3 Relaxing Downhill Methods for Gatlinburg Chillseekers

Whew! After that last blog, I felt it only fair that I give a few more sane and serene alternatives to coasting, rolling, zipping, and flying downhill. If relaxing is more your style, let’s play with just a little more chill, to get in those last few laid back activities before the rush of the school year begins again.

1. Coast down slowly by car. Please do get out and about in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)! After choosing a quiet walk, or even a moderate hike, turn your vehicle toward the climb to Newfound Gap (5048 feet above sea level). Take time to visit Clingmans Dome, the Rockefeller Memorial (for land purchase to create the national park), and soak in the scenic views from the parking area there. Then enjoy a leisurely descent back to Gatlinburg on Newfound Gap Road. It is a lovely, winding, peace-inducing (except for the driver) descent back down to town elevation. Several scenic overlooks also give you a break to stop and inhale the breathtaking sights of the scenery around you. Everyone needs to do this at least once.
2. Ride a gondola down the mountain. The Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is itself an event to share with your family, and everyone, regardless of age or physical ability can enjoy this ride. The fully enclosed gondola cars climb Mount Harrison to the Ober Gatlinburg Ski and Amusement Resort every 20 minutes or so, depending on volume of riders. Do your best to position yourself where you can view the sweeping vistas of Gatlinburg below you as you descend from the resort back to the base station on the upper end of downtown Gatlinburg at traffic light #9. Great picture opportunities abound on clearer days, but the tram sometimes is also shrouded in fog at points along the way. You can actually pass through those clouds as the elevation down the hillside changes rapidly. The ride is a little over 2 miles long, and it’s the best mountain views available without wearing hiking boots.
3. Cross your ankles and swing your feet as you descend. Now here is a classic to our area! The Gatlinburg Skylift has been operating since 1953 in Gatlinburg at 765 Parkway. This is a great sunny day or evening activity on an open-air chairlift ride with a 1200 feet elevation change. The ride traverses Crockett Mountain to a gift shop overlook area, and (of course) an enroute souvenir photo can be purchased. But it is the ride down that is worth the price of admission. The leisurely pace gives you plenty of time to view the surrounding scenery in addition to the city of Gatlinburg sprawling through the valley below. There’s a reason it has been such a successful venue for so many years. As they say, it’s the “best seat in Gatlinburg”. Try it in the evening, for those romantics who want to catch the nighttime lights.
Welcome aboard “the ride of your life”: your choice! Quickly or at a leisurely pace, there are multitudes of ways—and reasons—to experience a memorable ride in the Great Smoky Mountains. Please make your reservation at one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabin rentals soon, by calling Volunteer Cabin Rentals today.

Join the Crowds for New Years in the Smokies


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:

