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June Vacation Review: Restaurants in Gatlinburg

Another vacation has come and passed, and the afterglow of a visit to the Smoky Mountains has faded—but only a little. We enjoyed ourselves, and we had a visitor on our yearly trips, Zac’s cousin Gabe. In this first part of my series on our vacation, I will focus primarily on our visits to our favorite restaurants in Gatlinburg. We certainly don’t feel like tourists anymore; it feels a lot like home, especially when you’re eating at familiar establishments here in Gatlinburg. Let’s dig in, shall we!

Sunday: Best Italian

I am going to be 100% honest here: This was far and away the biggest disappointment of our vacation in Gatlinburg. Most of the time we get superb service when we visit all our restaurants in Gatlinburg, but this was a dud at the very start. We were seated and were ignored for about 5-10 minutes before another party was waited on well after we arrived, so we were about to walk out when someone—not a server from what we could tell—rescued us from our seething anger by being really nice and taking care of us. Even she could tell we were about to leave. The service was swift from that point on, and we were obviously a priority at that point.

The food was brought out fast, but maybe a bit too fast as the pizza lacked a little thickness in their normal crust, and the sauce was virtually non-existent. While the flavor was still as good as we remembered, if they would’ve came through better on the execution, it would’ve been amazing. We proceeded to get served A DOZEN extra garlic rolls, which were pretty good but not amazing (we never did finish them by the end of our trip).

Overall, we were disappointed, but we only paid for the pizza. We may visit again, but it won’t be the first place on our list of restaurants in Gatlinburg. I felt sorry for them, because it did seem like they were under-staffed a bit, but they never did say that to us, which I would’ve understood, because these things can happen.

Monday: Crockett’s Breakfast Camp


The first part of our trip—I hate to say—was filled with disappointment, but it didn’t ruin the enjoyment of being there. Monday began with our first breakfast visit and our favorite, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. We even got our favorite server who’s been working there since the beginning; her name is Linda, and she’s super friendly.

I ordered a bacon omelet with a biscuit, fruit, and corn pone on the side, while everyone one else ordered the gargantuan cathead stacker, which I believe is actually bigger than a cat’s head. Ok, this was a disappointment as far as the quality I normally receive at one of the best breakfast restaurants in Gatlinburg. The omelet itself was good, but it was overflowing with bacon—too much even for a bacon lover. That wasn’t the worst, though; the cheese inside was not melted at all, and that’s a giant red flag. If any cheese should be unmelted, it should be on top, not inside the omelet. I didn’t even eat all the bacon inside, so chalk that up as something I haven’t experienced from them until now. To summarize, this was an unprecedented, mediocre food experience from a place we love.

Tuesday and Friday: Log Cabin Pancake House


We came back to Log Cabin Pancake House last year after a long absence and were encouraged by what we got from them as far as service and food. The service was efficient once again, friendly, and even helpful. On our Friday visit, our server rattled off all the ingredients in two omelets I was considering, so she got brownie points for being educated on the menu.

Both times I got two different omelets I hadn’t ordered previously and both were excellent. More impotantly, the cheese inside was adequately portioned and melted—something Crockett’s failed at. Everyone else was pleased with their dishes as well, but I must add that their biscuits shot to the top of my list as the best I’ve had in all the breakfast restaurants in Gatlinburg. As tourists from up north, we’ve grown accustomed to what good biscuits should taste like down here. These were a perfect golden brown, but were light, fluffy, and a little buttery on the inside; they didn’t need extra butter, but we added some to them anyway. Log Cabin has become a serious contender now for best breakfast in Gatlinburg with these last 2 visits.

Monday: Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que

I have been saying how I want to visit more barbecue restaurants in Gatlinburg, but we can’t seem to find room in our trip and would probably have to replace this one. Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que is part of the Johnson’s Family of Restaurants, and we’ve had the best service at these establishments. It didn’t fail us again this time. I mean it wasn’t above and beyond great, but it was good and friendly.

