Guest post by Susan Melony
If you’re in the process of planning a family vacation, and especially one your entire family will enjoy, you might consider the Smoky Mountains. The Smoky Mountains are located in East Tennessee as well as part of North Carolina. The Smoky Mountains are considered a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains.
Along with being called the Smoky Mountains, sometimes they’re called the Great Smokies or just the Smokies.
The following are some things to know, reasons to visit, and tips for what to do when you’re in the Smoky Mountains.
Great Smoky National Park
Great Smoky National Park was established in 1934. It currently has more than eleven million visitors each year, and it’s the most visited national park in the country. The park spans for more than 800 square miles along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Despite how many visitors it attracts each year, you would never realize it.
It’s quiet, deeply forested and the smoky haze is its namesake.
You’ll find not only woodlands but river valleys and fields of wildflowers (depending on the season).
There are opportunities to spot wildlife, including black bears and elk.
There are so many specific places to go within the park that these could fill their own lengthy lists.
For example, there’s Caves Cove and the nearby Abrams Falls hiking trail. There’s the park’s highest point which is Clingmans Dome, and also Laurel Falls, which is an 80-foot waterfall.
Whether you like a trip that’s more relaxing or adventurous, the park will have something you’ll find appealing. There are easy and more advanced hikes, as well as paddling and white water rafting.
If you get the opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountains in the fall, take it. The fall is stunning in the Smoky Mountains—it’s among the best you’ll find anywhere in the country.
The leaves start to change in late September to early October, and the peak is usually by the start of November.
The fall is also the perfect time to enjoy some local festivals like the Smoky Mountains Harvest Festival.
The Smoky Mountains Harvest Festival takes place over five weeks, and it includes Oktoberfest and the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair.
If you want to escape the crowds and enjoy lower prices, don’t go in fall—go in spring instead. The Smoky Mountains spring views are beautiful as well, and in April and May, there are more than 1,500 species of wildflowers in bloom.
The weather is usually in the 70s, so it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors.
The Arts Community
You may not know it, but there is an eight-mile loop that’s part of historic Gatlinburg that’s a designated Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail. It is the largest group of independent artists and artisans in North America, with more than 100 artists studios.
You can watch craftspeople paint, carve, sew and more.
You can also purchase an original piece of art.
Amusement Parks and Entertainment
There is no shortage of things to keep you occupied near the Smoky Mountains. Two of the most well-known attractions are Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country, but there’s a lot more than that.
For example, there is The Island in Pigeon Forge. The Island is a shopping and entertainment venue with the Margaritaville Island Hotel, the Great Smoky Mountain Ferris Wheel, and lots more family-friendly fun.
There are dinner shows, including the popular Hatfield & McCoy show, and there’s the Titanic Museum.
Also a big hit is the Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge. At this fun-filled attraction, you roll down a hill inside a big transparent ball, and it’s called zorbing.
Gatlinburg has its fair share of attractions much like nearby Pigeon Forge. There is Ober Gatlinburg, which is a longstanding amusement park that also has skiing and snow activities in the winter. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is in Gatlinburg, as is the Gatlinburg Space Needle observation tower.
Recently added was the Gatlinburg Sky Lift Park, where you can take a chairlift ride year-round to get stunning mountain views.
The Mountain Mall is located in Gatlinburg also. It’s an indoor shopping area where you can find themed retailers offering everything from candy to handmade jewelry. The Village Shops are another Gatlinburg shopping destination, and they’re designed to feel like an Old World European shopping venue. Again, the focus is on handcrafted items and southern hospitality and customer service, which are trends you’ll see throughout your time in the Smoky Mountains.
About the Author: Susan is an avid writer, traveler, and overall enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter.