On Top of Ole' Smoky

Just say the words “Great Smoky Mountains,” and your mind is flooded with images of the thickly wooded forests and rolling landscapes, rustic log cabins, and picturesque little downtown streets lined with quaint shops and restaurants that offer a peek into authentic mountain living. It’s these very things that keep the Smoky Mountain area thriving, that country feel that so many other places try without success to replicate. It’s in the air here, a certain smell and energy of life—life built out of the very ground and hewn from the trees. Life carved into mountains that echo with the history of the people who have created new beginnings here with their blood, their sweat, their hope, and their hearts.

That very feeling pours out into the cities and towns surrounding it, as well, in Gatlinburg and Sevierville, communities wrapped in the great embrace of the Smokies, the heart and the lifeblood that keep them alive and connected. These rural mountain areas are insulated somehow, from the frenetic pace of the world outside. Family and friends seem to hold greater importance, respect and honor and faith run as deep as the roots of the trees. And while modern life certainly has its place here, it’s the way that they maintain their humility and their spirit of homespun tenacity that bring tourists in by the droves, capturing the hearts of countless people who fall in love with the sights, the smells, and the flavors of a place unlike any other.

The attractions to the area are as seemingly endless as the trees—boundless in their charm and their appeal to young and old alike, offering everything from authentic bluegrass concerts to theme parks and outdoor explorations through trails and caverns, the Smokies have the perfect way to create new memories and embark on new adventures.

Going to Gatlinburg? Make a point to hit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where you can hike into the mountains and swim in a real swimming hole. Go fly-fishing, scout trails, ride on horseback, or try out your skills as geocatching. If you love an adrenaline rush, head to Ober Gatlinburg and go skiing, snowboarding, sliding, tubing, white water rafting, or zip-lining.

In downtown Gatlinburg, family fun powers on with fast-flying rides, and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies will have you shaking your head in disbelieving wonder as its tunnels lead you under a large shark tank. If you want a bird’s eye view of the Great Smokies, take a trip on the Space Needle—you’ll feel high enough to reach out and touch the clouds. Art galleries, shops, and famous eateries offer the true flavor of Gatlinburg; and great museums show off priceless pieces of history in everything from real Hollywood memorabilia to salt and pepper shakers. Take a load off and set for a spell at the Ole’ Smoky Moonshine Distillery, where they create some of the best ‘shine in the country and offer a peek at the process from the seats of the old wooden rocking chairs that pack their huge outdoor space, all while live music keeps spirits running high.

Sevierville has plenty of its own fun, with local shops, boutiques, galleries, flea markets and antique shops, and even outlet malls to keep even the most addicted shopper charmed. Country love is cooked up in some of the best restaurants you’ll ever visit, and the natural outdoor wonder means you can create the adventure of your dreams. Whether you love golfing, hiking, fishing, or rafting, there’s no shortage of the ways to explore all that Sevierville has to offer, so make it a priority to put this great city on your list.

No visit to the area would be complete without a stop in Pigeon Forge to check out its great shops, restaurants, natural parks, mini-golfing, and go-karting. And if you listen closely, you can hear the excited screams of riders zipping down the tracks of the rollercoasters at Dollywood, a theme park so packed with absolutely amazing rides, shows, and attractions that you’ll want to make it an annual tradition. Want more jaw dropping fun that’s also educational? Hit the Titanic Museum or WonderWorks to learn about and see all kinds of things that will have your head spinning is awe.

As the area rebuilds itself from the recent fires, show your own support for the people who call the Smoky Mountains home. “If you want to help Gatlinburg, come back and visit us. We’re gonna be back…and we’re gonna be better than ever,” says Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner. So take a trip to see all the area has to offer, stay and play with them, create new memories there, and take a minute to stand in wonder at the kind of beauty that absolutely takes your breath away.

GATLINBURG FROM THE EYES OF A CHILD

Naturally, kids have their own perspective on what makes a place fun, so we went straight to the source and got 8 year-old Jack Gunderman’s take on what makes the Gatlinburg area worth the wonder.

On the kid’s menu: Bubba Gump Shrimp & Co.- “I ate so much shrimp I thought I would never want shrimp again! It came in a bucket, and there was lots of cool stuff to look at on the walls!”

Learning at it’s best: The Wonder Works Museum- “It’s so awesome—the museum is upside-down!”

The Titanic Museum- “It looks just like the real Titanic, and going there taught me so much more about it. There was a part that let you feel how cold it was outside if you were really on the Titanic, and we got to see the famous violin that went down with the ship. They’d pulled it out of the water and put it in the museum.”

Repeat play: “I can’t wait to go back for Christmas! We’re staying in a cabin. Mommy & Daddy says Santa will be able to find me no matter what!

THE SPIRIT OF TENNESSEE

The volunteer spirit of Tennessee is inspiring and unwavering. Individuals and companies are eager to help. Here are a few ways we can lend a hand to Sevier County families in need:

Donations can be sent to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund SmartBank, which is managed by the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation:

P.O. Box 1910

Pigeon Forge, TN 37868

For more information, call 865-453-2650.

Tennessee’s own Dolly Parton has established the My People Fund, which will give Sevier Co. families in need after the wildfires $1,000 monthly for six months. For more information on how to partner with Dolly and contribute to the Fund, visit http://dollywoodfoundation.org.

The Red Cross has asked for monetary donations only for the time being. You can text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation or select a different amount. For more information on donations, visit www.redcross.org/donate/donation.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Tennessee Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster have a call center to provide more information on donating goods and volunteer opportunities. For a list of the most-needed items, visit http://mypf.social/pfdonationneeds. The call center is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily; the phone number is 866-586-4483.

For additional information on donation drop-off locations and monetary donations, please visitwww.visitsevierville.com,

www.mypigeonforge.com and www.gatlinburg.com.

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