Rest assured that we who live and work in the Smokies are also relieved that the school year has ended! It helps to slow down daily, as the vacation industry ramps up in our area. So in between job duties, errands, and kids’ sports events, where do locals go for a quick break during the work week?
Southern hospitality is defined as your hostess insisting on feeding you when you enter her home. Paula Deen has built her career on successfully feeding millions her homestyle Southern cooking from her original home base in Savannah, Georgia.
This month, we won’t have to leave Pigeon Forge to inhale the aroma of delectable Southern cooking, as Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen opens at the Island entertainment complex. Full-service and family style. Many home cooking places offer buffet, serve-yourself operations. This restaurant offers a server-attended experience, with a sit down and kick back meal: as close as you can get to a family table meal together in a restaurant environment. After you collectively select your entrees and sides, the items are brought on serving platters and in bowls to be passed and served around the table to each diner. Whether you are a family of two, twelve, or twenty, you’ll be able to consume food that a truly Southern mom has created and cooked up for you, through her restaurant business.
Be aware that a meal here at the Family Kitchen would not be considered a hurried, weeknight affair. No, by all means, these meals are more the celebratory, holiday get-together affairs over which you unbutton anything that constricts, and vow to start your diet on Monday (or at least use this as your cheat day).
We have found the hardest part is everyone agreeing on the three main dishes to choose, as it is hard to eliminate choices from the list of tasty favorites like fried chicken, pot roast, and spare ribs. You might need to negotiate and compromise on side items like corn casserole, creamed potatoes, and candied yams to settle the score.
Rest assured there is plenty for every palate to savor. Take it literally when it says “all you can eat”. That considered, also use your appetite guideline to choose which meal of the day makes most sense for your group. Since the restaurant is new and in a high traffic location, be aware that prime eating hours will be busy. Allot the amount of time necessary to not ruin your experience by trying to rush (that won’t work anyway). Call ahead seating is available, and is advised for large parties.
When asking others’ opinions, the only dissatisfaction with this venue would be from those who are “light eaters”. Consider the meal price and the volume as “all you can eat”, so there is not a “doggy bag” service to take any food away from the table with you. If you want dessert, which is included, make sure you pace yourself and don’t order appetizers. Don’t let your eyes overwhelm your stomach, and not much should be left behind. If you want a cheap breakfast, don’t expect to get it here. If you only eat one plate, make sure the bottomless plate price is okay, before you think the price is too high. The food quality is far better than a less expensive “belly up to the buffet” joint, and so is the atmosphere, which is upstairs overlooking the commons area of the complex.
So, access the menu on your free WIFI while still relaxing at your cabin rental in Pigeon Forge before taking a group to dine. That way, any gridlock over shared selections can be resolved to better enjoy the meal when you are at the restaurant.
Before you depart, don’t forget to visit the Paula Deen retail store on the street level, as you waddle away from that satisfying, gut-filling, old-fashioned comfort food. The spacious store offers all things kitchen, with food preparation equipment, condiments, foodstuffs and cookbooks all available to those interested in the ways of the the Southern chef. In addition, housewares and clothing, and country home decor items are also available. Think a Williams-Sonoma store with a twang.
If you don’t mind the caloric content, it’s worth a stop to visit Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen Restaurant while you are in our area. Butter, seasonings, and hospitality. “Come on over, y’all.”
Once you have settled comfortably into your Gatlinburg rental cabin, you surely have plans to explore your surroundings. Following a trailhead in early spring offers many advantages to the warmer, people-packed, buggier summer months ahead. Here is a short summary of what you will want in your backpack, and a few tips that experienced hikers want everyone to know.
Backpack Items for the Trip:
- A trail map. Even if you know where you are going. In case of emergency, since others may not.
- A first aid kit. Plan for a wide variety of ailments from cuts to bugs to blisters.
- Water and food. Both plain water and electrolyte, and even a water filter to use local water sources to refill. Never drink untreated water! Salty food and about twice the quantity of snacks that you think you will need.
- Light source. A flashlight, or better yet, a headlamp for hiking out after dark, so you can see where you need to step. Check that it works properly before you go.
- A whistle and mirror. For signaling for help, if you need to contact someone and can’t move.
- Extra clothes. A dry set of clothes (and preferably something waterproof) can prove invaluable should you happen to need it. No, I have never slipped on a river rock either.
- Phone in a plastic or waterproof bag. Place it in airplane mode or turn it off. Though there is little cellular reception in the national park, it still may prove valuable if needed.
- There are many more items that can be included, of course. Include what best fits your trip needs, for a short walk or a daylong hike.
There are DIY instructions for most anything you can imagine on the internet (love some of those Pinterest fails, by the way). This blog is a source of Do NOT traps that tend to snare visitors to our area. With a little forethought your family will not be one of them.
