Gatlinburg NOW

Gatlinburg News, Opinion, and Wonder


June 2017

Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster Has Opened

There is a new mountain coaster in Gatlinburg, and so far, it has opened to the delight of thrill riders visiting the Smoky Mountains.

Unfortunately, we missed out on opening day, which was on June 9–the very morning that we left town. They are located on the Parkway next to Zoder’s Inn when coming into Gatlinburg on the left. They had an opening day that not only saw happy customers but also–from their posting on Facebook–featured a sighting of their namesake bear roaming around the property; a sign that maybe things are going to work out well for the owners.

Their gravity-propelled coaster itself is not the most unique element of this new business; it will also feature a mountain glider–slated to open in the Fall–that will take riders gliding through the treetops. This will actually be the first mountain glider of its kind in the world so you may want to come back later to check it out. More details on this should be found soon via their website,

Prices for the mountain coaster seem pretty reasonable for the experience: $16 for a single rider, $27 for double riders, and a parent/child combo for $24. This also includes an additional ride on the same day at night for an entirely new and thrilling experience. They are open until 11 so you can have the opportunity for a nighttime ride, even in the summer when the sun sets later.


So far the reviews have been extremely positive for Rowdy Bear Mountain. They even have souvenirs you can purchase to take with you along with the memories it creates for you and your family. Below are just a few of the raves customers have given for the newest coaster in Gatlinburg.

I can’t wait to check out Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster when we return to Gatlinburg, and I hope to be able to experience their glider when it opens as well. Keep checking in with me as I follow new and exciting attractions opening soon in Gatlinburg; next on the list will be Anakeesta, scheduled to open in August.

Thanks for reading, and I will keep you informed of the latest Gatlinburg news, reviews, and experiences all right here on this blog. See you soon!



Gatlinburg June Vacation: Part Three

I’d like to begin Part 3 by adding something I forgot to mention in my previous post. On Wednesday night my son and I went up on the Space Needle. He had visited this centerpiece attraction in Gatlinburg earlier in the day with my wife–but the tickets were still valid for another trip so we took advantage by going up the 407 feet before sundown. The top underwent a bit of a facelift since the last time we were here, and it looks bigger with the new flooring. The views are always amazing on the Space Needle; especially when the skies are blue and you can see for miles the beauty of The Smoky Mountains.


Amazing views from The Space Needle



Today was the day we went to Ober Gatlinburg; we switched days when Monday turned out to be a rainy one. I would love to go into greater detail about our very first time up to the year-round ski resort; however, I do have a post that is pending on MobileBrochure that details the adventures Zac and I enjoyed there. I will say that the very thing that kept us from going to Ober Gatlinburg–the tram that takes you up the mountain–was actually not so bad at all. I will say that we enjoyed the experience and look for it to be posted on MobileBrochure, as they have a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account that will keep you informed daily.


A day of fun at Ober Gatlinburg


When we returned, Zac was exhausted–probably from all the early morning semi-rude awakenings–and he took a rare nap at the hotel. During this time, I chilled out by enjoying the nice weather and serenity on the balcony. It’s nice that we can also catch sight of the Ober Gatlinburg trams from our room, and we don’t have to be jittery anymore seeing them make the trip to and from the resort.

Our second pizza night was enjoyed by us at highly-rated Big Daddy’s in Gatlinburg. They serve up a wood-fired pizza, and they use fresh ingredients which justify their popularity on review sites. As an appetizer, we ordered their Dough Daddies, which are very doughy on the inside with a nice crunch on the outside. Even better was probably their house-made marinara sauce–a nice sweet sauce that definitely does not come from a can. The only problem we had with the pizza was it greasiness, but with the pepperoni, it is a hard thing to avoid. The crust is nice and crunchy with a nice flavor from the grill; it is thin but doesn’t feel like a true New York style, which is not a bad thing, because it stands on its own merits.

After a tasty dinner, we tied up some of our loose ends by buying some fudge from Chocolate Monkey that we bring home to devour and turned in some arcade points from Fannie Farkle’s. Zac decided to save his points from Arcadia for next time since he wants to get a nice prize from there; they have the better selection so this wasn’t a big surprise.


