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Gatlinburg June Vacation: Part Two

Tuesday

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Wednesday

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.

 

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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.

Sunday

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Monday

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!

 

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Donut selfie time at the Village

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Midnight Run at Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler

 

 

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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!

Coming Soon to Gatlinburg: New Attractions and Our June Trip

We are now in the middle of May, so that means less than three weeks until our annual summer trip to Gatlinburg. I just wanted to say a few random things about what I’ve observed from seven hours away as far as happenings, things I’m looking forward to, and soon-to-be attractions coming to the Burg. If you’re an obsessed follower of this area, then you’ll already be aware of some of these things, but if not, I hope I can inform you all a bit.

Just last week Gatlinburg hosted the Beans and Cornbread fest, and of course, it seemed like everyone enjoyed themselves by taste testing some of this fine Southern goodness. Erik Dobell from Impossibilities Show was downtown doing some live interviews and you can see some of that here.

There are a few attractions in town that are prepping for their grand openings soon. Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster will be the latest installment of Gatlinburg fun, and they were figuring on a mid-May opening, but I haven’t heard if the opening is in the next few days or being pushed to June. They are located between Hillbilly Golf and Zoder’s Inn and feature a mountain glider in addition to the gravity-propelled coaster. More details of this will follow, as their website is still a bit incomplete.

Anakeesta has been the most hyped attraction that is being constructed across from Ripley’s Aquarium. From the Parkway you will be able to ride a chondola up to Anakeesta Mountain, where Firefly Village and a host of other outdoor activities awaits you. They are feverishly getting set for a July opening, but once again, stay tuned and keep updated by visiting their website, which gives A LOT of good information about what you can expect to find there.

As far as my family’s trip is concerned, we have compiled our list of must-do’s knowing at the same time that the weather or other speed bumps could alter our plans. I really don’t need to list all of the places we are planning on visiting since I’ve done this song and dance on my blog multiple times, so I won’t bore you with those details. We do want to return to Big Daddy’s Pizza in Gatlinburg, which we only visited once, and that was…GASP!…four years ago, already. We also want to return to Clingman’s Dome, which my son has not seen yet, but we are looking at several other hikes as well, since we can certainly fit in a few on our hike day.

The Arts and Crafts Community is also another must for us now; especially, since now we have discovered Custom Creations by Beth in The Covered Bridge at the Glades. It is a small shop but it is illuminated with her colorful paintings of flowers, mountains, and other outdoorsy things featured on different canvases. We bought one of her paintings here in April, and I strongly recommend you check out her talented creations.

I am looking forward to our latest episode of memories here. Heck, I’m even thinking about getting a caramel apple at one of the candy shops in town. You should already know what my favorite one is, but I actually haven’t decided on a location for this treat yet. I’ll leave you in suspense until my next post, which will either be on my blog or on MobileBrochure.com. Hope you enjoyed reading, and if I haven’t written anything by June, I will have a trip report — featured exclusively on MobileBrochure — that involves my much anticipated first trip to Ober Gatlinburg with my son in tow. Thanks again, and feel free to comment what you thought about this post!

April Gatlinburg Trip Plans

The wait will soon be over.

Winter here in Ohio is trying to hang onto whatever life it has left, as flurries are forecast for the end of the work week; however, Spring is here, and that means we are set to make a return trip back to Gatlinburg. I shouldn’t complain too much since it really has been a fairly mild winter when compared to average winters here, which can be downright awful sometimes. I mean, I didn’t even have to shovel the driveway once this past winter. Still, the gradual warming of the temperature is comforting, and along with the longer days, it lifts the cloud of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I actually believe is a real thing.

We are obviously excited to get back to our happy place, even if it’s just for a few days. We don’t have many activities planned, as some unfortunate things befell us leading up to our trip, but we don’t spend much until our traditional June trip anyway. I am going to share with you plans for our brief trip to the Smoky Mountains, which is just a few short days away.

Day 1

As some of you readers have seen from previous blog posts, I have expressed my desires to make a new life for our family here in East Tennessee. Keeping with this theme, I should mention that this day will mainly be spent scouting a few areas in Knoxville. Our plans include a few apartment visits and just checking out potential locales since I don’t have anything on the job front yet (The job must come first). When we do finally arrive in Gatlinburg, we will get checked into our downtown hotel and head to Best Italian in the Elks Plaza, if we haven’t already eaten in K-Town. Of course, we will stretch our legs a bit by walking the Parkway until we’ve had enough and eventually rest up for the next day.

