When the weather turns cooler as autumn approaches winter, thoughts turn (or at least mine do, anyway), to enjoying a large meal of comfort food with family. Of course, you can put your best chef relatives into personal action preparing a holiday meal in the weeks ahead. All of our cabins in Wears Valley offer fully equipped kitchens that make dining in together a simple, shared pleasure.
Is it fair to say that we do things on vacation that we may not even consider doing at home? Though I often write on current events or places in our area, this blog originates from a recent personal experience. Our family was driving on the main Parkway, when our son pointed out the “cute little girl” in another vehicle. The child in the SUV was roughly three years old, and was having a great time bouncing around the vehicle from the side window to the front console and back, laughing and singing with her grandparents, while her car safety seat sat empty. We traveled along with this vehicle for several miles, until they stopped at a retail establishment. After the family entered the store, I wrote a politely thorough windshield note reminding them of the danger posed to this unrestrained precious child, both literally and legally. I am certain that they were only preserving their sanity after a long ride of seatbelted protests, but the potential for disaster was not worth their risk!
One of the many pleasures of a secluded Smoky Mountain cabin rental is taking in the views of nature around you while relaxing. Choose an easy chair, a porch rocker, or a steaming, swirling hot tub. But what if you could view the Smokies in all their autumn splendor? What if you could view all of the Smokies? Ok, well, maybe not all. But when viewed from above, the vast, undulating landscape that we locals call home rolls out beneath you like a multi-hued carpet!
Consider taking a helicopter ride, to see our area like you’ve never seen it before. This activity is a superb choice for creating a one-of-a-kind experience for you and your family. There are several options available, offering different areas of flyover and duration, to accommodate various budgets and levels of courage. Make a quick journey over Douglas Lake and the surrounding foothills, or fly deep into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to see Cades Cove stretch out below you.
Plan your glorious, fall color review now by checking out the touring information at Scenic Helicopter Tours. Their experienced, professional pilots fly the most number of approved flight paths throughout the Smokies area, giving you the best selection and value for your airtime dollars. All members of your group can fly (from the youngest to the oldest), in 3- or 4-passenger groups. Don’t forget your camera, since photos and videos are highly encouraged.
It’s truly a different perspective to see notable landmarks and the area’s natural wonders from the air: sightseeing at its best. Our VCR family loves these flights, and so will yours!
We like to hear about the local places that our customers discover, during their vacation stay here in our rental cabins in Gatlinburg. Sometimes locations are mentioned that we have not yet experienced ourselves. Then there are the venues that are mentioned over and over as favorites. The Village Shops of Gatlinburg shopping area is one of the latter. Nestled in the heart of town next to the Pancake Pantry Restaurant (one of our favorites also, but I digress) is the entrance to this outdoor cluster of small stores.
Sometimes I wish all of the county’s retail venues were surrounded by such a lovely planned atmosphere. Created to resemble a small European town, bricked pathways, a splashing fountain centerpiece, and carefully detailed architecture and landscaping combine to create a peaceful environment. Plant those weary family members on a bench to relax, enjoy a snack, and people watch, as those with the will to purchase keep exploring!
A German deli offers a hearty lunch, and doughnuts and ice cream are also deliciously available. Those who enjoy kitchen arts can find a selection of spices, olive oils, vinegars, sauces, coffees, and teas for sale among several stores in the complex.
Other shops among the 27 stores located here can dress and pamper anyone willing. Bath and body products, pajamas and clothing, shoes and socks, leather goods and jewelry are all offered for your personal selection.
Perhaps something for your own use while on vacation? Hiking goods, toys, books, and even insulated bottles can be put to good use during your stay in the Smokies.
Souvenirs and gifts (for others or yourself) can also be found: unique artwork, candles, and pottery are artistic features. Perhaps an inspirational gift, or an item from the Celtic isles, or custom, personalized pieces may suit your needs. Don’t forget to check out the coupons on their website for extra savings.
So, here’s a start to a great day: breakfast at Pancake Pantry, and then step out well-fortified to explore next door. Interesting, high quality merchandise in an Old World environment: what’s not to love? We think so, too! Make sure and visit the Village Shops of Gatlinburg while here in our mountains this beautiful, autumn season. Happy fall, y’all!
