Smoky Mountain View Down Under

Seems like visitors who stay in Smoky Mountain cabins have acquired multiple new options in recent years for viewing the beautiful countryside surrounding Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. Current novel choices include a helium balloon ride, ziplines through tree canopies and across open spaces, and a soon-to-open, enclosed gondola ferris wheel.
So what about adventure when summer weather does not cooperate: sweltering temperatures, rain, or wind?

Here’s a choice most of your friends haven’t experienced: spend some time viewing the inside of the Smokies in a cave! Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville provides a guided underground trail tour that is both entertaining and educational. This historic natural attraction can satisfy the entire family, even the bored teenager and safety-conscious mother (well-lit paths with handrails where needed). Go spelunking (cave exploring) into numerous grottos, and check out natural formations and an underground stream. For directions and more information, view the company website forbiddencavern.com.

Volunteer Cabin Rentals Wears Valley suggests adding this uncommon activity to your must-try list while staying with us on your vacation. Oh, and maybe grab a jacket; it’s always 58 degrees cool. Check that box for your kid’s writing assignment about a unique summer experience. Done!

3 Tips to Avoid Traffic Frustration and Enjoy More Fun Time on Vacation

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, many families choose rental cabins in Pigeon Forge as a kickoff to their summer fun. Certainly the least desirable way to start your celebration is waiting in slow-moving traffic once you approach the Smokies! In years past, local rural infrastructure just could not support heavy vehicle volume. Improvements have been made, and some are still in progress. Here are three ideas to help you avoid spending too much time on the road with your vacationing peers.

1. Getting here: Plan your arrival time appropriately.
Sometimes it is best to “just say no”:
–Don’t arrive between 1 and 4 pm on Friday. The main artery into the county is via exit 407 from interstate I-40 (there are other routes, but that’s for another time). Highway 66 (Winfield Dunn Parkway) is now almost completely updated (6-lanes), except for the last bottleneck section of bridges being widened over the French Broad River as you approach Sevierville. Once you are past the bridge construction, now even high volumes of vehicles flow much more smoothly-a blessing for visitors and locals alike.
–Don’t visit on certain dates in the spring and fall. Even major holiday weekends are less busy than some calendar dates in April and autumn. Avoid spring dates for antique car show weekends that clog Pigeon Forge traffic. In the fall, consider University of Tennessee home football game weekends. Saturday game-day traffic adds 100,000+ fans to local Knoxville interstate flow, and many of those fans stay in the Smokies afterwards. Or just wear orange, and you will fit in well.

2. While visiting Pigeon Forge: Two roads you MUST learn to use while here.
–Use Veterans Boulevard (Hwy 449) when entering the county, to avoid congestion on the main artery 441 Parkway into Pigeon Forge. When you reach Sevierville from exit 407, turn left on Main Street (Hwy 411) and after 1.4 miles turn right onto Veterans Boulevard. The road passes Dollywood’s main entrance, and rejoins the Parkway at the Old Mill area in the heart of Pigeon Forge. There are several other intersections to this roadway that also return you to the Parkway. We are still amazed that more don’t choose this less congested route between Sevierville and Pigeon Forge during busy times.
–Use Teaster Lane while in Pigeon Forge as a parallel road to the main Parkway, with far fewer cars and traffic signals. This road intersects Veterans Boulevard previously mentioned, and also has multiple points from which to access the 441 Parkway.
Spending a few moments with Google Maps prior to your trip will make the wisdom of using these suggestions apparent. There are more shortcuts, of course, but save those curvy mountain passes for your next trip. Baby steps first!

3. Going home after a great weekend: Ignore your GPS, and take time to eat.
Unless your vehicle GPS has been updated in the past few years, it does not reflect improvements made in Sevierville to ease exit traffic on Sunday. Essentially, when you are returning to the interstate from Pigeon Forge through Sevierville, you “go home by another way”. Resist the temptation to listen to your older GPS (or Grandpa who has been here many times), and don’t turn left in Sevierville onto the old Forks of the River bypass. Just follow those big green signs, straight back to Highway 66 and Interstate 40 on the 6-lane. We regularly see confused folk still trying to use the narrower dated bypass, even cutting through downtown to attempt to reach it.
Timing your exit is also important. Leaving between noon and 2 pm on Sunday is the most popular window for visitors. So change your exit strategy: lunch leisurely with the locals, make that last purchase you are still pondering, and have a smoother transition to your back-home journey.

