We are back from a Fall trip to Gatlinburg, TN so I thought you all would enjoy seeing what we saw up there. It seems that trips this year have been a fail with weather issues and we all have to worry about the pandemic too and how much we want to get out around crowds. I have a friend up in Gatlinburg and she and her husband build cabins up there for rentals, so when I saw one that had just been completed, she and I talked and I planned a trip up there for me and Mark to enjoy. It looked like the perfect Fall getaway.
Gatlinburg is a place I’ve been going to since I was a child. We spent a lot of time in the NC mountains growing up and it was always fun to go to Gatlinburg. It was a small town hamlet back then with lots of shops and restaurants and it’s grown a whole lot since the last time I went. There are lots more things to do which means this little town and nearby Pigeon Forge are busy places. It was packed. I knew it would be busy in October since so many people head to the mountains this time of year to see the leaves.
Of course, the beautiful Smoky mountains are the biggest draw for us. We love the mountain scenery and this was one of the favorite things we did while up in Gatlinburg. We didn’t really love the crowds or all the cheesy entertainment options, but I know many families love the place and flock there regularly. I’ll share what we did up there.
We only had 2 full days in Gatlinburg, so the first afternoon we just chilled out at the cabin. I’ll be showing you the cabin tomorrow, it’s absolutely stunning. So the first full day was nice and sunny and warm so we headed out to figure out how to spend our day. My friend, Tracy had mentioned a few things to do and going on the Foothills Parkway was one of them so that’s where we headed. As we were leaving town, the roads coming in were bumper to bumper traffic so it felt good to be going away from that and out into the countryside.
The parkway is beautiful and we stopped along the way so I could take pics and we could enjoy the gorgeous Fall scenery.
There was gorgeous nature to see at every turn, so that was a highlight of the trip.
The Fall color was still evident and we’re glad we got in on some of that color. The mountains in the Fall is one gorgeous scene.
Some areas along the way we could see all the way down into the valleys with soaring mountains in the background.
Red and gold, so pretty!
With blue skies framing the trees, it was a stunning vision.
We came back in the afternoon and headed to another stop that was recommended, Anakeesta, a park up on top of a mountain in downtown Gatlinburg. We had seen the long lines that morning when we passed by so we decided to try again. I found out you can order an Express pass online which helps bypass the long lines, so I did that (get the senior discount). We went back to town and found the Express line and got on the chairlift in about 30 minutes.
Looking back down to the town and parking lot. Gatlinburg is a lot bigger and more spread out than when I was growing up.
At the top of the mountain, we walked around and saw all the Fall decorations, ready for Halloween. It was fun to take that in. There are restaurants up there too, so you can eat if you want. There’s a few things for kids to do and a garden and lookout tower with 360 views.
View from the top.
We walked through the gardens and climbed the tower to see those views too.
It was a pretty place to see.
Anakeesta in the Fall.
We were there late afternoon so stayed and watched the sun go down.
It was very nice weather so that was a good thing to do that afternoon.
The free things to do are walk around and the treetop walk was neat. It’s a series of hanging bridges that all connect to trees and you walk through and take it all in.
That was fun! There’s also ziplines up there that cost extra $ as well as a small coaster. We didn’t do either of those. We were going to do a big coaster in Pigeon Forge, but unfortunately the weather the next day didn’t cooperate so we didn’t make it.
It was a pretty walk through the trees.
That’s Mark heading out of the tree walk. The views were incredible up here.
We headed back down on the chairlift as the sun was going down, so that was very pleasant.
Sunset over Gatlinburg.
We walked around town a bit when we got back, looking for a place to eat dinner. We were really hungry by then and most restaurants have a wait time, so we looked until we found something we could get in before too late.
We ended up at Bennett’s BBQ and got sandwiches, not bad food at all. One of the steak houses we tried to get in (Howard’s) had a 45 minute wait and I was starving then so we had to find something we could get into.