Sadly, today was the day our vacation came to an end. It’s always the day we all dread when we must face the realities of normal day-to-day routines. We are all thankful that we are able to make such a trip every year; we work hard every day to give ourselves this wonderful vacation every year.

We have to make one final trip to our favorite breakfast spots before we make the long drive home. First, we stopped at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, where I celebrated our tenth visit here by ordering the Pecan Waffle, while my son and wife ordered the Cheese Omelet and Cathead Stacker, respectively. My only critique on this visit would be the caramel sauce being a bit too sweet–but is that really a bad thing, though. Of course, we stopped at The Donut Friar, where we bought a half-dozen donuts for home. I think they had just raised the prices on their donuts, as I noticed a nickel increase on the iced cake donuts and a two cent increase on the plain or glazed ones; it’s safe to say this won’t be a deterrent to coming back.


A delightful half dozen from The Donut Friar



The near-perfect Pecan Waffles at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp


I hope you all enjoyed my three part series on our yearly June trip to Gatlinburg with the three of us. We don’t plan on altering our vacation as long as we reside here in Ohio. The Smoky Mountains are truly a mood altering and relaxing place for us, and if we are fortunate enough, we will make it our home someday. Thanks again, and I appreciate everyone who decided to make time to read my posts! See you all next time!

Gatlinburg June Vacation: Part Two


Day 3 was Tuesday and that meant it was time to explore the majestically beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our hike this year was Laurel Falls–our second time here but our son’s first. The day started out perfect at a cool sub 60 degrees, but we had a nice breakfast planned at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp before we did any walking. After a typically hearty breakfast here, we were ready to walk it off. We were on the trail by 8 in the morning so there were just a few cars at what is well-known as one of the most popular trails in the Smokies; this is because it a fairly short hike, it is paved, and the Falls make for some great photos–especially with the kids. After hiking some of the other trails in the Smokies, we were surprised at how easy it seemed compared to last time–which was five years ago. This is probably on the easy side of its designation as a moderate hike in the trail books. We have done other moderate hikes that seem much more strenuous.

When we reached the Falls we were treated with a real gusher of a waterfall. This was probably due in large part to the heavy rains from yesterday afternoon. It was a sight to behold, and we spent some time taking pictures in awe of the intensity the Falls were exhibiting on this glorious morning. I remember thinking as we were leaving that once the Trail got busier, people would not have much room to stand up there because normally you can sit up by the rocks as the water comes down–but this would actually be a little dangerous today.


The thundering Laurel Falls on Tuesday morning


We spent the rest of the morning just taking in nature by exploring a few of the lesser populated Quiet Walkways. There are a few marked on Little River Road close to the Laurel Falls Trail. I recommend you try these if you get a late start and find that a few trails are super busy with hikers. They are fairly short but give you a glimpse of the beauty of the Smokies on a smaller scale; they gave us some pretty fantastic pictures and memories, nonetheless.


Not a bad scene for a Quiet Walkway


Several miles of walking was in the books so we drove out to The Arts and Crafts Community to check out a few of the local shops. We were a bit disappointed to see two of our favorite shops closed; we missed one of them–Custom Creations by Beth–by a day, as she was closed until Wednesday. We shrugged it off as we vowed to return. We talked to a man who has a shop there, and he said business is still down after the fires, but he had optimism for a good summer. I hate hearing these things even though I know them to be true, as I follow news outlets in Knoxville and social media. If you come visit, make sure you give these local artists and business owners a chance and see their wonderfully creative works.

Dinner on this busy day was at No Way Jose’s. This was a first-time visit for us here, and we wanted to compare it to Loco Burro–which we tried last year. As it turned out there really was no comparison. I had the Chicken Fajita Burrito, and it was everything I had hoped I would be. I could barely finish but we agreed that it would be a restaurant we would return to again.


Chicken Fajita Burrito at No Way Jose’s


On Monday we paid for tickets for Tuesday night’s show at Sweet Fanny Adams. We arrived about a half hour prior to the door’s opening, so we had a little fun sitting on the bench outside. We saw the show called Frolic! Something Amusing This Way Comes and it was just as hilarious as we remembered it to be when we went in 2012. Chris MacPherson and his cast of characters are true professionals of live theater, and I managed to get up close and personal by getting pulled onstage for one of their skits. It was a bit frightening but I survived and got a free Ripley’s Moving Theater ticket after it was thankfully done.


