Must-do List for a Gatlinburg Visit

I’ve got three different groups of friends visiting Southern Serenity in Gatlinburg in the next few months. None of them know each other. And yet each of them asked me what to do and see when they visit. I could go on and on about things to do, places to visit, food to eat and hikes to take. But instead I’m going to mostly leave it to them to find out what suits them best.

Having said that I did create a list which I texted to each of them. I sort of ‘distilled’ down my list of things to do. If you are going to visit Gatlinburg and you’re probably only going to do this once, and you’ve got 4-6 days, what would I tell you to be sure to do?

Well here’s the list, and it is in preferential order. Having said that, know that some of these will depend on who you are travelling with; very little people, older people who don’t walk much, young and energetic people. So I guess here’s the list – depending…

  1. Sugarland Visitors Center – start here. Ask the Rangers about hikes if you want to do them. Also there are often programs in the park, and they change weekly, ask about those too.
  2. Sugarland Visitors Center Movie – The movie plays every 30 minutes and lasts for 20 minutes, and it’s worth every penny. Especially since it’s free! Well worth the time – I’ve seen it numerous times and always learn something. Gives you a flavor for the history of the mountains and it’s people, wildlife are showcased and flora and fauna are discussed.
  3. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – a favorite of ours!! My husband and I would drive this multiple times on each trip when we were in Gatlinburg. It is just beautiful with lots of windy roads and a few stops to soak in the mountain views. I even saw bear on this loop one spring. I feel like this is a gem that is not well-known, so Shhhh don’t tell anybody.
  4. Newfound Gap – Highest point in the park you will get to by car. You can stand in both Tennessee and North Carolina at the same time. A thrill for any schoolkid – and others as well. This is where FDR made his dedication speech when the park was opened. On a clear day you can see for over 20 miles.
  5. Glades Road/Arts & Crafts Community – This is an 8-mile loop with individual shops of all kinds. There are many talented artists on this loop so make sure to stop at some of the places that look a bit rustic – you never know what you’ll find inside. My favorites are Alewine Pottery and Paul Murray gallery.
  6. Hikes – Trillium Gap Trail is my favorite hike in the park because it is relatively easy and follows the river almost all the way to Grotto Falls, where you can walk behind the waterfall – very cool! Another favorite is a handicap accessible trail just south of Sugarland Visitors Center. The trail is paved, relatively flat, 1/4 mile loop with seats along the way, has old structures and plant information, and is right next to the river. I like this trail for any level hiker.
  7. Groceries – If you’re staying at Southern Serenity go to Food City. It’s a few miles away and has everything you’ll need for your stay. They also have small packaged items because of the amount of tourists that shop there.
  8. Dinner Shows – I’ve only been to one, Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge. It was great fun and an interesting experience. Watch the show in the horse arena while you are served the same food everyone else is eating. No menu so no choices to make.
  9. Where to Eat? – For really good homemade family-style food we like Mama’s Farmhouse in Pigeon Forge. The menu varies based on the day of the week and time of day. But again, you’ll be eating what everyone else is eating, and as much of it as you like. Be sure to have the Banana Pudding. Now my mouth is watering! Another EXCELLENT place to eat in Pigeon Forge is The Old Mill Cafe and Grille. All the food is made from scratch, and it tastes like it!
  10. Pancakes – This is a must-do when you’re in the area. There are lots and lots of pancake houses, you can go to any of them and get pretty good ‘cakes. Of course we have our favorites because of the variety of options and quality of food and service; The Pancake Pantry was Ken’s favorite, I prefer The Log Cabin Pancake House, and usually have the Bananas Foster pancakes.

So there you have it – my distilled list of things to do in Gatlinburg. This should keep you busy for a few days.

Oh, and the Ultimate MUST DO when you are visiting Southern Serenity? Set a spell in the Rocking Chairs on the front porch and listen to the waterfall. It’s a great place to drink some sweet tea, rest yer legs and read a book on a sunny afternoon!4647820429

Smoky Mountain Area Wineries

We’ll be in Gatlinburg soon for yet another vacation week – and as usual I can’t wait! One of our favorite things to do when we travel is visit local wineries, and of course experience a tasting and hopefully buy a bottle or two of wine.

When people consider vacationing near Smoky Mountain National Park I don’t think the first thing that comes to mind are wineries.But there are a few in the area and we’ve been to two in Gatlinburg.

Smoky Mountain Winery

We visited Smoky Mountain Winery a few years ago and as I remember they didn’t have a lot of wines made from local grapes, which is why we like to visit local wineries. We bought a bottle of wine, but weren’t very impressed so we haven’t been back. You may like it though. Check out what others have to say about Smoky Mountain Winery on Trip Advisor.

Sugarland Cellars

Sugarland Cellars

Our favorite winery in Gatlinburg is Sugarland Cellars. They are right downtown, just north of stoplight #10 on the right side. They are new to downtown and have a beautiful new facility where they make the wine, bottle it, offer samplings, and of course sell wine! They also have a large parking lot for guests which is a bonus in downtown Gatlinburg. We’ve been there on every trip we’ve taken since they opened, a tradition I think needs to continue! We will be going again at the end of the month and taking others with us as we’ve done in the past. Should be fun.