Day 2

This will be our morning to head down to our favorite spot for breakfast–a place that needs no introduction, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp. This restaurant has the biggest portions, best food, and some of the best service (knock on wood) in town.

I could go on about this place, but I need to get moving as I am making a drive after breakfast back toward Knoxville for a career fair. I’ve heard they are a mixed bag, but if we want to make this happen, I need to get acquainted with employers here. Unfortunately, this probably means we’re winging it for lunch, as my wife won’t be coming with me to the career fair. 

Hopefully, time is on our side for heading to the Arts and Crafts Community to see my social media friend Lori at her relocated Farmhouse Mercantile, which is still at the Covered Bridge. We will probably visit more shops on Glades Road, but I look forward to this visit the most.

Back to Gatlinburg we will go, and here we will visit our favorite casual steak restaurant in town, Cherokee Grill. As I have mentioned before, we want to try other steak places in town, but we just can’t turn down their delicious steaks and side dishes. I also like that I can have a nice cold drink here from their craft brewery located just a few steps away at Smoky Mountain Brewery.

Day 3

Yes, unfortunately, this is our last full day in Gatlinburg. This will be my morning to take my solo walk–unless my wife is awake–to The Village where I can have my donut–or two–from The Donut Friar and my coffee from Coffee and Company. My peaceful morning walk will take me back the other way down the Parkway to Old Dad’s for a newspaper. I have to visit this little convenience store, especially after their gracious display of opening and feeding the firefighters when the tragic wildfires destroyed some of the Gatlinburg area in late November.

Since we learned Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will be open, that option could be considered, but if not, then we will spend our day perusing various shops including Sugarlands Distilling Co. They have the best moonshine in Gatlinburg in my opinion, and we may end up with another jar for the road. They have new flavors we haven’t tried, including an orange-flavored one that is advertised as tasting like an orange cream pop.

Day 4

This will probably be our morning we decide to hit the Pancake Pantry for the best pancakes in the Burg before our long and painful journey back home. It’s certainly a bit depressing to leave, but usually, it is inspiring to me in a sort of strange way that keeps me on a high for a few days after we arrive home. Oh well, time to start planning for the next trip, right.

Thank you for reading about my latest thoughts, advice, and happenings in Gatlinburg. I hope that you find it interesting enough to leave your questions and comments on anything related to The Smoky Mountains. I usually respond fairly quickly, so ask away. See you all next time!

April 2017 Events in Gatlinburg

Yes, this guy is planning another Gatlinburg trip next month, and while the first three months of the year are generally quiet as far as tourism is concerned, April means Springtime is upon us bringing in the dollars for a town in need of a serious boost. The town will be bustling with people soon, and there are a good number of events on the slate to experience as the weather turns consistently warmer.

Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament

Dates: April 1-2

Billed as the largest trout tournament in the Smokies, adults and children can compete in multiple events and categories. The event is sponsored by Rocky Top Outfitters, and prizes total $10,000 with over 10,000 trout stocked in over 20 miles of streams prior to the event. For more information, visit their website and join in with the other novices and experts for plenty of fishing enjoyment.

Smoky Mountain Winefest

Dates: April 7-8

You can sample wine here in Gatlinburg from wineries all over Tennessee at this event located at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. There is also a Wine Tour held on the first day that takes you on a guided tour of the Gatlinburg wineries. Seats are limited for the events and will probably sell quickly so you may want to get your tickets here if you are interested in participating.

Hands On Gatlinburg

Dates: April 7-9

This event provides the most options as it is sponsored by the Arts and Crafts Community and features a wide variety of demonstrations put on by the various artisans and craftsmen and women on the Arts and Crafts loop. Spaces are very limited for these brief classes that introduce the student as to what these people do every day. A full listing of the classes can be found here with various listings of prices.

Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage

Dates: April 11-15

Anyone with a passing interest in flowers to an educated botanist can partake in these tours. There will be seminars and guided tours that highlight the many different plants and animals that are native to the Great Smoky Mountains. Registration has already begun so take a look at their website to find out more information about the event.