I mentioned on my last post how I was going to be eating a bit healthier, and this was my first test. I didn’t have barbecue except for putting a little of their irresistible house BBQ on my salad. The salad was fine, but the standout was some of the apple cider vinaigrette I chose as a dressing to go with it—that was simply fantastic and made the salad better. We’ll probably go back next time, but darn it, I still would like to try Hungry Bear and that Delauder’s place everyone raves about in the Arts and Crafts Community.

Tuesday: Cherokee Grill


Our favorite of the few steakhouse restaurants in Gatlinburg we’ve tried is here at Cherokee Grill, but I usually get their thick and juicy pork chops. I’ll start with service here too. Once again, it was slow, and I hope that places aren’t having a hard time with keeping and getting help, because I’m starting to wonder based on our experience here too. That’s about all I can say really; it was just slow, but the food was great though.

I couldn’t resist getting a salad here too, basically because that was a way I could try their filet mignon without paying the filet mignon price. It was super good and tender, and the salad was big enough for my liking too. Even my wife decided to try the pork chop, but she left wishing she ordered steak, even though I thought it was awesome again after trying a bite. Yeah, we’ll still be coming back here, but we hope—like a few other places—that the service improves.

Wednesday: Big Daddy’s Pizzeria

Yeah, I know. It’s only a box, but I had to take a photo after forgetting about it beforehand.


HOT TAKE! Big Daddy’s Pizzeria is now our favorite pizza place out of all the great restaurants in Gatlinburg serving it. Well, they certainly didn’t disappoint in the service department; we even got the same guy who waited on us in January—super helpful and nice.

Starting off the meal are those indescribable Dough Daddies with HOMEMADE marinara sauce. Both of them evoke feelings of some sort of awakening where angels are singing or something otherworldly. Unreal is all I can say. The sheer sight of them made me forget I even had a phone to take a picture, and that my friends, is probably my biggest regret on this trip. The wood-fired pizza is so good too, but it’s consistently greasy, and that’s the only bad thing I can say about it. If you haven’t tried this gem, you really should give them a shot; you’ll probably agree with me on at least one aspect about them.

Thursday: Calhoun’s


Our last dinner restaurant in Gatlinburg was at Calhoun’s, which we had not visited since our very first trip I believe in 2011. Service was a bit slow, but when she came around she was super nice, so I didn’t mind, and it seemed kind of busy even though it was before 5.

This was my fourth and last salad of my trip (I had a side salad at Big Daddy’s so I wouldn’t eat too much of their awesome food:)). My wife said her steak needed a little more seasoning, and I felt she was right, but my Smokehouse salad was spot-on. I had never heard of cheddar cheese dressing until now, and really, it tasted like it was just that: melted cheddar cheese. It was odd, but I liked it. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about it was that it made the salad a bit dry; I still give it a thumbs up. The best part of the meal was the banana pudding. OH. MY. GOD. It was the best I’ve ever had. Period. No more words can describe it.


The restaurants in Gatlinburg on this trip overall don’t receive high marks I hate to say, but most of them we will still return for a visit. Hopefully, as business picks up more, these places will be able to find good help so the experience is better for tourists. I hate to see Gatlinburg become a place that people avoid just because they suffer from continuously bad service at one of their fantastic eateries. Still, first impressions are everything, and I hope management realizes the importance of great customer service.

I’ll see you all next time as I have more experiences to share related to our June vacation to our favorite place. Thanks for reading! I do appreciate it!


Dietary Changes on the Way for June Gatlinburg Trip

Unfortunately, aging is something that we can’t just stop, reverse, and pretend nothing is ever going to happen to us physically—or mentally, for that matter. It’s time I stopped ignoring my condition, which I’ve often done on our wonderful 5 days for our summer vacation to Gatlinburg.

