Back again with another travel guide! This time, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
This trip was definitely one for the books; not only because it was with my family, but also because it was my first “outdoorsy” trip since probably 5th grade. We did just about everything you could do in a mountain town like this, so let’s get into it!
First up is the cabin we stayed in – such a beaut! There was a wraparound porch, cute woodland creature decor inside and…a real live bear?? Yes, when you come to Gatlinburg, the locals aren’t joking when they say to close the bear locks on the trash and to keep food out of the car outside. Our first night in when we saw the bear warning guide on the fridge we laughed it off…and then the very next day until all through the trip we saw MULTIPLE bears outside our house!! They were on top of the neighbor’s truck outside, they were on top of trash cans, AND they were directly on our porch & outside our front door. It was really cool to see them but definitely heed the locals’ warnings and don’t be too close – they are very strong creatures and are wild so there’s no telling what could happen. Ok sorry, PSA over! Definitely lucky to see them this close up considering the closest I’ve ever been to a bear was in a zoo.
The nice contrast of Gatlinburg that I really liked was that though you are in the wilderness (The Smoky Mountains, c’mon!), you also get a cute little town with vintage shops and wineries too – it reminded me of Nashville a little bit! I think I speak for everyone when I say that our favorite thing on the trip was the skylift. Unlimited ride tickets were super cheap, so we went on it probably over 10 times throughout the trip – day AND night! You get a great view of the downtown area as well as all the mountains. They also light it up at night!
The strip is PACKED with little shops and eateries so definitely make time to explore that as well. We really liked the popcorn place in the town square part called Pop Culture – you could sample all kinds of flavors, from cinnamon roll to cookies n’ cream! As mentioned above, there are a bunch of wineries and breweries around town too. You can do tastings of wine, beer, even moonshine! It was nice to break up the day, for sure! I don’t have pictures of it (tried to limit the amount since I was with family and it was a big deal for us) but also make sure to hit up one of the steakhouses on the strip – so good, and cheap too! I also need to shout out the Italian spot that hosted us for my dad’s birthday because their food and service were top notch: Taste of Italy. Though not really photo-worthy and a bit of a hole in the wall – the experience you got for the low price you paid was a standout!
The final piece of this trip that I’m sure most of you know Gatlinburg for is the outdoor activities. We did it all: ziplining (my favorite one), white-water rafting, and horseback riding in the mountains. Ziplining was the activity I was most excited about – it looked so fun from videos I’ve seen on TV and other people’s vacations. I was a little nervous since we were up high but after that first push across, it felt so freeing!
All that being said, I was the most nervous for white-water rafting since I did not want to fall off the boat/get turned over. There were some big rocks with whirlpools around them that would suck us in and spit us right back out. Luckily neither of those outcomes happened! I think I will always be nervous about something like that but I’m definitely glad I did it and it was fun toward the end as the ride went on.
I have been horseback riding in the mountains before, about 10 years ago on the West Coast, the last time I was there before visiting Denver a couple weeks before this trip! I loved it, it was nice to do it again and relive that memory. It was quite muddy and smelly this time but you can’t beat those views! Definitely wear things that can take a little damage, especially if you ride right after a rainstorm like us.
And that’s a wrap! I highly suggest visiting this mountain village if you get the chance – especially if it’s outside your comfort zone like this city girl!
See you in the next post!