All posts by gatlinburg insider

Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade at Midnight

Come see the first 4th of July parade of the year in Gatlinburg, TN! Every year, the parade starts at midnight, and it’s the first 4th of July parade to kick off in the entire country!

The parade starts at midnight on the evening of July 3rd. The 37th annual Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade at Midnight is expected to bring over 100,000 spectators! The the city of Gatlinburg expects that it will continue to grow each year, too!

The streets will be closed to vehicles at approximately 11 p.m. on July 3rd so plan to get there early. You will want to pack a chair for your evening, so you can relax and wait on the parade to pass! You can see the parade anywhere from downtown on the main strip, so don’t sweat it too much if you have trouble finding a spot in the middle of downtown! You’ll see the same parade at the beginning and end of the route, so just find a place where you can be comfortable!

During the parade, there will be a tribute to the 5 military branches – a major highlight of the parade and rightfully so.

 

Also, Gatlinburg will be having a fireworks show around the same time as the Gatlinburg 4th of July Parade, which will begin about an hour after sundown. The display can be seen along most of the Parkway. The fireworks show is supposed to last around 20 minutes, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Tips for Visiting the Gatlinburg 4th of July ParadeFireworks to celebrate the 4th of July

  • Arrive early to get the best spot!
  • Pack snack and drinks so you don’t have to leave your spot!
  • If you spend the day in Gatlinburg, stop by one of the amazing restaurants in the area to grab an early dinner before the parade begins.
  • Take a few folding chairs and blankets to make you comfortably while you wait.
  • Don’t forget your camera!

If you won’t be in Gatlinburg, you can check out the 4th of July fireworks in Pigeon Forge. The Pigeon Forge event will have free concerts on July 4th. The Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge events are both free and will be a great time for the entire family! We can’t wait to see you soon!

When Do the Leaves Change Color in the Fall in Gatlinburg?

Fall is an incredible season to visit the Great Smoky Mountains with the beautiful Gatlinburg fall colors, crisp air, crafts, harvest festivals and more. If you have never visited Gatlinburg TN in October or early November, then you are missing out on an amazing experience.

Figuring out when the Gatlinburg fall colors will peak can be very tricky, and requires predicting the weather a little bit, too. A good rule of thumb that defines a brilliant fall is dry weather with cool (not freezing) temperatures in October. There are obviously other factors, but the cool temperatures will make the fall even more stunning in the Smokies. Colors usually peak around the last half of October with the higher elevations changing color first and the colors trickling down into the valley.

So, how can you figure out if the Gatlinburg fall colors are peaking just in time for your visit? And when is the best time to visit in the fall? We can help!

  1. Gatlinburg WebcamsFall in the Smoky Mountains

There are two great webcams in Gatlinburg that can show you exactly what the leaves look like! You can keep an eye on these webcams, and when the leaves begin to change, you can start making your plans! Once you start noticing the majority of the leaves changing color, then most of the valley and surrounding mountains should be lit up with color within approximately 2 weeks.

  1. The National Park Service

The National Park Service keeps the most up-to-date information about all of the Gatlinburg fall colors throughout the season. They offer:

  • Gatlinburg fall colors facts
  • Information on why and how the leaves change colors
  • Updates about the best times to visit the area for the fall color changes
  • Helpful information for planning your visit to the Smoky Mountains

You can visit their website by clicking HERE.

  1. Road winding through the Smoky MounatinsInside Tips for Planning Your Visit to See Gatlinburg Fall Colors

  • Prepare for lots of colors! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be changing colors, but there are other places to see the fall colors, too, like the Dollywood Harvest Festival.
  • Check out the views from more than just the national park hiking trails, too. You can see the Gatlinburg fall colors from all over the area. Try visiting the Gatlinburg Space Needle or riding on the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway for the best views of the colors!
  • Keep in mind that it’s going to be busy! If you visit Gatlinburg TN on the weekend, you’re likely to encounter many more people visiting the area. If you want to visit during a time when there are not as many people in the area, try planning to visit on a weekday!

Ready to start planning your Gatlinburg vacation? Make sure to check out all of the best places to stay in Gatlinburg TN, so you can get the best view of the Gatlinburg fall colors every time you step outside!

