Danger! Don’t Ignore These Tips for Mountain Winter Driving

The downhill slide. Great fun if you’re a child on a sled with a clear run ahead of you. Not so thrilling if your family vehicle is headed toward the outer edge of that hillside curve. You may be a true flatlander from the sandy coast, or have grown up with several layers of lingering snow all winter. No matter–we are all in this together when a beautiful snow comes to the mountains of east Tennessee. So why does everyone here make a milk and bread run when the forecast predicts winter precipitation? And what do you do when you need to drive in it? Here are a few key tips to get you down that hill from your Gatlinburg rental cabin to safely make it to the grocery store (or restaurant if you prefer)!
Facts first. There are many that can’t understand what all the uproar is about for a little flurry. Our municipalities do not purchase mass quantities of major snow removal equipment because it is not cost effective for the infrequent and short-lived winter precipitation that we receive in our area. That said, our primary thoroughfare roads are customarily brine treated well before actually needed, so that essential services can continue to move freely. Local road crews do a really nice job at keeping those scraped and treated. Let me be clear that the road or driveway to your lodging choice is likely not considered main road essential, and will not be immediately plowed the morning after a beautiful snowfall! Hence the reason both visitors and locals alike prepare ahead of time for breakfast toast and milk for cereal (and probably something for the slowcooker also).
Even if you are snow and ice experienced, the incline factor of a hill creates an added, sometimes very harrowing, dimension to staying safe.
Essential tips for ascending and descending hills when driving conditions are slick:
—Be thoughtful where you start. If you can choose a flat spot, do so. If you must park on a hill, point your vehicle where you will pull forward when you next need to drive. Avoid backing  your vehicle uphill. Simple planning ahead, but effective.
—Be consistent. When you are driving uphill, do use the slow and steady approach, and don’t press your brakes. Regaining traction on an incline once lost is difficult, and can cause you to slide and get stuck.
—Avoid powering up. “Getting a running start” when ascending a hill is not wise, since it often ends in just spinning wheels with no traction, and then the inevitable slide. Local responders indicate this is the most frequent cause of stranded vehicles in Sevier County-too much speed.
Best tips for icy conditions:
—Drive in slow motion. Do everything more slowly: accelerating, braking, turning, and overall average speed. This is when you let the tailgater behind you go around you, if possible.
—Don’t stop completely. If you can approach a light or an intersection with a very slow roll and keep going, it’s far easier to maintain traction and momentum than a full stop (not breaking any traffic laws, of course).
—Be aware of your brakes and tires. If your vehicle has ABS brakes, learn ahead of time how to use them properly to assist you (or not). Make sure you have adequate tire tread to lend as much traction as possible.
—Consider shady areas treacherous. Even when the rest of the road may be dry, tree-lined spaces often don’t get enough sunlight to dry the road during the daytime, and may stay slick for days because of overnight refreezing. A realtor friend of mine recently hit the ditch for just this reason. My advice to him was to put down the phone and focus completely on driving.
#1 Tip for driving on winter-covered roads in our mountains:
—Stay off the road. With any steep incline, gravity always wins. It doesn’t matter what type vehicle you have or how experienced you are, it’s simple physics. Also, though you may have great driving skills, usually there are several out there with you that lack them. Don’t become someone else’s foolish collateral damage.
Fortunately, weather changes quickly here, and usually inclement conditions only last a couple of days before melting. A recent week had snow, ice, and 14 degrees on Monday, and 60 degrees high for the day on Thursday.
So plan ahead! Just relax and enjoy the fireplace, a good movie, and some down time that all of us need anyway. Please call our office here at VCR if we can answer questions about weather conditions prior to or during your stay. Our Smokies truly offer a snow-covered winter wonderland-absolutely breathtaking!

3 Great Little Joys of January in the Smoky Mountains

To be sure, there are so many different reasons to visit the Smoky Mountains all throughout the year. Yet those who are in the know always realize that there are special moments to savor during the off season. Let’s discuss some special winter joys!

