Avoid These 4 Things in the Smokies

There are so many voices spouting lists of things to do here in the Smokies, perhaps it’s also beneficial to know about a few things that you should consider avoiding while vacationing in your Smoky Mountain cabin and enjoying the surrounding area.

1. Chain restaurants and stores: Yes, it is predictable and comforting to know it will be the same. But do you really want to do on vacation exactly what you can do at home? Maybe you need to pick up just a few items, or maybe your child will eat chicken nuggets from only that restaurant. That’s a given. But please, take advantage of all the locally-owned eateries and merchants that offer great versions of whatever you may crave: like authentic Thai, Southern family-style food, or handcrafted artisan gifts. You won’t be disappointed, and might even make a memory in the process: that place you “found” and the fun of the discovery. National chains-if you need them, we certainly do have them, in abundance.

2. Visitor center masquerade: This may be a no-brainer for most, but just in case: those places labeled “tourist information, visitor center, or free tickets” are far more interested in pitching timeshare vacations to you than providing helpful information. Nothing against timeshares and condo clubs, but I find the false facade to be annoying and deceptive, and so should you. So unless you can withstand a hard-sell presentation, make sure your visitor center stops are the official city-sponsored locations.
Here are the local links to help you find them:

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Pigeon Forge

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Gatlinburg Information

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park Information:
Smoky Mountains Visitor Center, located at Smokies Baseball Stadium at exit 407
Sugarlands Visitor Center, just inside the National Park

3. Crowds (thinking like a typical tourist): Of course there are times when you want to be in the throng celebrating (Dollywood opening parade, anyone?). But if you choose a more unpredictable schedule, you will have some amazing experiences without too much company. For example, Cades Cove loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is often very congested at noon on a weekend day, with too many trying to “enjoy nature” at the same time. Why not try being there at daybreak? Catch the serenity, the morning mist, the early rising animals and deer? All with an almost private viewing, even in high season. Think off hours (and even off season) whenever possible in your planning, and you’ll have more freedom to enjoy special spots as they were intended.

4. Bottleneck still under construction: Even we locals will be glad when construction traffic snarls here are relieved, hopefully substantially complete by the end of 2014. Already much improved, Highway 66/Winfield Dunn Parkway from exit 407 at I-40 to Sevierville was never originally designed to carry the volume of traffic that it handles today. Most of this major artery has been widened to six lanes (three each way), but the final center phase of widening near and over the French Broad River bridge is still in progress. This creates a bottleneck during high volume traffic times, which causes backups in either direction based on volume.
Of course, there will always be delays in our area on major holidays, but to zoom through with the least amount of logjam, don’t arrive on Friday afternoon (about 12-4pm) or leave on Sunday afternoon (about 11 am-2pm). My suggestion for a smoother weekend is to arrive early if possible, and leave late. Have a Sunday lunch before you leave town. It’s much better to enjoy a meal with family than to spend that same amount of time idling in traffic, wouldn’t you agree?

Perhaps these are simplistic, but I believe that avoiding a few key irritants can make for a substantially better vacation. If you want the experienced opinions of locals regarding specific spots to try, don’t hesitate to ask us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals. We are glad to help you enjoy our hometown as much as we do. Come stay with us! We hope to see you soon.

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