Easter Sunrise At Ober

Date: April 16

This is a worship service sponsored by the Gatlinburg Ministerial Association and features free tram rides up to Ober Gatlinburg for anyone who wishes to attend the service which starts at 6:30 in the morning. Visit www.obergatlinburg.com to find out more about this Easter morning service.

Earth Week

Dates: April 17-21

Gatlinburg has recently become a very environmental-friendly place lately with their “Going Green” campaigns, and there is much to celebrate as they will having various events to mark the week in different locations. There is plenty of music, games, and events on any given day in Gatlinburg, but you may want to experience these particular events since many–if not all of these activities–will be held outside in the beautiful mountain sunshine or rain; either is just fine for many of us. Take a look at the rest of the Earth Week events found here.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t mention the Arts and Crafts show–which I will be attending–that will be held in the Convention Center on the Parkway. These talented artists and owners will be bringing their items for sale to display in their booths downtown during Easter Week.

Don’t be a stranger so be sure and comment if you have any questions. I am on Twitter as well to answer you if you feel the need to know something. I am looking forward to my trip, and I will hopefully have something else posted before then. Thanks for reading!

 

Getting Back to Business As Usual in Gatlinburg

This post is going to focus on reminding people that, in fact, Gatlinburg is open for business. I have heard many people on social media being under the impression that it was completely burned to the ground. IT HAS CERTAINLY NOT! In fact, most businesses were not affected structurally by the fires, even though there was plenty of smoke damage that needed to be addressed by many of these establishments. The following businesses that I will mention here have not yet reopened but are planning on inviting guests once again in the near future.

Zoder’s Inn

There is a special place in my heart for this motel located on the Parkway. It was here that we spent our first two visits in Gatlinburg. The fires spared this long time Gatlinburg motel; however, it did sustain significant smoke damage as a result of the November fires that inundated the surrounding area. They are using this time to do a major cleaning and partial remodel of the complex, which features many rooms that overlook the stream that meanders through the property. According to their Facebook page, Zoder’s  is planning on reopening in the Spring, so if you have reservations, you may want to contact them to check on its status.

El Sonador

This restaurant was featured in one of my recent posts as one I would like to visit. Sadly, the fires damaged this establishment, but fear not, they are planning on a reopen scheduled for the Spring. This is a popular Mexican restaurant that the locals have been fawning over since they opened. All accounts say that is truly authentic Mexican food. Located on the East Parkway, they offer live entertainment, a patio, and a brief respite from the bustle of the Parkway. We would love to come here in mid-April if they can be open by then, but June looks like a better possibility. Check out their Facebook page here or their website for updates when they become available.

Gatlinburg Sky Lift

This has to be the most improbable of all the reopenings due to the fact that the mountain it sits on was completely engulfed in flames. Although they have not yet set a reopen date, the Sky Lift also has plans to expand. The gift shop at the top was a total loss, and this will be rebuilt along with the addition of a pedestrian bridge, zip lines, and canopy trails located at the top of Crockett Mountain. A short summary of this story was written by a Knoxville television reporter and can be found in the link here. The Sky Lift has been a signature attraction in Gatlinburg for many years, and this is welcome news for visitors and the tourism industry here.

Alamo Steakhouse

Another restaurant that we were wanting to visit was completely destroyed in the fire, but the owner — Kelly Johnson, of Johnson’s Family of Restaurants — endeared herself to her employees and the public by announcing she would pay the employees their full salary for the next year. This family of restaurants owns nine in the area: Mad Dog’s Creamery, Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que, (a favorite of ours) and Big Daddy’s Pizzeria (another good one). This was one of the better stories to come immediately after the fires ground business to a halt a few months ago. Needless to say, I highly recommend you go to their other restaurants as they are working on a complete rebuilt to this particular one. No date for a re-opening has yet been set, but the kindness these owners displayed is not publicized enough nowadays, and I will applaud them and support them by continuing to visit their establishments and be among those that come to their new and improved Alamo Steakhouse in Gatlinburg.

I hope you gained some insight on the status of these businesses, and I certainly would encourage you to keep an eye on them to see when they are officially set to open. I also would love your input on any other businesses whose situation has you uncertain, and I will find that out for you as quickly as possible. Thank you as always for checking out my blog for the latest Gatlinburg happenings, tips, and other tidbits, and I welcome any comments. See you next time!

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