Top 10 Best Restaurants in Gatlinburg TN

When you visit Gatlinburg, Tennessee, it’s always fun and exciting to find the best places to eat throughout the area. There are definitely a lot of places to eat in Gatlinburg and you can only eat so many times during your visit, so you’ll want to find the best places while you’re planning! So how do you go about figuring out where to eat? You could ask the employees at the places you visit where they like to eat. You could read the various review websites. Or you could get the best of both worlds and simply check out our top 10 restaurants in Gatlinburg TN by the people who live and work in Gatlinburg as well as the visitors who have shared numerous opinions.

We’ve compiled a list of the best places to eat in Gatlinburg, TN with restaurants that you won’t find back home. Every restaurant in this list is unique to the area so you have a dining experience that doesn’t compare to anything you’ve had anywhere else. You won’t find chain restaurants or “fast food” in this list. Most of the restaurants listed are owned and operated by locals who share a love for excellent food. Continue reading Top 10 Best Restaurants in Gatlinburg TN

Christmas in July? Gatlinburg’s Christmas Expo starts today.

If trimming the tree and hanging lights are your thing, no matter the time of year, you’ll want to drop by the Gatlinburg Convention Center this weekend for tips on making your place even more Christmas-y than last year. The 2013 Christmas Expo will run Thursday, July 11 through Saturday, July 13 at the 30,000 square foot center.

You’re also bound to learn a few holiday tricks as well. Conference-goers can pick the minds of Christmas enthusiasts, professionals, consultants and vendors nationwide, as well as attend educational seminars, meet and greet special guests and get a sneak peak at new Christmas trends and stuff arriving in stores this fall.

“We will feature a wide range of products, valuable to both the professional and neighborhood decorator,” said Chuck Smith, event promoter. “In fact, we’ve already registered attendees from all across America and even Australia. We take Christmas decorating very seriously.”

Some of those educational classes that enthusiasts can sink their teeth into include seminars about indoor decorating, outdoor Christmas displays, computer animation, how to produce your own drive through park and starting a holiday decorating business.

The event is open to the public, professionals or those to aspire to be one from 9 am to 5 pm on those dates. Tickets are $8. For more information about the Christmas Expo, or to register for educational classes, call Chuck Smith at (615) 301-1671 or visit website at www.ChristmasExpo.com. A $4-off general admission coupon is available at www.ChristmasExpo.com.

Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair – July 19-28

Get a head start on your Christmas shopping this year at the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair. The Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is rated as one of the top events in the southeast. Crafters from all over the country bring their finest work to the Gatlinburg Convention Center. Crafts and fine art abound! This is a shopping experience to end all shopping experiences. There are aisles and aisles of merchandise, all for your viewing and shopping enjoyment.

On every Christmas list there is that one someone that is hard to shop for. That person who has everything or has that odd interest that you can never find something for. The Craftsmen’s fair will help you eliminate that problem. Finding that odd knick-knack, discovering that perfect piece of jewelry or even finding a way to display that prized collection is all part of the experience. Take your time while you wander through the aisle. Make sure not to miss anything. Look high and low and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Most of these crafters have been coming to this fair for a long time and they will point you in the right direction if they don’t have what you are looking for.

The Craftsmen’s fair brings in over 180 crafters. These crafters bring every type of hand craft and art to the table that you can think of. From pottery to painting, wood crafting to weaving, there is something for everybody. The booths are full of merchandise and the crafters themselves are full of talent and history. You will be able to meet the people that created the pieces of art that you are looking at. You can ask questions, handle the crafts and make a connection with the person that made the item you are interested in.

Some of the various craftsmen and women expected to be in attendance include a soap maker, metal sculptors; Jottie Hand, Gatlinburg, TN – leather; Lonnie McMillan, Maryville, TN – muzzle loading guns, primitive turkey callers, knives; Beverly Watson, Powell TN – designer and creator of whimsical snowmen; Gerald and Cheri Lewis, Land Oakes, FL – antler craft; Joyce Smith, Cherokee, AL – lamp work, glass bead jewelry; Donnie Faulk, Pulaski, TN – horseshoe creations; John Fancher, Gatlinburg, TN – shadow box art; Burton Dye, Murfreesboro, TN – artist; Michael Moss, Speedwell, TN – treasure boxes; Tommy and Sandra Price, Conover, NC – carved and whimsical gourds; Brenda Tustian, Ball Ground, GA – watercolorist; PJ Girouard, Cosby, TN – original design leathers; and Leo and Frankie Edwards, Elizabethton, TN – handpainted switchplates, clocks and lamps.