If you want more tips about maximizing your fun time while here, please don’t hesitate to ask us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals. We each have our personal favorites (shortcuts, restaurants, and the like), and will share them if asked. Have a great start to your summer, and plan to visit us soon!

Bloomin’ BBQ and Bluegrass Festival-You Be the Judge!

Our favorite street festival is in full swing this weekend in Sevierville, May 17-18, with music, food, crafts, kid activities and more.

Choose the food! Wet sauce or dry rub? Sweet tomato or spicy mustard? Taste and decide your favorite from this award-winning competition. Over forty cook teams smoke their best efforts to win the barbecue title. Even judging among the team names is an amusing activity.

Choose the music! An impressive slate of bluegrass talent provides free live music variety on multiple stages throughout the venue. If you are new to bluegrass, it’s a great crash course in music culture. Back again is the Mountain Soul Vocal Competition, where contestants select a Dolly Parton song (over 3000 of them!) to sing in any style. Select your winners.

Choose to come again! If you miss it this year, make plans to attend in 2014: the 10-year anniversary celebration promises to be even bigger. Come relax with us in a Sevierville cabin rental at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, and soak it up at this delicious event in the Smokies. We’ll be there, and hope you will too. www.bloominbbq.com

Is Hillbilly Living Right for your Vacation?

Some of our friends were discussing their vision of an ideal vacation. One (the husband) said, “Our daily life is too much on the go. I want to do nothing as much as possible on vacation.”

If your objective is to relax completely and do nothing, a remote mountaintop cabin offers far more value for your dollar than a tight hotel room.

-While absorbing a panoramic view of rolling hills, unwind with a long soak in a personal hot tub, or curl up and leisurely read a book on a covered deck in the rain.

-Take a nap (or not) by the fireplace, and watch a ballgame, movie, or a home improvement marathon on the flatscreen television. Lose some time exploring Pinterest on the leather couch.

-Grill a meal, or make whatever suits you in a fully-stocked kitchen. Sip coffee exactly as you like it, or bake your secret family recipe dessert.

Cabins offer plenty of space to live with your family “at home” on vacation, without workday responsibilities. Some pet-friendly rentals are also available, so the entire family can be together. No camping out in a cramped hotel room on top of each other! Do you really travel several hours to settle for that?

Another friend (the wife) said, “I can only sit still for so long. I want to do things I don’t get the chance to do at home.”

If you must be on the move to explore, a Wears Valley cabin makes a great home base for whatever activities you desire.

-Outdoor adventures abound with the National Park border literally next door: hiking and walking trails, fishing, river swimming, tubing, skiing, horses, picnic and historic areas, and more are all a short distance away.

-Pigeon Forge attractions are also just minutes from the front door: all the miniature golf, racing cars, and Dollywood theme park amenities you could want.

-Sevier County shopping also offers something for everyone: from great namebrand bargains at outlet centers to a world class craftsman community, to the tackiest gag gift souvenir for that poor coworker who needs a vacation.

Check out the special offers currently available at Volunteer Cabin Rentals. No hassles or regrets. Come relax your way with us. We hope to see you soon.

Wears Valley—A Biker’s Destination

Motorcycle enthusiasts are among the fastest growing segments of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s no wonder; the Smokies have hundreds of miles of scenic, twisty, curvy roads that are a biker’s dream.

At Volunteer Cabin Rentals, our Wears Valley cabins are ideally situated for any two-wheeler fan. We’re centrally located to all the major biker routes in the area, including the Tail Of The Dragon—that famously curvy 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129—as well as the Cherohala Skyway.

Of course, Wears Valley offers direct access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or you can head to other parts of the park through nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Headed in the other direction, Wears Valley also offers easy traveling to Maryville, TN, home of one of the area’s most popular Harley Davidson dealerships.

And at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, many of our properties are ideally suited to motorcyclists. Some cabins have spaces to accommodate bikes on trailers, plus there’s a parking lot near our main office where you could also leave a trailer during the day.