We planned on spending most of our vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but we did spend some time in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg doing tourist-y stuff. It has been almost 5 years since we’ve been to the area, but it seems like they have done a lot to improve the building codes in both towns. They all appear to be more unified and the shops are a tiny bit less cheesy.
Our first stop was Goats on the Roof. We had been to their original store in Tiger, Georgia and also their second location in Helen, Georgia but we didn’t know there was one in Pigeon Forge until we drove past it. Wyatt had a blast feeding the goats and looking at them on the roof from the second floor windows.
We stopped at the Apple Barn for apple dumplings, cider, and pie. It almost put us all into a sugar coma but it was delicious. Justin said a trip up there just isn’t complete without a trip to the Apple Barn.
We didn’t see anything that grabbed our immediate attention in Pigeon Forge after that until Wyatt say a giant Ferris wheel on the horizon. He wanted to do it. He NEEDED to do it! Since he was exceptionally good and hadn’t asked for anything other than a pack of Smarties the night before, we gave in. We spent almost $35 (with coupons!) for the three of us to ride the Smoky Mountain Wheel. It was okay but definitely didn’t provide the wow factor I was expecting. Wyatt loved it and for that it was worth it. It was only after we got done riding that I found out it was open at night. THAT would have been worth the money. I am sure Pigeon Forge lit up at night from the towering Ferris wheel would have been amazing!
We then went to Gatlinburg and tested out their three newest attractions: distilleries. We went to Davy Crockett’s (my favorite) where I loved the amaretto whiskey and cinnamon whiskey, Sugarlands Distilling Company where I really liked their apple pie moonshine, and Ole’ Smoky Distillery, where I gave up. After about 10 communion cups of straight liquor, I wasn’t excited to try the 12 shot line up. I really wanted to try their moonshine cherries, but Justin said you lost all of the cherry flavor and it tasted like straight liquor. We ended up not getting any. We decided it would be best if we waited until we tried them all to see what our favorites were. In the end we were tired and ready to make tracks back to the camp ground. If we had visited each store individually, we probably would have come home with a case.
The final tourist-y thing we did in Gatlinburg was a shoot-em-up 3D theater. Wyatt got a kick out of being on the mechanical horse and “powing” bad guys. He is definitely his daddy’s son! They showed a photo of the best and worst shooter at the end of each session and poor Wyatt was the worst both times. He just thought it was cool that his picture was up on the big screen!
Back in Townsend, we were only a few minutes’ drive from Cades Cove, an 11 mile driving loop through part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We got up at 7:00 one morning and drove the loop. Justin said that is when the animals were most active when his family visited when he was little. He was right! We saw deer mere feet from our vehicle. I got out and stepped right up to the field where these were.
Since the loop is off the real road and is one-way, we let Wyatt ride up front with us. He loved sitting on his daddy’s lap and looking at the animals.
We even got to see two sets of mama bears and their cubs. These were my favorite. The mama and her cubs were in a tree right on the edge of the road.
Wyatt loved the stream that powered the grist mill.
On the way home, we took a road called Rich Mountain Road. It’s a one-way, 12 mile gravel road over and around the mountain that leads out of Cades Cove to Townsend. We got to see the most astounding views and only saw one car the entire time, which we let pass us when we were taking pictures. It was funny though; they sign warned that it was an unimproved road, warning drivers to decide to take it with caution. With the exception of the hairpin curves, it was nicer than our dirt road, gravel the whole way!
We got up bright and early Monday morning to pack up and head home. The light rain didn’t put a damper on our good spirits. It was nice to spend a few days off and relax, but it sure was nice getting home!