Clowning around before witnessing more clowning at Sweet Fanny Adams


It was another long day full of memorable activities. The good news was we still had two days left in town–but first, some much-needed rest.


We got the day started right by taking a little longer walk down to Log Cabin Pancake House. This would be Zac’s first trip to this popular breakfast hangout, but it was our first since our inaugural trip back in 2011. After some heavy deliberating, he decided on the Butterscotch Pancakes, while I ordered the Buckwheat Pancakes–my first time trying Buckwheat. My wife ordered ham and eggs–and typically with the meat dishes here, it comes with three buttermilk pancakes too. We were all left with positive reviews, and we found the prices to be cheaper than Pancake Pantry; although I won’t say that Log Cabin has better flapjacks, even though it’s close. Still, it is a very worthy alternative option.


Butterscotch Pancakes at Log Cabin Pancake House


Today was Erin and Zac’s day of activities so I was free to roam the Parkway by myself. After a slow start to the day, I succeeded in making a few purchases. I finally pulled the trigger and bought four of Doc Collier’s smaller bottles of Moonshine: Original, Root Beer, Firecracker, and Sweet Tea. After doing two tasting, I felt I had a good grasp of what I liked best.

My wife and son enjoyed their day by going to Ripley’s Aquarium. We had two tickets so I let them enjoy one of the finest Aquariums in the country. They left with some really good pictures–some were actually quite funny, including a selfie with a sea creature friend photobombing their moment. I also relinquished my Ripley’s Moving Theater ticket to them, since Zac really wanted to go again. All in all, it was a fun day for all of us, separately.

Dinner was to be Cherokee Grill on this night, and I had my first taste of the Prosperity Pork Chop; it almost tasted like the Prosperity Steak, as I had to remind myself I was actually eating a different animal–tender and juicy goodness. This was what my wife and son ate; although with Zac’s, he was able to order the smaller kid’s menu version. My wife was a bit disappointed with her steak, but we have high expectations so this won’t derail our plans for a return.

This wraps up the second part of our June Gatlinburg trip. Stay tuned for Part Three as I put the cherry on top of another vacation in the Smoky Mountains. Thanks for reading and leave a comment; I will reply back as soon as I get it.




Gatlinburg June Vacation: Part One

The time had finally come for us to make our way to the Smoky Mountains. June has always been our family Gatlinburg vacation time, and the sure sign that it has finally arrived is when school lets out for the summer. I won’t waste any more time setting this up, so let us get down to the business of what happened on our trip.


Our son insists we get up super early in the morning to start our journey. It’s what we usually have done, but recently we started leaving around lunch time. Well, this time we went back to the well–it is better doing this simply because we avoid Dayton and Cincinnati traffic in the morning. We were on the road by four in the morning, and we reached our destination–the Old Mill Square in Pigeon Forge–just after 10 a.m.

We love all the shops at The Old Mill; we usually make this our only stop in Pigeon Forge, because it has a bit of everything all within a short walking distance. We always stop at the Pottery House Cafe, and of course, they served up some very tasty offerings once again.

We finished up at The Old Mill and made our way into Gatlinburg via the six-mile stretch named the Spur–where it began to start raining. We made our way downtown and gunned it the steep hill where Summit Manor Condos are located; this was not our accommodations, as we had reservations at the one building owned by Quality Inn Creekside. Our room, thankfully, was ready at just after two in the afternoon–and since it was raining, we didn’t want to venture out with our umbrellas yet.

After a brief respite at our third-floor mountain view room, we made the short walk down to the Elks Plaza–the location of our favorite pizza in town, Best Italian. We don’t care for a greasy pizza, so we opted for just extra cheese–the same one as last year–and we devoured as much of the New York style pizza as we could stomach. The funniest part of our meal was seeing a server bring out a monster calzone, which quite frankly looks like a baby dinosaur–I mean, it is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen brought out for one person at any restaurant. We were a bit disappointed with the service at the end of the meal–in which our server completely ignored us–but we will come back and hope for service that rivals the food.


A tasty New York Style extra cheese at Best Italian


We used the time after our meal to bypass the Parkway and head down River Road, where we showed our son some the damage inflicted by the fires. It was an eye-opener for him the same it was for us, and we talked about how close the fires came to force us to find a new favorite place to vacation and how much people’s livelihoods were affected.