Park-Choose your parking location ahead of time or ride the trolley into town (and enjoy the lights while doing it), since attempting to drive in and randomly find a spot later in the day would prove aggravating.
Watch-With a little research and asking locals for suggestions, choose your venue for the countdown. Whether that’s parking yourself streetside, viewing from a restaurant balcony, or just walking among the throngs, think ahead to enjoy it best.
Eat-Yes, you gotta. Absolutely plan restaurant reservations! Or for just one more worthy treat, please don’t skip the Carmelcorn shop on the lower end of the Parkway. It’s a local institution, and you can walk off the calories, I promise.
How about being above the foray yet still among the throngs? Enjoy ringing in the New Year at Ober Gatlinburg. There’s plenty to do for family activities throughout the day and evening: snowtubing, skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, and more. With a little planning and cooperative weather, one could watch some of the festivities below on an aerial tramway ride down the mountain.
If you’d rather choose Pigeon Forge, then consider celebrating with the mass of folks at the Island at Pigeon Forge. Family activities, a midnight countdown, and fireworks are all a part of the festivities. Live entertainment starts earlier in the evening, and also adds to the party atmosphere. So “get stranded” as they say, at the Island in Pigeon Forge.
If you want to fill your evening with music, multiple theaters offer special evening celebration packages. Consider the Smoky Mountain Opry or Country Tonite as possible options.
If you want to stay on the move enjoying a variety of activities, you can’t get more seasonally festive than Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (open until a few days into January). Extend that holiday cheer by taking in some of the live performance shows, letting the kids have a character visit, or walking among the wonderland of lights throughout the park. Get some cold face windburn by riding a few roller coasters to end the year with some adrenaline rush. How about one last calorie-laden indulgence with a loaf of fresh, hot cinnamon bread chased with a cup of steaming cocoa? Guaranteed there will be a line to wait for purchase, so you might get two loaves for good measure. Dollywood closes at 10 pm, just in time for a late evening restaurant meal to sit back, relax, and offer a toast to blessings past and good fortune for the days ahead.
Multiple restaurants throughout the area offer self-contained New Year’s Eve packages and party celebrations, from upscale to down home. There are many options available; check your favorites early.
How large your party crowd is to be is entirely up to you. Could it be as simple as a festive family gathering to celebrate? You purchased your fireworks at exit 407 and party goods from Hobby Lobby on your way into town, right? Why not just settle deeply into a get-away-from-everything evening at your secluded Smoky Mountain rental cabin? To me, there’s extreme gratification in focusing on those you love most, and remembering the joys and trials, successes and mishaps of the prior year. Start the year together with sharing your hopes and plans for the coming days ahead.
So if your crowd is several hundred, a couple of dozen or even a party of two, make early plans to celebrate, so nothing can derail your idea of the perfect way to begin your year in the Great Smoky Mountains. Best wishes for a fantastic 2015 from all of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, and we look forward to your visit with us again this year. See you soon!

Turn on the Lights! Best Tips to Enjoy Smoky Mountain Winterfest

For the locals who regularly drive the main Parkway arteries, Winterfest actually starts early in the fall, when local municipalities begin to erect all the structures that create the magical, intricate lighting displays throughout the county. This illuminated holiday cheer then extends until  late February, before evenings grow dark again, and disassembly begins.
Please join us for the official city kickoffs for this year’s 25th anniversary Winterfest celebration season! Here are links for the lighting ceremonies in each city:
Pigeon Forge Annual Winterfest Kick Off and Veteran’s Parade:
Sevierville Music, Lights and Magic: https://www.facebook.com/SeviervilleWinterfest
Gatlinburg starts the season with a chili cook-off and street fair. Pigeon Forge has a patriotic veteran’s parade and lighting ceremony. Sevierville’s “Music, Lights and Magic” festival offers live local performers, fun food, fireworks, and other family friendly activities in a town fair format before the lights are turned on. Don’t worry: the municipalities coordinate dates so that you can attend all three celebrations, if you desire to do so. These November events are just the beginning of the season that stretches through Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day.
So what’s Winterfest all about? It really is a blanket celebration term applied to our four month winter tourist season in the Smoky Mountains area, and means different things depending on your perspective. Let’s categorize a few highlights here, but know that there are “and even more” statements applied to every discussion, since multiple businesses throughout the county add their own special events to our cheerful season.
Lights! Shows! Events! In addition to the many beautiful lights throughout the area (over 5 million and growing), many local businesses compete with seasonal decorations and festive lighting displays of their own. Each year notes growth and change; no season is ever the same.
One venue you must visit while here is Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland, located in the parking area of the Tennessee Smokies Baseball Stadium in Sevierville, at the exit 407 interchange. You literally can’t miss it, just load everyone together and visit! This huge, 10-acre drive-through LED lighting display, is programmed and synchronized to holiday music, and also has Christmas Village family activities adjacent. The show changes and grows yearly. Here’s a video link (a partial aerial view from a few years back) and website information:
Shows! Want to be entertained to soak up some holiday spirit? Many area theaters offer  Christmas versions of their shows, including the largest dinner show, Dixie Stampede.
Events! Too many to be all inclusive here, but don’t miss Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (that will be another blog in the near future all its own), the natural winter splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Cades Cove Loop, and even local church musical events. Think about coming to our area after your own holiday celebration at home. The week leading up to New Year’s Day is still “holidays in full swing” here in the Smokies. So many choices! If you want to know our favorite traditions locally, just ask any of our employees.
Let’s finish with a great gift idea. Think of Valentine’s Day for a Christmas gift! What better way to celebrate? Gift to your significant other a romantic weekend in February, to come back to the the mountains, for just the two of you to recover from the holidays together. We’ll be glad to reserve a Gatlinburg rental cabin for you to enjoy in early 2015! This is a guaranteed winner for an experience gift.
Come early or late, but please come and celebrate this most loved and precious season with us in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Let the festivities begin!