Whew, what a ride this last year has been! I have spoken to many visitors who feel the same way; there are those of us who need a vacation, even from the vacation hustle and bustle! But now that the crazy holiday season has once again come to a close, may I strongly suggest you consider why the Smokies are a sensible place to be from January to mid-March? If you believe in resolutions, why not make one for a quick inhale of a respite weekend at a secluded Smoky Mountain cabin rental?
I present my case for some favorite pleasures of an off-season visit here. You can live like a local, and even contemplate becoming one of us!
1. Negotiating traffic not required. If during busier times, you have been stuck in traffic in a sea of “plates from multiple states”, come see what happens when three lanes of Parkway leave plenty of room for all to share. Should you want to travel from Sevierville through Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg, you will find it a rather pleasant drive. I immensely enjoy an uncrowded Parkway where I can briefly survey the mountain range beyond in all its glory on my morning drive. Getting around is a pleasure, and allows for plenty of exploring.
2. Seasonal views are available for a limited time only. Since it is an easy task to explore the area, I highly suggest you choose to hit some nooks and crannies that you may overlook at other times. First, winter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park should not be missed. Even if there is snow accumulation (and the Newfound Gap Road over the mountain to Cherokee is closed), there are still many locations to check out breathtaking vistas. Because the days are shorter, I strongly suggest going early in the day, and changing your chosen spot to some of the lesser known areas for an almost private experience in the wilderness. Bears are hibernating, so there is not much concern there either. Though not vibrantly green like other seasons, you may be surprised to discover how intricately attractive GSMNP can be even while dormant. Review the website link, or talk to the visitor center for suggestions for a new spot to try. May I recommend Greenbriar Cove as an option? You need to find it anyway, because it is a hotspot to return to in the spring for the wildflowers and rhododendrons.
Of course, don’t forget that Winterfest lights also remain throughout the county through February, and even that hilltop view from your cabin is usually a more panoramic vista when the leaves make their seasonal exit.
3. Immediate seating is available. Now is the time to enjoy a romantic dinner together at your favorite restaurant. You can also consider those new eateries that are always require an extended waiting period in summer. Happily, for both visitors and locals, dining this time of year is an easy pleasure! Choose downhome barbecue from Bennett’s, hearty fare from the Pottery House Cafe, one of the restaurants at the Island in Pigeon Forge, or a special celebration at the Melting Pot or the Peddler in Gatlinburg.
4. Pull up to the door and shop until you drop. No need to navigate through a sea of sweaty fellow shoppers! Cool weather makes shopping here even cooler. Plenty of parking and a leisurely pace may just make you decide that all that pre-holiday madness is worth missing. Take your time to patronize the Glades Craft Community, the Village Shops, or the Tanger at Five Oaks.
5. Fire and Ice!-Okay, it’s fair to say that eastern Tennessee has its weather moments: usually a beautiful snow that lasts for a couple of days, and some tricky, icy backroads that linger a bit longer. Just be informed by Doppler and be prepared. No matter the weather, you can always enjoy the snow at Ober Gatlinburg. Much of it is “handmade” in addition to any natural accumulation. It’s the perfect place to learn to ski, snowboard, or try your hand at snow tubing and ice skating. You will probably see more folk, though, particularly on weekends.
Oh, and the fire part? Perfect. The only way to describe that carefree moment of bliss that can be achieved while staring into the flames of your cabin fireplace. Wood-crackling or gas logs, the warmth of the fire is my favorite suggestion to reheat your passion for winter relaxation here in the foothills.
Need more reasons to stay? Call us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals; we’ll be glad to help you with any suggestions you might need to make your winter getaway everything you desire. Make your reservation today!
If a 50,000 people party is your style for ringing in the New Year, then you must plan to be in Gatlinburg for the New Years Eve celebration to ring in 2015! The focal point for the celebration is the Space Needle at Parkway and Historic Nature Trail, next to the Convention Center. Cap off your year with a festive ball drop and fireworks. Here are a few tips for planning your attendance to avoid some frustration:
If December weather holds true for east Tennessee this year, playing while away from your Pigeon Forge cabin rental for the day may require short sleeves or a winter parka! If you find that you desire a few hours of indoor adventure because of obstinate weather, consider MagiQuest Castle on the Parkway.
1. See a musical show. Choose from a variety of award-winning options, all of which have the intrinsic power to put you into a holiday state of mind. Choose the classic tale “A Christmas Carol” to rid yourself of any trace of Scrooge. This professional live production includes original Parton-penned music. There is even a “Dolly-fied” holographic twist, appearing as one of the ghosts that Ebenezer meets as the plot of the 45-minute performance carries through to its hopeful and powerful finale.