1. A little privacy. Without much effort, you can achieve immediate seating in your favorite restaurant, or park directly in front of your chosen store at the outlet mall. You can even take that road less traveled virtually alone. If it’s mostly locals in town, then they are too busy in their normal workaday world to be joining you on your vacation trek—though we seriously wish we could! During January, the Smokies are more wholly your own. You can go where you can’t easily reach when it is more crowded with tourists during high seasons and weekends (like New Year’s and MLK long weekends this month).
Even better, it’s much easier to be romantic. You don’t have to be a February Valentine to share together time: on a trail, over dinner, seeing a dinner show or a movie. What an easy date without much effort!
2. A little bargain (or a lot of them). Off season has its budgeting benefits. Choices of cabin lodging are both more plentiful and more affordable, and often specials are available (check our link here). Several local restaurants have deals for weekday lunches (like Alamo Steakhouse and Bennett’s BBQ in Pigeon Forge, and Chophouse in Sevierville). Shopping outlets begin to clear seasonal inventory after the holiday rush. Use your Christmas cash to snag some great finds. Local theaters run specials on admission and combination ticket package deals are also available at attractions like the Ripley’s venues.
Check out the value deals at Tanger Five Oaks here:  https://www.tangeroutlet.com/sevierville/deals
3. A little snow (maybe)! Weather changes quickly this time of year. We can literally have 60 degrees one day and snowfall the next. To guarantee yourself some white stuff fun, head to Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Resort. There are 10 ski trails total  (with mass quantity snowmaking ability), snow tubing, and an indoor Olympic size ice skating rink, among other venues. So you can spend time both outdoors and inside, creating winter sports memories with your family. It’s one of our favorite places to play during winter.
Choose your activities by exploring Ober’s site at http://obergatlinburg.com
Or, just enjoy the living room fireplace in your cabin, with a hot cup of your favorite beverage. Do you need to recover from the holiday madness? Want to start off the new year with a resolution of more relaxation? Just need a quick overnight getaway with that special someone? Plan now to take the time to inhale the fresh air, to anticipate the fresh new year, and find that fresh, peaceful attitude that is yours for the taking in our mountains in January. I promise you won’t be disappointed! Call us at Volunteer Cabin Rentals to schedule your getaway with us today.

4 Best Ways to See and Study Trains in East Tennessee

If all things locomotive interest you, there are multiple opportunities in East Tennessee to explore train history in our area. Some favorites are mentioned here, starting closest geographically to your Smokies rental cabin, and moving outward.

1. The Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum in Townsend features the mountain logging industry and the historic railroad operations supporting it. The exhibits here document the lumber company’s ascent with the lucrative business of “timber mining” local hillsides. This same railroad shortline was also used by Knoxville tourists to access their Elkmont community vacation homes via the L&N (Louisville & Nashville) line. Volunteer docents bring the details of the exhibits to life, and recount how the logging industry changed the area, along with its eventual industry demise here. In addition, the establishment of the the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and World War II are also explained regarding their impact on the life of the Smoky Mountain community. Definitely interesting, donation admission only, and worth a whistlestop!
For more information, see http://www.littleriverrailroad.org
2.The Dollywood Express in Pigeon Forge. If you plan to visit the Dollywood theme park, carve out some time to ride the park-based steam train called the Dollywood Express. Original to the theme park all the way back to the original Rebel Railroad in the 1960’s, the 20 minute, 5 mile open-air ride gives passengers a sweet taste of train travel flavor in the steam locomotive era. Our tip for riding is to sit farther back in the train, and wear sunglasses to avoid stray airborne ash cinders. So whether being pulled by Klondike Katie or Cinderella, this easy-access rail ride is enjoyable for the entire family, and included in your park admission price. Have your camera ready to photograph the engine where the track curves along the way.
3. For an afternoon day trip, consider the Three Rivers Rambler in Knoxville. This steam train ride originates at the University Commons depot, accessible from I-40, Alcoa Highway from Maryville, and Kingston Pike at the western edge of the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus. The Commons retail area was originally the Fulton Bellows Foundry industrial site that operated from 1917 to 2005. The Rambler (3RR) trip traverses 11 miles and 90 minutes of scenery in the Knoxville countryside, and is operated by the Knoxville & Holston River Railroad (KXHR). Excursions fill quickly, so plan ahead to ride the Hoot ’n’ Holler Autumn Express, or the holiday-themed Christmas Lantern Express.  Some families make this ride an annual tradition.
The John Henry Number 150 steam locomotive is also on display, having just arrived this past July. This memorable piece of history is named for the American folk hero, and was the source of the John Henry song.
For trip schedules and ticketing, get more details at http://www.threeriversrambler.com
4. Should you be a serious train enthusiast, you must take a day trip to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, just north of Chattanooga. Located not far off I-75 South, the trip can be easily driven from your Wears Valley cabin rental to the museum in about 2.5 hours of mostly interstate driving. The train yard at the museum is fascinating and allows for many photo opportunities. There are also multiple excursion trips to choose from.
My family’s absolute favorite is the Missionary Ridge Local trip. It is roughly an hour long, goes through a mountain Civil War-era tunnel, and stops at a turntable to rotate the the engine locomotive for the return trip. Passengers can choose to disembark to observe this feat, and absolutely should! It is exciting and educational for all ages to see early 19th century industrial technology, and realize that digital may not just be all there is. This trip is well worth the time commitment to learn and enjoy!
So choose which visits are right for your family, and find that there is still so much to learn about in the mountains of east Tennessee. All aboard!