The crafts and art are the main draw of the show but the craftsmen’s fair does have more to offer. There will be live entertainment throughout the day, food to enjoy and demonstrations of some of the crafts you are viewing. You may get the chance to see someone finish a perfectly turned piece of pottery. You may get to watch someone create a brand new painting, whether it is oil or watercolor. Whatever your reason for attending: Christmas shopping, learning more about crafts, meeting a lot of interesting people or just attending one of the best events in the Southeast you are sure find everything you are looking for at the Fall Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair.

Hours are 10am to 6pm daily and 10am to 5pm on Sundays. Music shows are 12, 2 and 4pm daily 12 and 2pm on Sundays and are included in the admission cost ($6 for Adults and children 12 and under free. Group rates available). For additional information call 865-436-7479 or visit our website at www.craftsmenfair.com

Free Trolley Rides Along the Parkway from June 14 – Aug. 17

For anyone wanting to come take a tour of downtown Gatlinburg, now would be as good of a time as any to do it. Right now, the city of Gatlinburg is offering free trolley rides to summer visitors along the length of the Parkway running from June 14 until August 17.

The free Parkway Trolley has been a program that has garnered huge returns in years past. Basically anyone who wants can catch a ride on one of three specially designated trolleys at numerous stops along the Parkway for FREE. The shuttle service route extends from Traffic Light No. 1 at the north end of town to Light No. 10 at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“We are pleased to once again offer this free trolley service during our peak season,” said Cindy Cameron Ogle, city manager. “It will provide our visitors, residents and business community more accessibility to sections of our downtown business district.”

Nearly 1,300 patrons took advantage of the service during its trial run two years ago.

The free open-air shuttles is operating from 10 am to 10 pm daily through August 17. All Gatlinburg trolleys are handicap accessible. Extra stops have been established along the special route to bring the number to 40 along Parkway.

As a part of the Gatlinburg Mass Transit System, the system provides service for 50 cents or $1 per rider along a half-dozen routes. Approximately 800,000 patrons use Gatlinburg’s trolleys annually, making it the fifth-largest mass transit system in the state of Tennessee. Started in 1980 with only six trolleys, Gatlinburg’s fleet has grown to 20-plus trolleys servicing approximately 50 miles of trolley routes.

Gatlinburg Trolleys run all day long throughout the year for just $2 a day with unlimited access to the Red, Blue, Purple, Yellow and Green Trolley routes. The $2 Pass is sold at Gatlinburg welcome centers as well as at Gatlinburg City Hall and the mass transit center, plus at numerous Gatlinburg hotels and other local attractions .

For more information, visit any Gatlinburg City Welcome Center or call (865) 436-0535.

Scenic Drives in the Smokies

Some days are just meant for driving, especially in the Smokies. If you’re having one of those days let us suggest a couple of great drives through the national park that will keep you on the paved trails, instead of the rocky, and sometimes muddy ones. Lets get started.

Now, if you really want to see the vast plant and wildlife ecosystem that makes up the Smokies, this first drive is as close as one could possibly get to witnessing all these different species.

Newfound Gap Road
Want to see the Smokies? Start at Newfound Gap Road. It’s said that you’d have to travel from Georgia to Maine in order to pass through the variety of forest ecosystems you’ll experience traveling Newfound Gap Road. Starting in Gatlinburg, you’ll find yourself in Cherokee, NC 30 miles later. Besides the vast, wonderous forest ecosystem, motorists will also find other attractions along the way including Sugarlands Visitor Center located just outside Gatlinburg, Clingman’s Dome Road, Ocanaluftee Valley, and Mingus Mill. If those spots don’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty of pulloffs, picnic places, and breathtaking views along the way.

Cades Cove Scenic Drive
This drive will take you right into the heart of the settling of the Smokies. This 11-mile loop traverses the entire cove, which was settled between 1818 and 1821, and you can stop and see old churches, a working gristmill, barns and restored homesteads right off the Loop Road.

There are 159 camping sites, and a trail that takes you up to Thunderhead Mountain and Rocky Top. Take an afternoon and check out the numerous white-tailed deer, maybe even spot a black bear, and you’ll more than likely come upon some wild turkeys if you stay for awhile. Cades Cove is perfect for a drive, a hike, or just about anything.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
This auto way takes its name from the rushing water you’ll hear if you crack your window. This six-mile, one-way loop road starts just a mile outside Gatlinburg. The first stop along the Roaring Fork Nature Trail is Noah “Bud” Ogle’s farmstead where you can get out and take a walking tour then hike to Rainbow Falls. Grotto Falls is also located along this drive.