You see, I’m a diabetic, and you wouldn’t know it from all the pictures and wonderful Southern food I’ve consumed on our dozen plus trips to the Smoky Mountains. It’s not that I haven’t made smart choices on our trips; in fact, I don’t even snack between meals at all the free sample displays like I used to. No, I’ve been checking my blood sugar the past few visits like a good diabetic should. I just got tired of feeling like crap every time I consumed carb-heavy breakfasts and wondering why all the walking I was doing wasn’t making me feel better.

It’s taken me 20+ years to figure out why my blood sugars were high even after eating a light lunch with granola, yogurt, and fruit. That’s why I’ve been on the low-carb thing lately: my blood sugars are better and my focus is much better too, with much less fatigue. I see no reason to still not enjoy my Gatlinburg trip coming up, though.

I’m actually looking forward to trying new things, even if it does mean more salads and a lot less bread—and yes, I do realize how difficult that can be in Gatlinburg of all places. Pizza is going to be the hardest, but I’ll allow myself a piece. Gone are the days where I could just fill up with as much as I pleased, then suffered the rest of the night feeling fatigued—not realizing that the way I felt the next day was related to the previous day’s food-gorging.

Being a diabetic in Gatlinburg isn’t easy I’m sure for even the strictest dieter. I’m sure most restaurants cook in some of the most unhealthy oils too, but I can temporarily deal with that as long as the food isn’t causing a meteoric spike in blood sugar. I know I’ll still enjoy some of those great meats at Cherokee Grill, whether it’s the Prosperity Steak or Pork Chops. However, I might have to rethink the Neva’s Potatoes, because white potatoes are right up there with ice cream as some of the worst offenders on my blood sugar. Crockett’s Breakfast Camp won’t be too difficult either, because I love their omelets, and the corn pone is too small a serving to have a major impact on my blood sugar.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve already made some huge sacrifices in not indulging in a bunch of sugary samples—as I had done in our first visits—so that won’t be a problem, even though it’s hard getting a whiff of that carnival-like atmosphere in Gatlinburg. The changes I’ve started making in my home life is preparing me for how I want to feel throughout our time in Gatlinburg and tackle the challenges in that minefield.

I almost forgot to mention one more thing that will be torturous cutting back on, because I have absolutely no intention of skipping the deliciosity (I made that up) of The Donut Friar. The only difference is I’m only going to get one donut on my morning walk, instead of the normal two: Chocolate Cruller and Chocolate Chipper. I think maybe I will put that on my Twitter account as a poll and see what one you guys think I should choose. As I’m writing this, I’m not looking forward to that decision—AT ALL!

So to finish this up, my dietary changes are going to consist of as little bread as possible, no sweets (the exception being The Donut Friar), more meat (easy on the sweet BBQ sauce from Bennett’s), and I’m going to try a salad from somewhere. Any suggestions on where I might find a good salad in Gatlinburg would be greatly appreciated too. I don’t have a specific number I’m trying to stay under in my low-carb eating, but I’m certainly not going full-on keto; I’m just a proponent of keeping my blood sugars fairly level, and it’s something we diabetics can struggle with on a daily basis.

Thanks for reading, and I’m sorry for the delay, but I’ve had a lot on my plate lately…well, some good stuff, anyway. Sorry, but I had to do that:) I may write another post prior to our June trip that’s almost here already, but if I don’t you’ll see a Gatlinburg trip soon after, where I’ll let you all know how it went and fill you in on some the new places we discovered. Thanks again, and see you all again soon!


Part 3 of Our January Trip to Gatlinburg

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not writing about the last part of our winter Gatlinburg trip sooner. It’s been a struggle to get motivated to write as much as I’m used to since I’ve had to deal with some personal issues that involve my Dad’s health. The good news is he’s doing better, and I’m easing back into some normal routines even though it hasn’t been easy. This winter has surprisingly flown by, and it’s starting to hit me now that it’s almost spring, and even though there won’t be a spring break vacation to Gatlinburg this year, it’ll be June before you know it, and we know that means our annual five day full-on Gatlinburg trip with our son. Meanwhile, I’d like to sum up the final day and morning of our weekend in Gatlinburg from January.