Don’t Miss these Transportation Museums! Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Enjoying a Smoky Mountains vacation in your Sevierville cabin rental affords you time to indulge in pastimes that you can’t stop for in your daily routine. Don’t miss these two transportation museums in Sevierville. Full disclosure: trains will be the next blog, this writing takes a spin past the airplanes and automobiles.

warbird

First, take flight mentally by visiting the Tennessee Museum of Aviation, located adjacent to the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport, at 135 Air Museum Way. You don’t have to be a veteran to appreciate and learn more details about our military aviation history and the heroes who worked with these aircraft. The museum is based in a heat-controlled aircraft hangar, and features Warbirds that have been restored or are in progress. The air-conditioned gallery also contains a treasure trove of interesting and educational exhibits of memorabilia that make the history of our brave airmen come to life. Parts of the gallery have been featured on cable television, and many school and youth organizations visit regularly for field trips.
The museum has both permanent and rotating/visiting exhibits, and has special events and demonstration shows held throughout the year. Our son first had his interest in these planes piqued during a local preschool soccer game. The museum was hosting an aerial demonstration show, and the flight path of the planes passes over the local playing fields. With each pass, players’ attention to the game completely ceased, as the boys on field turned their gaze skyward to see the warbird beauties pass overhead! All ages can enjoy visiting this proud piece of our aviation history. For more information regarding operating hours, admission, and current events, visit the museum website:  http://tnairmuseum.com
floyd-garretts
If classic cars are more your speed, consider Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum, also located in Sevierville at 320 Winfield Dunn Parkway. This venue features a collection of almost 100 cars, and has been featured in multiple television shows and car enthusiast magazines.
Anyone that can appreciate the automobile culture of the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s can see both the preserved vehicles and a plethora of memorabilia in this comprehensive specialty museum. Each item has been carefully acquired, and is maintained in showroom condition, with many rare models on display. There are classic hot rod models, actual racing cars, and muscle vehicle with serious horsepower under the hood. Mr. Garrett himself is also often present, and always willing to share his aficionado knowledge regarding any specific vehicle in his collection. Take home a souvenir from the gift shop that any car lover would enjoy. Christmas gifts, anyone?
Whether you are just beginning to learn about the technology of muscle manufacturing or taking a trip down memory lane, Floyd Garrett’s museum offers an interesting array of exhibits that are a pleasure to view. So don’t hesitate to bring that man who still misses the sportscar he traded in for the minivan of fatherhood. Also bring that little child who loved the Disney movie Cars and would like to see the real thing! Check out the details at: http://www.musclecarmuseum.com/index.shtml
It’s your loss if you overlook the Tennessee Museum of Aviation and Floyd Garrett’s Muscle Car Museum. There’s so much history contained in these two locations. Who knew that such amazing collections of airplanes and vehicles were so easily accessible? Choose to visit one or both on this trip to the mountains. You’ll be glad you did!

