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This is the time I year I generally start planning our summer vacation. We usually go somewhere mid June and I like to have several months to find the best rates and research the area. This year we have decided to stay closer to home to save on gas, spend less time in the car and more at our destination, and mostly because travel in the central US is just generally cheaper than going to the beach.

We've settled on Smoky Mountain National Park, staying in either Gatlinburg or Townsend Tennessee. Does anyone have any suggestions for the area; condo rental info, must sees sights, don't waste your time/money sights, great places to eat, etc. TIA!
 

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I really enjoy visiting that area. If you happen to go to Pigeon Forge, there is a restaurant there The Apple Barn. DELICIOUS!! They have the best breakfasts. Well, all their meals are good. You have to be an early bird, though. There is always a wait. The Apple Barn Cider Mill

There are actually two restaurants on the property because the first restaurant was so popular. The one furthest to the back is the original and the one in which we always dine. There is a store there as well and a candy shop.

You'll have a great time in the Smokey Mountains. Dollywood is there. I've never been but everyone I know that has been, enjoyed it. I like to visit the Christmas Shop. We always get a room at the Holiday Inn in Pigeon Forge. We drive over to Gatlinburg. I will warn you there is lots of traffic.
 

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I've been to the Gatlinberg area twice - once in the early 60s and again 3 years ago. I had a great time in the 60s, but the last trip was horrendous. I can't stand crowds, so that may have something to do with it, but I found the attractions terribly over-priced and wait time intolerable.

The only exception was the Aquarium, which is superb and worth seeing even if you don't go anywhere else.

If you enjoy a somewhat quieter pace, I would recommend the little town of Franklin, NC, which is about 25 miles south of the park. Franklin is a lovely small town whose big draw is gem mining. There are any number of places where you can pan for gems for not a lot of $$ (although, I'm sure they've raised their prices, too). My husband and I had only planned to spend one day there, but it was so relaxing and fun we stayed three.

There are excellent places to eat and a number of museums and so forth. It's fun just wandering around town.
 
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Sounds like a great vacation. I don't have any advice, but we drove through there on our way to South Carolina over the holidays. It is a beautiful area. I told hubby we should plan a vacation there soon.
 

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I thought Franklin had a website, and they do, but they won't let me post it yet because I haven't posted enough. Oh well.
 
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I'd suggest buying the year pass to the National Park Service. You can do that on your first entrance to the park. It's so worth it. Have you looked up any info on the park's page?
 

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I'd suggest buying the year pass to the National Park Service. You can do that on your first entrance to the park. It's so worth it. Have you looked up any info on the park's page?
Yes, the park actually had a guide book to print out, which we did. I've also looked at the Townsend and Gatlinburg tourism pages as they both have entrances to the park. There is A LOT to see and do and we have some ideas, but I was just interested in feedback from people who've BTDT.

We will mostly be exploring the park itself and doing a few choice things in town. We really like laid back vacations with plenty of time to relax but we usually throw in one or two bigger ticket things that are memorable. Ds really wants to see the Guiness World Record Museum as he is obsessed with the books and dd wants to see the aquarium, but nothing is definately decided yet. As for the park itself there are lots of sites to see inside as well and we haven't really decided which we will do yet.

For meals we generally cook two meals a day ourselves and pack all of our snacks when on vacation. We do generally eat out for one meal a day, sometimes lunch, sometimes supper- it depends on the days activities really. Again, we will eat cheap but may splurge on a really good local meal that we've heard is a can't miss.

Thanks for the feedback, anyone else with can't miss or don't bother advice is appreciated. :D
 

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We travel to the Smokey Mountains at least once a year, and love it. There's really something for everyone. Lots of shopping (if that's your thing). Plenty of arcades, go-carts, putt putt for the kids. In the summer, the Dollywood water park is awesome! I prefer the waterpark over the amusement park.

Gatlinburg is really great too. We loved the Aquarium. I love to drive up to Gatlinburg (we usually stay in Sevierville), at night and just browse the shops and soak up the atmosphere.

The actual park has some awesome trails. We've done a lot of them over the years. 2 of our favorites are the Chimney Tops Trail. This trail is somewhat strenuous and not for the faint of heart.

Our other favorite is the Laurel Falls Trail, this is an easy trail and touted as the most popular trail.

