Millions of people visit the area known as ‘the Smokies’ each year. My own family has taken road trips from our home in Ohio to the area that borders the Smoky Mountain National Park more than a handful of times. Yet, we are still drawn to Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg time and again.
When Mobile Brochure invited my family to visit, my kids were excited but as the days pressed on, closer to our departure date, they weren’t sure that this getaway would be much different than any other we’ve experienced in the area. We’ve visited the Smokies more than any other destination and they weren’t interested in visiting the same attractions. This time, my kids wanted a totally different experience. And that’s exactly what they got!
This stay in the Smokies was focused on a theme- thrills. Not you-could-get-killed-doing-this type of thrills, more like let’s-get-pumped-up-and-get-my-adrenaline-pumping-but-not-die-in-the-process thrills.
Play in the Smokies
Our first stop was to check out the newest attraction to open in Gatlinburg, the Mountain Coaster. Riders brave the track as a single rider or double up to share the experience with a friend or family member. Carts transport riders to the top of the coaster. When you begin your descent, gravity takes over to propel you forward. Since you control the brakes, you go as fast or slow, as you desire. The only complaint my family had about this attraction is that the ride didn’t last long. The mountain coaster was a thumbs up from my family and was a perfect warm up for our next adventure.
Foxfire Mountain is home to the longest zip line in the South. Reservations are highly recommended, as this attraction lures adrenaline junkies from near and far. While my family set off on a 2-hour long Canopy Tour and unique view of the Smokies, I enjoyed the small on-site museum and walk in the woods via the longest swinging bridge in the U.S.
Families with younger children may enjoy the ropes adventure course, playing corn hole, walking on the nature trails or chasing after the resident dog or chickens.
Though XTreme Racing Center boasts the fastest go carts in the Pigeon Forge area, my kids were less than thrilled to check them out. After all, my 21 and 19 year old have hot rods of their own. Their opinion changed after they were fitted for their helmets, buckled into their go carts, and sped forward around the track.
If there was one attraction that wasn’t ideal for my family on this trip, it would be Dollywood. Once we arrived, the kids set off to ride the roller coasters while my husband and I headed towards the craft demonstrations, shows and leisurely train ride. With all the skilled artisans and craft demonstrations, a trip to Dollywood would have been a great homeschool field trip when my kids were younger, but it just didn’t provide enough thrills for an 18, 19 and 21 year old who spend several days a year hanging out at Cedar Point, the nation’s roller coaster capital. On the other hand, this traveling mom thought the park was gorgeous and would love to return during the Christmas season when the park is especially decked out.
Dixie Stampede is recognized as one of the area’s best dinner theaters. My 18 and 19 year-old were less than interested by the pre-show, but my music loving 21-year old, who was most apprehensive about attending the show, really enjoyed it, as did my husband and I. I was a bit nervous of what was to follow, as the dinner theater is not inexpensive. It turned out, Dixie Stampede was fun, interactive and the food was so good that I almost didn’t mind eating with my fingers. My family agrees that the Dixie Stampede tops the charts for the best dinner show we’ve seen so far.
On our last visit, we had a great time visiting the Ripley’s attractions. The Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is always a favorite stop when we’re in Gatlinburg but we underestimated how much we would enjoy the other Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg. Ripley’s Mirror Maze, Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Ripley’s Mini-Golf and Guinness World Records are fun and great for families with tweens and teens. You can view some of the world’s most unique and unusual collections, with a bit of creepy thrown in, right smack in downtown Gatlinburg.
Eat in the Smokies
Our busy thrill packed weekend called for some serious food and our favorite meal was at the Alamo Steakhouse. The prices were a bit higher than we typically spend when we eat out, but with children that are young adults, part of the travel experience that they look forward to is trying new restaurants. I shouldn’t have worried. The restaurant was comfortable, the service was amazing and the food was excellent. My family has decided that we’ll eat at the Alamo Steakhouse on our next trip to the Smokies as well.
Since we’re huge pizza fans and had such a great experience at the Alamo, we decided to try Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, another establishment owned by the Johnson Family of Restaurants. Big Daddy’s specializes in wood fired, brick oven pizzas. We tried a regular pepperoni pizza and a Margarita Pizza with zesty marinara, fresh mozzarella, basil and Roma tomatoes. The Honey-Garlic Butter crust topper was especially yummy. Both pizzas were a hit, but after an action packed day, not as filling as my kids had hoped. In retrospect, I should have added a salad or wings to our carry-out order.
Stay in the Smokies
Cabin Fever Vacations, provider of luxurious cabin accommodations throughout the area, offered the space and relaxation that we were looking for. Our cabin, Bella Yani, featured two bedrooms on three levels with room to sleep twelve. With big kids, vacation rentals provide my family the space we need to spread out and relax. The added space is literally the difference between an okay vacation, with fighting kids, and a great vacation where everyone gets along. And if the property comes with gorgeous mountain views, that’s just an added bonus, right?
Have you visited the Smokies with your family? Is this an attraction you’d like to visit?
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