4 Easiest Places to See Fall Leaves in the Smokies

fall-leaves

Bar none, on a clear day, the best view anywhere is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Clingmans Dome. But it is often literally in the clouds, and the paved hike, though short, is surprisingly steep.The best reward of hiking is that panoramic vista of rolling tree-covered mountaintops, that so beautifully burst into multicolored hues this time of year. Sometimes though, after unwinding a bit at your Wears Valley rental cabin, your energy for hiking tends to wane. So I provide here today the path of least resistance:
4 easy places to see the changing leaves of autumn in the Smokies–with very little effort required!
1. Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, 200 feet-Located at the Island in Pigeon Forge, this enclosed gondola ferris wheel-type ride is one of the tallest grounded rides in the region. Each large car is glass enclosed, and can accommodate up to 8 people. Not like a typical short fair ride, this is a comfortable, climate-controlled, rotating observation perch for viewing both the sprawling town of Pigeon Forge and the mountain range beyond. It is particularly striking at sunset and dusk, as the interplay of lights changes the colors and the city lights begin to illuminate the valley.
sky-lift
2. Gatlinburg Sky Lift, 1800 feet-The Sky Lift is the most classic of all the offerings listed here. Many long-term visitors have experienced this ski chair-type ride as youths, and then return with their families to enjoy the experience together annually. Since the 1950’s, tourists have swung their dangling feet and leisurely ascended to the peak of Crockett Mountain from the origination post on the Parkway in the heart of downtown. An observation deck and gift shop are located at the top, and the view on the returning descent trip is 20 minutes of pure outdoor viewing pleasure, with fantastic photo opportunities!
3. Gatlinburg Space Needle, 407 feet-On the corner of Parkway and Historic Nature Trail, the Space Needle is the main fireworks-adorned centerpiece of every New Year celebration. Yet the iconic tower offers its loveliest seasonal views a few months prior, in the fall. Know that you will first have to steer the littles past the kid-friendly arcade located at the base of the structure! A glass elevator ride transports you to the round observation deck, allowing views of downtown and mountainsides in multiple directions. The view of Mount Leconte is up close and personal, and completely unobstructed from this vantage point. This is another lovely spot for memory selfies and the landscape shots.
4. Scenic Overlook, Gatlinburg Bypass-Sometimes the most humble surroundings can be the most memorable. Choose the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Gatlinburg bypass when entering the edge of Gatlinburg from the Pigeon Forge Spur side of town. This is a pull-off parking spot that provides a gorgeous lookout any day of the year. You can see downtown nestled among the undulating mountains surrounding the awe-inspring vista of creation—a truly colorful perspective of the changing palette of the season. If you want to claim a family portrait shot for the holiday cards, this is a perfect location to do it. Just make sure to step carefully to avoid any inadvertent tumbles. Unlike most of your fellow visitors’ snap and go, it is also a good location to linger for awhile. This is the only location mentioned that is actually on National Park property, and is the best opportunity for a potential bear sighting, usually early morning and dusk. Make this short drive; take the pit stop; and don’t rush: soak it up!
Of course, there are many other locations to absorb lovely colorful views. Perhaps the easiest is even closer…perhaps from the rocking chair on the deck of your vacation cabin? We hope you enjoy autumn in the mountains as much as we do!

SaveSave

5 Essential Steps to Enjoying the Smokies with Teenagers

Being together with the entire family on vacation is one of the joys of getting away. Sometimes it is also one of the biggest challenges! After another one of my impromptu surveys of the pros (parents of teens and teens themselves), here are the essentials for having a great Smokies vacation with teenagers on board (both physically and mentally).