There are other wineries in the area to visit, some in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. We’ve not been to any of those, but probably will venture to some of them in the future.

Moonshine in the Smoky Mountains

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!

Creekside Log Furniture Store

We LOVE to visit Creekside Furniture, and do so almost every time we are in Gatlinburg.  You’ll find them east on Hwy.321 in Gatlinburg at traffic light 3A.  Brandy and Tim own the store, make beautiful custom log furniture, and are really nice people to boot! We discovered this place quite by accident.

Black Walnut Larry

Although they have a few pieces on display there is no fancy showroom or big gawdy sign, but they make great furniture or they can outfit your cabin with log woodwork, cabinets, railings, or anything else you can think of.  Custom furniture designs are their specialty it seems.  Here’s a video with their showroom and some furniture items.

We have gotten a black walnut carved wood spirit from them (named him Larry), walking sticks, and are soon to install a custom made black walnut fireplace mantle.Brandy and Tim also create beautiful stone showers and bathrooms.  Just the kind of cool stuff you only find in this part of Tennessee.Creekside Furniture is right next to a shop that does chainsaw carvings, I don’t know the name of it but you may want to stop there too.

Art in the Smokies

There are a number of art galleries in Gatlinburg, most of which are on the Arts & Crafts eight-mile loop in Gatlinburg.  Two of my favorites are Jim Gray Gallery, which also has a store in Pigeon Forge, and The Paul Murray Gallery.

Paul Murray Gallery

Aunt Emily

Paul Murray is my absolute favorite Smoky Mountain artist. Paul Murray spent part of his early life in the deep mountains and captures the essence of what the mountain people represent; simplicity and joy. He uses pencil, watercolor, oil and pastels. His art can be very haunting like this pencil sketch of Aunt Emily, but there is no other artist’s work I’ve seen that captures the essence of people as much as Paul Murray’s.

The best part of seeing Paul Murray’s art however is experiencing his ‘gallery’. You’ll find it on Glades Rd. Look for the old house with the dilapidated porch. Don’t be afraid to go in, you’ll experience not only the art, but have a better idea of the simple way of life of these mountain people.

Jim Gray Gallery

Jim Gray gallery is also found on the eight-mile loop that begins on Glades Rd. and is part of the Arts community. In addition to his own work Jim features the art of family members and other artists as well. Jim Gray paints watercolors of a lot of different subjects. Of course my favorites are paintings of the Smoky Mountains.

I love his water colors of the Smokies. He is really able to evoke the feelings you get when you are touring in the park or experiencing a stay in the mountains. There is nothing like waking up to seeing the ‘smoke’ in the mountains, and Jim captures this beautifully.

Useful Links:

Paul Murray Gallery on Glades Road

Lil Miss

For many years on Glades Road I had driven by an old barn with Paul Murray’s signature piece, Lil Miss, on the side. The black and white portrait of a small girl is beautiful and haunting at the same time.

I never saw the gallery however, so I thought perhaps it was on a side road. Then one day I was traveling the Artist’s loop with a girlfriend and told her I wanted to find his gallery. And we did. And I now know why I never noticed it. I had no idea the old dilapidated looking farmhouse was in fact an art gallery!

We pulled into the gravel parking area and got out of the car. As we walked past the split rail fence I noticed a steel washtub hanging on the side of the house. We passed an old out building and what looked like a garden, although it was March so there was nothing growing just yet.

As we approached the steps to the porch leading into the gallery I noticed the railing for the steps was secured with string to a vertical post stuck in a concrete block. The steps were very worn and in need of a paint job. A picture of Lil Miss  was on the porch, along with a lot of old chairs and other odds and ends. The rickety screen door had a sign that invited us in, so we opened it and entered the main area of the gallery, a former living room with a fireplace.

As you look around at the gorgeous drawings and paintings in this farmhouse it is hard to believe this is a gallery with some of the most beautiful portraits of the people of the Appalachian Mountains you will see. EVER. And therein lies the charm, we were mesmerized.

The walls had old newspapers as wall coverings. The back room contained a picture of a mountain man with a shotgun across his lap and a look that could kill. Never mind the shotgun! I believe that painting is sold now, but it sure made an impact on us when we walked into that back room. Paul Murray’s portraits capture the essence of these mountain people like no others I’ve ever seen.

If you travel to Glades Road the gallery is a must in my opinion. If you can’t get to the gallery at least take a look at the Paul Murray website, watch the video, and browse through his gallery. His work is unbelievable and well worth the trip. I get there as often as possible, and every time I’m amazed at what Paul Murray captures with just a pencil and paper.

Additional Links:

Paul Murray Gallery Website
What Trip Advisor has to say about Paul Murray Gallery
GeoTourism MapGuide
Paul Murray Gallery Facebook Page