I had talked about going back to Doc Collier’s Moonshine for several years, but I never made the time until this trip. I browsed their tiny shop which pales in comparison to their competition in town, but I soon found out that it could be considered a legitimate hidden gem. I did my first ever tasting with a small group of visitors, and I really liked their selection; plus, I approved of the way some of their ‘shine tasted in contrast to Ole Smoky and Sugarlands. With the exception of a few flavors, most of them tasted natural and not like candy; for example, the Blackberry didn’t taste like candy–it was more like taking a bite of a real blackberry. After sampling all 14 flavors, I was a bit warm and feeling pretty good, so I left thinking I might come back later in the trip to make a purchase.

With all that Moonshine flowing through me, I figured it would be a good time to soak some of it up with some food (and not alcohol) samples. My wife and son were with me and I told them I was ready for some ice cream, so we got some from our usual place, Chocolate Monkey, which actually advertises as the best in town–needless to say, we agree.


Chocolate Monkey has some of the best ice cream and fudge in town


After making our way down the Parkway, we kept the legs burning by walking up the hill to our hotel. Our first day was a long one, but we were just getting started.


Day 2 was Monday, and it didn’t get off to a favorable start. The fog that was on the mountain gave way to rain showers again, and the forecast wasn’t keeping us very optimistic. Our original plan was to take Zac to Ober Gatlinburg for our first visit and spend the day there. We nixed that plan and decided to stay in town. That decision was finalized after Zac and I made our way to The Donut Friar–making the most delicious donuts in Gatlinburg since 1969. Zac had to get pictures of his two favorites–which are also my favorites–the Chocolate Chipper and Chocolate Cruller. I capped my breakfast with a quick stop in Coffee and Company, where I got my usual Shot in the Dark–because sometimes coffee needs a little something extra…espresso!


Donut selfie time at the Village



Peace, Love, and Coffee at Coffee and Company 


My wife ventured off to do her day’s worth of shopping while the kid and I did our fun-filled activities. First was Circus Golf, which is the cheapest mini-golf in town, but that doesn’t make it the worst. It is a bit dark inside–by design–but there is enough lighting to see what you’re doing. Obviously, there are circus-themed holes, some of which could scare the daylights out of you with their volume. Second was Fannie Farkles–famous for their foot long Ogle Corn Dogs but filled with fun arcade games. After some deliberating, we took the LONG walk to the beginning of the Parkway where our favorite, Davy Crockett’s Mini Golf, is located. At this time the skies were clearing up a bit, so that’s why we decided to make this hike. It was fun, but we only did the 18 holes because of the threat of rain. It actually started raining again about the time we reached the Aquarium, so, unfortunately, we couldn’t stay dry the entire day.

We made Bennett’s Pit BBQ a dinner meal this time; we had previously only eaten here for lunch. Zac and I ordered the Pulled Chicken Sandwich and even though it was a lot for him to handle on top of the sides, he did well. Somehow, Bennett’s just recently added this item to their menu, and it will be ordered again and again if it remains this delicious.


Pulled Chicken Sandwich with sides at Bennett’s Pit BBQ


After dinner, we made our way into the Mountain Mall. Now this place is not a favorite of ours, to be honest, but there are a few stores inside worth visiting–one is Papaw’s Sweet Tooth, which can be satisfied by their broad selection of flavored popcorn. This place rivals Yukon’s Popcorn Emporium on the Parkway, and I think they stack up pretty well–if only they can attract visitors into the Mall.

My wife and Zac wanted to return to the room, but I wasn’t quite finished so I caught a live performance at Ole Smoky Moonshine where Midnight Run–a talented bluegrass band with a few local members–was playing at the Holler. From there I strolled over to a bustling Smoky Mountain Brewery to have a flight of beers I had not tried before. I was not impressed with one of them–I believe it was the unfiltered wheat–but I liked the rest. One of which was a surprising winner that I ended up bringing some home with me later, the IPA. I was never a fan of IPA’s until I had their version; it reminds me of biscuits and honey.


Midnight Run at Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler



The daily chalkboard specials and events at Smoky Mountain Brewery


So far I’ve summed up our first two days, but stay tuned, there was much more to our trip. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stick around for Part 2 coming soon!

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