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Gatlinburg News, Opinion, and Wonder

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June 2016

Parking in Gatlinburg Doesn’t Have to be Cumbersome

If you’re in town visiting for a holiday or staying in a cabin in the mountains, you may have to drive into town in order to experience Gatlinburg. I have read many comments on forums detailing the nightmarish traffic in the Burg on a weekly basis. I also see that many people are just befuddled or exasperated at the experience of finding parking in town. I don’t have all the answers for every circumstance, but I may be able to alleviate some of the stress involved with this adventure.

First of all, I want to let you all know that there is an abundance of parking in and around Gatlinburg. The Gatlinburg website found¬†here¬†says that there are more than 17 lots available downtown for your convenience. Some are covered garages but most are open air lots that are normally a bit cheaper. They range in price from free (that’s right, FREE!) to $10, but most generally top out at $8.

I won’t list all the lots but I will discuss what I’ve learned just from experience for when we had to travel into town from a cabin rental. If you want to go for the gold and get yourself a free parking space, River Road just past the Aquarium has first come, first serve free parking all along the side of the road. Caution: You need to get into town early enough to get these, and they do go fast. I would say if you’re in town by 9 in the morning, you should easily be able to get a spot, otherwise you can try to see if someone is pulling out if you arrive later in the day.

Your next option should be the McMahan Parking Garage located at light #3 in town. This is a regular covered garage with hourly and daily rates that top out at $8 a day, I believe. We used this garage the first time we drove into town, and since it was hot, we were thankful we chose this space. Again, this may fill up if you don’t arrive in the morning.

Now if you do arrive in the afternoon during the week and maybe during the weekends, as long as it’s not a holiday, you should have no problems finding a spot down Historic Nature Trail (light #8). These lots are $8 per day and located down from the Space Needle. They are open air lots, but I walked down this way during two different times of the day, and found that there were an abundance of spaces available.

If you don’t mind weaving through some people and are looking at eating at Calhoun’s, Smoky Mountain Brewery, or Cherokee Grill, you can drive into Calhoun’s Village. There is a large parking lot in the back where you can get free parking as long as you have a receipt from one of those fine establishments (some of the best in town in my opinion).

My last bit of advice in regards to parking in town is the common sense approach. I recently had a friend from work travel here on vacation. He was leaving their parking spot downtown and went down a side road in the middle of the day with no stop light. Big mistake. Make sure you go to any of the lights in town, or else you will be at the mercy of a small group of people to stop and let you through, all while making sure traffic is all clear. This is a nightmare situation I have seen many times that I don’t want to see anyone have to experience.

I hope that I have eased some of your fears and hesitancy about parking in Gatlinburg. I feel like I have a decent enough grasp of this situation to educate the novice based upon my own experiences. Thank you for reading and you can find more tips on Gatlinburg related things if you delve deeper into my blog.

Gatlinburg Trip Report: Arts & Crafts Community and The National Park

Part two of my trip features the activities we did away from Gatlinburg. As much as I love spending time downtown, it is always nice to just take a drive out of town to breathe in the mountain air and visit places that we don’t frequent often. This is what vacation should be all about, and I relish these special occasions.

On Monday we took a drive out to the Arts & Crafts Community and spent our first real time at the Covered Bridge at the Glades. Now I suggested we go here specifically, because I got to know, via Twitter, the owner of a small business at the Covered Bridge area, and I really wanted to meet her. Her name is Lori, and she runs Farmhouse Home Goods. It is a small boutique store with vintage inspired Decor and gourmet goodies that are made regionally; plenty of good local finds. The winner here is Lori’s homemade lunch fare, and I came back on my free day Wednesday for her fabulous Panini. Other items on the menu include: Sloppy Joe, Chicken Salad, Soup Specials, and various sweet treats that include chocolate brownies, and her fantastic Peach Cobbler. Please check out this hidden gem on Glades Rd. in the Covered Bridge area. You will be greeted with a smiling face and all the Southern hospitality you would hope to find here.

After our conversation I figured I would head down to the Morning Mist Village for her recommendation of Fudgewrights for some good fudge. I was not disappointed in the least. The owner said he had just made some pumpkin fudge and asked if I had ever tried it. I said no, and he proceeded to give me some of the best and creamiest fudge I ever had anywhere in the Smokies, despite the glut of fudge shops found downtown. I also tried the peanut butter and decided to buy a split piece of both of them. Definitely money well spent.