If Shop You Must, Then Do It Here! The Village Shops of Gatlinburg

the-village-gatlinburg-2We 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!

the-village-gatlinburg-1A 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.

the-village-gatlinburg-3So, 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!

Caution! You’ll Be Crushed if You Miss this Local Potter’s Clay…

rap3We 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.
rapThe 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.
rap2So 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.

Silly, Sweet and Slightly Naughty: Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre 38th Season



Don’t like country music? Light-hearted British humor more your style? Looking for the unusual? Here’s a list: improv, vaudeville, Monty Python-esque, sing-along, slapstick. Most of all, do you like to laugh? You have found the right place in Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre.

 The venue’s founding owners, Don and Pat MacPherson, met as performers in Las Vegas in the 1960’s, and later married. Their extensive arts background resumes (like London’s Royal Ballet and Boston Conservatory of Music), lent professional underpinnings that have supported the long run of successful shows that have made the theatre a Gatlinburg institution. This family-owned stage show now includes the next generation of family performers. The audience also includes second generation members, as fans return each season, and now bring their own children to enjoy the productions.
Since 1977, this Gatlinburg home has premiered over 30 original musical comedies. Each year two original title shows are offered. This season presents:
“The Son of the Musketeers”, a 3-part musical with a comedic play, sing-along and musical revue and “Malarky”, a vaudeville-style musical revue with songs, sketches, and audience participation.
The historic theatre is small and intimate (under 200 seats), and the company bills its style as “1890’s music hall”. This is not a place where you can go incognito: there’s always a risk of being called out if you are not participating when required. My personal tip: Show No Fear, or you will be found. They can smell it.
On the flip side, should you really desire to be selected for onstage, choose an aisle seat or the first few rows of seats (ask when making reservations). Be aware that any laughter at your expense is light-hearted fun, not insulting barbs.
Even after all these years, the Paper Dance can still make me snort laughing. So, after enjoying the scenic views from the deck of your Gatlinburg rental cabin, choose to be a part of the comic mayhem scene occurring nightly at Sweet Fanny Adams. Enjoy!

Smoky Mountains Mother’s Day: 5-Part Wish List from a Local Moms’ Survey

Are you going to be in our area for Mother’s Day? If so, Mom is probably already pleased that you’ll be enjoying a relaxing time together in a secluded Gatlinburg cabin, with or without children. I surveyed some local moms regarding what they would appreciate for their special day. Here’s the wish list that I gathered: 5 ideas that you can use verbatim, or just use the concept for your own mom-pleasing plan.




1. Do nothing but soak in the view. Just leave Mom for peace and quiet in the hot tub on the deck, while Dad and the kids go out to play. Sink a chair in the cool water of the river at Metcalf Bottoms. Read a book in a deck rocking chair while listening to birdsong.

2. Go shopping, and then shop some more.  Plant Mom in the middle of well over 100 stores in one location at Tanger Outlets Five Oaks Center in Sevierville, and finish the trip with Starbucks coffee or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Explore the Village Shops, a collection of 27 interesting retail shops in a lovely setting. The Village is located in downtown Gatlinburg at 634 Parkway, but has a European small town flair that feels a world away.



