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.
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.
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’ve heard that Gatlinburg as a wedding location is second only to Las Vegas. And I wouldn’t doubt it with the number of chapels in the area. You see them on the main roads and the back roads. Some are really fancy, and others are simple little chapels. Some couples get married on a mountain or in a vacation cabin.
In addition to the number of chapels as proof you can always spot newly-wedded couples by the congratulatory messages painted on their car windows. Lots of the stores have trinkets and treasures geared to the honeymooners as well. The local salons cater some of their services to brides and the bridal party. There is a huge bridal store on the main road into Gatlinburg, and there are even bridal shops where you can rent gowns, tuxes, and whatever else you may need!
One must admit The Smoky Mountains as a wedding venue is beautiful, and what better place to profess your love and begin a lifetime with the one you love than in the mountains? Need to convince your intended to marry you in the Smoky Mountains? Perhaps the links below will help.
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.
I’ve hiked to the observation tower at Clingman’s Dome three times, and the views are really great! You can only get to the dome via the road in good weather, you can hike to it from the trails anytime of year. The road to Clingman’s dome is near Newfound Gap and is closed in the winter (December to March). We took the road the day it opened this year. We started the hike but when the hail started we turned around and didn’t finish the hike. If you are in the park in good weather it is worth the trip.
Mount Le Conte Although not the highest peak in the park it is definitely the most discussed. I hear about Le Conte from all kinds of places, in Gatlinburg and elsewhere. Many people have climbed it. Many folks I meet have this as a destination or have already climbed Le Conte. There is a lodge and restaurant of sorts at the summit, but the only way to get there is on foot. And make sure you have reservations well ahead of time.
Mount Guyot From what I’ve read Mount Guyot is difficult to climb and not easily accessible. I’ve never heard the locals talk about this mountain. However it seems the Appalachain Trail runs across the south slope, so I suppose if you were on the trail you could climb to the peak if you had proper equipment. I’ve never done it, and haven’t met anyone who has. Do not consider this an endorsement or encouragement to hike Mount Guyot – only trained hikers should research and prepare for such a strenuous and dangerous undertaking. Contact the park service before attempting any climbs.
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.
What fun we’ve had at the Wild Plum Tea Room in the Smoky Mountains! Of course this is mostly for ladies, although I’ve seen couples each time I was there. You will find this quaint restaurant on the eastern edge of the Arts & Crafts loop in Gatlinburg. I’ve been there twice, with my female friends, and everyone likes it! Although the restaurant doesn’t have a website you can find information about it from this review on Trip Advisor.
Table at Wild Plum
The table is set with fabrics and lace. The dishes are antique china and glass, mix and match of course. The waiting line is usually formed out onto the porch, but it doesn’t take long to get a seat. Make sure you have their signature wild plum tea, iced or hot. I prefer iced, but my friend Donna reports the hot was delicious too.
They serve an assortment of salads, hot dishes including soups, and cold sandwiches. They always have a special of the day – sometimes two, and dessert is a must! Wild Plum Tea Room was just what the ladies needed after shopping the loop in Gatlinburg!