School was finally out for summer a couple of weeks ago. We were elated! Singing the Alice Cooper song we couldn’t wait to make our vacation plans. We had only one week before Band Camp started for my 14 year old son. My husband and I knew what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, but we wanted his opinion too. We got the answer we thought we would get…Fun in the Tennessee Mountains. Now, when you think of heading to the mountains you are thinking of hiking through the woods, a picnic by a beautiful stream, exploring small towns and back roads, discovering wildlife, and viewing gorgeous scenery. But his idea of fun is a little different from ours, because after all – he is only 14. So we compromised and merged all our ideas into one vacation. Here is a taste of the sights, discoveries and fun we had in the great state of Tennessee!
If you have never been to the Tennessee mountains, you need to come visit! The Great Smoky Mountains is the #1 most visited park in the United States and there is a reason for that!You will enjoy seeing wildlife all around you.
One of our first activities was a drive through the Great Smokies. We toured the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains which is a 5.5 miles long and narrow road winding through lush forests and showcasing the Roaring Fork stream and the historic buildings. We had our windows rolled down the whole time so we could hear the rushing of the water over the rocks. It was wonderful!
We were able to park and tour the mountain farms.
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is open May-November. Check out this link for more details…http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/roaringfork.htm
We also headed to Cades Cove which is close to Townsend, Tennessee and about 1 1/2 hours from Gatlinburg. First of all, the drive is spectacular! We drove through the valley looking at all the majestic mountains and were speechless. It was a sunny day and the sky could not have been more blue.
We had read that it can be really crowded on the Cades Cove loop so we got there around 10:00 A.M. and it wasn’t bad. My suggestion to you is the earlier the better, especially in the summer and on weekends. It is an 11 mile, one way tour in your car, but there are many places where you can park and get out to walk trails and explore historic buildings.
As we started our tour we saw some deer and turkey and were so excited!
We rounded a corner and saw a group of people in a field, all looking up in the trees. Of course we grabbed our camera and joined them. I have never seen a wild bear, let alone a bear cub out in their living environment. Let me tell you it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had! I was mesmerized!
The Mom was in one tree and was calling for her cub who was in a nearby tree. The cub was not wanting to come down, so after awhile we all left so they could reunite. (I might add here that there were park rangers with our group the entire time telling us when we should move back or away from the bears. We kept a safe distance at all times.)
We continued on the scenic route and I happened to look over to my left and guess what I saw? Another Mother Bear and her two cubs. I was in heaven!
I will never forget this beautiful drive or this magnificent day! I cannot wait to go back again! Cades Cove is a must if you are in the area.
For more information on Cades Cove, please visit this link at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm
So after our couple days of outdoor bliss, it was time for our son (Bennett) to have his fun. (Although he did get the biggest thrill seeing the bears! Who wouldn’t?)
We headed out for a day of fun in the mountains, Bennett style. First stop was the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. If you are not familiar with this ride, it is like riding your own private roller coaster. You are in a car that seats one or two and you are in control of your speed. You are taken by a conveyor belt up the side of a mountain and then can reach speeds of 27 mph going down if you do not apply the brakes. I had to sit this one out, but my husband and son rode it 5 times each. (By the way, they do give discounts after the first ride.)
There are two other coaster ride attractions in the area and they had to be visited as well. All three experiences will not disappoint you but my husband and Bennett decided this one was their favorite. It claims to be the longest downhill coaster ride in the country with over 1 mile of track.
For more information, please visit this link…http://www.smokymountainalpinecoaster.com/ride.htm
Thank goodness we were close to our cabin because we could see a storm coming in so we headed home.
We made it safely to our cabin before the rain hit it and it was a gully washer as we say in Tennessee! But after the rain, we looked out the window and felt we had to burst into the song “Smokey Mountain Rain” by Ronnie Milsap! What a sight we saw! These pictures will help you understand why they are called The Great Smoky Mountains!
As the rain slowly moved out and the clouds and fog moved in, the view was absolutely gorgeous! It took my breath away!
The other adventure Bennett chose was visiting Goats On the Roof. What is Goats On The Roof? I took this quote from their page; “It’s the goat-feeding-est, gem-mining-est, fudge-eating-est, ice-cream-licking-est, cool-gift-shopping-est attraction in Pigeon Forge!”
It is a pretty cool place and they have recently added a coaster and yes, the guys rode this one too. I loved the baby goats!
You can spend an hour easily in this place and it will hard to leave empty handed! For more information, please check out this link at http://www.goatsontheroofofthesmokies.com/
Another one of Bennett’s requests was to hit the main road in Pigeon Forge where there are more amusement parks, arcades and activities for the kids or the kid in all of us than probably anyone else in Tennessee. He wanted to ride as many go carts as possible. He got his wish.
He has his game face on and is ready for action.
Two hours and 5 rides later, he was done. But he had a ball! For more information on the main strip in Pigeon Forge and the numerous activities, please check out this link at http://thegreatsmokeymountainsparkway.com/_map/pigeon_forge/pfparkway.htm
Finally, what does every kid want to do on vacation? Go swimming of course!
Regarding lodging you will not have a problem finding overnight accommodations in this area. There are numerous places to choose from, depending on what you like. The Smoky Mountains/Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge vacation is one of the best vacations you can ever take and I am not saying this because I am a native Tennessean. I am saying this because there is something for everyone, and everyone can do something together!
So ya’ll come on over to Tennessee!
Until next time-
I hope you spend every day, living, learning, laughing and loving life…
while focused on Nashville and the great state of Tennessee!
My best to you,