3. Try a “wild side” adventure. Ziplining! Check out Smoky Mountain Ziplines for an adrenaline rush above the treetops. What about a helicopter ride? Scenic Helicopter Tours offers trips at all price points. Satisfy her need for speed at the Xtreme Racing Center, the fastest gokarts in Pigeon Forge, by a mile.



4. Enjoy a special meal together. Choose from a multitude of breakfast options (pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes) at the Pancake Pantry (adjacent to the Village Shops, by the way). For a more intimate environment, savor a cheesy dinner meal at the Melting Pot Fondue Restaurant.

5. Just ask! Let Mom choose what she wants to do to spend family time together. Usually she sacrifices her own preferences for the needs and desires of others. 
In whatever form, the options to treat Mom are numerous. I’m sure you’ll make a great choice. Most of all, Mom treasures the love and appreciation of those who matter most to her.

Have a blessed Mother’s Day from all of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals.

7 Ways to Score a Hole-in-One: a Putt-Putt Primer

You know you will have to do this at some point during your trip,. The kids have already spotted at least one of these courses on the way to your Gatlinburg, Tennessee cabin. There is certainly an abundance of courses. Here are a few descriptions to narrow your mini-golfing choices.


1. Ripley’s Old MacDonald’s Farm Mini-Golf, 1639 Parkway, Sevierville-Located adjacent to Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Mall, this course is the most sophisticated and the largest in the area. It features three 18-hole courses with barnyard animal themes (choose your pigs, cows, or chickens). Motion-activated, humorous animation is sprinkled through the courses as additional entertainment to the sometimes challenging course layouts.
Tip: Beware the arcade, through which you must exit, that will snag a few extra dollars if your kids can extract them from you.
2. Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf, 188 Parkway in Gatlinburg. This sister course location has a smaller footprint with two 18-hole courses, similar interactive animation, and a woodland animals theme.
3. Firehouse Golf, 2528 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, is the centerpiece of the Walden’s Landing complex, with two 18-hole courses from which to choose. It sports a cute firefighting theme with moving water and several falls throughout the courses. Its location allows Dad to play with the kids while Mom shops. The family could also play together while waiting on restaurant seating or prior to catching a movie at the Forge Cinema, the county’s only movie theater.
4. Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf, 3010 Parkway, Pigeon Forge-Think of Indiana Jones shouting, “Fore!”, and you get the theme of this course. An archeologists’s hunt for gold and diamonds leads you through a ship, a temple, caves, waterfalls and a volcano for that elusive hole-in-one. A unique feature is a “mine train” ride to the first holes of this course.
5. Gator Golf, 2575 Parkway, Pigeon Forge– This course is part of the Track Family Recreation Center, which includes multiple activities: bumper boats and cars, gokarts, kiddie rides section, and more. The landscape is filled with stationary jungle animals, and includes some waterfalls and tunnels.
Tip: Buying tickets in bulk for the attractions at the Track affords some discount over single activities purchases.
6. Adventure Golf, 2925 Parkway, Pigeon Forge-Here is the perfect retro experience of classic miniature golf on two courses. This location is one of the original putt-putts in town, and is easy to spot with its giant octopus, shark and dinosaur. Owned long-term by a local family, the course doesn’t have modern bells and whistles. Yet the creatures make for great photo opps, trees shade part of the course, and real ducks often visit.
Tip: Look for coupons that are offered regularly that make this course a bargain.
7. Hillbilly Golf, 340 Parkway, Gatlinburg- Another classic course that has stood the test of time, this one is unique because the course is atop a small ridge. An incline tram ride carries players up to the playing area itself. Two very similar courses are based on a rustic backwoods theme with simple layouts on a terraced hillside among the trees.
Tip Note there are lots of stairs on this course, and I would recommend bug spray, since it is in the trees, particularly at night when floodlights are on.


So choose your club, which brightly colored ball to call your own, and try for a free game by sinking that hole-in-one on number 18. It’s a time-tested, low-tech way to create some family moments, and a little healthy competition among those who can’t stand a laid-back game. Enjoy!

