my list of interesting things I’ve done.
I looked it up, the parade is one of the top 10 in the country according to National Geographic Traveler Magazine. So I will, I’ll go see it. I’m hoping for no rain, and will try to be patient with the crowd.
Happy Birthday America!
Did you know Dollywood Theme park is only 15 minutes from Gatlinburg, and Southern Serenity, in Pigeon Forge? You can spend a day or two at Dolly’s theme park on your Gatlinburg vacation. If it’s warm enough you can spend all or part of your day at Dollywood’s Splash Country as well. Ticket prices can found here. But I digress – I want to tell you about the parade with an appearance by Dolly Parton herself!
Dolly in the Pigeon Forge parade
That’s right, every year for the last 25 Dolly Parton has a homecoming parade in Pigeon Forge, which also marks the beginning of the Pigeon Forge Springfest celebration
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.
Aerial view of Pigeon Forge
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!
Wilderness Wildlife Week Photos
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!
Ober Gatlinburg is a Gatlinburg destination atop a mountain with family activities and a ski hill. Elevation of the mountain is 2700′ at the base and 3300′ at the top. The mountain and lodge are open year round with all kinds of activities. You can take a tram ride from Main Street Gatlinburg to the lodge at Ober Gatlinburg. This year Ober Gatlinburg celebrates their 50th anniversary!
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)
How much do you know about moonshine in the Smoky Mountains? Did you know that NASCAR was borne from moonshine runners? I don’t claim to be either a NASCAR or Moonshine expert, but I’ve read enough about both of them to understand the connection.
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!