Fantastic Family Time at Fin-Tastic Summer

After settling into your Gatlinburg rental cabin, you will want to locate venues that will both engage the entire family, and create some memories at the same time. Many other area visitors have declared Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies the number one aquarium in the nation, and here are a few reasons it’s a great place to start.

Besides daily swimming mermaids, the “When Giants Ruled” dinosaur exhibit, and the always fascinating shark tunnel, the aquarium is happy to announce the arrival a new addition to the Penguin Playhouse. Born May 4, a baby African black-footed penguin is the youngest member of this endangered species in the Gatlinburg penguin family.

Ripley’s has also launched its inaugural “Fin-Tastic Summer Celebration”, which includes special events, activities, arts and crafts, performances, and more from June 21 through July 26.
A short summary of available activities includes:

Monday through Friday from 11 am to 3 pm: Free arts and crafts, games, activities, and special performances on the Plaza in front of the aquarium.

Fridays at 9 pm: Free Movies under the Stars on the Plaza: bring a blanket to spread out and enjoy an outdoor film!

Special Events scheduled include free performances by magicians and mentalists, appearances of SpongeBob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer, and opportunities to meet several Disney Channel TV Series youth stars. For a complete listing of specific event details and dates, visit http://www.ripleyaquariums.com/gatlinburg/things-to-do/special-experiences/kids-fin-tastic-summer/

Also consider special offers and combination packages to visit Ripley’s sister attractions in our area: Guinness World Records Museum, Believe It or Not! Odditorium, Haunted Adventure, Marvelous Mirror Maze & Candy Factory, Moving Theater, Davy Crockett MIni-Golf and Old McDonald’s Mini-Golf.
Check this link for ticket special offers:  Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Our families at Volunteer Cabin Rentals enjoy visiting  Ripley’s various venues, and we know that your family will too. Have a fantastic summer!

The Postcard Perfect Picnic in the Park: 5 Do’s and Don’ts for Success

With so many activities available in the Smokies region, we strongly suggest a day of planned downtime to relax and absorb the surrounding natural beauty. A picnic is the perfect way to involve the whole family in easy together time. We’ll leave the ideal food selection to you. Here are some tips that will help make those outdoor mountain memories positive ones.

Those who choose to stay in a secluded Smoky Mountain cabin with Volunteer Cabin Rentals have an easy access location for picnicking 7 minutes away from our main office! We recommend the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area for several reasons: open year round, one of the largest in our area, many sites adjacent to the river, a pavilion for group rentals, public bathrooms available, and historic buildings and trails to explore close by. For specific information regarding picnic areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, see www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/picnic.htm

Do’s and Don’ts for Picnic Success:
1. DO plan to go early and to get dirty.
Because this is a popular location, during high season it is important to arrive early to stake your claim on a prime table/grill location. Many sites are adjacent to the rolling river water, but choices are best mid-morning before the lunch crowd arrives. There is no overnight camping, so all visitors are day trippers.

Even if you believe you will just eat and leave, we promise you will want to explore once you arrive, even if only to sit on a river rock. This is not a place for fashion: tees and sneakers or bathing suits and water shoes are your best choices of attire.

2. DO splash/wade/swim/play in the river and enjoy the water. Water shoes or old sneakers are best for rock climbing and wading. Flip flops and bare feet are not ideal for the slippery, muddy, and mossy surfaces in and around the water. Trust us and protect your dignity and your toes. Take a book and sunbathe in the middle of the stream, or sink a chair seat in the shallows for a short while.

3. DO consider taking a few items to ensure your comfort: tablecloth (canvas painter dropcloth is great), clean wipes, plastic bags, camp chairs, bug repellent, sunscreen, towels to wipe feet, and a length of rope to secure any floating items to prevent loss downstream.

4. DON”T forget this is bear country. All coolers, food and prep utensils must be stored in the vehicle when not in use. All garbage should be immediately disposed in the animal-proof dumpsters provided. Feeding any wildlife is illegal and potentially dangerous for both humans and animals. Such safety rules are enforced by rangers when violations are observed. Clean and clear the ground and grill areas thoroughly post dining to avoid attracting wildlife. Be aware you may also encounter bees, bugs, fish, crawfish, and snakes. Don’t be surprised by their presence in their own home neighborhood.