Directions – To reach the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg at traffic light No. 8 and follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park. Just beyond the Rainbow Falls trailhead you have the option of taking the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (closed in winter). Buses, trailers, and motor homes are not permitted on the Roaring Fork motor nature trail.

Explore the Greenbrier
Wildflower watchers will love this 6 mile road that welcomes auto tours. Places like Porter’s Creek are particularly vibrant in March and April in the Greenbrier area of the park. Once you get there, you might just want to get out of the car and experience the Greenbrier for yourself. If that’s the case, let us suggest taking a four mile hike to Ramsey Cascades – the tallest falls in the Smoky Mountains.

Two Years Later, Two Major Smoky Mountain Trails Open

While tornadoes are fairly rare in this part of the state, a few that sprang up two years caused quite a bit of damage in the park that was still being felt up until just a few days ago.

Due to the storm that produced those tornadoes, the national park service had to close two major trails in the area. Those two Smoky Mountain hiking trails have now reopened and are ready for heavy hiking boot traffic.

The National Park Service said the Beard Cane and Hatcher Mountain trails – both in the west end of the 500,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park – have been repaired and are again open. They were the last of 10 damaged trails to be reopened.

Thousands of trees were knocked down by an F-4 tornado that struck near Cades Cove in April 2011, forcing the closing of 50 miles of trails. One campsite, Backcountry Site 11, has been permanently closed because damage left it unsuitable for use.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/05/01/2862141/final-2-trails-reopen-after-2011.html#storylink=cpy

Third Distillery to Call Gatlinburg Home

The moonshine business is booming in Gatlinburg…. Legally, that is. And there looks to be some additional competition on the horizon.

Plans are in place to open a third moonshine distillery in Gatlinburg by year end.

Despite a few snags, the Sugarlands Distilling Company project is moving right along despite there being two distilleries already taking up residence downtown.

“It’s difficult to get a distillery licensed, and so we’ve encountered some issues with the city and hopefully we’ve overcome all of those issues right now and now we’re on to getting our state licensing and federal licensing,” said Ned Vickers, developer for the Sugarlands Distilling Company.

As alluded to, the crux of the issue is Sugarland’s close vicinity to Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery downtown. Distilleries are required be at least 1,000 feet apart according to city ordinances. There are also limits in place as to the number of distilleries that can operate in a city, which currently reads “4”.

According to officials with the city of Gatlinburg, new state law overrides any ordinances that were previously set making it fair game for anyone who wishes to open a distillery no matter how many were established beforehand.

For a number of people, these new measures could be a good thing for Gatlinburg. Two moonshine distilleries less than a block apart could even bring in more tourists to a town that heavily relies on its tourist dollars.

Over the years, many visitors have come to the area solely to purchase moonshine and other regionally-related gifts.

As for the Sugarlands Distilling Company, they’ve got a plan to market its brand of moonshine that will set itself apart from other distilleries. They even hope to break ground within the coming weeks.

“We’re going to have different recipes. We’re going to have a little bit different focus than Ole Smoky does, and we’re also going to plan to start barreling and selling Tennessee Whiskey,” Vickers said.

National Park Asking for Volunteer Guides

If you’ve ever wanted to give back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for all that it has given to its millions of visitors over the years, now could just be the perfect time. And no, they aren’t asking for money or anything like that. Just time and a helping hand. Plus, you get a chance to get up close to some of the park’s magnificent wildlife.

To be more specific, the national park needs volunteers to assist in guiding visitors who come into the park to view Elk on the North Carolina side. Elk are located in the Cataloochee area, which can basically be classified as a remote mountain valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Volunteers will aid park rangers in directing traffic and instructing visitors on responsible elk viewing in the park.

Elk were reintroduced in Cataloochee in 2001 as part of an experimental release to determine if an elk herd could sustain itself in the park after a 200-year absence. Approximately 140 elk now live in the self-sustaining herd. The Cataloochee elk herd can be seen regularly in the fields of the valley, especially in the early morning and evening hours. Other wildlife commonly spotted include bear, deer, and turkeys.

As for the volunteer program, those selected are asked to work at least two scheduled, four-hour shifts per month starting the second week in May and continuing through November. For more information, call Park Ranger Pete Walker at (828) 506-1739.