Adventures in Gatlinburg
By Caitlin Moore
Typical vacations might consist of fun in the sun or a day at the beach, but if you’re feeling a bit unconventional these days, why not embrace the pure wilderness and historic charm of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Heading inland will allow you to escape the trials and tribulations of your modern schedule by discovering an older and simpler way of life.
As the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is the place to be for tourists of all kinds. Only about 3,500 people actually live here, but it seems like much more thanks to the thriving arts scene, nighttime entertainment, and constant merry-go-round of visitors looking to explore this lush and beautiful part of the country.
The park itself is unimaginably diverse, dense, and difficult to describe in simple terms. The citizens who once fought to protect them saw the inherent beauty and value of these 800 square miles of untamed land, and today over 9 million people show their agreement by visiting. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has received a number of lofty designations, including International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Area, and State National Heritage Area.
Park rangers, visitor centers, and a number of roadside exhibits help to educate sightseers, but true awe comes during those moments of silence that occasionally fall during a hike, picnic, or nature stroll. This preserved area is 95% forested and contains trees up to 20 feet in circumference. Rare plants can be spotted everywhere you look, and there are over 60 species of mammals and 200 different types of birds. This is the only place in the world that you’ll find Jordan’s Red Cheeked Salamanders, and you’ll see them as part of the most diverse salamander population in the world.
After you’ve had your fill of the more secluded parts of the Great Smokies, be sure to spend a little time in Gatlinburg. This town tries to buck the image of sleepy mountain settlement by offering diversions of all kinds and playing host to festivals and celebrations throughout the year. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies contains marine creatures of all shapes and size in its 1.4 million gallon operation, and the Guinness World of Records Museum will surely show you a few surprises.
As far as special events go, Gatlinburg loves a good party. The Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival lasts for over a month and celebrates autumn with hay rides, fall decorations, and local crafts. Gatlinburg Heritage Days focuses on the local traditions by encouraging everyone to learn about and participate in a number of activities. The Craftsman’s Fair showcases the work of dozens of craftspeople from around the country and is one of the largest gatherings of independent artisans anywhere.
Take things up a notch by visiting Ober Gatlinburg, an amusement park and Tennessee’s only ski resort. Perched above the town, you’ll find, among other things, an alpine slide, miniature golf, a black bear habitat, and skiing in the winter. Shopping and great food is also available up here, so take some time to enjoy the sights as you while away the day above the city.
If you need a few more reasons to visit Gatlinburg, be aware that there’s plenty of trout fishing, a mountainside golf course that will challenge the savviest of players, and for all you lovebirds, this cozy little hamlet has earned the reputation as the Honeymoon Capital of the South. Don’t forget horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and nighttime shows for people of all ages.
Lodging options in this tourist-loving town abound, and the scenery and rolling hills make it the ideal spot for renting a cabin or chalet to make your stay the complete mountain experience. A little seclusion will make you feel like a true adventurer, but the presence of so many easy access roads will never leave you feeling isolated. Check into renting a vacation home in or near Gatlinburg and you’ll certainly have everything you need; plenty of space, lots of great amenities, and close proximity to whatever it is that you’d like to see.
Families who’d like to do a bit of hiking can find a place just minutes from the park entrance, and for evenings filled with fun and relaxation, a game room, entertainment center, and nearby swimming pool will leave everyone satisfied. For those just seeking solace from the constant spinning of the outside world, a cozy mountain retreat complete with hot tub and stellar panoramic views will be all that you need to achieve inner peace.
HomeAway.com holds the key to your next vacation. Take a look at all the great vacation rentals listed here, and prepare for a fabulous trip.
No matter what you plan to do in Gatlinburg, make sure to scope out a great place to stay. Go online to start looking for your Gatlinburg Vacation Rental, and get ready for a taste of something different.
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