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.