1. Give them an activities planning assignment. Choose one or more activity windows during your trip, and allow your teen to plan the entire adventure, using online resources and/or local brochures. Check this Things to Do tab for some creative ideas. There are so many options, anyone can find something that is of interest to them, something they have never done before.
Teen suggestion: Outdoor Gravity Park http://outdoorgravitypark.com
2. Allow your teen to choose the food. Kids can be involved in meal planning for dining at your Pigeon Forge cabin rental, and also can make location choices while eating out. I’m not suggesting that every meal should include french fries or off the wall cuisine. But fresh opinions for at least a couple of meals could easily become a fond vacation memory, and maybe even a tradition when returning to the area.
Teen suggestion: Little Tokyo Hibachi Grill & Sushi
sushi
3. Go laissez faire for an afternoon. To maximize every vacation moment, most parents attempt to make that happen by overscheduling. Tap into the spontaneity of youth by playing it by ear. Hit the Parkway with no plan, and let the vehicle destination be unknown. You just may discover a treasure you otherwise would have missed.
Teen suggestion: Top Jump Trampoline Park  http://topjump.com
topjump
4. Include water. Even the most jaded child usually enjoys water activities, and our area offers many unique opportunities. Some of our cabins even include local swimming pool privileges, and there are multiple water parks and slides in the county. Or go more natural with a waterfall hike, river wading at a national park picnic area (like Chimney Tops or Metcalf Bottoms),  or river tubing.
Teen suggestion: Smoky Mountain River Rat Tubing  http://smokymtnriverrat.com
riverrat
5. Schedule downtime. Most adults struggle with doing nothing, but teens thrive when relaxed and unscheduled. Our cabins offer plenty of room to spread out for some private time away from each other to sleep, catch up on social media, play video games, whatever needs to be done to maintain equilibrium.
Teen suggestion: Zzzzzzzz
Beware that the selections may include some elements that are not exactly your style! Yet these steps can help ensure that everyone has a part in making this Smokies exploration more interesting and fun for all. Good luck, from our VCR families to yours!

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.
tram
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.
chairlift
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.

4 Exciting Downhill Thrills in the Smokies

For those in your crowd who don’t really like it tame! We have beautiful mountains to admire from afar, and certainly to hike upon (that’s a different type of thrill I’ll save for another time). We also have many rolling foothills, with action chasing that is only found where the terrain is more than horizontal. So what can you do once you are at the top of the hill? Here are four thrill-satisfying ways to reach the bottom.

1. Coast Down via a mountain coaster. There are now several of these in our area, which indicates the popularity of twisting down a mountainside strapped into a coaster seat on a smooth rail. It’s a smooth ride akin to the thrill of sledding as a kid, except your direction is determined, and your speed can be adjusted to suit your courage. Nice also that not much strength or athleticism is required, and it’s not jerky or inverted like many theme park roller coasters. As long as you can get into and out of the seat and control a braking mechanism, most of your family can enjoy this sweet rush of wind through your hair while taking in the view.
Try Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, the original and reputable organization on Wears Valley Road, which is the closest location to your cabin in Wears Valley. The mile-plus track (the longest in the US!) is well-placed on the hill for a ride of eight minutes or so, depending on your chosen speed of descent.
ogozorb
2. Roll Down via sphere. For those who really like to live on the edge: would you enjoy rolling downhill in an inflated sphere with some water inside? Those manic, twisted minds that seek a wild ride will love the Outdoor Gravity Park! you and up to two buddies can take a smooth, wet ride to cool off. It is essentially a rolling “slip and slide”, for those of a certain age who understand what I’m talking about. The activity of rolling in the OGO sphere is called ZORBing. There are four tracks downhill to choose from, and each has a different experience. There are multi-roll packages, which you might as well buy, because once is not enough—trust me. It is addicting, and almost every teenager will buy into the cool factor of this activity. Preview the details here, because you gotta go—really.
zip
3. Zip Down via cable. A little more grit and macho required? Ziplining is just your ticket. Harnesses, clips, and heights, oh my! Even if you don’t think you have a fear of heights, this activity will definitely vet any pretenders. No kidding, that first step off the platform into space and trusting the cable (and your guardian angel) to arrive safely is like NOTHING else.
Our family really enjoys Smoky Mountain Ziplines. This outfitting company truly works hard to assure you a safe and fun experience. Highly trained guides even keep jokes running to calm nerves, and are never condescending to anyone regarding ability or level of courage. Their current courses are completely engrossing, and the firm plans to open a completely new course next year with some additional unique twists found nowhere else in the area.
4. Fly down. Lastly, do you want to cover the most downhills possible in the least amount of time? I suggest changing your perspective, and getting above the hills with a helicopter ride. Who says you have to be actually on the hill? Another one of those bucket list activities, a family helicopter ride creates a memory, and is a fantastic way to get extraordinary panoramic views of just how lovely the countryside is here. This is also one of those activities that some of our customers revisit each time they come to the area—the view changes tremendously depending on the season. Find the best rides locally at Scenic Helicopter Tours.
There’s just something about sun, shorts and sweat that seeks adventure. Of course, there are other adrenaline rushes available (like the seat ride that swings you around 360 degrees in a vertical circle), but I wanted to suggest activities that are exciting, instead of wanting to make you lose your lunch. After a hard day of such play, head back to your Smoky Mountain rental cabin and relax those thrill-tensed muscles in the hot tub. Then you can begin your first round of story telling of this vacation’s adventures, whether mild or completely wild!