This is Gatlinburg at night. I’m not one who loves to go in all the shops in a tourist town like this so we didn’t do any of that.
It’s lit up with lots of neon at night.
Plenty of people were out and about on the sidewalks. You can definitely count on crowds in October in Gatlinburg.
The next day was rainy all day long, so we stayed in the cabin and enjoyed that until evening. I had bought tickets to a Motown live show that night in Pigeon Forge so we headed over there for an early dinner in time to catch the show. Lots more people in Pigeon Forge and a couple places we tried to get in for dinner also had long lines so we ended up at Starliner Diner. I got a club sandwich which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t really what we wanted for dinner. The milkshake was delicious. You definitely have to be prepared for crowds and waiting around this area.
After dinner, we walked down the street to the Christmas shop and that was fun to look at. So much Christmas stuff to choose from! The theater was right next door to the diner and the Christmas shop just a short walk away.
There were plenty of people in here too, but we wore masks when we were inside.
Are you getting in the mood for Christmas yet?
The Motown show was a hit with Mark and me, he enjoyed that and I’m glad we did it.
Here’s a little peek at what Pigeon Forge looks like. It’s like the Panama City beach of the mountains, with lots of entertainment, shops restaurants, and touristy things to do. So many people love going up there, but it’s not really our thing (the crowds and themey entertainment). We love the mountains and how beautiful they are, but the town part is not for us except for restaurants and a few other things.
That’s a look at Gatlinburg. If you’ve been, you either love it or don’t, but it’s a fun place to get away for a few days. The Pigeon Forge area has really grown too and is exploding with lots of theaters and live shows. You can play goofy golf, ride roller coasters, go into Ripley’s Believe it or not Museum, as well as lots of other entertainment options. You will definitely spend some money if you go and do everything. That’s a look at what we did, so I hope you enjoyed this little getaway to Gatlinburg with us!
We had planned to go back home through Asheville and visit the Southern Living Idea House on our final day, but as luck (and 2020) would have it, the house was closed the day I had tickets purchased because of Hurricane Zeta that came roaring up from New Orleans to the mountains. It was so disappointing, I had already bought the tickets but of course they refunded. I got up and checked my email that morning as we were getting ready to leave and head to Asheville….cancelled! So back home we came. That’s 2020 for you, nothing is predictable it seems.
Judy Johnson says
Thank you for sharing your lovely get away. There is so much beauty in our country. I always enjoy reading your blog. Thank you!
My Husband and I are on a convertible ride vacation. We arrived in Gatlinburg yesterday afternoon. We drove here from Highlands and went through Bryson City. I thought of you and your families cabins as we were driving. The trees are past peak but the mountains are stunning.
Enjoy your time!
You sound just like us when it comes to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. We never do any shopping and spend most of our time driving the different motor trails through the Smoky Mountain National Park. We have found hidden gem restaurants in the craft community outside of Gatlinburg. There are several shows we have attended over the years and the entertainment is always good. Looking forward to hearing all about the cabin you stayed in. We rent a cabin
every trip we make and are always on the lookout for a new one to try. This post makes me want to head back.
Leslie Preston says
What beautiful pictures! I’m with you….not interested in joining the crowds and theme-park environment. And if I can’t park close in, forget it! LOL! I always enjoy reading your posts! The travel ones are calming, and the home decorating ones very inspirational. I now read them first before the rest of my inbox, so that I start the day with a good attitude! Thank you!!!
Thank you, Leslie, I love to take you all along on all our adventures as well as home projects. It was fun to get away.
Arlene Grimm says
So glad y’all got some time on your own after losing Mark’s dad. I am sure it was a much needed time to just be together. I call Pigeon Forge the Las Vegas of the Smokies. I had not been there for YEARS and was surprised at how much it had changed when we visited several years ago. PS…I enjoyed your insta stories of the visit.
