Every year, thousands of people have some part of the Smoky Mountains experience on their list. But I can tell you that if it’s not part of your winter “must do” list, you’re missing out on a great time of year to experience this area’s attractions, outdoor, shopping and dining options.
Ski and Soak Up the Smokies’ Splendor. The Smoky Mountains are really a winter wonderland, especially if you’re looking for outdoor family fun — skiing and snowboarding at Ober Gatlinburg and great hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are at the top of my list. My less adventurous friends love an evening driving tour starring the millions of lights on display in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville that’s part of Smoky Mountain Winterfest, continuing through the end of February. You’ll travel through a wonderland of lights with so many options that you can tailor a tour based on how much time you have.
Scrumptious Southern Dining. My tastebuds love to visit the Smokies, and the winter months are an especially good time to add a few of this area’s great restaurants to your list of things to experience in 2017. Some of my favorite places are when I want to “show off” to people who don’t get to the Smokies very often and have no idea how good the food is – places like the Song & Hearth at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, the Park Grill in Gatlinburg and Hard Rock Café. And you can’t beat the home of Tennessee’s first pancake house, Pancake Pantry in downtown Gatlinburg, or home-cooked comfort foods with all the fixin’s at The Old Mill Pottery House Café and Grille.
Shop. To me, the perfect dessert after a yummy meal is shopping, and Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are home to some of the best shopping and entertainment you can find. There’s a great variety of shops at The Island in Pigeon Forge, unique shopping in Gatlinburg – especially at the working crafts community and name brand outlets at Tanger Outlets in Sevierville. It’s not that there aren’t enough shops to choose from – it’s not enough time to see everything. Darn, might have to plan another trip just for Smokies’ shopping!
Stampede, Set Sail or Sea Life? If it’s entertainment at the top of your must-do list when you get away, the Smokies’ wintertime options offer a mountain of variety. It’s really hard to pick my favorites, but I’d have to start with these cool ones: the Gatlinburg Space Needle and the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel in Pigeon Forge to the aquatic environments at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg and the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge. Number one on my “don’t miss” list is Dolly Parton’s Stampede, a unique dinner and show experience set in an 35,000-square-foot arena featuring 32 magnificent horses, live buffalo, music, a four-course feast and racing pigs (my favorite!)
Stay and Snooze and Spa! With so much to do in the Smokies, you really need to stay overnight at one of the area’s variety of lodging options. My favorite? Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa. It’s close to many of the area’s attractions and offers families a peaceful retreat in the mountains at the end of a busy day – with its own full-service spa, indoor pool, scheduled activities for kids and a family bedtime story each evening.
So here’s a start for your 2017 “let’s do” list this year. I suggest one stop shopping in the Smoky Mountains to make you and your family’s winter wanderings uniquely yours and so much more.