Tuesday was our day to spend in the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After a few stops at an overlook and Newfound Gap, we made it to Oconaluftee Visitor Center, which is a state-of-the-art center with some neat cultural-themed exhibits. They also feature some interactive media center where you can watch and listen to an informative history of the area, including the sad plight of the Cherokee during the Trail of Tears.

 

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From there we took a walk outside on a trail through the Mountain Farm Museum. This is a great way to spend an hour of your morning. There are historic buildings–moved from various locations in the Smokies–and other walking trails that we didn’t do on this trip. The historic buildings include a house, barn, springhouse, smokehouse, and a blacksmith shop. We enjoyed this visitor center–located on the south end of the Park–more than we did the Sugarlands V.C. located near Gatlinburg.

After spending a good hour at Oconaluftee V.C. we made our way to Mingo Falls. It wasn’t a smooth ride since we turned around and headed into Cherokee, even though we were actually on the right track to begin with. Needless to say we won’t make that mistake again. Mingo Falls was nothing short of spectacular; at 120 feet tall it is one of the tallest in the southern Appalachians. The trail is only .4 miles long, but what makes it moderate in difficulty is the 160 steps you climb at the beginning of the trail.

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Amazingly, this was our eighth trip to the Smokies, and we are already looking forward to our next trip. Every trip is special, with this one being no exception. I thank you for reading and hope you will follow me on my next adventure here. Also I will post more tips and advice in the coming weeks that I have researched and experienced through our many visits. See you next time!

Gatlinburg Trip Report: Downtown

So I am back home after our five day trip to Gatlinburg, and I am already looking forward to the next one. I can’t seem to have a bad trip, no matter what happens on the way there,(rain) nor when we are in town (crowds, disappointing food experience). I will have fond memories of this trip in addition to the ones I have made in the past.

On this post, I will break down my trip into my time spent in town and out of town. First on the agenda will be my experiences downtown with the wife and kid.

We checked into our hotel–Quality Inn Creekside–on Sunday and brought our supplies up to the same hillside room we stayed back in March. Dinner was at Smoky Mountain Brewery and we were treated with the same great pizza we are always served. We ordered extra cheese, but it didn’t quite seem to have much on it. Nonetheless, it was quite good.

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My son enjoying his pizza at Smoky Mountain Brewery

Monday was my free morning to walk down to my usual spot in the Village and get a few of the Donut Friar’s amazing donuts, and then roll back into the corner where Coffee & Company is located to order my new favorite, Shot in the Dark coffee. We originally were going to walk to Log Cabin Pancake House, but the wife and kid wanted to sleep in, so that plan was nixed.

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Four of the best donuts from The Donut Friar

Unfortunately, we were disappointed in dinner at Loco Burro. The wife and I shared the medium chicken fajitas plate, and while the chicken was good, they provided us with a meager helping of lettuce and pico. We had to ask for more and were given more, but for the money spent, it didn’t seem to be worth it. Oh well, maybe next time we will try No Way Jose’s by the aquarium.

Of course no trip to Gatlinburg is complete without browsing some of the shops downtown. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are some that I will ignore, because they are just not my style and never will be. I still enjoy the moonshine sampling, as it is a fun way to spend a bit of your time. Stay tuned for a separate post on some of these shops.

Dinner on Tuesday was spent at Best Italian in the Elks Plaza. Now I know I rave about the pizza at the Brewery, but I’m going to have to vote this place as the best pizza of the trip. All we needed was extra cheese and it delivered–with plenty of cheese that you had to peel apart using both hands. It was…hands down the best this time.

Tuesday evening was spent taking in a mentalist show by Erik Dobell inside the Iris Theater at the Space Needle. We all enjoyed some of the amazing tricks he showed with some participation from some hand picked audience members (not me). Some of the tricks were entertaining, as he put his own spin to some of them. I highly recommend this show that is below the Space Needle in the Arcadia building.

We also were shown quite a display from Mother Nature when a faint double rainbow appeared one evening. Of course, I ran outside to the balcony to capture this incredible display on my phone.

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It was faint but a second rainbow appeared

The other breakfast places we visited are familiar spots in town, and they included Crockett’s Breakfast Camp twice and Pancake Pantry before the long seven hour drive home on Friday. The former has some of the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten, and the latter has some of the best pancakes, so you can’t go wrong with either one.

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Cathead stacker with fried bologna at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp

Soon I will put together a second post that highlights our experiences that did not involve the downtown area. Thanks for reading.

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