Breakfast Options Both Sweet and Savory

Some of our guests like to leave their alarm off and snuggle deeper into the pillows in their Wears Valley, TN cabin rental. Others want to rise early and get a tasty start on their adventures for the day. Here are some suggestions for that most important first meal of the day, with menus and operating hours provided.br1

The most venerated location requires the earliest arrival, since in high season the lines extend down the street. The Pancake Pantry is a downtown Gatlinburg tradition, one of those “gotta go” places to check off your list. A broad menu of options for breakfast awaits. The first pancake restaurant in Tennessee, they have been serving up meals since 1960, and in its current location since 1975. Not really a place for a quiet meal here (unless it’s off season), since the restaurant does a high customer volume (though not rushed). They also serve lunch with good sandwiches, burgers, soups and salads. Cash only, so be prepared.

7 am-4 pm June-October, 7 am-3 pm November-May, 7 days

In Pigeon Forge, consider Log Cabin Pancake House at the north end of the city, just before leaving Pigeon Forge toward Gatlinburg. This family breakfast diner is another in-season busy location. Hearty Southern breakfast choices like ham, biscuits and gravy are offered, in addition to sweet options. Known for country cooking, think good food and large portions: you will not be left wanting more here. Friendly service, and also a simple country lunch buffet complements their breakfast. There is a second location in Gatlinburg, an option to Pancake Pantry when it is too crowded.

7 am-2 pm, 7 days
Frank Allen’s Market and Grill in Sevierville is a local hangout diner that is also a gas station. Clean and basic, grab a stool at the counter and enjoy a fresh meal from the griddle. Sausage and egg biscuit? Yum. If you need local endorsement, Dolly Parton really likes to eat here too. If you slept into lunchtime, Frank Allen’s is also known for pretty great burgers too: voted best burgers in the area for several years straight.
9 am-5 pm Mon-Sat, 10 am-4 pm Sun, 7 days
My few comments regarding these establishments: they are all straightforward basic eats, certainly not gourmet (unless you consider crepes highbrow). All are family-owned, with food made-to-order. If you want chain restaurant pricing and quality, go to the chains: there are plenty in the area. I think it’s unfair to compare family restaurants to chain establishments, especially regarding service. If pricing is a concern, check the menu prior to visiting. Please tip generously for friendly, efficient service. Servers make the majority of their income from tips, just like in your hometown.
So don’t eat at dining places you can find at home while on vacation. Experience our local Southern cooking: it’s a treat, even for us locals. Bon appetit…y’all!


Over 12 Ways to Face Downhill Drama: Just for the Fun of It!

chimneysDon’t you just love (someone else’s) drama? Or do you sometimes endure a little melodramatic flair from someone in your traveling party? After snuggling into the sofa of your Wears Valley cabin to relax and watch an exciting dramatic movie, why not make the storyline more personal, and take on some downhill action of your own making? There are plenty of hills in the Smokies to get you off the horizontal plane. Let’s look at over a dozen ways to head downhill: fast or slow, controlled or not, on purpose, just for fun.

