Memorial Day is a day we recognize our American heroes and the unofficial kick off to summer fun. To me, summertime means lake days, cookouts, patio dinners, baseball games and weekend trips to the Smokies. In my opinion, Memorial Day weekend is the best time to head up to the mountains and have some fun. I recommend visitors go hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, spend a day at Dollywood and explore a couple different lodging options when spending a long weekend in the Smokies.
The weather during Memorial Day weekend is usually not too hot or too cold, meaning perfect for hiking and camping. Growing up, my whole family kicked off summer by packing up our tent and sleeping bags and heading to Elkmont Campground. Elkmont Campground opens all of their sites starting Memorial Day weekend. This location is great because it is central to several hiking trails, fishing spots and only a 10 minute drive to Gatlinburg.
Since Elkmont is close to many hiking trails, we love to venture into the wilderness to find the perfect waterfall trail, especially one with a wading pool. All the trails in Great Smoky Mountain National Park are opened by Memorial Day and are ready to be hiked. Grotto Falls is one of my all-time favorites. It is a beautiful 25-foot waterfall off the Trillium Gap Trail. The trailhead starts at Gatlinburg’s Traffic Light #8 and is three miles roundtrip. Grotto Falls is a moderate trail that leads hikers into the beautiful forests of the Smoky Mountains. We enjoy eating our packed lunch and wading in the crystal clear mountain water. If you are looking for a shorter trip, Laurel Falls is a paved 2.6 mile hike that is closer to the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Enjoying nature should definitely top the list when you visit the Smoky Mountains, but don’t forget another treasure of the area—Dollywood! This park is the most awarded theme park in the industry over the past decade. From thrill rides, to delectable food, to show-stopping entertainment, Dollywood has something your family will enjoy from start to finish. My favorites include the authentic steam engine, the Dollywood Express, checking out the talented artisans’ goods in Craftsman’s Valley and taking on coasters like Lightning Rod, the world’s fastest wooden coaster! And, not to be missed during Memorial Day weekend is Dollywood’s Barbeque & Bluegrass festival. This event has the tastiest barbeque in the South—and, free bluegrass concerts throughout the day are included with admission! I’m licking my fingers just thinking of it.
I mentioned camping, but if you prefer a bed over a tent, Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa is located inPigeon Forge and is offering several exciting Memorial Day activities. On May 27, from 1-3 p.m., the resort’s staff is hosting a patriotic pool party. The U.S. Army Six String Soliders band is scheduled to play next to the pool, and there will be games and contests for every family member to celebrate and remember our American heroes. For the kids, Camp DW is hosting a special Memorial Day camp. The Camp DW activity center is a delightfully-themed space where kids can imagine, dream and create. From painting on canvas to sand art and tie-dye projects, resort hosts are well-versed in bringing out the dreamer in kids of all ages. Special patriotic craft projects are available and pricing for craft participation ranges from $10-$20, per child.
With so many fun adventures just beginning, I hope this helps you plan your start to summer and enjoy a weekend in the Smokies.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by one of Dollywood’s interns, Mallory Morgan. Mallory is interning with the Public Relations team.