Not all vacations are beaches and maitais. Sometimes the best adventures can be had at higher heights in cooler weather, and sipping red wine. About 4 hours outside of Columbia, you can find yourself engulfed in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. Amid the rolling hills of forest and windy roads that lull you into a peaceful daze, is the vibrant city of Gatlinburg. What a strange little gem tucked away in the Smokies. I have never seen anything like. Of course I had been told it is the “Myrtle Beach” of the mountains, but being that I’ve never been to Myrtle that comparison was lost on me. Gatlinburg is a playground for both adults and kids. In the square mile or so of walking space are lined with wineries with free tastings, dozens of places to get those old tyme photos taken, indoor minature golf complexes, Margaritaville Jimmy Buffet type resaurants, a hall of mirrors, little make-shift indoor rides, Moonshine tastings– a sort of Disneyland on a budget but beter because there’s free booze! Amoung the maze of tourist traps, you are surrounded by the beautiful landscape of the Smokey Mountains.
My husband surprised me with this trip to Gatlinburg for our 1 year anniversar weekend. He rented us a cute, picterequese cabin in the woods. I was beyond thrilled with this surprise. Since moving to South Carolina we haven’t had much time with just US and havent been able to explore the surrounding areas. So this was a gift better than flowers or jewelry, it was a gift of time alone away from anyone we knew.
Our first night in the mountains, we arrived at about 3pm and knowing that it gets pretty dark around 430 5 we drove straight to our cabin to make sure we could find the way while there was still sunlight. After we got our barrings, we recalled a Wine Bar that we had passed about a mile or so down the mountain, perfect spot to let the festivities begin.
A cabin in the woods.
We decided to call it an early night and retire to the cabin where a hot tub, pool table, and three bottles of wine waited for us.
Saturday morning came early and we promptly made our way into the downtown Gatlinburg, the adult wonderland I described here earlier. At this time I didn’t know what to expect. We were told by the barkeep the night before that traffic tends to get bad getting into the town, so we were urged to get there early (around 8 am). Taking his advice we got to town as soon as we woke and got ready. To my amazement, the bartender was not exaggerating about the crowds and traffic starting early. We arrived in town in time to miss most of the craziness, and were able to get a parking spot in a flat rate lot. Finding breakfast was a chore, since, seemingly there were only a handful of “breakfast” restaurants to chose from. One of which had a line that was out the door and wrapped around the shopping center it was in and appeared to be a 2 hour wait minimum. I guess they have reeeeallly good pancakes. We settled for Dunkin Donuts and started our day.
After forcing my husband to take one of those Old Time-y photos, we made our way to the Chon-dola…not Gondola or a chair lift, its a CHONdola because you know, it had both. Anyway, my husband and I are both afraid of heights, yet every time an opportunity such as a huge Ferris wheel or in this case a chondola presents itself we decide its a good idea to go for it.
So, here goes nothing.
Smiling, but dying on the inside.
It was worth the views though!
The top of the lift offered little shops, a zip line, Tennessee BBQ, and a little memorial walk that told the tale of the recent fires in the area.
Back Down the Mountain we decided it was time to start tasting this Tennessee whiskey and wine that’s advertised everywhere.
Tennessee wine may not be for me, but they sure do a good job getting you tipsy.
We had some lunch and margaritas at a Mexican place in town, admittedly it wasn’t the best, but it satisfied. The rest of the day we spent in an arcade playing pinball, went miniature golfing, and shopped around until we were Gatlinburg-ed out .
Back to the Cabin for wine.
Sunday was the scenic drive and historical landmark day that I had planned. We took the long, slow drive through the Smokey Mountain National park to the Cades Cove loop where people drove their vehicles around the 11 mile road at about 4 mph. It’s definitely not for the impatient! Beautiful drive with scenic views.
ON our last night, we went to a local steakhouse for dinner, called Alamo Steakhouse. I was a little skeptical at first sight of the restaurant because I was worried it was a gimicky type place, however once we went in we were seated quickly and were offered our own private dining area, which was an extra bonus for us since it was our actual anniversary night. It was the intimate setting we needed and didn’t even plan for. The food was excellent, and the portions did not disappoint.
Overall our time in the mountains was amazing. A much needed getaway for my husband and I!
Until next time Gatlinburg! Aloha.