Sunday Morning Walk

Sunday was my morning to rise before the sun and make the very chilly trek into The Village for my tasty treats waiting for me at The Donut Friar. I changed the pace of my usual routine by eating my usual Chocolate Chipper and Cruller by devouring them both inside; it was just too cold to enjoy them outside. After enjoying my Shot in the Dark from Coffee and Company, it was time to take the long walk to the end of town where Old Dad’s has the daily local paper that I read when I have some downtime–usually in the evening. Gatlinburg also looks vastly different–and somehow a little more beautiful–in the winter, especially with the hundreds of thousands of lights that illuminate the town at dark. I, of course, didn’t miss out on taking some pics since it was our first time getting the chance to view them with our own eyes instead of online through someone else’s.

I won’t go into much detail about what I did later that morning with my wife since I already wrote a separate piece on our visit to the wonderfully scenic–and still a work in progress–new attraction in Gatlinburg, Anakeesta. Unfortunately, until we return, my memories of it will be how cold the wind felt on my skin, but we still managed to spend almost two hours up there and enjoyed the sights and activities.




Souvenirs, Shopping, and Music

The afternoons of our final day in Gatlinburg are always bittersweet: we make sure we purchase things to enjoy when we return home and take in as much of the experience as we can possibly manage to do before dreaming of our next trip. I’ll have to check but I believe I said Aunt Mahalia’s was my favorite place to grab some sweets, but that officially changed with this trip. Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen has them beat, and I’ll briefly explain why: their candy is a bit cheaper, but the quality is simply better–the truffles are a to-die-for delight for one; the chocolate covered espresso beans are also very nice; and lastly, their selection is quite impressive offering something for everyone with a high-level satisfaction no matter what your preference.

On the souvenir front, I did something I didn’t think I would ever do in Gatlinburg: I broke down and bought a tourist-friendly hooded sweatshirt with Gatlinburg, TN on the front and “Great Smoky Mountains” stitched on the sleeve. The one tourist thing I did not do was wear it right after I bought it; I saved that for home here in Ohio. Hey, come on, it didn’t feel cheap–and it doesn’t while wearing it, either–and at less than $20 and under the squeeze of a budget, it just had to be done.

On our walk through town in the middle of the afternoon, we found ourselves at the Ole Smoky Holler plopped down on a rocking chair underneath a propane heater enjoying some live music from the local bluegrass band, Monroeville. We recommend Ole Smoky more for their merchandise than their moonshine, but we always go there to take in the atmosphere–and the smells of fermentation filling the air. We don’t normally stay and listen to the music very long, but this time it was nice to take our sweet time and heard some nice tunes from this band that frequents The Holler quite often.


Dinner at Cherokee Grill

This is our favorite place for the wife and me to have a nice sit-down dinner meal. So far, it is our favorite steak restaurant in Gatlinburg, but we have more on our list to tackle for future visits. Still, it will be hard to top the Prosperity Steak and the similarly prepared Prosperity Pork Chop. Words cannot describe how tender and juicy their pork chops are as I’ve never had better pork chops anywhere than here at this Copper Cellar establishment–and I don’t normally think to order this particular menu item, but here, it’s the first thing on my mind. They changed up the Neva’s Potatoes a bit, leaving off the skin, but I think I like it even more this way with less salt–being that at my age, unfortunately, I’m more concerned with sodium intake. This, normally, is enough to be considered to be the best dinner restaurant in Gatlinburg, but when you throw in the fact that you can still get beer from the Brewery here, that’s just the foam on…uh, yeah, the icing on the cake let’s just say.