1. Drive from Clingmans Dome to Gatlinburg down Newfound Gap Road. Several suggestions on this list involve your vehicle, and this one is the most logical. Start at the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and make your way back. It’s a gorgeous 25 mile tour.
2. Navigate the road to your rental cabin. Those great views often are located at the summit of a hill, which requires the climb and the fun descent back down to civilization,. If steep rural roads are not on your agenda, check with our customer service personnel regarding your accommodation selection. We have many cabins for all levels of vehicular bravery.
3. Drive down Ski Mountain Road in Gatlinburg. This, of course, involves climbing the mountain first, and there are other downhill opportunities at Ober Gatlinburg at the top (more on that later). A few tips to navigate this curvy, steep, 3-mile length of road well: fair weather only, low gear (or your brakes can overheat), and please allow locals behind you on their way to work to pass by your joyride.
4 through 6. Ski, slide, or tram downhill from Ober Gatlinburg. Seasonal snow skiing, boarding and tubing goes without saying to lovers of those sports. The Alpine Slide is a classic dry trough bobsled-type ride that parents and children can enjoy together. The Ober Gatlinburg Tramway gets my vote for the best view of any downhill journey in the area, though it is a slow and sometimes rather crowded journey. Think ahead to position yourself strategically to get the best standing view spot during your ride.
7. Ride the Sky Lift in downtown Gatlinburg. This retro classic chairlift ride can be easily overlooked since it’s not a speed thriller nor painted some obnoxious neon color. On a pretty weather day, this can be a pleasant way to overlook the city of Gatlinburg nestled in the foothills, as you ride up to a gift shop at the top and back down.
8. Go Horseback Riding among the trees. Though not all of the riding stables trek hilly terrain, some do-just ask. If you don’t spend much time on horseback, it’s a unique and fresh way to view the hillsides.
9. Sluice down the Splash Country River Rush Water Coaster. Yes, it’s a better ride downhill if you’re wet. Hydromagnetic is the technical term for the only water coaster in Tennessee. Four stories high, and four drops along the way. Twists, turns, tunnels, and water. Let’s just say the scenery is not the point here! Check out the POV video of this sweet ride here:
10. Choose your speed of descent on the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. New to the area in 2013, you will want to ride this more than once, guaranteed. This one gets my favorite vote. Self-propelled uphill, and speed-controlled by you coming down, this smooth ride is a do not miss.
11. Experience ZORB. My vote for the most outrageous downhill spin (teenagers, anyone?) is this inflated, double-walled sphere, with water inside (or dry). You ride inside the ball as it rolls down a rather steep 700 foot incline. Only you can choose whether that excites or nauseates you. I promise you it will do at least one of those, if not both. Many do this so they can say they did, if you know what I mean. Take a look here:
12 and then some. Now try trail hiking, ziplining, Dollywood rollercoasters, or just picking a random mountain road going somewhere unknown. That’s what is so superb about the Great Smoky Mountains area! You can pick an activity as simple as going downhill, and easily find more than a dozen ways to do it. Like trying to choose your favorite ice cream flavor, the joy is in the experimenting. I’ve given you options; now it’s up to you to make your personal family plan.
Let us know here at Volunteer Cabin Rentals what your favorite downhill adventure choice is. Better yet, come back again, and make sure to try them all!

Best Questions to Ask Customer Service About a Cabin Rental

It’s so much more than a hotel room. Vacation cabin living has so many advantages. Cabins are managed by rental agencies, and are usually individually owned. Owners of a family retreat are often just as concerned about guests’ treatment of their getaway, as you are concerned about renting the best choice for your family’s unique vacation requirements.

Matching your desires with the right property begins with perusing a website’s availability calendar, images and videos, along with the detailed information regarding a home’s interior and view. The easiest way to assure that you match a specific cabin’s experience to your vacation expectations is to make a great list of questions and talk to our customer service at Volunteer Cabin Rentals. It is in no one’s best interest for you to be surprised or disappointed. We truly want your stay with us to be a lovely getaway you’ll want to repeat!

If you are new to Wears Valley, Tennessee cabin rentals in the Smoky Mountains, here are several questions to consider for your discussion with our friendly agents.

1. Location
Though most companies don’t supply exact addresses prior to stay for security purposes, general area information is always available.
Privacy: Is the location in a rental resort neighborhood, or is it secluded? Is it quiet or noisy; is there any construction occurring in the general vicinity?
View: With that great view, are the roads and driveway paved or gravel, steep inclined, or curvy mountain roads? How many vehicles can the parking area at the cabin accommodate?

Necessities: Where is the nearest grocery or discount store for purchasing staples?
Directions: These are typically provided at check-in. My best advice is to make sure that you understand them clearly before attempting to follow them. If at all possible, try not to make your first attempt at finding your secluded mountain cabin after dark. Unfamiliar rural roads can be both confusing and intimidating.

2. Amenities
Each cabin has an amenities listing provided, which we work hard to provide as accurate and complete as possible. Sometimes changes may be made by an owner and not communicated to our office. Sometimes a previous guest may damage or remove an item without notification (could we tell you some stories!).  Both cleaning and maintenance staffs perform routine circuit inspections of each location as part of their many responsibilities, but small items not readily obvious (like a burned-out bulb or broken kitchen tool) can be overlooked periodically. If any issues arise that need correction, we do our best to address them in a most timely manner.
Special event? Mobility issues? Pet-friendly locations desired?  Ask questions about units that can accommodate your specific needs.
What are the detailed instructions for use of the WIFI system? Instructions for using satellite television?
Who do you call if something breaks?