Don’t Scream! Best Places for Freshly Made Ice Cream in the Smokies

Talk about surviving the season! These sultry, summer days immediately whet my family’s appetite for a cool, sweet treat, and not just any ice cream will do. Of course, there are multiple locations of scoop servers like Baskin Robbins, Ben and Jerry’s, and regional Mayfield stores if you just want a simple fix. However, there are better options, where the frosty concoctions are made fresh in house, and not delivered by truck in frozen containers. Let’s review some preferred locations as listed by those unbiased, professional tasters on our staff.

Marble Slab Creamery-Although this too is a chain, all of their products are made fresh by the batch daily in store. They have many options of fruit and candy items that can be mixed into your chosen flavor to customize your serving, making it easy to satisfy everyone with exactly the treat combination they are seeking. There are two convenient locations in Pigeon Forge:  in the same building as Mellow Mushroom on the Parkway on the north end of town, and adjacent to Burger King, also on the Parkway on the south end of town.
creamery
Apple Valley Creamery Ice Cream and Bake Shop-Located in the center of the Apple Barn complex in Sevierville, the parlor is an old-fashioned spot to sit and and enjoy traditional ice cream treats, freshly made with generous portions. Its location serves over 60 handmade flavors rotated seasonally, has a pleasant nostalgic atmosphere, and plenty of free parking. An adjacent bakery area in the same store also offers fresh breads and muffins for purchase. Go for a banana split (enough to share), or the warm apple crisp a la mode.
icecreambar
Old Mill Creamery Ice Cream Bar-Another parlor location that is tucked in the shops of the Old Mill Complex in Pigeon Forge, this establishment is favored and remembered for its unique signature flavors. If you have never had Biscuits and Honey ice cream, or if you think that  chunks of homemade oatmeal creme pie should be included in your scoop of the day, try the too-big-for-one person servings at this shop.
Sweet Frog Premium Frozen Yogurt-Though not really ice cream, I must include a frozen yogurt location for those fans that prefer a lighter, yet still decadent treat. This place offers the soft serve stuff that you would never even realize is not custard ice cream, until you read the sign. Multiple unique flavors can be served individually or twisted. Serve yourself to get the exact quantity of each flavor you desire. Visit the clean and ample candy and toppings bar to add in whatever you require to complete your sundae masterpiece. My son swears the caramel apple flavor is like nothing else–and will never eat anything else! Gluten-free and sugar-free options are also available. One caution for nut allergies (with which our family must deal): the chocolate flavor is paired with peanut butter in the same dispenser. Because they can be twisted together in the center of the machine, the chocolate can contain residual traces of the peanut butter flavor. (I would change that in my perfect world). That has never kept us from being regular customers (even in December) at our beloved Sweet Frogs location, next to Firehouse Subs on the Parkway across from the entrance to the Island complex in Pigeon Forge.
This unscientific survey is provided purely by popular in house opinions, and does not reflect all available options for frozen treat indulgence in our area. But at least we can get you started with some viable options. One of them just may become a perennial favorite each time you visit your Pigeon Forge rental cabin. Guaranteed to make your vacation all the sweeter!