Monday Morning Melancholy

Yes, it was just our time to have to leave. It’s sad to bring our little vacation to an end, but you just have to accept it’s time to leave and step back into reality. That reality was prolonged by a visit to the growing likeability factor of Log Cabin Pancake House where I enjoyed a 3 egg bacon and cheese omelet with 3 buttermilk pancakes, which is quite enough for me, but I finished it like a pro–and like someone who craves and is satisfied by great Gatlinburg pancakes. The final stop was a quick dart inside the Donut Friar because sometimes you just have to bring home a few–or a six-pack–home for the three of us. The trip home went without much of a hitch, and we are already booked and getting prepared for Gatlinburg in June. I’ll have a full run-down of the events we have planned sometime before then, but until then, you can follow me on Twitter as I am Gatlinburg NOW on the Twitterverse as well. I frequently post at a daily clip, so give me a follow or a shout-out, I’d love to talk to you all even though we may not ever meet. So long, and thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate it!



January Gatlinburg Trip Report: Day 2

My previous blog post described the first day of our January weekend trip. I didn’t realize that I would have so much to say about this trip–even though there’s plenty to say about staying in Gatlinburg–but once you get going, sometimes it’s difficult to pare things down. This post takes us to Day 2 where we weren’t going to be deterred by the cold that swept through the Friday overnight hours and blanketed Gatlinburg with a light dusting of snow.


Crockett’s Breakfast Camp

There’s no doubt that Crockett’s Breakfast Camp is one of our favorite places to eat in Gatlinburg for plenty of reasons–my choices have been different each time–but this time we had to walk quite a way to reach our destination. We bundled up and were a bit pleased that we didn’t need to wake up as early as the weather caused Crockett’s to open one hour later than their normal 7 a.m. time. Upon entering we were promptly seated on the other side of the restaurant for just the second time out of about a dozen visits now. My wife had been looking forward to having pork chops, which is a bit strange for breakfast, but hey, it’s vacation. I decided to eat rather light, opting for some bacon and a fruit bowl, because I figured I would have to share some of my wife’s meal–which I did. While the size of the meal wasn’t as large as expected, the flavors were great as usual, and I have to admit, it was nice leaving without feeling like I had to be wheeled out of the restaurant from over-eating.


After leaving Crockett’s, a few shops had opened on the Parkway, and we caught a break from the cold by going inside a few and looking at some things that were new, and some that were familiar from our last trip. When we returned to our room at Zoder’s we got a little too comfortable, staying for a bit longer than anticipated by watching a terrible movie and a few shows that just provided for noise. We’re a little spoiled by staying in the middle of downtown, so it wasn’t just that we could wander about; we needed to make a plan and didn’t really have one at that moment, especially since the cold was another variable to consider, and our original Anakeesta plan for the day ended up on the to-do list for tomorrow instead, due to the…you guessed it, cold and snowy conditions.


Smoky Mountain Brewery

The change in our plans made way for new ones to emerge in the afternoon hours. My blog has opened my world up quite a bit, and I’ve been very thankful for a few people that live in nearby Knoxville to have given me some advice on proceeding with my newfound passion for writing–and tweeting–about Gatlinburg. It was at Smoky Mountain Brewery that we met in-person for the first time. I’m not a naturally outgoing person–a bit introverted, in fact–so I was a bit nervous meeting these fine individuals, but even small amounts of alcohol made me a little more relaxed, so I opened up more about what I hoped to accomplish–which at times can be a bit sketchy and muddied. I enjoyed getting to talk to them, as I had only previously known them through the lens of their social media profile. Time went by fast, and I’m sure my wife enjoyed some alone time shopping on the Parkway.

No Way Jose’s Cantina

This trip can probably be best described by the number of times our itinerary changed on this particular trip. We had originally planned on a visit to Best Italian in a different location–on the Parkway–but after getting some advice, we decided to scrap that and go to No Way Jose’s, which we visited for the first time on our last trip. The Arroz con Pollo I ordered on this occasion topped my last dish and probably will definitely be something I get again the next time we visit this fantastic Mexican restaurant that has several locations in the area. I recommend you give them a try if you haven’t already; the margaritas are a nice little compliment to the meal as well.