My thoughts are that if the small details matter to you, make sure you have answers (before arriving) regarding those small details to avoid frustration. Volunteer Cabin Rentals has professionally managed cabins for many years, and our people and standards have built a loyal family of repeat guests. We want you to join us for a wonderful stay in a mountain home away from home.

Questions? Please don’t hesitate to ask. We are happy to answer, and hope that you will join us here soon!

Classic Car Shows: Thoroughly Enjoy or Totally Avoid?

Everyone can envision their ideal vacation: restful serenity with quiet downtime, sightseeing activity with scheduled entertainment and retail therapy, or a combination of both for a family getaway. As I plan for extra drive time to reach our son’s soccer game over the weekend, I realized it is vitally important to consider calendar dates for maximum enjoyment of your vacation.

Specifically, there are two weekends each in September and April (with a sandwich week between) that bring classic car shows (aka rod runs) to the heart of the county in Pigeon Forge. Beautifully restored, custom vehicles line the streets and parking lots, and a substantial crowd of car enthusiasts come to town to admire them. These weekends bring very high traffic and visitor counts to the otherwise more laid back late summer and spring months. Passing through Pigeon Forge and continuing to Gatlinburg becomes challenging, with extended travel times during these events. My best analogy would be spring break in a small beach town, a high volume of people thoroughly enjoying themselves, and not in any hurry to get somewhere else.

This is not another diatribe on pros and cons, but merely a bottom line to say: plan accordingly. Want to join the fun? It’s never dull, whether to view the cars or watch the people. Want a restful, quieter vacation weekend? Come visit us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, and choose cabin rentals in Wears Valley, which can be accessed from the more bucolic Townsend area, in addition to easy access from Pigeon Forge. We have an ideal location for both vacation worlds.

The major shows are typically in September and April, but can vary each year. To determine dates for these car show events, visit
Use this reference for future vacation planning in 2014, and make the correct choice for maximizing your family’s enjoyment.

Dollywood to “Dolly’s World”

Most guests to Wears Valley cabin rentals plan to visit several attractions while on vacation in our area. The largest and most well-known attraction in Pigeon Forge is the Dollywood theme park. This week Dolly Parton announces a monumental change to the concept of Dollywood. The park attraction will now become a resort destination with the planned addition of a 300-room hotel. Dolly has named it “DreamMore” with a reference to the Biltmore, the grand Vanderbilt estate in nearby Asheville, North Carolina. The luxury resort facility will present a comfortable opportunity “for families to unplug and connect with each other”, says Dolly. To be completed by summer 2015, the hotel property will have multiple amenities and is indicated to be the first of more to come. This alludes to the Disney-type destination experience, which provides lodging, dining, and entertainment all within the boundaries of resort properties.

The newest FireChaser Express coaster ride at Dollywood was also debuted, expected to open next March for the 2014 season. The Express is billed as a family coaster, so everyone can ride together. Minimum height requirement is 39″, which will allow 4-year olds to ride along, as the dual-launch coaster runs both forward and backward for a little less than a winding half mile each direction. This indicates a milder ride than the popular Wild Eagle wing coaster, which is located adjacent to the new Express ride. The Express also renews the firefighter theme, also found in the nearby small vintage indoor coaster, the Blazing Fury.

Dolly Parton has truly given back to her hometown, through her unique and beloved properties of Dollywood, Dollywood’s Splash Country Waterpark, and Dixie Stampede Dinner Theater. All of us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals are glad that Dolly continues to “dream more” for the future of our shared Tennessee mountain home. Come visit us all soon!

Spring Specials

Now that we’re getting into the season when folks are getting serious about their vacation planning, we thought it would be a good idea to remind you that we usually have some kind of seasonal special going on our Wears Valley cabin rentals.

Right now, we’re offering free nights in April and May, depending on how many nights you book with us. For reservations on stays through May 30, you’ll get a 10-percent discount on a three-night stay, you’ll only pay for three nights with a four-night stay, you’ll pay for four nights with a five-night stay, and if you book a six- or seven-night stay, you’ll only pay for five.

Keep in mind that this is a special Internet deal, so you’ll need to mention that when calling to make your reservation. It only applies to currently available cabins and not any previous bookings. Unfortunately, this deal does not apply to any holiday nights.

And by booking your trip for April or May, you’ll enjoy the warmer weather here in the Smokies, but you’ll get to enjoy the area before the crowds of peak season start arriving. We hope to see you soon!