5 Places Locals Go in the Summer

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?burger

1. Frank Allen’s Market-First, let’s satisfy the stomach. Yes, it is a gas station. But for a no-stress satisfying breakfast, or a hot, loaded hamburger as a treat, many of us make the counter at Frank Allen’s an intentional gastronomic errand. You should too. Bypass that chain fast food.
2. Sevierville Downtown Farmers Market. After feeling calorically guilty for that juicy burger earlier in the week, we add healthy produce to the shopping list. On Friday mornings from 9 am to 2 pm, an early stop in downtown Sevierville loads up the fridge with fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables to carry through the busy weekend. It’s a great place to purchase known-source food at reasonable prices with friendly conversation We build our menu around what’s available seasonally—nothing better than vine-ripened food.swimdam
3. Douglas Lake Swimming Area. Mud is good! When there is no time to drag out the boat and put it in (most of us don’t pay for a slip at the marinas), an hour or two in the late afternoon at the roped-off swimming area is a grittier, freshwater alternative to the regular chlorinated dips in a pool This swim beach spot is located adjacent to the campground at the headwaters of Douglas Dam (west side). Like our 30,000 acre Douglas Lake, most in the area are on a “faucet”: created by watershed dam systems that are hydroelectric generators built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). If you want to get a panoramic view of the entire surrounding mountain range, drive across the bridge to the TVA Overlook directly across from the campground. On a clear day, you can take in a 180 degree view and see as far as North Carolina and Fontana Lake in the distance. You can also walk up to the dam on the bottom side (follow the signs), which is interesting to watch when the turbines are generating power. Nice benches and picnic areas at the overlook also make this an enjoyable picnic stop.
kflfront
4. King Family Library, Sevierville. Please, just let me grab a short moment of air-conditioned peace in a comfy chair. Now that the last research paper and class project has been completed, going to the library can be more of a pleasure for the family than a functional errand for resources. The King Family Library main branch in Sevierville, along with other public branches in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, are an educational respite form the chaotic, loud parts of summer. All facilities are modern and staffed with wonderful human resources that can enhance your vacation stay beyond a quiet book reading break. Check the links for summer programs that may be occurring during your stay.
5. Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a glorious place to sit and relax outside. I realized that my other listed locations are spread across the entire county, so let’s include one of our favorite places that is just moments away from your Wears Valley cabin rental. Like sitting at the library to rest, we are often looking for a place to park while kids play. Metcalf Bottoms is certainly not a secret location to both locals and tourists alike, but here’s how we who live here tend to enjoy it.
Supplies needed are a picnic lunch, cheap fabric folding chairs, an inflatable tube with a rope attached, an old towel, bathing suits, watershoes, and sunglasses. We like to arrive in the early morning. Choose a riverside picnic spot and sink the chair into the river for just your feet, or so it’s waist deep when sitting (oh yes!). I promise it’s a pleasure after the initial shock of the icy mountain water subsides. Let the kids skip rocks, catch a crawfish,  make leaf boats, build rock sculptures, wade or float a short distance (depending on appropriate ages). Tie the float to a stationary item (like you or a tree branch) to keep from losing it downstream. River play is wholly different than a pool or the lake: most kids can go for hours without being bored. Shoes are needed though! Barefoot is not best here, for traction on rocks and irregular river bottom. Relax awhile, consume your alfresco lunch, and wipe any stray mud off on that towel. Then be on your way as others just begin to arrive. It’s a most excellent way to spend a super and natural half day outdoors!
So there you have it. For those who must still attend to daily life while working in Sevier County, these are a few of our favorite quick fixes that enhance our summertime. As always, we are willing to share them with you. We are glad that you choose to rest and play in our home that we hold so dear. You are always welcome at VCR, and please come stay with us again soon!