My family and I have parked our RV in many places and while almost every place has been beautiful and wonderful, I find myself wanting to continuously return to the tranquility of the Smoky Mountains. These mountains rise high into the sky along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and while we have nothing against the state of North Carolina, we always park ourselves in Tennessee. There is just something about Tennessee that I love, my husband loves, and my children love, and all that love equals a fabulous vacation!
One of the places that we go to while in the Smoky Mountains is Dollywood and let me tell you, they have it all. A theme park with more than forty rides, a water park that sits on thirty-five acres, and fifteen shows. My children are not huge rollercoaster fans, which can be a problem in many theme parks nowadays, but Dollywood has so many rides that they love. I couldn’t tell you how many times we have all been on Daredevil Falls, Demolition Derby, Lemon Twist, and the Dollywood Express. Their favorite is the water park and they’re excited about racing each other on the new TailSpin Racer. I might even join them in a race!
We have never seen all the fifteen shows at Dollywood, because they are all not performed at the same time. Some of them are only shown during the summer months, while others are shown during the winter or the fall.
However, the Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction is held all year long! If you go, which I highly recommend that you do, you will enjoy dinner while watching the riders perform tricks on top of one of the thirty-two horses in the show. There is also dancing, special effects, and of course comedy that is very family friendly.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is another one of our must-see places when we are in the area. The park is filled with fragrant flowers, abundant wildlife, and magnificent scenery. You can find 10 locations to set up your RV in the National Park or, check out this article from USA Today on the Top 10 RV Parks near Dollywood to help you decide.
Cades Cove is one of the top attractions in the mountains, which includes three churches, barns, log houses, a working grist mill, and many other buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries that have been restored. The road around Cades Cove is eleven miles long and while it is walkable, we always end up driving. I did mention that we bring the kids with us, right?? That is WHY we drive! We do end up walking along the Cades Cove Nature Trail and have even managed the five-mile roundtrip trail to the Abrams Falls. While in Cades Cove, we have all spotted deer, groundhogs, and a raccoon or two, but never any black bears or coyotes. I have heard from other people that they have seen them though, so be careful as you are hiking and exploring.
During our last visit, we ventured over to Gatlinburg to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium. This Ripley’s is not like any that I have been in before. The three floors are filled with sixteen themed galleries and each one is more unusual than the one before. We found ourselves surrounded by shrunken heads, a robot that was twelve feet tall and made from scrap car parts, a two-headed cow, an airplane made from 17,000 matchsticks, and gum wrappers that were made into a chain that was 6,583 feet long. We even had fun playing the Human Ostrich Game. Don’t ask, you really need to experience it for yourself!
You may be familiar with Ripley’s Believe it Or Not but did you know that Ripley’s also has a fantastic Aquarium located here? The entire family will love Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. We walked through the Gallery of the Seas, Stingray Bay, and the Penguin Playhouse, before heading upstairs to the Ocean Realm, the Tropical Rainforest, and the Shark Lagoon. My husband and I were the only ones who touched one of the stingrays, but I loved how this aquarium has a lot of interactive exhibits. If time wasn’t an issue, we would have played with the penguins, splashed around with the stingrays, or slept with the sharks.
Before we left Gatlinburg, we decided to grab dinner at the Peddler Steakhouse. The Peddler Steakhouse is in the former home of Charles “Earl” Ogle, Sr., whose great grandfather opened the first grocery store in Gatlinburg. While this is a fancier restaurant than where we usually dine, the food was worth it. The kids all ordered from the children’s menu, my husband had steak, and I chose the fresh rainbow trout. Even if you decide against dining here for a full meal, I recommend that you go for dessert. The peanut butter mud pie is amazing!
These are just a few of the places that we have been to when we have been in the Smoky Mountain region. We usually spend a lot of time outdoors, because the weather is warm and sunny, and the mountains and nature beckon us at every turn. Hiking to waterfalls is a favorite of the whole family!
The first thing that I do every morning when I wake up is go outside with my coffee and watch the sun rise and at night you will find me in the same spot with a glass of wine as the sun is setting. The mountains are my backdrop, my RV is my home away from home, and this is a place where memories that last a lifetime can be made.
Head over to the Smoky Mountains and you will see what I am talking about…….