Sometimes you just want to kick back, daydream and do absolutely nothing on the deck of your cabin in Pigeon Forge. Of course, you may have planned some regular pit stops iif you are a returning visitor (the majority of visitors to our area are repeaters). Today, I just want to challenge you to try a few new locations that might interest you. They are at least unusual, if not downright strange.
1. The Tomb, Pigeon Forge-Of course, an ancient Egyptian pyramid makes perfect sense in Pigeon Forge, right? Tucked behind Firehouse Mini-Golf and adjacent to Calhoun’s BBQ in Walden’s Landing, this indoor archeology attraction can be amusing on a rainy day, as you puzzle your way through the guided “pyramid innards”. This place is most fun for a group on its own curious expedition.
2. The Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, Gatlinburg-If you appreciate the process of collecting, you’ll enjoy this display of one family’s efforts to amass the unusual of those functional pairs of kitchen items. Created over 25 years, with over 20,000 pairs (?!), it’s worth an interesting look when you are in Gatlinburg. Be aware that should you want to purchase a pair of shakers, there are many options available online also.
3. Parrot Mountain, Pigeon Forge-Hundreds of beautiful, tropical birds have a local aviary residence at this 4-acre garden park, near Dollywood on McCarter Hollow Road. Come see more parrots, lories, and other birds than you’ve ever seen in one location: in a lush setting where you can also feed them by hand. Don’t forget your camera for some photos!
4. Smoky Mountain Knife Works, Sevierville-Need a sharp knife? Like taxidermy too? This large complex on Winfield Dunn Parkway in Sevierville is billed as “the World’s Largest Knife Showplace”. From collectibles, to kitchen performance brands, to military and martial arts, there are so many brands of knives available, it is literally mind boggling—who knew? The safari animals on display have never made sense to me, but they too are a bit interesting. If there is any type of knife you can imagine needing, you will find it here.
5. Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, Gatlinburg-On the Parkway in the heart of town, this museum is the definition of quirky, with all sorts of exhibits to meet that “beyond belief” quotient. Yes, you should probably go and enjoy this well-known center of kitsch and odd entertainment.
Ripley’s obviously hasn’t cornered the market in this area on the, ahem, unusual. Keep your antennae up and sensors on search, as there are still more places like these dotted across our landscape…Smoky Mountain Cathouse, anyone? So, raise that one curious eyebrow, and enjoy. To each, his own!
We are very blessed to live where there are so many options for handmade merchandise. When you choose to venture forth from your Gatlinburg cabin for souvenirs, a must-visit location for gifts should be Alewine Pottery Studio. Say it like a local: ale’-uh-wine.
There are originals, and then there are imitators. Robert Alewine and his family are of the former ilk, creating art from Appalachian clay for over 30 years in the Smokies area. Their quality items range from functional kitchen pieces like mugs and mixing bowls, to display pieces like luminaries and decorative art pots.
The studio’s signature emblem features real leaves that are embedded into the artwork and kiln-fired as part of the design, making a small bit of the Smokies an intrinsic part of each work. The stunning choices of glazes are color-saturated in both neutrals and vivid tones. My personal favorites are the cobalt and copper hues among their many creative options. You’ll easily find something pleasing for your taste also.
Visit the wonderfully friendly Alewine family members at one of their three locations:
—The Glades Craft Community store is the largest, anchor studio where most pieces are created daily. Enjoy watching the artists and their creations in progress while shopping here.
—The Village Shops retail store located in downtown Gatlinburg offers a large selection of souvenir mugs, along with a nicely curated selection of other wares.
—Alewine Pottery at the Island is their newest location, opening late 2014, granting the opportunity to access their unique products in the heart of the county, at the bustling Island Complex in Pigeon Forge.
So choose a perfect hand-thrown, pottery gift for someone back home (Christmas too!), or select a personal memento of your vacation to our area. You’ll find beautiful, original, artisan items at fair prices. If you haven’t begun collecting their pottery wares, you must visit the Alewine family, and choose your first work of art soon.
How quickly the sunny-day, good times disappear with the approach of the school year, and the havoc that the fall schedule wreaks on discretionary family time. Want one last thrill before leaving your Smoky Mountain cabin rental behind? There’s no better adrenaline rush found in Sevier County than the roller coasters at Dollywood theme park. Though there are also many family and children’s rides, along with water-infused attractions, this post is limited to strictly the coaster rides and their virtues. Coasters at Dollywood, save one, are all steel, and have been built from 1978 to 2014. Let’s review the options.