Doc Collier Moonshine

If I remember correctly, I believe the wife and I separated again (don’t worry, we do this often when go out shopping) and while she went back to the hotel, I decided to stop in at a very underrated moonshine distillery, Doc Collier Moonshine. The spirits here are much less fruity overall, and sometimes less is more even though we enjoy the experience and shine at Sugarlands Distilling Company too. Of course, I sampled the moonshine again just in case it was how I remembered (wink, wink, nudge), and I kept my eye on a few things I was interested in purchasing–surprisingly, not any of the moonshine even though the Naner will most certainly be obtained in June. I was eyeing a few hooded sweatshirts for my Gatlinburg apparel collection that included a couple from the other distilleries, but the one at Doc Collier’s was my favorite looking one. Unfortunately, on this trip, we didn’t have as much money to spend so budgeting was something to consider.


Well, that’ll conclude Day 2 of our Gatlinburg weekend. I hope you learned something about where you’d like to go if you ever have the opportunity to visit this beautiful mountain destination. For those of you that follow me, you already have an idea on where to go, whether that be from your own experiences, or from reading some of the tips I’ve given in my blog in the two-plus years I’ve been writing about Gatlinburg. I also hope you’ll stick with me as I write about the last part of my weekend in Gatlinburg with my wife, as I’ll be writing about some of the shops we enjoyed visiting while here, where else we decided to eat, and what we took home with us on Monday when it was time to say goodbye to the place we love the most. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

January Gatlinburg Trip Report: Day 1

January is usually a time when we sit at home huddled under a blanket wishing it was no longer winter. Yes, all of us have a tinge of that seasonal disorder in the winter in which, here in the north, our vitamin D levels are lower because of the major decrease in the amount of sunlight during the day. This year, however, we decided to do something about it and made plans for a winter weekend vacation in Gatlinburg–our first for this time of year. In this blog post, I will be sharing our experiences from this trip that is now two weeks past. Here goes:


We arrived in Gatlinburg much earlier than anticipated in large part because our area was set to get hit with some measurable snowfall in the morning hours; therefore, we elected to leave the previous evening and drove to Lexington, Kentucky, where we stopped–a little past the halfway point–and got some sleep at a hotel just off I-75. Since we left so early we got into Gatlinburg–after making a stop in Pigeon Forge at The Old Mill–and made it to our planned destination in plenty of time for their BOGO lunch special: this would be the rebuilt Alamo Steakhouse.

Alamo Steakhouse

This is an old western-themed steak restaurant, and we instantly noticed that new building smell as they’ve only been opened a few months. The atmosphere is felt as you walk around the inside with its architecture and photos of old Americana-esque images. The food delivered, however, on my end not as much: The San Antonio chicken would’ve been much better if it wasn’t a bit dry, and the partially unmelted cheese on top made for quite the contradiction. My wife had the steak, and naturally, it was the best part of both of our meals with the only exception being maybe those beer-battered french fries that were mighty tasty. Our server was quite a hoot, cracking jokes and making for a good experience overall. Would we return? Yes. But now I know what I need to order in a…ahem, STEAK RESTAURANT!

Arts and Crafts Community

Even though it was raining we decided to head to The Arts and Crafts Community to check out one of my wife’s favorite shops in The Covered Bridge: Custom Creations by Beth. Both of us love her artwork so that means I don’t have much of a problem with my wife wanting to buy one of her paintings. We decided to purchase a painting of hers of a mountain scene at Newfound Gap that is one of her favorites. She could’ve probably picked any scene from that area and hit a home run, but we loved this one, and it is proudly hanging on an opposite wall in our bedroom of another picture of hers we bought two trips ago.