A Little Vegas in Tennessee for New Year’s Eve

Want to end your year with a big and somewhat unusual bang? Something free and suitable for the whole family? With 26 years of celebration practice, Gatlinburg’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular is a popular tradition for many. The event is completely free, and is clustered around light #8 in Galtinburg, the intersection of Parkway and the Heritage Motor Nature Trail.

What is new this season is a free stage show, billed as “Witness the Impossible”, with a bit of glitz and sideshow flavor this year. Check out Superhuman Chad Netherland, who performs feats of impossible strength, that defy the laws of physics. These are man versus machine stunts, like the “Super Bike Hold”, keeping two motorcycles from speeding away with his bare hands. View a little of his ability at this link: http://www.youtube.com/chadnetherland

If brute strength doesn’t impress you, maybe matters of the mind will. Mentalist Bill Gladwell will also entertain with mind-bending twists and predictions. What he knows is sometimes beyond belief!  http://billgladwell.com/kwcm6tcazhiynncrwfk96spsblkkh3

This show is a fun addition to the live music and traditional countdown ball drop at midnight from the Space Needle. Let the kids stay up late with you to see the pyrotechnic spectacle of fireworks that rings in the coming year like nowhere else.

So leave that cozy Gatlinburg rental cabin for a short while, arrive early in town and have dinner, and then gear up for fun around 11 pm. Come enjoy the sights, crowds and festivities that are the annual New Year’s Eve Spectacular. Dust off those lyrics for Auld Lang Syne: singing it in the mountains with all of us is a great way to start the year!

How to Soak Yourself in Holiday Cheer at the 2013 Gatlinburg Christmas Parade

Have you always wanted to experience the New York Macy’s parade, but not the hassle? Of course not as large, but certainly much to enjoy: join us at the Fantasy of Lights Gatlinburg Christmas Parade along the streets of downtown Gatlinburg! This year is our 38th celebration of this tradition in our mountain town. The rum-pah-pum-pum begins on Friday, December 6th, at 7:30 pm. The 2013 parade has 100-plus entries, with a dozen marching bands, inflatable characters interacting with spectators, decorated floats, animals, 6 flying helium balloons, and much more entertainment throughout the hour-long march.

Some ideas to make your experience enjoyable:
1. Park early and claim your viewing location curbside.
The parade route begins at light #1A on Highway 321 (Roaring Fork Road intersection) and ends at light #10 on Parkway 441 (Ski Mountain Road/National Park Entrance intersection).
There are plenty of great locations along the way to view the parade; the heart of the city falls between lights #5-8, so that area is most congested. Curbside viewing is less competitive on either end of downtown. There are multilevel parking garages located at lights #3 (where Highway 321 meets 441) and light #5 at Ripley’s Aquarium. There are also almost 20 fee parking lots throughout downtown. Remember that the parade main artery will be closed shortly prior to the event, which will hamper your navigation should you arrive during the ongoing festivities.
For help in choosing your spot, a map of Gatlinburg is provided here: http://www.gatlinburg.com/!userfiles/editor/docs/GatlinburgMap_wadvertisers2012N.pdf

2. Come early AND stay late: make it a family event tradition.
After checking into your Gatlinburg cabin, make your way downtown to enjoy unique shopping throughout the city, and then have dinner or a diet-busting treat. Take a stroll to enjoy the Gatlinburg Winter Magic lights display at dusk, which this year has an additional $1.5+ million infusion of LED displays to its already impressive decorations. You will be sharing the evening joy with an expected crowd to exceed 80,000, so it’s a rousing street party!
For a taste of the view from the sidewalk, here’s a city video of the parade from the past: 

Should you somehow miss the party in Gatlinburg, all hope is not lost. Sevierville’s 51st annual hometown Christmas parade is the next morning on Saturday, December 7, beginning at 11 am. Best view is from Court Avenue downtown. But that’s another story, found here: http://www.visitsevierville.com/vsevents.aspx

So, whether at night or in the daytime, come beat the drum with us and celebrate. Everyone needs a healthy dose of parade sometime!