Depending on how many days we stay. We like to go to Cades Cove.
I also enjoy driving into North Carolina to visit Cherokee and Maggie Valley.

As you can see, plenty of stuff to do and see. Enjoy your trip!!
 

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We stayed in this very lodge the week of Christmas. It was very nice, clean and a great deal. The only complaint I had was that the driveway was very steep.
http://ridgecrestcabinrentals.com/lopers_lodge.html
There was a pool table, hot tub and washer and dryer. Also there was a grocery store just a minute up the road so that we were able to buy food and cook it at the lodge.

Andrea
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
We stayed in this very lodge the week of Christmas. It was very nice, clean and a great deal. The only complaint I had was that the driveway was very steep.
http://ridgecrestcabinrentals.com/lopers_lodge.html
There was a pool table, hot tub and washer and dryer. Also there was a grocery store just a minute up the road so that we were able to buy food and cook it at the lodge.

Andrea
Thank you! I have looked at a few cabin rental sites and hadn't come across this one yet. :)

Do you remember if the grocery store was reasonably priced? A lot of the time we load up coolers when going to these places because the prices in the grocery stores are inflated for tourism. It would be nice not to have to worry about that.

Sweet Pea- thanks for the trail recommendations- there are so many its hard to know where to start!
 

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We used to own a travel trailer in a park just outside of Cherokee in a town called Ela. The place is called the Hideaway Campground and they rent trailers by the week. A much cheaper way to go. The park has a pool and is centrally located to everything. Gatlinburg is an hour drive over the mountain.
We owned our plce for about 10 years and only sold it when things got bad for us money wise.
Take the time to go to Cades Cove. Read about the Scotch history first. Will make the visit more meaningful. My kids loved going up to Clingmans Dome and hiking on the Applachican Trail. Visit the mill and the visitors center. There are several waterfalls on and just off the Blueridge Parkway. All worth the walk. Take the Bryson Scenic Railroad ride up to Lake Fontanta, visit the dam! I beileve they still give tours inside. Tube in Deep Creek! Even in the summer the water is chilly. Joyce Kilmer State Forest is also close by. After walking throught there you know where the inspiration for his poems Trees came from.
DON'T Waste your time or money in Cherokee or at the gem mills. There are so many things to better to spend your time on. Dillsbro has a several very good co-op craft shops worth the visit.
We always hit several of the local flea markets home canned jams, pickles always came home with us. Take your hiking shoes and enjoy the trails. As for eating we used to take our own food stuffs with us and cook at our trailer. I know that the KOA campground just outside Cherokee has cabins for rent also.
Hope this helps.

LAurie in Bradenton
 
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My mother took me and the kids a couple of yrs ago. She treated us to the Dixie Stampede dinner show and Dollywood. We really enjoyed the dinner show. It was casual and relaxed and the kids (we had 4 kids w/ us) had a wonderful time. My 3 yr old son at the time was undiagnosed adhd and he did great because of the constant entertainment. After the show the riders let us pet the horses and signed autographs for the kids. One tip - stay out of the gift store.........
 
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Hubby and I went to school at Western Carolina U, and I worked in Cherokee (At the casino when they still allowed kids thru the front door) and we use to drive to Gatlinburg a few times a year and Franklin about once or twice a month to go bowling. Franklin is about 65 miles from Gatlinburg. If you go and want to Drive into NC then I would suggest a day trip in Dillsboro (about 45-50 minutes from Gatlinburg). You have 2 streets of shops, The Jarrett House B&B and there is also a BBQ place called Dillsboro Smokehouse (Joe acted as Manager there for a few months while he was in grad school....the owner is/was a jerk but the food was great.....lol)

Here is a link for Dillsboro:

http://www.visitdillsboro.org/

Here is one for Franklin:

http://www.franklin-chamber.com/visitorInformation/index.asp

Funny enough we now live in TN and have for almost 5 years and haven't been to Gatlinburg but once or maybe twice and we are just as close as when we lived in Western NC...lol
 
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We stayed at The Deer Ridge Mountain Resort near Gatlinburg a few years ago. It is very nice, with great views. It does have an awful drive up to it though; if you are going in the summer, it should be okay to drive. Gatlinburg is very crowded, but this place is nice and away from it all without being too far away from other activities.
 
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