3 Activities for Inclement Weather in the Smokies: Snow, Rain, or Shine

What an interesting year it has been thus far with crazy weather in the mountains! Literally, in one week, you could wear shorts one day, and build a snowman a little later. Of course, you can always kick back by the crackling fireplace or in the swirling hot tub of your Smoky mountain cabin rental. But what is a tourist to do when the weather does not cooperate with your original plans? Here are a few ideas for activities not impacted by the weather.

Incredible Christmas Place

1. Go shopping-there are multiple locations throughout the county that are large, indoor establishments to explore. Try the Incredible Christmas Place complex in Pigeon Forge to get in a holiday mood any time of the year. Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Kodak can satisfy the actively adventurous. Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville is an interesting stop as the world’s largest knife showplace with every imaginable blade available for purchase. Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Center in Sevierville is not an enclosed mall, but has covered sidewalks in front of all stores, with the added bonus that shopper volume is lighter on rainy days.
2. Choose a theater-take in a current movie at the Forge Cinema at Waldens Landing in Pigeon Forge. Or try one of the several music shows in the area like Country Tonite theater. You can also have dinner with your entertainment at attractions like Dixie Stampede or Lumberjack Feud. All theaters offer comfortable amenities while the weather is frightful outside.
3. Take a family afternoon field trip-Enjoy all the aquatic animals indoors at highly acclaimed Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg. Or choose to meet some exotic animals and reptiles at Rainforest Adventures in Sevierville. Wonderworks in Pigeon Forge is also a great place to play with interactive hands-on exhibits throughout. You can scoot through any of these quite quickly or slow down and enjoy a relaxing pace while exploring.
So, don’t let a little lack of sunshine bring you down, or hold you back from fun in the Smokies. These are just a few of our favorite locations to enjoy whatever the weather, and there are certainly many more to choose from. Just ask any of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals for suggestions for activities that you want to find. Don’t fret; spring is just around the corner, when the hillsides begin to show off their beautiful floral splendor that you won’t want to miss. We look forward to you staying with us soon.

Danger! High Gross Factor! Ripley’s Aquarium Now This Spring.

Jellyfish, slugs and eels, oh my! Please experience this ode to ooze, even if you aren’t an eight-year old boy! If it’s been awhile, or if you have never been to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, now is the time for a visit this spring. Not exactly the green bucket stuff, but it’s just as fascinating to short people, and frankly, to adults too. Want to touch a jellyfish? Try it here, with much more.

The new Slime Exhibition adds an exciting and interesting addition this season. This exhibit replaces last season’s popular dinosaurs display. The Slime Exhibition is a hands-on experience: enjoy the Jellyfish Encounter, interactive displays, and multiple aquarium tanks featuring aquatic animals in their habitats, and how they use slime in their lives. Over thirty exhibits are featured in this area, providing as much “gross knowledge” as anyone could desire.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a world-class living museum. The permanent exhibits make the Gatlinburg location the #1 ranked aquarium in the nation by Tripadvisor reviews. Over 10,000 creatures of 350 different species live here. Penguins, sharks, rays and many more make this “zen water getaway” a whole family pleaser for both fun and education. Located in the heart of Gatlinburg at Parkway and River Road, the aquarium is also adjacent to the city trolley stop, making this attraction simple to access.

So after you check into your Gatlinburg rental cabin, make sure to include Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies on your vacation adventure list this trip.

To purchase aquarium tickets online, or to buy combination discount tickets  with several of Ripley’s area attractions, visit the website.

Classic, Celebrity or Muscle? Calling All Car Enthusiasts: come see them all!

Maybe it’s because you have been encased in a 7-passenger automobile for several hours to arrive at your rental cabin in Wears Valley. Maybe you had to let go of that sports car to acquire that family SUV or minivan. Maybe you have just always loved everything to do with automobiles. Did you know there is plenty of opportunity in our area to view all types of vehicles while on vacation?

If horsepower and high performance are most important to you, check out the 90 muscle cars located at Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum, in Sevierville, Tennessee. Featured on multiple television shows, this nationally known collection is worth a stop, along with acquiring your own memorabilia from the musem gift shop.