Jane H. says
What a beautiful and fun post! Especially love the sunset pictures from the chairlift. Thanks for sharing.
I live in Knoxville so I frequent the mountains often. I’m not a fan of the tourist shops either but I do have a favorite pottery place in the Crafts community. Was just there this past Saturday to make a purchase!! Loved your pictures!
Love your pictures. We went to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge about 10 years ago, and I too was shocked at how commercial it was. I guess I was picturing the idyllic mountain town my great-grandmother talked about from her visits! We had a great time doing things off the beaten path. Like you, we were not into the cheesy commercial aspects of either town. But the scenery
is just beautiful.
Hi, Tracy, yes the mountains are the best part about the area, we loved that part the most.
Beautiful pictures Rhoda! We have rented cabins/condos in and around Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for many years. I haven’t been since the new sky bridge was built. However, my niece just got married in Gatlinburg in late October at a beautiful venue there. It was a difficult decision not to attend because of COVID but since my husband has COPD we thought it was best not to go. My brother said the restaurants, attractions and shops were very crowded (because of Fall foliage) so I was glad in the end we didn’t go. They tried to go to the new bridge but the lines were too long so they took beautiful rides out on the parkway and countryside.
I love Bennett’s BBQ and always try to go there as well as the Old Mill. That place is always packed. I have never been to that treetop walk and will certainly check it out on our next visit. The shops especially in Gatlinburg are a little too touristy for my taste and some are overpriced as well. Cant wait to see the pics of the cabin you guys stayed in. Please include rental info as we like to try new places out each time we visit.
HI, Teresa, sounds like you know your way around Gatlinburg a lot. I’ll definitely be sharing the cabin links, they are definitely a treat to stay in.
Looks like a fun getaway for y’all! My husband grew up going there, and we have been the last 2 years during Spring Break with the kids. In fact, we went the week before the country shut down for Covid back in March, so we were happy to be able to get away! We went up to Anakeesta last year right after it opened, before the restaurant was there, just a food truck. Did you see the video that went viral a few weeks ago of a bear at the Anakeesta restaurant? Crazy! We love eating at the Pancake Pantry and the Old Mill, love the pottery shop and the Christmas store, and Smoky Mountain Knife Works (I think my husband, FIL, and son could spend all day in there!)! Looking forward to seeing the cabin you stayed in!
Hi, Audra, I didn’t see that video, I’ll have to look it up. It would have been so fun to see a bear!
in spite of some rain, i would say you chose the near perfect time for this getaway. the photos are all lovely and with the Christmas shop you shared a couple of holidays with us. thank you
It’s just breathtaking, Rhoda. I’ve never been to the Carolina’s and the Smokey Mountains are high on my list of places to see. Especially in the fall. Thanks for the gorgeous photos, I could run through your post over and over all day. Looking forward to seeing the cabin tomorrow. xo
I’m so glad you enjoyed the visit! It’s really a beautiful place to see in person.
We live in Middle TN and are about 4 hours from Gatlinburg. We go once or twice a year. Yes, it is touristy and commercialized, but we enjoy the time away and the beautiful mountains. We have been to Anakeesta twice and loved the views. There’s much to see in and around Gatlinburg, Cade’s Code, Bryson City, Clingdom’s Dome, to name a few.
We visit there at least once a year but haven’t been because of COVID. It is beautiful in the fall but too crowded. Our favorite places to eat are Pancake Pantry and The Peddler Steak House. We also enjoy staying at The Inn at Christmas Place but the cabin you stayed in was beautiful and I will tell my family.
diane in northern wis says
Oh what a fun trip, you had Rhoda. I loved the pics of Gatlinburg…..especially the waterfalls and mountains and beautiful trees…and pics taken from your overhead ride….so pretty looking down at it all. I loved the walk thru the trees too. Thanks so much for sharing it all.
Jeanie Nichols says
Beautiful pictures! Thanks for sharing, and I do love reading your blog.