Planning a mountain getaway? Check out Gatlinburg, Tennessee – located in the Great Smoky Mountains, and let this Q & A help you prepare for your trip!
Our friend, Jamie, is familiar with the Gatlinburg area. She recently traveled to the mountains with her husband for a week of fun-filled activities, hearty meals and close encounters with some of the forest wildlife. We hope the following Gatlinburg travel tips will help you prepare for your next mountain getaway in Tennessee!
SPM Vacations: How did you get to Gatlinburg and how long did it take you?
Jamie: Driving from Conway, SC to Gatlinburg, TN was roughly a five and a half to six hour drive.
SPM Vacations: Who did you travel with?
Jamie: My husband and I enjoyed this trip alone with my father visiting towards the end of the week.
SPM Vacations: Where are some of the places you dined while you were in Gatlinburg, and what was your favorite restaurant?
- Crockett’s Breakfast Camp was an incredible place to get breakfast. The menu was actually a newspaper! The decor is very mountain settler themed, complete with large Mason jars for glasses. The smell of homemade cinnamon rolls as you walk in consumes you, the biscuits are huge and, therefore, are called catheads. The apple-smoked bacon and moonshine marinated sausage gave you a great feel of the area and mountains, not to mention the food is served very quickly. During the peak seasons, I would strongly suggest going super early or possibly call in for a pick-up order, as this is also available. But at least try the dining experience once during your stay.
- We seemed to unintentionally support a particular family while we were there, (the Johnson Family), who owned a few different types of restaurants in the area. Each one was very good in its own right: The Alamo Steakhouse, Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que was reasonable & very decent BBQ. We enjoyed tasting the many different BBQ sauces they leave on the tables! And not the least Big Daddy’s Wood Fired Brick Oven Pizzeria. We enjoyed the Big Daddy’s pizza so much we went back several times. My husband is quite the meat eater when it comes to his pizza, but he helped me indulge in their white pizza, not to mention their wood-fired wings, which are very different from the traditional fried and were their signature appetizer. They also allow you to split your pizza so that you may take advantage of their signature options.
SPM Vacations: What dates were you in Gatlinburg, and what was the weather like?
Jamie: The weather was nice and sunny over Labor Day Weekend; I definitely recommend wearing summer attire, as the weather can get pretty hot in some areas. Evenings were an ideal temperature.
SPM Vacations: Did you do any shopping in Gatlinburg?
Jamie: Outside of the many shops in downtown Gatlinburg, are the non-tourist stores. Just outside of town is 8 Mile Loop Road, a figure eight-shaped road which has many artistic, crafty and specialty shops along the way. These shops are not walking distance from each other, so you will need to drive to each place.
SPM Vacations: Did you buy any souvenirs?
Jamie: We obtained many souvenirs in downtown Gatlinburg. The homemade wineries (Bootleggers Home Made Wine) and moonshine & whiskey distilleries (Ole Smoky Distillery and Sugarlands Distilling Company) were plentiful, and at each stop, the staff were very willing to supply samples of their product. One of the most popular stores seem to be All Sauced Up, a kitchenette store offering many samples of their bread dips, sauces, jams, BBQ, hot sauce, salsa, etc.
SPM Vacations: Please describe downtown Gatlinburg:
Jamie: Downtown Gatlinburg is best described as a boulevard nestled right at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s jam packed with stores, restaurants, putt-putt golf, specialty item stores, moonshine, wine, and whiskey distilleries, along with Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, and specialty fudge and candy shops. There are attractions for enjoying the mountain views such as the Sky Lift, Space Needle, and the Aerial Tramway at Ober Gatlingburg – another attraction in itself.
SPM Vacations: Did you go on any tours while in Gatlinburg?
Jamie: No tours on our trip; however, individual tours are offered through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
SPM Vacations: Did you run in to any issues while in Gatlinburg – weather, traffic or tolls, etc.?
Jamie: One downfall for Gatlinburg is that the traffic can be quite overwhelming; apparently the town’s peak season starts in June and ends in August, with October also being busy due to Oktoberfest and the changing colors of the trees. We were there a whole week, and after the Labor Day Weekend rush, it was super great and the crowds were a lot smaller and more manageable.
SPM Vacations: What was the highlight of your trip?
Jamie: The highlight of our trip was the beautiful scenery, but also a funny story to take home with us. The wildlife is very prevalent in Gatlinburg. Our first night checking into the resort, we unloaded all our bags in the room and my husband went back down to the car only to be greeted by a big black bear! Running upstairs, he informed me in a joking manner that he almost got mauled by a bear. Not believing him, I went outside and looked for the bear, sure enough someone didn’t put the lock on the dumpster properly! We watched the bear for a good 10 minutes before it walked into the woods. Each night of our vacation, we would walk outside to see if the bear would come back. On our last night, I told my husband, “Let’s go outside and see if Benny” – we named him – “wants to say goodbye. He gave us a hello, let’s see if he is willing to say good bye.” To our luck, he was once again near the dumpster!
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