What about seeing the vehicle from your favorite movie or TV show? The Hollywood Star Cars Museum in downtown Gatlinburg houses over 40 vehicles, including Knight Rider’s K.I.T., Back to the Future’s Delorean time machine, Smokey and the Bandit’s TransAm, the Dukes of Hazzard General Lee, and the original Batmobile as examples. A recent addition is the Hummer from the Avengers. You can also be photographed in most of the vehicles for an additional sitting fee.

What about a whole convention of classic cars or street rod custom vehicles? April and September are your opportunities to join those likeminded folks that gather, and participate in all the fun.

Pigeon Forge Rod Run (formerly the Grand Rod Run) is planned for 2014 at the newly opened LeConte Center.  Dates in the spring are Friday, April 11 through Saturday, April 12 and in the fall from Thursday, September 11 to Sunday, September 13.

Shades of the Past Rod Run is planned for fall 2014 at  Dollywood’s Splash Country parking area, Thursday, September 4 through Sunday, September 7.

3 Must Go Spots in the Smokies for First-time Visitors

Often this blog contains information for seasonal events or “hidden gem” locations that returning visitors may not yet have experienced. But a farflung friend recently asked me where to visit in the National Park after they settle into their Smoky mountain cabin rental for their first trip to the area. With that in mind,  please consider these suggestions, based on what your family most wants to experience in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while here in Sevier County.
If you want to go “into the forest” of the mountains while driving or hiking, consider:
1. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
One of our favorites because of its easy access, basically go to the heart of Gatlinburg, and turn left at the convention center. This paved, 6-mile, one-way driving loop has multiple stopping points to spend as much or as little time as you desire. Historic sites of farm homesteads, cabins, and mills dot the trail, water streams are abundant throughout, and there are multiple spots for open vista overlooks. There are also trailhead starts for Rainbow, Baskins Creek, and Grotto Falls (each is lovely, all are popular, start early and hike well).
Thoughtful tip: please take a water break. Stop, get out of the car, (just sit if you can’t hike) and absorb the serenity of the natural white noise that the rushing water provides. Completely addictive. The picture above was taken with feet in the water at marker #9 in late summer.
Link for additional information:    http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/roaringfork.htm
If you want open vistas without steep mountain climbing or leaving the car, and truly hope to see wildlife in its habitat:
2. Cades Cove
Located closest to Townsend, Tennessee, this 11-mile loop road wanders through valleys and hillsides, with long-range, pastoral, picturesque mountain views. The area is very popular, and often crowded on the weekends. It has many historic buildings, and is a great day trip activity. Everyone visits the Cable Mill area, but please also choose to stop and explore one of the churches and attached cemeteries for a step back in time. Go early or late for best opportunity to see animals along the loop.
Thoughtful tip: On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the loop is open only to bikes and pedestrians till 10 am in season. It’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the scenery car free!
Lastly, if you are one who must be able to say you have “been to the top”:
3. Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap
To reach both of these locations, go straight through Gatlinburg into the park and keep going. Newfound Gap Road itself is a great scenic drive, and the substantial Gap parking area is on the way to the dome, where you can see mountain views and the original park dedication site, without hiking. Or drive the extra few miles to reach the trailhead for the highest point in the national park:  Clingman’s Dome, which ends at the concrete lookout observation tower at 6,643 feet above sea level. The paved trail is only a half mile, but quite steep. If possible, go on a clear day, since distance visibility can reach many miles in all directions. Mountain haze impacts viewing distances substantially when it is present.
Thoughtful tip: Take a jacket just in case. No kidding. Even in summer, that elevation can be up to 20 degrees cooler than valley areas like Pigeon Forge. Forest and mountain views become far less enjoyable if you are uncomfortably chilly.
Last thought for new visitors in this post: buy those small guidebooklets that the National Park Service provides. They can be purchased online in advance, or in an honor box or visitor center at most park locations. For coffee change (usually a dollar or two), the in-depth information is well worth it, and helps you know the historical “who and what” along with the “where” you are standing.
Here’s a link for a starter kit, and you can also buy single brochures with all proceeds benefitting the park:
I know for certain that once you visit the Great Smoky Mountains, you will want to return. Come visit us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals very soon!