Zoder’s Inn

I wrote in our planned itinerary as well about how excited we were to return to Zoders in order to stay in one of their remodeled rooms by the creek. The room did not disappoint. We had a nice comfortable bed with the floors replaced with hardwood vinyl and two sinks–one inside and another outside the bathroom that was added. While the room passed inspection, we were a bit disappointed with a few things: First, the WiFi was simply incapable of being accessed for any amount of time; Second, there was no Visitor’s Information Channel in the room, which is ironic given that this was the very first place we saw this programming on our first visit to Gatlinburg. I know these two are small beans when you look at the overall picture, but WiFi is still essential for business and researching on-the-fly, and VIC is a great time-waster in a hotel for many visitors to The Smoky Mountains, so we can’t give Zoder’s an excellent rating this time around. Still, though, I would recommend this place because it’s in a quiet location, and you can still walk downtown if you’re able-bodied.

Gatlinburg Trail

After taking our initial walk downtown to dive into a few shops we figured out that we wanted to eat at Big Daddy’s Pizza for dinner, but I just wasn’t ready to eat yet being that we had a late lunch. Based on where we were on the Parkway, we knew it would be a bit too much to walk all the way back to the hotel just to kill a half-hour, and then walk all the way to the other side of town to Big Daddy’s; so, we decided–since the weather was cooperating a bit–to head down the Gatlinburg Trail to where the bridge crosses the river. We took a few photos of the dreary, but still very beautiful landscape, and made our way back into downtown Gatlinburg. And it was now that we had worked up quite the hunger–enough for some wood-fired deliciousness.


Big Daddy’s Pizzeria

Ah yes, Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, a rediscovered gem of a restaurant serving great wood-fired pizzas and amazing Dough Daddies. I’ve described how much we enjoy those appetizers in previous posts with their hard outer crust but yet doughy center that pairs perfectly with their in-house marinara. YUM! The best part of their pizza has to be the crust–the oven gives it a flavor not found in your standard pizza joint. The toppings are above average too even if was just a bit greasy for just having red peppers on it, but the excellent crust contradicts any minor misstep with the overall product. I’ll still take Best Italian in the Elks Plaza as our favorite pizza, but Big Daddy’s has a highlighted bullet next to its number on the pizza charts.


Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon. I didn’t anticipate the rambling of this post, so I am going to break this band up for the sake of not making you sit and read a 3,000+ word post of my entire trip. I will give you a sneak preview for those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter: We changed our plans for dinner the next day and enjoyed an excellent meal at a new favorite of ours and braved the temperature drop in going to a few of our favorite places. Thanks for reading!



Anakeesta: Our Experience Visiting Gatlinburg’s Newest Attraction

Since Anakeesta opened this past September, we’ve been patiently waiting for an opportunity to visit this new and exciting attraction. We jumped at the chance to go when we were afforded that chance in January with an extended weekend–our first winter vacation. The only thing that held us back a bit was the fact that it would more than likely be a bit chilly since you are taken another 600 feet above Gatlinburg (more on that later). The following is our account and honest review of Anakeesta, which is another name for “place of the balsams” or “place of high ground”.


Picture and Chondola Ride

When you first start your journey at Anakeesta, a photographer will snap your picture, and you will have the choice of deciding if the photo was worthy enough to make the $25 purchase–which we did. Then, you are to wait in line until your method of travel up the mountain arrives; ours was the chondola, which to us, was slightly less frightening as the open-air chairlift, which is a bit of a phobia for the wife and me.


The chondola and chairlift do not stop for you so you have to mind your step getting in, even though it goes slow enough for you to embark. The chondola seats 6, but 4 adults is probably a more comfortable number; six is a better estimate if there are kids in your party. The journey up the mountain plods along slowly and takes about 15 minutes. At the halfway point, the doors open–and then close–at a platform that serves as a point where zipliners go when they finish a part of their adventure that begins at the top.