5. DON’T leave your mark on the park. Remove all evidence of your visit, and resist the temptation to take natural souvenirs like rocks or plants (also illegal). “Pack it out” picnicking is necessary November through March, as trash dumpsters are removed for the season. National parks emphasize strict preservation of pristine areas. Their focus is protecting natural and historic resources unimpaired for future generations. You are heartily encouraged to thoroughly enjoy, but not destroy, the beauty for visitors coming after you.

We hope these suggestions help you savor a postcard perfect picnic as part of your vacation. It is an idyllic pleasure that should not be missed.

Ways to See the Smokies without Hiking or Huffing

Many families have members who cannot (or choose not to) exert major physical exercise to view the panoramic mountain scenery of our area. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to enjoy the view, while someone else does the work of getting you there. From old to new, budget to luxury, here are some unique options that will both provide spectacular views and create memories for all ages. We guarantee none of these are your typical at-home, backyard summer experience!

1. Helicopter Tours-These rides offer the ultimate personal panoramic view, with a variety of flight choices for all budgets. Explore the online discount for booking tours at this link: www.scenichelicoptertours.com

2. Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway-Since 1973, over 18 million passengers have experienced the 10-minute ride that transports them 2 miles to the resort at the top of Mt. Harrison. The return ride to downtown offers magnificent views of both Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains. More information is available at www.obergatlinburg.com/activity/aerial-tramway

3. Wonders of Flight at Wonderworks-A recent addition to Pigeon Forge, this tethered, giant helium balloon suspends an open-air gondola 400 feet in the sky. Think of approximately 20 minutes of a peaceful, silent, floating platform from which to view the surrounding countryside. This safe and secure lookout can accommodate up to 30 people. Find more details at www.wondersofflight.com

4. Great Smoky Mountain Wheel-Located at the Island of Pigeon Forge, this new attraction opens officially next week on June 20. Take your family for a 4-revolution spin in a climate-controlled, enclosed glass gondola, which reaches 200 feet tall and can carry up to 8 people. VIP experiences are also available. For rates and additional information, see islandinpigeonforge.com/great-smoky-mountain-wheel

We are glad that you are choosing Pigeon Forge luxury cabins for your stay, and hope that Volunteer Cabin Rentals becomes your destination of choice each time you return to our area. Come relax with us, sit back, and enjoy the view: the majesty of creation here is breathtaking in every season.

Best Place to Shop for Uncommon Gifts in the Smokies

Christmas in June? For those hardcore gift buyers searching for unique presents all throughout the year, visitors staying in Smoky mountain cabins have a “don’t miss opportunity” to complete their holiday shopping in a single power-buying trip. Of course, many shop for retail name brands at great discounts at the multiple outlet centers throughout our area: a good choice. But don’t overlook shopping the largest community of independent artists and crafters in the country!

The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is located just outside Gatlinburg off Highway 321. Since 1937, regional craftsmen have grown this small cluster of working studios into an impressive neighborhood of over 100 artisans of all types, from primitive to contemporary. A scenic, 8-mile loop road features an array of independent galleries, shops, and working studios to browse for unique, American-made products. Many artists-in-residence are present and working, those who choose to make their passion their livelihood.

A broad variety of items are created daily. All forms of media are represented: wood, stone, clay, glass, metal, and fiber. Artwork from photography, oils and watercolors are all available. You will find the expected: pottery, baskets, paintings, brooms, soaps, and candles. But there is so much more: sculpture, jewelry, leather goods, weavings and quilts, Native American and holiday items, signs, clothing, and more. To quell any distractions from hunger, homemade food gifts like honey, fudge and jams are also offered at several shops and eateries.

In just woodcrafts alone, the variety of items created is apparent : walking sticks, detailed fireplace mantels, decorative art, furniture items, musical dulcimer instruments, and chainsaw-carved bears. These examples are just the beginning of the clever inspiration found in this treasure trove of handmade items.

So come meet these outstanding regional artisans, and purchase an inexpensive local souvenir or invest in a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Or both. Can’t make it while here this summer? Come back this fall, and visit the Heritage Crafts Shows at the downtown Gatlinburg Convention Center in late November and early December, which a selection of artists attends as vendors. Also be sure to obtain a local paper brochure, which contains a complete map and descriptions of all the artist wares available. It is a vital tool in preplanning your shopping day. Visit the link www.gatlinburgcrafts.com for more information about this historic community, with videos and show details.

We at Volunteer Cabin Rentals support our local crafters’ amazing talents, and hope you will learn to do the same. Stay with us, and shop for the uncommon. You won’t be disappointed.