Alternate Ways To Get To The Smokies

While the majority of folks traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains travel here by car, there are other ways of getting to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. For those who want to let someone else do the driving (or flying), here is a quick overview of what’s available.

• McGhee Tyson Airport – This regional/national airport is your best bet for flying in. A number of major and budget airlines serve the facility. Once you’re on land, you can either rent a car at the airport or pay a shuttle service to transport you to your lodging destination in the Smokies.

• Megabus – This very affordable bus service has become a popular method of traveling from city to city. Those arriving in Knoxville get off the bus at the downtown transit station and then must arrange for a taxi or shuttle service to get to their final destination.

• Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport – This local air facility is actually located in Sevierville but offers handy proximity to Smokies accommodations and even can offer rental car services on site.

Once you make it to the Smokies, our cabins in Wears Valley, TN are easy to find. Just check in at our rental office, and we’ll provide you with a map to get to your individual cabin unit.

A Hike To Spruce Flats Falls

Looking for a fun hike to a cool waterfall destination this winter? Consider one of the better-kept secrets in the Smokies—Spruce Flats Falls. One of the best things about this hike is that you don’t have to venture terribly far into the national park to find it, which makes it convenient to most of our cabins in Wears Valley.

You can go through either the Wears Valley or Townsend entrances to the national park. Once you’re in the park, head west toward the Great Smokies Institute at Tremont. Park in the lot and start up the gravel road, following the signs toward the falls. You’ll make a couple of turns along the way at various signposts, but as long as you follow the arrows toward the falls, you’ll be OK.

This trail, which is about a mile from start to finish, isn’t marked on most maps, but the path is unmistakable. The first two-thirds is moderately uphill, and once you crest the ridge, you’ll have a slightly steeper downhill trek as you near the falls. The falls themselves are 40 to 50 feet in height and cascade down multiple tiers of hillside before collecting in a pool at the bottom. You can approach as far as the pool itself at the bottom of the falls.

This is a moderately strenuous hike with some fairly steep uphill and downhill sections and sharp trail drop-offs. But most folks shouldn’t have trouble with it, and if you bring a camera, you’ll get some great pictures in the process. There are even some decent mountain views along the way. Happy hiking!

Foothills Fall Festival

If you’re staying in one of our Wears Valley cabin rentals this weekend, you might be interested to know that you won’t be very far away from one of this region’s premier annual festivals. The Foothills Fall Festival, October 12-14 is a weekend full of world-class concerts, juried arts and crafts, kids’ activities and much more.

The event, which takes place in downtown Maryville, is presented on such a large scale that it can’t be contained in one area. The concerts are staged at the outdoor amphitheater at Jack Green Park, and the arts and crafts fair will be set up along Broadway street downtown. The kids’ Adventure Lane area—featuring rides, inflatables, activities and games—occupies 16 acres along the Maryville-Alcoa Greenway.

The festival is popular, in part, for the big names that take the concert stage each year. This year’s headliners include Gary Allan, Train and Darius Rucker. Meanwhile, the arts show features nearly 100 selected vendors from around the Southeast. All participants feature creative, hand-made products in a wide range of media, including pottery, baskets, photography and fine art, jewelry, woodworking and much more. Free entertainment such as craft demonstrations, street theater, face painting, musicians and more can be enjoyed by guests visiting the arts fair.

Learn more at

September Deals At Volunteer Cabin Rentals

Anyone who makes a reservation to stay in one of our Wears Valley cabins through September 30 qualifies for a number of special moneysaving deals. If you book a three-night stay, you get half off the third night; if you book four nights, you only pay for three; if you book five nights, you only pay for four, and if you stay six or seven nights, you only pay for five. So if you’re staying a full week that’s a savings of nearly 30 percent.

To receive the discount, please mention the special Internet deal when you make your reservation. This offer is valid only for remaining cabins, and unfortunately, it cannot apply to a booking you may have already made within that time frame. The offer cannot be combined with any other offers or specials, and it does not apply to holiday nights.

And we think that Wears Valley is the perfect setting for a September visit. Our cabins take advantage of the beauty of pastoral valleys and towering mountains, which are all right outside your window. You’re also just minutes from a handy, infrequently used entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, giving you easy access to picnic areas, hikes and the historic Cades Cove community.