Rex and I spent the first part of Thanksgiving week in Gatlinburg, TN – one of the most awesome places on the planet. Although we were with family and were not in full RATB mode, we nevertheless made the time to experience a few things, some for the first time, and some for the hundredth time. Over the next few days, I will be writing a few reviews of the attractions we managed to squeeze in during Thanksgiving.
For this article, I will briefly discuss the overall experience of Gatlinburg, TN.
Fans of Gatlinburg, TN are typically divided into two camps:
1. Those who love the touristy Parkway with all the shops, attractions, fudge, candy, pancakes, and rundown but incredible motel lodges.
2. Those who loath the aforementioned things, but can’t get enough of the Great Smokey Mountains.
Count me among the former. Although I certainly appreciate the beauty and wonder of the Smokey Mountains, hiking has just simply never been my thing (and Rex’s either, although it seems in the last several years he has has a change of heart when it comes to the great outdoors). There are plenty of fantastic lodges and cabins up in the mountains, well removed from the traffic and the tourist traps if that is your preference, but for me, the busy, narrow streets of Gatlinburg filled by the aroma of both the Smokies and Fannie Farkle’s smoked sausage subs is like heaven on earth.
I also think tradition plays an important role in one’s like or dislike of the Gatlinburg Parkway (and by the way, Pigeon Forge is no longer the place you endure in order to get to Gatlinburg, it is now a force of its own. But, this article is about Gatlinburg). Rex and I lived in east TN for many years, so frequent family trips to Gatlinburg in the early to mid 80’s provided endless memories of great times. I would pester my mom and dad to take me once again inside the World of Illusions and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! I remember so many cool places that are no longer in operation, and then some of those cool places are still right there today and haven’t changed a bit (e.g., World of Illusions). Rex and I can tell stories for hours about the great times we spent along the shops and motels in Gatlinburg.
Thus, the real pleasure of Gatlinburg is in the building of traditions and memories with people you love. Although Dollywood is turning (has turned) the larger area into a theme park destination, Gatlinburg nevertheless remains a place for repeat customers who want to pass down a family heritage of catching a show, eating at a favorite restaurant, and maybe taking a lift on the tram to Ober Gatlinburg. For example, when I arrived in town this past week, the first thing we did was eat at the Best Italian restaurant – home of the most amazing garlic rolls on the planet. My family stumbled across this little gem nestled back off the Parkway during one of our visits to the Christmas parade way back in the 80’s. It is now a family favorite for us. Gatlinburg, perhaps more than anywhere else I have ever been, provides a deep sense of meaning and emotion, coupled with the excitement of the lights, noise, smells, and traffic jams. When you drive into the Parkway, you immediately feel something more than just a cool place to do some things. There is something important about Gatlinburg that resonates with our human desire to not only have fun, but to build lasting memories with loved ones in the process.
This past week continued the memory making. Rex and I will remember our first experience down the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster with our kids, the hilarious encounter at Denny’s where the host was prepared to give us free Mac n Cheese, and my nephew’s first encounter with the legendary World of Illusions.
Over the next few days, I will be providing brief reviews on the following attractions in Gatlinburg:
Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster
World Of Illusions
Amazing Mirror Maze
The Donut Friar
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