Firefly Village


Once you reach the top, you are now entering the Firefly Village area–a place that currently has three shops that include a few merchandise shops and Pearls Pie in the Sky for sweet treats. This is a nice little village that also has a fire pit that was ideal for a cold morning such as this one. As you walk around Firefly Village, the one thing you cannot ignore is the absolutely breathtaking Smoky Mountain views previously unseen by anyone prior to the development of Anakeesta. It is necessary to take whatever video or photo-taking hardware with you before visiting; in this case, the snow-capped mountains made for a one-of-a-kind experience I had been looking forward to prior to this trip since I had never seen them in the winter. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Despite the small number of shops available, this is a picturesque area that will be expanding later as they will be adding more retail and restaurants, being that they are still in Phase 1 of development. Stay with me here, because there is more to describe about Anakeesta that shouldn’t deter you from reaching for your wallet to visit Gatlinburg’s newest adventure.

Memorial Walk


The owners of Anakeesta used the devastating fires of November 2016 to tastefully memorialize the people whose lives were affected by the event. Along the way, there are displays that featured the work of Nashville photographer, Jeremy Cowart, who photographed families lying down on a white mattress with the charred remains of their homes surrounding them. They are stories of inspiration, and the project, which is known as “Voices of Gatlinburg”, garnered media attention for the generosity that was displayed in creating this work. At the top of the walk are wind chimes that play the notes of “Amazing Grace”, which evokes a reaction that is both emotional and eerie.




Tree Canopy Walk

Just before you reach the Tree Canopy Walk is the Treehouse Village Playground, which is mainly for children, but we were told that the adults get more excited than the kids do–and we could clearly see why. We meandered through this little playground-in-the-trees like we were still innocent little eight-year-olds, but unfortunately not quite as nimble as we once were.


The Tree Canopy Walk was next, and I was surprised at how unfazed I was by this; my wife, however, was a slightly shaken at first, but she managed–like myself–to adjust to walking over a rope bridge even if it feels a little like someone else is bouncing and swaying purposefully behind you–which I was not doing. This is actually quite a long trek as you go from bridge to bridge some 16 times before reaching the end. I know both of us were surprised at how quickly we marched through the Canopy Walk; we marked our progress when it appeared we had just finished and saw how far we had actually traveled. This was quite an experience, and pretty exhilarating if you’re not too fond of heights. Don’t be afraid to look down, though, because the spring and summer should provide a pretty fair chance to see some Smoky Mountain black bears roaming.

Dueling Ziplines

Ha! No, we’re not quite ready for this yet. The cold was a factor, and coming from someone that’s a bit nervous about a chondola and chairlift, it’s no surprise we didn’t do this attraction. If you want the full thrilling experience, there is an additional cost to ride the ziplines: $14.99 per person. For more information about the Dueling Ziplines and the entire Anakeesta attraction, visit the main page here.

I should mention the Gem Mining that is just before the Treehouse Village Playground that the kids should enjoy as well. I can’t speak much of this, but a full description can be found at the Anakeesta website that I provided.

Coming Soon


As I mentioned earlier, Anakeesta is not done expanding their attraction up on the mountain. They have another Restaurant with Bar and a dining pavilion that is set to open in the Spring of this year. The bar will feature local craft beers on top, and its location will provide diners with stunning mountain views while enjoying their favorite food and beverage. Also coming soon in that same time frame is a mountain coaster, so if you’re looking for another mountain coaster to tackle with an even better view, then this figures to be one of the better ones in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area. Finally, an amphitheater is planned for some outdoor entertainment to go along with the experience at Anakeesta. Overall this is a place that caters to the whole family, and there’s plenty of fun things to do here now to justify going before everything is complete.


Even though it was a bit chilly up on Anakeesta Mountain to start the day, this was a memorable experience, and we are sure to visit again once the added attractions are completed this year–and a bit warmer, I might add. Whether you’re a selfie taker or an adventure-seeker, or you just want to get away to a place for relaxation and whimsical shopping with fantastic views, I suggest you check out Anakeesta to see why they say there’s magic in the mountains. See you again soon and be sure to check out my entire trip report soon. Thanks for reading!



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